This is a mini-HOWTO for how to rebuild the database cards for Garmin G1000.The info here is for the 8.1 software version which is what Columbia-s currently have.

Overall, the process is pretty much the same as before including how to create backups disks and how you do the updates. The SafeTaxi and charts are updated just like the obstacle one and you get them from the same location on garmin website.

Backup Cards Procedure

This is the "quick and dirty" version of what you need to do if you simply want a set of backup cards and don't care at all to know the details of what is really going on. So without further ado:
  1. buy good quality cards. Look for reliable cards (good brand) and avoid anything unknown or "high-performance". Any size larger than 4GB will do.
  2. format in FAT32 (which is default for any large-ish SD card)
  3. copy airframe_info.xml file from previous disk(s)
  4. go to and apply the DBs on both cards in this order: Terrain, BaseMap, Obstacle, SafeTaxi.
    If you have SVT, make sure you get the "9 arc-second" version of the TerrainDB.
  5. depending on what you have, go to either Jepp or Garmin to apply the charts DB. Only the MFD card needs this.

That's it.


I would recommend making backups of your cards before you start. Garmin expects us to update the originals each time but IMO this is just plain wrong because any mistake will result in AOG and will most likely require a 2-3 day turnaround at a minimum for Garmin to ship replacement cards (dealer is not allowed to build new ones)

There are 2 ways to make backups (there are probably more but these are the only ones I know of that are proven to work ):

  • raw cloning. See Eric's post on how to do this. You'll need a Unix box of some kind for that to work (a Mac would do for example)
  • rebuild from scratch. This basically means starting with empty disks and use Garmin's own update mechanism to add each DB in turn. There are five in all (so far): terrain (includes airport info), basemap (things like names of roads, rivers, etc.), obstacle, safetaxi and charts.

I used the latter because it does not require an original and allows you to rebuild the cards from scratch each time there is a problem (eg. bad card). What you need is the unlock codes for the each of the 4 DBs. For safetaxi and obstacle, this is easy because you are probably already paying for them (if you want the updates). For the other two, there are two choices: 1) you call Garmin and just ask for the codes for the current DBs. This is legit because you are supposed to already have them although Garmin can be leery of this given the fraud risks. If they refuse, 2) just go on the Garmin website and buy them (one-off). For about $300 you can get unlock codes for all DBs with no Garmin involvement (you technically pay again for DBs that you are supposed to already have but ... convenience has benefits). Or use Eric's approach above.


You only need to do this when you start with completely blank cards and if you use the "rebuild from scratch" approach. Once you have a set (either because you already did this or because you used raw cloning), you can skip this stage and go straight to #3.

To build the cards from scratch, start with empty cards, format them in FAT32 and copy the airframe_info.xml file as-is from the previous cards or from a local disk backup (you only need to do this once for lifetime of the card. This info never changes until firmware changes again). This file includes a serial no of the card itself so copy accordingly (ie get the one from the original PFD card onto the new PFD card and same for MFD. Which goes where is not important as long as they remain different over the two cards)

You can use this process to cleanup your cards later if something goes amiss during an update. This is why I prefer having unlock codes for all my DBs as "s**t happens" (TM). I did an update once that wiped out all DBs except the ones I was updating so I was AOG. One hour and a full rewrite later though I was back in business.

Update stage

Download the DBs from Garmin's website then apply each DB update in turn on both cards (if you never done this, see previous post in this thread on how to do it. Also, Garmin provides step-by-step info on their website) I recommend saving the DB and the unlock code locally in case you need to reapply the update later (say if the card goes bad or you lose it). To dispel some fears, let me emphasize the key characteristic of these updates:

There is no difference between a monthly update and update against a previously empty disk. In both cases, you overwrite the respective DB fully so you can retry as many times as needed. All you need is the DBs and the unlock codes.

Leave charts update for last as it's the largest and most time consuming. One key part in this regard: the charts DB is only needed on the MFD! It's large and some of you may want to save the work. In this case, label your cards somehow (eg. P and M) so you know where they go (your dealer probably already did this on the originals), then apply the charts update only on the MFD copy. I update both simply because it's little extra work for me and keeps the cards interchangeable but it's not strictly needed.

This is it. If you make a mistake, just redo the update. Each update is self-verifying so if it says "success" the files are good and the cards are in good shape. If you keep seeing errors, throw the card out and get a new one. Was said before but worth mentioning again: SD cards are somewhat fragile and some vendor sell crap out of the box (ie. never test them). If you get a bad one just return it. If the card works initially, it's likely to work for a long while.

Once all updates succeed you have new cards with latest DBs, ready to be installed in your plane. Take originals out, put second set in and that's it. The system will reverify the DBs as usual so the first start will be a bit slower than usual. Chart and terrain DB are the largest and will take a while to verify (terrain especially)

The procedure above was tested as explained and verified to work as expected.

Advanced info

Here is what's on the cards:

v8.1 (Eplates)

/feat_unlk.dat - the checksum cache file (8KB)
/terrain.adb - airport data (frequencies, etc.) (~25MB)
/terrain.tdb - terrain database (~92MB)
/terrain.odb - obstacle database (~4MB)

So far, same as before. Here is what's new:

Common files:
airframe_info.xml - plain text file with info like Garmin sysID, software version, etc.
safetaxi.bin - SafeTaxi DB (~7MB)
For Garmin FliteCharts chart subscriptions:
bmap.bin - Base map (~12MB)
fc_tpc/ - the charts themselves live in this subdirectory (~634MB)
For Jeppesen ChartView chart subscriptions:
Charts/ - the charts themselves live in this subdirectory
Fonts/ - font files in a non-standard Jeppesen format

v9.01 (SVT)

Same as v8.1 except:

apt_dir.gca - new format for airport data. Zip archive of XML files, one per airport.
terrain_9as.tdb - terrain DB in 9-arcsecond resolution. Replaces terrain.tdb.

Sample of airport data file: .


The airframe_info file is the only one unique to your system and which should be kept safe as it can't really be restored without reinstalling the firmware update. You can rebuild the file by hand (it's plain text) but you need the info it contains saved somewhere (for example ... print it out). Here is how it looks:

- <airframe_info info_version="1.00">
<airframe_name>Columbia 400</airframe_name>
<cockpit_reference_guide_pn />
- <manifest>

You can view it as-is in IE or any other XML-aware editor. The NNN number is your Garmin sysID and 0xHHHH is the card serial number both in hex. The serial will be different on different cards (even across your two copies!). This is the only file that is different across the two SD cards, everything else is identical to the last bit.

The charts directory contains a second index (fc_tpc.dat) and a directory for the charts themselves (named ... charts/) with one file per airport (2944 files in the current release) in some proprietary Garmin format.