Downloading to a Ademco Security Panel using Honeywell Compass Software


Downloading to a Ademco Security Panel using Honeywell Compass Software


How to guide on connecting to and programming your Honeywell alarm security system such as Vista, Lynx, First Alert, FBII panels with the Honeywell compass software.

1. Introduction

I spent far too long trying to download \ upload data from a Honeywell Ademco Vista-21iP panel using the Honeywell Compass software.  There is limited information on the internet about it so I decided to help others out who want to go down this path.  Let me start by stating you really should not go down the path of trying to program a security panel with the Honeywell Compass software unless there is a specific need as you will spend more time setting up and getting the software working than programming the panel through the keypad.   This software is designed and intended for professional alarm installers, it is not suppose to be for general public or DYI use.  I needed to use the Honeywell Compass software because I need to use 3 custom zone types and you can only program 2 from the keypad on my panel model.

The setup to program these panels through the Honeywell Compass software is bulky and a bit of a mess as it requires far obsolete technology such as dial-up modems.  It would be great if the security boards had a RS-232 port, an adapter to program through the ECP bus, or a way to program locally (without alarm-net) through the on-board Ethernet port on the Vista-21iP model but these panels have been around for decades and are going no where fast.

2. The equipment

Here is the core things you need to download to your security alarm panel

  • Honeywell Compass software (hints on how to find this below)
  • Modem from Honeywell supported modem list, other Hayes Smartmodems may work with special cable
  • Watelco cable or capacitor line coupling cable
  • USB to serial adapter on newer computers
  • Modem serial cable
  • Computer running windows XP or later
  • Patience

2.1 Honeywell Compass Software Download

For legal reasons I can’t give out the software but there are ways to find it.  With a Honeywell “MyTechWeb” account or some creative Googling you can find the download document that links to the install files.  Try these searches
– Honeywell/First Alert Compass Download Document
– Honeywell Interactive Compass Download Document

You install the main program then install the patch, for information on how to install this software see the Honeywell Compass installation guide, try these Google searches
– compass 2.0 installation guide
– 800-05340

2.2 Compatible modem

The only supported connection methods for the Honeywell Compass software on many of Honeywell \ Ademco \ ADT \ First Alert \ FBII panels is through the phone connection which requires a modem.  These panels are extremely picky on which modems they will talk to so you are more than likely going to have to buy an old Hayes SmartModem on Ebay.  The connection to the panel is made at 300 baud and is very finicky with carrier detection so newer “high speed” modems just don’t have good backwards capabilities down to those speeds.  The modem needs to support the old Bell 103 communication format.  You can find a list of modems Honeywell says works with the compass software in the supported modem document.
– Compatible Modems
Some of these modems are not listed as a choice in the modem setup in the compass software so first install the software and go through the list of modems before buying one.  This was a huge issue for me as I bought a Hayes SmartModem Optima 9600 which is in the supported modem document but not listed in the software and probably took over 10 hours of tinkering with the whole setup to get it to work, save the hassle and buy a Ademco CIA 2400Hayes Smartmodem 1200 or 2400 from Ebay.  If you are up for some tinkering you can make a capacitive coupling cable below which will allow you to use a lot more of the Hayes Smartmodem products.

2.3 Directly connection modem to panel with specialty cable

This is critical and your modem will not be able to talk to the panel if not done correctly.  A typical plain old telephone service (POTS) coming into a house provides 48VDC and is used by a headset or modem to modulate the current on the line to transmit the audio information.  Since you are directly connecting the modem to the panel you have to add power to the line for the modems to communicate.  Honeywell does this with a “Watelco” cable.

2.3.1 The Watelco Cable

Honeywell Compass watelco cable
This diagram was created by user Dino on the DIY Security Forum and is the same wiring as the diagram published in the Honeywell Compass documents.

I spent hours trying to get this to work but ultimately could never get to work with my Hayes SmartModem Optima 9600.  This cable works with the Ademco CIA 2400 modem and some of the Hayes SmartModem 1200 or 2400.

2.3.2 Capacitive coupling cable

If the above “Watelco” cable does not work the next step up from this is to build a cable like I did below

                +  | | -
               |   | |     R     |           
               |  9 to 24V       |            
               |                 |           
                     C .47uF


Source: John Meshkoff

Capacitive coupling phone cable

The Resistor is 150 Ohm 1/2 Watt, for the capacitor I used two 0.22uF, Radioshack 272-1070, 50V+ polyester-film capacitors in parallel to get 0.44uF because they did not stock a polyester film capacitor in a 0.47uF value.  You can buy the parts from any electronic supplier or just get them on Amazon: 0.47uF 474J Polypropylene Film Capacitor and 150 Ohm Resistors.  I chopped an old telephone cable in half and soldered the capacitors in place with alligator clips for the power and resistor as I was not sure which values I would need, the resistor could be soldered in place now that I know it works with my modem.  I am just clamping on to the 12VDC panel power supply for power but you could use a 12V battery or wallwart.  Here are all the values I tested below and they all worked.

2×150 Ohm in series (300 Ohm), 24v
390 Ohm, 24v
470 Ohm, 24v
1000 Ohm, 24v

150 Ohm, 12v
2×150 Ohm in series (300 Ohm), 12v
470 Ohm, 12v
1000 Ohm, 12v

2.3.3 Phone Line Simulator

If the two above options fail your modem is probably not going to work. They do sell products to simulate phone lines called “Phone Line Simulators” or “Phone Line Emulators” which you can pick up used off Ebay such as the Viking DLE-200B.  This can be used in place of the above two options if you do not want to make your own cable.

2.4 USB to Serial adapter


As all laptops and most desktops don’t have a RS-232 serial port anymore you will most likely need a USB to serial adapter.  I always uses FTDI chipset USB to serial adapters as they have rock solid stability and have never had an issue with them.  I surprisingly was unable to get my FTDI chipset USB to serial adapter working with this setup so I had to buy a Keyspan HS-19 Keyspan High-Speed USB to Serial Adapter which is recommended by Honeywell in their support documents.

2.5 DB-9 Female to DB-25 Male cable

You will need a standard DB-9 Female to DB-25 Male cable to connect your external serial modem to the RS-232 serial port.  Make sure you do not buy a null-modem cables these are wired with the receive and transmit lines crossed for direct computer to computer connection.

3. Using Compass Software

Let the fun begin, once you have all the equipment needed to connect to your panel you need to setup the Honeywell compass software.  The link to install guide is in section 2.1.  Open the software and will get this screen.

Honeywell Compass software, main login screen
You will be prompted for a username (operator) and password, the default system login username and password are “master” for both fields.

Honeywell Compass software - main screen
The next screen you will see is this, it is the main screen of the compass software.   Click the “Modems” button.

Honeywell Compass software - modem setup
Select “Configure COM port” and add the serial port you will be using, then select the modem you have.  For my Hayes SmartModem Optima 9600 I used the “Hayes Smartmodem 2400” preset.

Honeywell Compass software - customer setup
To make edits to a panels configuration or even connect to a panel you need to create a customer account for that panel.  This software is designed for professionals to store the configurations of all the installations they have done.  Click the “customers” button at the top left, then click the “Add” button at the bottom right.

Honeywell Compass Software - Customer Account Setup
You can leave most fields blank here, make sure the Account number is 4 digits.  The panel and revision need to be set.  The revision is the first number on the label attached to the PROM chip on the panel circuit board.

Honeywell Compass software - edit configuration
Once the account is created double click on it from the account list.  The configuration show will be the default configuration as you have not retrieved (uploaded) the current configuration from the panel yet.  Click the connection icon next to the save button and the below dialog will open up.

Honeywell Compass software - communications dialog
This is used to connect to the panel and activate all panel configuration changes.  Click the connect button.

Honeywell Compass software - communications dialog
There is were you activate the connection to the panel.  Select Initiate from: Telco and the “First Time Communication” radio button.

At this point you will need to put the panel into modem communication mode, enter the installer code on the keypad then the # symbol then the number (installer code + # + 1).  If you are next to the panel you will hear the really click when the panel picks up the phone line and the keypad will say “Modem Comm”.  Click the connect button in the Honeywell compass software and the modem will connect to the panel.  See my video below for what this sequence looks like.

In this video I already entered in the installer code + # + 1 into the keypad.  I also unchecked the “Off after connect” option in the modem setup so you can hear the whole connection process.

Once connected to the panel get the current configuration to edit the panel setup, use the “UploadAllFromPanel” command.  The terminology can be confusing but an upload is where the panel sends data to the compass computer and the opposite logically follows; a download is a sending data from the compass computer to the panel.

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