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AIS USB Installation

How-to:  Connect a USB AIS Device to a Windows Computer

In order to connect a USB AIS device such as any of our AIS receivers or transponders with a USB port to a computer, you must install the correct USB drivers. While the operating system may recognize your AIS device and automatically install the correct drivers, we recommend manually installing the drivers to lessen problems. It is a simple and straightforward process. Please follow all directions below. Better yet, read the documentation that came with your device and follow the steps in the documentation to install your USB device.

NOTES: Windows only allows one process to access a COM port device (including virtual COM port USB devices) at a time. This means you can only run one program at a time that accesses the port. For example, you can't run Coastal Explorer and the AIS Configuration tool / vmAIS / ProAIS2 at the same time. This is a limitation of Microsoft Windows.
Do not plug in the USB cable until the drivers are loaded or the driver CD is in the CD drive or you are ready to point the install program to the folder where you have downloaded the driver files.
Also exit all programs that are running on the computer before proceeding.

ONE: INSTALL USB DRIVERS

Your navigation application software needs to access the USB device. It does this in the same way as it would access a standard COM port by using a Virtual COM port (VCP) driver. With the VCP driver installed, the USB device will appear as an additional COM port.

To ensure that you have the latest USB drivers, download the files from the USB chipmaker's website or our website using the links below. Select the drivers appropriate for your operating system. For easiest installation, select the .exe file, if available.

Drivers for various devices can be downloaded here:
Depending on how the driver files are packaged you will need to do one of the following:
  1. For drivers that are distributed as a EXE file: Download the driver file and run the .exe program. Once it completes, plug in the USB cable with the device powered on. The USB driver should load automatically. 
  2. For drivers that are distributed as a ZIP file: Unzip the zip file into one of your folders. This should create subfolders which should include a subfolder called "USB Drivers" or something similar. Note the path to this folder. Plug in the USB cable with the device powered on. The install process should ask for a path to the driver files. Browse to or input the path name for the folder where you unzipped the driver files. Complete the dialog prompts and the driver should install.
  3. For drivers on an installation CD: Check the instructions that came with the device. Usually you simply need to ensure the CD is in the drive before you plug the USB cable into the computer. Once you plug in the USB cable, the drivers should load automatically.
Once the installation program completes,  reboot your computer to ensure the correct drivers are loaded. Note: Install the drivers only one time. They will then be automatically used each time you connect your USB device.

TWO: CONNECT USB

Once the drives have been installed, make sure the VHF antenna and power connections (if not powered via USB) are properly connected to the AIS unit. Plug the USB device into an available USB port on your computer. You should see a message that the device has been found and the device is ready to be used.

THREE: IDENTIFY COM PORT USED BY THE USB DEVICE

Once the device and driver are installed, confirm which COM port is being used by the USB device. You must know which COM port is being used in order to correctly set up applications that interact with the USB device. Use the following steps to identify the COM port.

Windows 10
  1. Right click on the Start button (lower left-hand corner of your screen)
  2. Click on Device Manager

Windows 7 and 8
  1. Click on the Start button (lower left-hand corner of your screen)
  2. Click on Control Panel
  3. If using Category view, in the Control Panel window:
    • Select Hardware and Sound
    • In the Control Panel > Hardware and Sound windowselect Device Manager in the Devices and Printers sub-menu
  4. If using Icon view, in the Control Panel > All Control Panel Items window:
    • Select Device Manager
Windows Vista
  1. Click on Start buttonCOM Ports
  2. Click on Control Panel
  3. Click on System and Maintenance. Note: If you're viewing the Classic View of Control Panel, you won't see this link. Simply double-click on the Administrative Tools icon and proceed to Step 4.
  4. In the System and Maintenance window, click on the Administrative Tools link near the bottom of the window.
  5.  In the Administrative Tools window, double-click on the Computer Management icon.
  6. When the Computer Management utility opens, click on Device Manager on the left side of the window, located toward the bottom of the list under the System Tools heading.
  7. Device Manager should now appear on the right side of the Computer Management window. Note: If you don't see Device Manager listed, you may need to click on the |> next to System Tools 
Windows XP
  1. Click on the Start button (lower left-hand corner of your screen)
  2. Click on Control Panel
  3. In the Control Panel window, select System
  4. Click on Hardware
  5. Click on Device Manager
All Windows versions
Once in Device Manager
  1. Click on the plus sign (+) next to "Ports (COM & LPT)."
  2. If the AIS device is installed properly, you will see "Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port (COMx)" for Prolific devices or  for other devices such as the FTDI chipsets you may just see "USB Serial Port (COMx)".  Note that x is the number of the COM port  assigned to the AIS unit.
  3. Write down the COM port number for future reference.

CONFIGURING NAVIGATION SOFTWARE FOR USB AIS

Rose Point Coastal Explorer  
To make sure that Coastal Explorer knows where to receive AIS and GPS data, you must configure the COM Ports. Note: Although the "Auto Detect" feature will often properly detect and set the port, we recommend the manual option for complete control over settings and fewer possible issues.

To set up your AIS and other devices such as GPS, you will need to:

  • Select a COM port from the list.
  • Select the appropriate Interface from the drop down list.
  • Select a baud rate if necessary.
  • Select the appropriate Listener, Talker, and Repeater option
Follow these steps (for version 3 of Coastal Explorer, similar steps for the current version):CE2009
  1. Select menu in the top left corner (it has three horizontal lines)
  2. Select Configure Vessel and Electronics from the list
  3. In the window that opens, click on Data Ports in the Category menu
  4. Select Port Settings
  5. In the Instrument Ports window that opens, select the Communications Port (COMx) where "x" is the port number noted in the steps above.
  6. In the same window's right-hand Port Settings menu, for AIS or combo AIS-GPS devices, set:
    1. Interface to NMEA 0183
    2. Baud Rate to 38400
    3. Click on checkbox for Listener
  7. The Auto Detect system under Data Ports also usually automatically finds and sets up your devices.

Nobeltec and Other Navigation Programs
The process is similar in that you must select the appropriate COM port and ensure that the port is set as a listener or input port and the port is set to the correct 38400 baud rate.


TROUBLESHOOTING

If you have a problem with a USB AIS device:

  1. Unplug and then plug in the device.
  2. If the computer prompts you for a device driver, repeat the steps at the beginning of this document.   
  3. If the driver does not load and instead shows up as an Unknown Device in Device Manager, you'll need to right click on the Unknown Device and choose "Uninstall". You then need to unplug the USB device, reboot the computer, log in and follow the steps at the beginning of this document again.
  4. You might also try running Windows Update to obtain the latest fixes and drivers. When this is complete, plug in the USB AIS device to see whether it is now installed correctly.
  5. In some cases a reboot may be necessary if there are driver conflicts or other issues. 
NOTE: Windows only allows one process to access a COM port device (including virtual COM port USB devices) at a time. This means you can only run one program at a time that accesses the port. For example, you can't run Coastal Explorer and Nobeltec at the same time. This is a limitation of Microsoft Windows.