Email through your ham radio

This is national preparedness month, and FEMA says “Don’t Wait. Communicate.” But, you may want to use your radio to reach non radio users.  Turns out there’s a way to use your radio to send an email, even if all the infrastructure around you is destroyed. Here’s how.

Equipment to send email via radio

You’re going to need a few pieces of gear and permission to use it (specifically either a General or Amateur Extra license.)  You’ll also need a computer and a radio that can transmit and receive on HF frequencies, and a way to connect them.  Many people use the Signalink box, which acts as an exterior sound card.

The software to make it work

Diagram showing how to use email over the radio

Here’s how Winlink works: install the software onto a PC, then connect the PC to an HF radio using the Signalink box. Winlink turns your email into sounds and sends it to another radio which has internet access.

The crucial piece of software is called Winlink Express.  Once you’ve downloaded it and registered, you get a Winlink email address.  It’s formatted as CALLSIGN @ winlink.org  This software opens a window that looks a little like any email client, but it has incredible capabilities.  Once you write your email, and address it to any other email address you save it to your outbox.

Then at the top left of the window, you can choose to send the email via internet or with “Winmor Winlink.”  Winmor is the secret sauce that encodes the email into an audible form for transmission over the radio.  The software will dial in the right frequency on your radio, then begin an audible exchange.  On the other end is another HF radio that is connected to the internet.

After the software is done, you’ll see confirmation that your message has gone through, and it checks to see if you have any messages waiting for you.  If someone is sending you a message for the first time, make sure they include //WL2K R/ at the start of the subject line to ensure it makes it way to you.

A review

To recap, you’ll need:

  1. An HF radio and a Signalink box (or a radio that you can connect right to a computer)
  2. Get a PC or laptop running Windows with a USB port
  3. Download and install Winlink Express software & register, and get everything configured
  4. Use Winmor to select the closest Radio Mail Server to use
  5. Write the email on your computer and send it via your radio!

Many of these steps can be a little tricky, but a quick internet search will shows you sites and pages like these that can help you on the way.  Just another way that HF radio provides crucial communications when all else fails!

Portable ham radio range

How weather affects cell service

Cell Phone Vulnerabilities

Portable HF Pack

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