How do I download waypoints and other data from my Garmin GPS to my computer?

These steps were written using a Garmin GPS 12 receiver. If you are using a different Garmin receiver, certain details may be different.

Step 1: Connect the GPS unit to the computer

You will need a cable. Garmin makes one, of course, and there are also third-party cables available.

Step 2: Configure the GPS receiver

Ensure that your GPS unit is "Garmin" transmission mode. For the Garmin 12 receiver, this is done by accessing the Main Menu page, choosing Setup Menu, then choosing Interface, highlighting the first line, then changing it to the GRMN/GRMN setting. For more information, consult your manual. If you do not have a manual, Garmin has manuals on-line (Go through the Products section and find your receiver, then go to the page about your receiver and there should be a link to a downloadable manual.)

Step 3: Start the download software

There are many software solutions available for downloading waypoints from your GPS. I will introduce two options but there are others:

  • Garmin's software is called MapSource and is available from Garmin as part of any of their MapSource CDs.
  • There is free software called Waypoint+ available that will allow you to download waypoints and other data from your GPS unit.

Whichever program you are using, start it.

Step 4: Download the waypoints

Using the MapSource software, go to Edit - Preferences. In the Preferences window, set Distance and Speed to Metric and Position Format to 'Lat/Lon hddd.ddddd'. Click 'OK' to close the window and go to File - Open from Device. Select Waypoints, Routes and Tracks to be downloaded and click on Open. See screenshots below.

Mapsource Preferences

Mapsource Preferences 2

Mapsource Open from Device

Mapsource Open from Device 2

If you are using Waypoint+ you will need to go to the File – Configuration – Modes menu. Set the coordinates to Decimal Degrees and units to meters. Then go to the File – Datum menu and select North America 1983 (NAD83). (Choose a different datum if you know what you need.) Next you will need to go to GPS – Port and make sure the port is set to COM1 (or whichever port you are using). Last, select Waypoints – Download to download your waypoints. If you want to download tracks or routes, you can do so from the appropriate menu. See screenshots below.


Waypoint Configuration

Waypoint Datum

Waypoint Datum List

Waypoint Port

Waypoint Download

Step 5: Save the waypoints

Using the MapSource software, choose File - Export and choose Text (Tab-Delimited).

Mapsource Export

In Waypoint+, save the waypoints as a comma-delimited textfile (File – Save – Waypoint). Make sure to note where you save your waypoint file. If you are saving tracks or routes you can save each kind separately or you can create a combined file using File - Save - Combined.

Waypoint File Save