If you got a Garmin GPS, you can use their MapSource software for free, but it is a little tricky obtaining, installing, and setting it up for free.

This works with many Garmin GPS’es.  I figured this out with the Garmin Nuvi 760 that I recently bought.

There are so many cool things you can do with your Garmin when you have MapSource installed, so I feel that it is worth the effort installing it in spite of how difficult Garmin may make it.  So, here is my guide to make it a lot easier for you.

  • Go to www.garmin.com
  • Hover the mouse pointer over “Support” then click “Software”
  • Click “Mapping Programs”.  Don’t begin installing MapSource just yet because it is an update only and will tell you that you don’t already have a previous version of MapSource installed.
  • From here, install BaseCamp.  Having BaseCamp installed is what allows you to install MapSource.  You don’t necessarily have to start or use BaseCamp.  A lot of the cool stuff you can do with MapSource can also be done with BaseCamp.  So, it may be optional to install MapSource, but MapSource is what I prefer to use.  There is a hack explained on another site, that you can use instead of installing BaseCamp.
  • Now, you can install MapSource from the “Software” page of the Garmin website.
  • After you install MapSource, when you try running it, it won’t actually run, instead it will show the error message that says: “MapSource could not find any installed MapSource map products.  Please install one or more MapSource map products and start MapSource again.”  What you have to do is install a map to Mapsource.
  • When you register your Garmin GPS with the Garmin website for the first time, they give you a limited time free City Navigator NT map update that they normally charge $60 for.  This map can be installed to both your GPS and MapSource.  You just have to have mapsource installed (previous step) and your GPS hooked to the computer.  If it isn’t connected, the map won’t install.  The latest one is a 3 GB download, and it takes a long time to install to the GPS.
  • If this map update is already installed to your GPS, just install it again to get it also into MapSource.  Expect the required step of loading to the GPS to take a long time.
  • If you want to use MapSource sooner without further waiting or you don’t have access to Garmin’s map update, you can use 3rd party maps that can be installed into MapSource.  They can then be loaded to your GPS from within MapSource.  One 3rd party map I recommend is small (1.5 MB).  It is simply an overlay of the state and county borders of all US states.  Get it from (link deleted).  The 3rd party maps don’t require a connection to the GPS to load to MapSource.  When this is installed, it will allow you to start MapSource for the first time.  Other free 3rd party maps are available from (link deleted).  (Edit: Deleted links because the target website has been taken down or expired; I may see if I still have this particular map file and post it later)

Now you can play around with MapSource.  Connect your GPS, and load waypoints and tracks from your GPS to MapSource.  Right-click a waypoint and choose View Satellite Imagery on maps.google.com.  Or click View > View in Google Earth if you have Google Earth installed.  There are all kinds of stuff you can do.  MapSource is a lot better when you have the City Navigator NT maps from Garmin installed.