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How to Upgrade Hand Control Firmware - Version 4 Hand Control

Celestron provides hand control version 4 firmware for the NexStar GPS, CPC, LCM, i Series, SE, SLT, GT, StarSeeker, CGE, CGE Pro, CGEM and AS-GT telescopes.  Only hand controls with version 4 or higher can be upgraded, with the exception that GT/StarSeeker hand control version 104 is NOT upgradeable.  If your hand control does not have a Version command on the Utilities menu, it is NOT upgradeable.  Owners of older versions read this for availability of an upgradeable hand control for your telescope.

To update the hand control firmware, you will need the HCupdate program from Celestron's web site:
search for "hand control firmware updates" or "HCupdate"

and download "HCupdateInstall.exe"

Updating your scope also requires the standard Hand Control RS-232 Port Cable that plugs into the bottom of the hand control.  For details on the cable and sources to purchase one, read this.  You must connect this cable between the serial port on a Windows 98 or higher PC and the port on the bottom of the hand control.

After downloading and installing HCupdate from the Celestron Support Downloads web site, start HCupdate and read through the Help information.  If you have problems installing HCupdate on Windows 8 or higher, right-click the downloaded file and select Troubleshoot compatibility - select the options to inform the installer it last worked correctly on Windows 7.  Note that HCupdate only runs on Windows.

Here is an overview of the upgrade process:

  • Connect the serial port of your PC to the RS-232 port on the bottom of the hand control.  If your PC does not have a serial port, you will need a USB-to-serial adapter available at most computer stores. See PC Control on this web site for more information and options regarding computers without a serial port.
  • Hold down the hand control's UNDO and INFO buttons at the same time and turn on the power to the scope.  Release the buttons and the hand control should now display "Transmit Data...".
  • Start the HCupdate from the Programs section of the Windows Start menu.  If you have problems getting HCupdate to start, right-click the HCupdate icon and select Troubleshoot compatibility - then select the options to inform the installer it last worked correctly on Windows 7.
  • Click the Next button on the welcome screen.
  • Select the correct COM Port for your connection to the scope and click the Next button.  Note that if you do not have Internet connectivity at your scope, you can use None for the COM Port to first download the correct firmware before disconnecting from the Internet and connecting your PC to the scope.
  • If you selected a COM Port and HCupdate cannot communicate with the scope, an error message will appear.  If you are certain your cable is good, try selecting all the other available COM Port available in HCupdate.  If that still doesn't work, you should check whether another program has the serial port open - for example, the hot sync program for a palmtop computer.  Either temporarily disable the serial port selection in the hot sync program or uninstall it altogether (if you no longer use it).  If you are still having problems, ensure none of the pins in the connector port on the bottom of the hand control are bent and reseat the cable.  You may also try cleaning the connector port on the bottom of the hand control using alcohol and a cotton swab.  Additional suggestions are found in the Serial Overview section of the help information in HCupdate.
  • The next screen lists all the firmware you currently have downloaded to your PC.  Click the Download via the Web button to connect to Celestron's web site and see if newer firmware is available.  This does of course require that you are currently connected to the Internet, so as mentioned before, if necessary, use COM Port "none" if you are not at your scope when downloading new firmware.  Once you have the firmware you wish to use, be sure it is highlighted in the list and click the Next button.  Note that it is not necessary to install each version in succession until you reach the newest version - each version is a complete firmware load and stands on its own.
  • About the firmware available for download, following are the naming conventions for each type of scope:
    • NXS for GPS, CPC, SE and i Series
    • SLT or SLT_LCM for SLT
    • SLT_LCM for LCM Series
    • GEM for AS-GT, CGEM, CGE and CGE Pro
    • GT for GT and StarSeeker
  • Click the Begin Programming button and wait until complete.
  • After the programming is finished, you will be prompted to power off and restart the telescope - upon which the process is complete.

If you experience problems during or after the firmware update, read this.

If HCupdate displays an error during programming, close HCupdate, right-click the HCupdate icon and select Troubleshoot compatibility - then select the options to inform the installer it last worked correctly on Windows 7.

After updating the firmware, you should run the Calibrate Goto procedure on the Utilities menu of the hand control.  Additionally, the following settings may need to be configured:

  • Location (city or long/lat)
  • Time Zone
  • Daylight Savings Time
  • Sun Menu
  • Scrolling Menu
  • Lights Control
  • GPS On/Off
  • Direction Buttons
  • Slew Limits
  • Filter Limits
  • Alt Sensor Calibration (NexStar GPS only)
  • Model Select (NexStar GT and StarSeeker only)

You may also need a manual addendum or my user's guide for new features - see the Manuals section of this web site.

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Michael Swanson
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