This is an old revision of the document!
Until recently the only quick and easy option for using RTLSDR was with WINSDR and HDSDR with the EXTIO plugin from spench.net. This has all changed now and all you need is the very nice, fast and open source SDR#. It natively supports RTLSDR hardware (along with FUNCUBE and the audio card) and is much kinder on the CPU than the others. It also has code to deal with the so called DC spike so that you don't see it.
You may converse directly with the author “prog” on IRC at Freenode on channel #sdrsharp.
To get SDR# working in Windows you need 3, no 4(!) things:
When you plug your RTL device in for the first time, Windows may request a driver or automatically install a driver from Microsoft - this is OK as it will be replaced in the next few steps. Don't install the software on the CD that comes with the device.
Note that if you insert the dongle into a different USB port you may have to use Zadig again. It seems that you can change which driver is loaded depending on the USB port used. So you could use one USB port for RTLSDR and another port for using the dongle to watch DVB-T with the supplied Windows application.
As of development version 515 the RTLSDR libraries are no longer included because of open source license conflicts. This isn't a big issue to fuss about and it's easy to resolve.
libusb-1.0.dllto the directory SDR# is unzipped to.
SDRSharp.exe.Configin a text editor.
<!-- <add key="RTL-SDR / USB" value="SDRSharp.RTLSDR.RtlSdrIO,SDRSharp.RTLSDR" /> -->
and remove the leading
<!— and trailing
SDRSharp.exeand you should see the following window.
You should now see an orange waterfall display in the bottom half and a dancing blue spectrum in the top half. By clicking and dragging on the blue spectrum you can conveniently change the frequency. In the example below I have dragged the spectrum and centred on an FM station. All going well you should hear the audio coming out of the PC speaker.
For more information have a look at the short guide on the SDR# site for more information. Also join in the livey discussion on IRC at Freenode on channel '##rtlsdr' (two #'s).