XBee Configuration

17 Nov 2012

For my third year project I will be using a bunch of XBee connected to various devices, this post will talk about how to set up the XBee and what the various config options do. To follow this post you will need the following equipment:

* I have tested this with the series 1 modules, but it should mostly work for the series 2 modules although some steps might be different.
** Or any equivalent way of connecting the XBee to a computer.

By default the XBee modules are configured in transparent mode where any data sent on the Din line is transmitted over the radio and any data received on the radio is put on the Dout line. This makes it very easy to send a receive data without any special libraries, you just open a serial connection and send your data.


<CR> in this article (as well as other places on the internet) means  Carriage Return, and you should hit the Enter or Return key in place of it.


Once you have your XBee plugged into the computer via the explorer you should get a new serial port appear, normally /dev/ttyUSB0 on Linux or COM1 on Windows. Open up your favourite serial program, in this post I will be using picocom, but minicom or screen are just as good (Windows users can use putty) and connect to the XBee serial port (/dev/ttyUSB0 or what ever it shows up as) at the default baud rate of 9200:

picocom -lc /dev/ttyUSB0

Now anything you type should be transmitted by the radio and anything received on the radio should be printed on the terminal. At the moment there wont be much happening as the XBee modules are probably not configured to connect to each other (if you have a second one plugged in that is).

Command mode

In order to configure the XBee you need to switch to command mode, to do this type +++ in the serial program and wait 1-2 seconds. Note: DO NOT hit enter after the +++ or you will not enter the command mode and you will have to type it again. You are now in command mode, anything you type now will not be sent over the radios but will be used to configure the XBee. To exit command mode either don't type anything for a few seconds or type "ATCN<CR>". While in command mode you can read the current settings by typing the associated command such as:


or set it by adding a value before you hit return


if you miss type a command you get the ERROR message and can retype it again. If you don't get a response then it likely means the command session has timed out Note: the characters are sent over as you type them in picocom so you cannot use backspace to correct typos and have to instead start the command again. You can also chain together commands by dropping the AT after the first command and separating them by commas like this,


However I find this less useful when in a terminal program that sends the characters as you type them as you will get a response after ever comma or return key which makes it harder to read the returned values.

Note that the changes will not be applied until the CN or AC command is issued or the module is rebooted.

Configuring the XBee

Re-settings the XBee

The first thing you should do when configuring a new XBee module is reset the device to its factory defaults. This will help prevent any configurations made previously from silently messing up your project. Enter command mode and type


Your devices settings should now have reset to their defaults.

Saving Changes

The next thing you want to do is write these changes to the non-volatile part of the XBee memory which can be done with the WR command. You should issue this command when ever you have finished editing the commands to ensure that the changes you made will be preserved after a reboot or power up.


Restarting the XBee

Should you wish to restart the device (without unplugging/powering it down that it) you can issue the FR command to tell the device to do a software reset. This is useful to do after you have configured your device (and saved the settings!) to ensure the XBee is using the correct settings.


Useful Commands

Now the device is in a nice and clean state you can start to configure it to your liking, the commands that are most interesting to begin with are the MY, DH, DL, BD and ID commands as explained below.

ID - The pan ID of the network, it does not matter what value this is set to as long as all devices in the same network use the same ID as XBee modules will only talk to other XBee modules that have the same ID. If there are no other XBees active near by you can leave this at the default value (3332) or you can set it to what ever value you want to avoid conflicts with other XBee networks near by.

BD - The baud rate to communicate at. Takes a value of 0-7 (1200-115200bps or a custom amount) and defaults to 3 (9200). All XBees on the network should have the same value and the default should be good enough for now. Note the higher the value, the faster data can be sent, but the more likely you are to lose packets. Also remember to restart the terminal application and reconnect with the new baud rate once you apply this setting.

MY - The 16 bit address of the XBee module, each device in the network should be given a unique address as this is what other XBees will refer to when sending data.

DH and DL - The high and low bit of the destination address, set DH to 0 and DL to the MY value of the XBee you want to connect to. DH is used for 64bit addressing and is not needed in this tutorial, for simple setups 16bit addressing will probably be enough so you should make sure it is set to 0 and then forget about it for now.

Connecting two XBees

Now that we have seen some commands lets look at connecting two XBees to talk to one another, so plug-in the first XBee and open up picocom and send the following (remember to not press enter (or any other key) after the +++ until you receive the OK response);


Then connect the second  XBee and send the following;


These will give the first XBee an address of 0 and tell it to send to 1 and the second XBee an address of 1 and tell it to send to 0. If you now connect up both XBees any message you send on one should be received on the other.


You have now seen how easy it is to connect two XBee modules together and how the transparent mode works, now this is fine for a single pair of XBees but it gets hectic if you want to add more XBees to the network (for one you will have to keep changing the DL address to talk to different XBee modules). In a future post I will talk about API mode and how to set up a network coordinator which will solve some of the problems with this simple set-up.