Mac drivers, USB cables, and you.

Modified on Sat, 05 Aug 2023 at 02:50 PM

This is a popular one. We get a lot of calls about this topic here at the RT Systems tech support department..... A whole lot!

It's something that Mac users generally don't know about because when possible, Apple takes care of this for you. But not every device addressed through their help: especially these Ham radio devices.

Which means that you get the opportunity to learn something new about your computer so you are better equipted to experiment in this new hobby you have chosen.

We're here today to provide some of the hard earned tips and tricks we've learned over the course of our dealings with Mac computers and operating systems. Lots has changed in six years. Things are easier now that; but knowing this is still helpful so you get the best possible experience with your new programmer. 

All USB devices use drivers so the machine can identify and work with the electronics of the device. Drivers can be confusing because of how specific they are for a device. This goes double on a Mac since Apple really does not want you to use anything other than what has been preapproved; but you have other plans.

We're going to break it down for you with the hope that we can save you some frustration as you work to get your computer and radio to transfer data between the two. Remember, you're always free to give us a call or shoot us an email if you get stuck. Much better to reach out for help than to sit idle in irritation. We'll be here for you if you need us. 

We'll be breaking this topic down in to two parts. Drivers for RT Systems cables and Drivers for generic USB Cables. (a side note here... it may be a USB cable that does not have electronics, a "generic" cable, but there electronics somewhere in the connection. The electronics are vital to translate the data from computer language to radio language. If they are not in the cable, they are in the radio. Either way, drivers are needed to make this all work.  

So you know better which section pertains to your radio, check our individual product listings for information on what cable your radio needs or take a look at our wonderful product guide for a full list - RT Systems Product Guide

With cable descriptions out of the way let's get back to talking about the drivers you need to make the cables work on your Mac. 

RT Systems Programming Cables

RT Systems cables are easily identified by looking at the USB plug end of the cable (the part that goes in to the computer). This end of the cable will have a large black "hood" extending back from the USB plug. That hood has "RT Systems" embossed on one side and a sticker with the model of the cable on the other side.

Why is that plug so big? Because it covers the USB circuitry that is needed to translate the data between the radio and the computer. The drivers for this device identify it to the computer and make it able to do the necessary translations.  

Note: The Mac versions of the RT Systems programmers require the RT Systems cables where that cable is specified. For Yaesu radios, the official Yaesu SCU cable for the particular radio will work. Other USB cables that have their own built-in electronics will not work with the programmers. This does not apply to "generic" cables that do not have electronics built-in. This will be discussed later in this article.

The RT Systems cables are generally very easy to use on a Mac (OS version 10.15.5 or higher). The drivers come pre-loaded in the operating system. The cable is immediately recognized and ready for use when it is connected to the machine. To steal a phrase- it just works! 

With that said, however, it makes the programmer installation process a little confusing since the package downloaded for the Mac includes drivers for the RT Systems cables. This part of the installation package will NOT run on the newer operating systems since a conflict will occur if they do. So, we don't let them run. Not to worry since you don't need them anyway. Just install the programmer and you are done with the installation package.

If you're on an older version of MacOS then we'd recommend that you update to a more modern version of the OS. If that isn't an option for you, you can install the drivers that are included in the installation package or the drivers are available from our site at: RT Systems Cable Drivers

Finally, if you were on an old version of MacOS and installed our old drivers and have now updated your computer to a more recent OS, then you may have a bit of a sticky issue. Those old drivers can get in the way of the new drivers that are part of the operating system. They will need to be removed. Review the process as detailed here Mac Driver Correction after OS upgrade As always, RT Systems tech support can help you should you need assistance.

Remember, with all this involved, we strongly recommend updating the MacOS before installing the RT Systems drivers. 

"Generic" Programming Cables

"Generic" USB cables are just a connection between the radio and the computer. These cables do not have built-in electronics and do nothing if the radio is not attached. These come in many different varieties: USB-A or USB-C to USB Mini, USB Micro, USB-B, USB-C, etc. You probably have several of these laying around in your junk drawer. You would be most familiar with these from use of printers, cameras, phone chargers, etc. The plug configuration you need depends on your radio.

BE CAUTIOUS with generic USB cables! Two with connections that look the same may not be wired the same. One may have all connections wired while another is wired only for charging and lacks the connection the radio needs to pass data. Watch for anything that you see marketed as a "charging cable" when looking online or in stores. This will generally mean that the cable is ONLY wired up to provide power for charging a device and that it WILL NOT facilitate data transfer. Sometimes this type of cable won't be marked or called out at all. They just won't work for programming and you won't know why.  

RT Systems generic USB cables are sourced from a reputable vendor and are fully wired for programming. They're also designed to be happy in a ham shack. We're talking double shield with in-line ferrite chokes. 

You know, the good stuff.

The "generic" cables are used with radios that have their own USB ports built-in. This is why they can use a generic USB cable and don't need one of our special cables that has USB circuitry built into it. That said, special drivers ARE NEEDED to address the circuitry built into the radio. If those drivers are not a part of MacOS (and we don't control what is and what is not), you will need to find drivers and do the necessary installation to make things work. This is all just part of the process of getting the radio to computer communications set up.

Luckily, most of these radios happen to use the same driver, even if the radios themselves are from different manufacturers. From the Yaesu 991A to the Icom 7300 to the Kenwood TH-D74 and others, many radios use drivers from a company called Silicon Labs. Once you have them installed you'll be ready to roll with any radio that uses them without having to go through installation again.  

While RT Systems didn't create the drivers, we host a site with links to them to make it easy for you to download them.

Once you have the drivers downloaded, you'll need to install them. Do this by running the file you find in the folder called "SilLabsUSBDriverDisc.dmg." This will open another window where you will see an icon labeled "Install CP210x VCP Driver." Double click that icon. 

This will start the installation wizard for the drivers. Follow the steps and agree to all of the things it asks you to. You'll have to input your computer's password a time or two along the way. This is normal for the process. 

Finally you're going to see the MOST IMPORTANT window of them all pop up. Seriously, do NOT go blindly clicking through this process or you'll wind up hamstringing yourself and suffering much frustration. We're going to say it again- PAY CLOSE ATTENTION during this part of the process. 

You will see a window pop up which says "System Extension Blocked" 


Clicking OK here is basically telling your computer that it is OK to leave the extension blocked. The extension (another name for driver) must be unblocked so that our computer can talk through it to the radio. 

You'll need to select the option to open your Security Preferences. This part is going to be a bit different depending on the version of MacOS you're running. Take a look at the screenshots from one of our in-house Macs as an example. If yours doesn't look like this and you can't find the correct option, feel free to give us a call so that we can assist. (404-806-9561 Mon - Fri 9-6PM, Sat by Appointment Eastern Time)

Note: You will have to click the lock icon down in the bottom left of the window and then enter our computer's password in order to be able to click on the Allow button next to the blocked driver. No matter what version of MacOS you happen to be using you'll almost certainly need to enter your password to allow the extension to be unblocked. 

If you do not see the listing for the Silicon Lab drivers (as shown here), there will be a button to Show All or More. Click that and look for the line that shows the details as shown on the screenshot here. Once you've given the necessary permission to those dricers and told you computer not to block the extension you should see the driver install wizard finish doing its thing. From there you're all set and ready to plug your radio in to your computer. 

Open the RT Systems programmer window and do a "Communications > Get Data from radio" process to verify that the radio and computer are properly talking to each other (besides this is always the first place to start with radio programming and a new installation of the programmer). If the "Get data from radio" process completes then the "Send data to radio" process almost always works as well. 

That's all there is to it. Happy programming!

Was this article helpful?

That’s Great!

Thank you for your feedback

Sorry! We couldn't be helpful

Thank you for your feedback

Let us know how can we improve this article!

Select atleast one of the reasons

Feedback sent

We appreciate your effort and will try to fix the article