Real-Time Tracking with Contour Elite

As of October 1, 2023 we no longer support the Contour Elite product.

The contents featured in the article below may still be of use to you however, and so will continue to be available.


To do real-time tracking using Contour Elite on your laptop, you will need:

  1. A GPS device capable of outputting positional information. This can be an actual handheld GPS unit, or one of the small, inexpensive GPS receivers designed to connect to laptops such as a USGlobalSat BU-353(for XP, Vista, or 7) or Delorme Earthmate LT-40 (for XP only)or the Garmin GPS20X. You can find these laptop GPS receivers on
  2. The appropriate cable to connect the GPS device to your laptop
  3. If using a USB connection, the appropriate software (driver) to allow your GPS to communicate with your laptop.

NOTE: NMEA is the traditional format used for communicating positional information between GPS equipment and computers. A 9-pin serial connection is the standard for this format. So, if you will be utilizing a USB connection to transmit NMEA positional data, additional software (driver) must be installed. This driver should have come with the GPS device or the adapter cable being used. If the driver did not come with the device or adapter, you should check on the manufacturer's website to see if one can be downloaded.

Follow these general steps to begin real-time tracking:

  1. Follow your GPS manual's instructions for setting it to output positional data in NMEA format or Garmin PVT format. Some Garmin units can output both NMEA or Garmin PVT format. On Garmin units, to output NMEA, set the output to "NMEA". To output Garmin PVT, set the unit to "Garmin mode".
    NOTE: The GPS unit's baud rate should be set to 4800 and the unit's datum should be set to WGS84, which is the default for most GPS units. If you find that your position on the Contour Elite map display is way off, it is probably because the datum on the GPS unit is set to NAD27, or some other datum other than WGS84.
  2. With your laptop up and running, connect your GPS unit to your laptop. This connection can take various forms based on the connection type on the GPS unit itself and the available connections on the laptop. Possible options include: a serial connection (9-pin)on both the GPS unit and laptop (serial to serial), a USB connection on both the GPS unit and laptop (USB to USB), or a serial connection on the GPS unit but a USB connection on the laptop (serial to USB)(ex: newer laptop without a serial port). If you are using one of the GPS receivers made to connect with a laptop, it will have a built-in USB cable to connect to one of your laptop's USB ports or it will plug directly into one of your laptop's USB port.

    If you are going to use a serial to serial connection, then no other software (driver) is required.

    If you are going to use a USB to USB connection, you will need to install the driver that came with your GPS unit to allow communication between the GPS unit and your latop. If you don't have a driver, please contact the GPS unit's manufacturer.

    If you are going to use a serial to USB connection, you will need a USB-to-serial adapter to allow the connection of the serial cable from the GPS unit with a USB port on your laptop. We have read that some of the cheaper USB-to-serial adapters may not work with GPS devices. The adapter should come with a driver or you can download a driver from the adapter manufacturer's website.  This driver assigns a virtual serial com port to the USB connection.
    If you are using a laptop GPS receiver, you will need to install the driver that came with the receiver.  This driver will assign a virtual serial com port to the USB connection.
  3. Open the real-time tracking interface on Contour Elite by clicking the compass icon on the top toolbar.
    Under the "device" selection, select what format your GPS unit is outputting. This will most likely be NMEA. If you have a Garmin unit set to "Garmin Mode", select "Garmin Serial/USB protocol".
  4. Select the appropriate port that your GPS unit is connected to. If you are connecting to a serial port on your laptop (serial to serial connection), this will probably be Com1 or Com2. If using a USB to USB connection, "USB" should be selected, unless the driver that came with your GPS unit assigned it a Com port number. If using a serial to USB connection, the adapter driver should assign a com port number to the "virtual" serial connection. You will need to select the com port # the adapter was assigned. If you are using a laptop GPS receiver, the software/drive the receiver came with or driver software downloaded from the manufacturer's website will assign a com# to the connection. In some cases, you may be able to open the driver software application and change which serial port the connection is assigned.
    NOTE: If you do not see your port listed, push the "refresh" button.
    NOTE: If you do not know what com port number your connection is using, you can go to Windows device manager to see which COM number was assigned to the connection. The device manager is located at: Start -> Control Panel -> System -> Hardware -> Device Manager. Then, click on the plus sign (+) next to "Ports." This will list all of the ports currently assigned on the computer.
  5. Click the "Start tracking" button. Your map should then refresh with your current location marked with a cross-hair and centered on the map.


  1. Make sure GPS unit is on and set up properly to output positional information, that the baud rate is set to 4800, and that the datum is set to WGS84.
  2. Make sure the proper cable connections are made and connections are secure. Make sure the laptop is up and running before connecting the cables. In some connections, the computer might think the GPS connection is a mouse connection and will not work properly.
  3. If the connection uses a USB to USB or a Serial to USB connection, or if you're using a laptop GPS receiver, make sure the laptop is set up to communicate with the GPS device/receiver. This would include installing the necessary drivers on the laptop.
  4. Within Contour Elite, make sure you selected the correct port. This will probably be Com1 or Com2 if you connected to the serial port on the back of the laptop. If connecting to one of the laptop's USB ports, the correct port could be "USB" or a Com# if a Com# was assigned by the driver when the unit was connected. Go into Device Manager to find out which port the GPS device is connected to or assigned if you're not sure which port to select. If the port is not listed in Contour Elite, you can push the "refresh" button to list the available ports.
  5. If you are attempting to connect to your computer's serial connection and you're getting an error message, check to see if you have any programs running in the background that might be "claiming" the com port. Common programs that cause this program are Laplink or PDA Hotsync types of programs. You should be able to disable these in the taskbar at the bottom of the computer screen.
Was this article helpful?
0 out of 1 found this helpful

Articles in this section

See more