How do I get my Garmin GPS to work?

Garmin Communication background

Garmin has been making GPS devices for a long while and over that period of time, has had at least 4 major methods for communicating with their devices (and each of those has had a number of variations, some compatible, some not compatible).

Today's modern handheld and navigation units generally use what we refer to as Garmin Storage, which means that you plug the device into your Macintosh using a USB cable and it subsequently shows up on the desktop looking like a disk drive.

Prior to Garmin Storage, there was what we refer to as Garmin USB, which used a proprietary Garmin protocol to communicate directly with the device over USB. This mechanism was much faster than the oldest, Serial mechanism, but lacked in the ability to directly ask the device for specific information, thus requiring the download of all information at once.

The earliest communication method for Garmin GPS devices was Serial. To talk to these devices, you'll need a USB to Serial adapter, and probably some driver software. We've found that most of the avialable adapters, including those from Keyspan and Prolific seem to work just fine.

The newest and smallest Garmin devices (the recent watches, in particular) are using a wireless protocol called ANT. As of this writing, we do not yet support the ANT protocol, and neither does anyone else on the Macintosh. So, for this, you'll have to look to Windows software from Garmin for the time being.

Troubleshooting your Garmin

Here are the steps to troubleshooting your Garmin device:

  1. Connect the Garmin device to your Macintosh. If this requires a Serial cable, then your decision is made, you need to select Garmin Serial. If you connect via USB, then continue. If the device doesn't have any physical connection, it might be using ANT wireless, and thus will need to be
  2. First select Garmin Storage in our software. If the Acquire button is available, then you're done! Enjoy.
  3. Select Garmin USB. If the acquire button is available, then you're done! Enjoy.
  4. If neither Garmin USB nor Garmin Storage work, and you're not connecting with a serial cable, it's possible the device is an unsupported ANT device (like the current watches). If you don't believe this is the case, please submit a bug report and we'll work to figure out the problem.

Thank you and enjoy your Garmin GPS! 

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