Update: 50MHz To 100Mhz Scope Conversion

Changing this 50MHz Rigol oscilloscope into its larger, more expensive brother just became quite a bit easier. When we originally looked at this hack it required pulling some capacitors off of the board. Now all it takes is three commands over a serial terminal connection.

Take a look at the walk through video after the break. You’ll see that there’s one chip that needs to be setup differently to change the functionality. Removing capacitors was actually changing the commands sent to initialize that chip at power-up. Now you can just change the model number and one letter of the serial number via a terminal and the firmware will recognize this as the more expensive DS1102E.

[Thanks Nullkraft]

59 thoughts on “Update: 50MHz To 100Mhz Scope Conversion

    1. Various manufacturers of electronics have been doing this since the 1960s. It’s nothing new, and it’s not a rip off. You’re paying for the IP that goes into developing the hardware and software these days, not the hardware itself – that costs next to nothing. You also run the risk that although they may be manufactured on the same production line, the lower spec models are lower spec for a reason; maybe they don’t meet the tolerances that’s expected of the guaranteed parameters of higher spec models, so although they might go up to 100Mhz, and may even do it accurately, you have no guarantee that it will be as accurate as a scope with the 100Mhz firmware. So you can do it, but at the risk that it may not be as accurate as you expect it to be at higher frequencies. Of course, if you just want extra functionality and don’t need a high speed ‘scope, then a hack like this is the best of both worlds.

  1. This is a very common practice. When possible companies design boards that can be used to build different models so they get heavy discounts by ordering great quantities of the same components and/or by resorting to as few production lines as they can.
    Sometimes they just don’t add the components of the bigger models so you see empty spaces on the board (just open your PC/mediacenter/cellphone/router/whatever), sometimes two models are totally identical save for a firmware setting and you get something like this scope.
    If you ask any suit about this practice he or she will answer that selling the 100 MHz capable model at a higher price is what allows them to sell the 50 MHz model at a lower one, which is both technically true and a smoking pile of bullshit (companies caring for the customers? LOL!). It’s all about profit and nothing else.

    There are limits to this of course. A 500 MHz oscilloscope would use so expensive parts and designs that making a 50 MHz model out of it would be unprofitable, so expect to see this only in very similar models.

  2. @Hirudinea,
    Most electronics companies do this, you see this in low end consumer grade camera all the way up to $100K lab equipment where you have to buy updates which are just keys to unlock features.

  3. “Removing capacitors was actually changing the commands sent to initialize that chip at power-up.”

    Umm… I highly highly doubt this.

    I’m sure it’s coincidence that two solutions unlock the full functionality of this product. Likely either the capacitor approach was wrong (removing a high-frequency shunt filter will give better high-frequency response, but it was probably there for another less-nefarious reason) or these two approaches are only part of the full solution.

  4. Hirudinea, I do not think that it is as “evil” as it sounds. My guess is that the model number is decided after the units are tested. The 50 MHz scopes did not perform good enough to be labeled 100MHz and therefore got the lower rating.

  5. For those of you that don’t understand why this needs to happen, please refer to the comments in the original thread where this has already been discussed to great length…

  6. We discussed this the first time around. Sometimes it’s units that have failed testing, sometimes it’s cheaper components on the same board. No guarantee that your modded scope is actually accurate anymore.

  7. @charper,

    The exact method and reasoning behind both methods are detailed in the posted video.

    As usual HaD has misinterpreted the situation slightly, but not by a whole lot. The capacitors were part of a circuit that controlled which operating mode the scope would run in. It was found you could either manually force the mode by changing this control circuit, or simply change the model number in which case the firmware would change mode on it’s own. They both do the same thing.


    That seems very likely.

  8. I work for a company and sometimes we do the same: enable and disable features by software, but it is not because they didn’t perform well on testing, it is because R&D and logistic expenses are lower designing one product only, also depends on some target markets, etc. Probably Rigol wants a product on the 20 to 50 MHz range, if they have nothing on this market they can loose sales here. Only they know the true, people that have made the modification have run some testing and the units does not perform bad on higher frequencies. I was waiting until the first guys made the mod and test the changes to change mine.

  9. Excellent. I received mine a few weeks ago; I’m glad I waited to mod it. A software hack is far more appealing to me, since I can easily put it back the way it was if anything starts acting weird.

  10. These guys have ZERO clue what they are doing. —-Last time they thought the cap they were removing was filtering the signal. Stupid hackers. I’ll keep my scope the way it is. Accurate.

  11. yah … they make money off professionals … like the nikon D3 12.2mp is $5g and the D3x 24mp is $8g for same camera different sensor … you can buy the 24mp sensor for $50 … it only really effects large companies according to them

    a majority of cases thats right

  12. @Richard Nibbler, this is too tentative that you will ended up making the modification, you have nothing to lose and a lot to win, if you are not happy with the results, just reverted it back.

  13. In my experience with higher priced scopes (Agilent, Tek…) its very common to have pure software locks on features that are sometimes more expensive than the scope itself. Agilent uses a license key system to unlock FFT, MSO and protocol packages while TEk uses smartcard dongles to unlock similar features.
    What I find so amusing, is all of the comments about reliability and how this will affect the perfect calibration of this scope. NO ONE, has mentioned that RIGOL is cheap chinese knock off company just like UNI-T and that these scopes are 1/10 the cost of comparable Agilent or TEk scopes .
    Now to be clear, I don’t think this hack is a bad idea, just that if your worried about having a rock solid accurate/reliable scope maybe you shouldn’t have bought a chinese knock off to begin with?

  14. @Andrew
    Rigol are not a cheap Chinese knock-off company. They are the 2nd biggest maker of oscilloscopes in the world (by volume). Agilent’s low end scopes are actually Rigol units with the Agilent name on them.
    Rigol’s ARE “rock solid accurate/reliable” scopes, they are just built down to a price. And they are obviously good enough quality for Agilent to put their name on it.


  15. poot – nobody tried it yet that I know of, but probably. They’re the same scope, more or less. The difference in the MSO version is that there is an extra board plugged onto a header. The firmware is different, but probably not by much. Try it.

  16. @poot, No problem in doing that.
    The DS1052D and DS1102D use the same firmware (DS1000 series).
    The only thing you’d have to do is to alter the typenumber and the serialnumber to the one of the DS1102D.
    Because the DS1ED** to DS1EB** swap won’t work for you, you’ll need to change it in: DS1EA


  17. Perhaps it’s been done, and I haven’t seen it yet. Until any individual modded Rigor 50MHz scope is properly lab tested and found to meet the all specifications of the Rigor 100 MHz scope, it can’t be said that thatindividual modded scope performs as well as the 100 MHz model. I’m skeptical in that all the remaining components of the 2 models are %100 interchangeable between them. Until I read evidence that most all the modded inexpensive scopes meet all the performance specs of the more expensive scope, this is all a fantasy. In they event that isn’t the case Rigor really isn’t gouging anyone are they? Shops or manufacturers aren’t going to pay for more scope than they need.

  18. @poot
    did you made the hack from DS1052D to DS1102D?

    I can not find the firmware for the DS1052D downgrade. Maybe i found a file, but i do not know if it is the right file. Does anyhone have a MD5Checksum or the file

  19. What everyone seems to miss is the hack only extends the timebase selection. Sample rate, accuracy do not change. you could see 100 MhZ sampling with the un-hacked dso, it’s just cramped up up on the display.
    DUMB, it’s a display hack, not a sampling hack.
    I know, I have one, hooked it to a High-precision signal generator. same damn scope.
    get over it…

  20. DS1052D (LA version) converted no problem. Received 3.0.1 HW 58, upgraded to 4.0.1 with official firmware, then took old 2.0.2 firmware, copied first 20 bytes of the official 4.0.1 header (no ascii) and copied over the first 20 bytes of the 2.0.2 so 4.0.1 FW would recognize it, downgraded, the set :info:(model/serial/hardversion) and upgraded back up to 4.0.1

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