Hardly a month goes by without me getting a question about how to transfer GPS waypoints from one unit to a newer model or what to do when a GPS unit has crashed.

Generally, on the crashed unit, I first ask if they backed up a file or memory card of the data in the unit. Many readers do not even know that waypoints, routes and tracks (trails, bread crumb, traxback, etc.) could be backed up.

Some might have written hard copies of their waypoints, but dread having to manually enter all of the positions, and they have no record of their routes and or tracks.

I explain there still might be a chance that the electronic data can be recovered and generally explain the procedures.

I stress that, in the future, they should back up all of their data after each trip if they added a new waypoint or route to the unit, and that they should consider a backup of the tracks and converting them to routes if they expect to travel that way again. 

Most readers who are upgrading to a more-sophisticated GPS unit know or have heard there is a way to electronically transfer data from one unit to another but don’t really know how.

Occasionally, some bought a different brand of GPS and need to convert the data to the new format. Yes, that is right: The format of the data might be different between different brands and cannot be simply copied from one brand to another.

There is a move under way to standardize the format, but it is not yet an industry standard.

If these anglers are so lucky as to have data stored on a memory card or in a computer file, the procedure is already halfway done. If not, then they have to convert the file data to a format that is used by the different unit.

But don’t fret: The data format can be rewritten to the required format either by hand or by one of the many GPS data conversion programs. I use a free one called GPSBabel (www.gpsbabel.org).

Yes, I said free. It is worthwhile to at least view the program.

Those who have the saved data and have the same unit file format, can use one of several mapping or data programs offered by the different manufacturers.

I suggest you explore the web site of the GPS brand you have to determine exactly what you need. Many of the newer GPS brands accomplish the data transfer via a spare memory card and a card reader installed in a PC computer.

Older units might require a special power/data cable used to link the GPS unit and a computer via a USB or serial port. Check with the manufacturer’s customer support section to discover exactly what requirements are needed.

Most makers offer a data transfer program as part of their optional supplemental mapping software or even as a stand alone program. Many offer this data transfer program as a free download from their website or at a nominal cost.

Some of these more popular consumer brands are:

Garmin: The Garmin company offers their Home Port and Base Camp from their website at buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/maps/trip-planning/c452-c461-p1.html and www.garmin.com/en-US/shop/downloads/basecamp for Basecamp.

These programs are part of their Blue chart and U.S. Topo programs but can be installed as a stand-alone item.

Lowrance (Eagle and Simrad): Lowrance offers their Insight Planner online at www.lowrance.com/en-US/Products/Mapping/InsightPlanner-en-us.aspx.

It also is part of their Insight Topo and Insight charts, and can be used with Navoinics mapping, includes Lake, Nautic, Topo and Genesis and with Navionics Platinum+, Gold, HotMaps Premium, and HotMaps Platinum charts.

Humminbird: Humminbird offers their Humminbird PC software program at www.humminbird.com/Category/Support/FAQ/HumminbirdPC. It is also a free program, but to get the download you must register your GPS Humminbird unit.

Raymarine: Raymarine RayTech Navigation Software Planning and Navigation software is Raymarine’s PC navigation version of their data transfer program. It can be found at www.raymarine.com/view/?id=510.

DeLorme: Delorme requires their X-MAP or Topo USA mapping programs in order to complete data transfers.

Magellan GPS: Magellan’s VantagePoint can be found on at www.magellangps.com/Store/VantagePoint_Software/VantagePoint.

Yes, there are others, but these are some of the more-common consumer GPS units and their software.

To complete transfer, you generally would use the menu feature in your GPS unit, you would select “transfer data (waypoints, tracks and or routes) and select the transfer point as a spare memory card, export the file to the card, and then take the card and open the proper data transfer program with your computer and import the file from the data card into the transfer program.

Once there, you can edit, add or delete any of the data and save it as a backup on your computer or on a thumb drive.

Then you would export the data from the transfer program back to the spare memory card, place that card in the new unit and transfer it using the menu features of the unit. 

If you saved tracks in your unit, you should use the software in the unit or in the data-transfer program to convert the tracks to routes. By converting tracks to routes, you let the GPS unit’s internal software guide you through the turns and legs of the voyage rather than trying to steer your vessel on a small breadcrumb line.

The GPS directs the user to use headings and distances to each marked waypoint in a route rather than trying to follow a small dotted track on the screen. This is a much safer way to navigate, as the track line becomes bolder and broader with each pass of the boat, and that obscures the original track.