RogerBW's Blog

How To Use a Garmin Drive navi with Linux 27 September 2016

I have recently purchased a Garmin DriveSmart navigation unit. It is quite possible to get this up and running, legally, without buying a copy of Windows or Mac OS. Here's how. I believe this will also work with DriveAware and DriveLuxe models.

Start with a Linux machine, obviously, with the navi plugged into it via USB. This might even work on a Raspberry Pi though I haven't tried it.

Install VirtualBox. I'm using the 4.3.36 that comes with Debian/stable.

Make sure your active user is in the "vboxusers" group.

Install the "VirtualBox Extension Pack" for your version of VirtualBox. If that isn't the current one, you can get it from here.

Download a Windows virtual machine image from Microsoft. IE9 on Windows 7 is the smallest. Note that these VMs expire 90 days after first boot, so keep the install media handy.

Unzip that file, start up VirtualBox, and import the OVA file.

Then go into Settings for the new VM (I gave mine two gigs of memory, and reminded it that the hardware clock is set to UTC) and enable USB - specifically ticking USB 2.0, which was made possible by the Extension Pack. You may need to add a USB filter to allow access to the navi.

Get hold of a copy of Garmin Express. The download site tries to check your OS version and deny you access, so bypass that and grab the Windows version.

You might want to make a snapshot of the VM at this point, before it's been booted, so as to avoid having to re-import when the time-limited VM image expires. Or not. I didn't bother.

Start up the VM and let it boot.

Get Garmin Express onto the VM: from a web server, or file share, or however you normally serve files across your network. Or just use a shared folder within VirtualBox.

Garmin Express should now be able to see, and update, your navi. Done!

(Coming soon: getting favourites on and off the device.)

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