Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Extracting Waypoints From A Garmin eTrex GPS On Vista

I wanted to transfer some waypoints from my Garmin eTrex to my Vista laptop. Luckily, my Dell has a built in serial port, so physically connecting the devices was easy.

Here's the recipe I followed - the end goal is to use GPSBabel. Here we go...

Install The Software:

  • Install Cygwin, including development tools like GCC and such
  • Grab the latest version of the GPSBabel source code
  • Config it. Build it. Install it.

Run The Software

  • Plug the GPS into your laptop via the Serial cable, and turn the GPS on
  • Run one of the following commands to grab data:
    # Grab all the waypoints from the system
    gpsbabel.exe -i garmin -f COM1 -o gpx -F waypoints.out
    # Grab all the tracks from the device
    gpsbabel.exe -t -r -i garmin -f COM1 -o gpx -F waypoints.out
    Notice the user of the magic filename COM1 - it's a DOS thing, if I recall. On linux, you'd do something like read from the file /dev/ttyS0
  • Visit a site like GPSVisualizer.com to easily plot your data.

Why did I use GPSBabel? It's what I know, it's scriptable, it provides easy access to converting between dozens of file formats and it's and all around simple program.

Oh, and all of these instructions also apply to the Geko 201 and 301 devices.


  1. If you don't want to build it and you don't want to install Cygwin, just use the native Windows version of GPSBabel.

    GPSBabel.org has precompiled versions for OS/X, Linux, and Windows ready to run.

  2. Thanks Robert!

    My Unix Geek roots are such that I still like starting from source...but I'm glad to hear that GPSBabel doesn't require it.

  3. Robert -

    I just followed the link on your profile and realized you're the guy in charge of GPSBabel. I didn't catch that at first...

    Thanks for putting together a wonderful app!