How Are Fobs Duplicated?
Fobs work through the use of Radio Frequency IDentification, or RFID for short. RFID is an ‘intelligent’ barcode system that uses electromagnetic fields for identifying and tracking data on ‘tags’, which contain stored information. The information is passed using radio waves, hence the name Radio Frequency IDentification.The majority of fob systems work by first assigning a unique serial number to each individual key tag (or ‘fob,’ after the small ornaments that used to be attached to watch chains, before the advent of wrist watches). When the fob is passed over a reader located at the door you are trying to enter, the information contained in the serial number is assessed to decide either that access should be allowed or denied. Fobs used in these systems can be duplicated by copying the serial number contained in the activated fob to a blank fob.
However, there are a few factors which can complicate the fob duplication process if you are trying to do it yourself:
- You must know the frequency of the chip used within the fob;
- Once you know the frequency, you must know the type of chip used in the fob;
- Many fobs have ‘read-only’ serial numbers, meaning you will need a means to transfer the serial number onto the blank fob;
- The new tag (fob) must also be compatible with the readers at the doors or areas you are trying to access.
Determine the Frequency of the ChipThere are several different types of frequencies that can be used by an RFID system. For most purposes, the common types are:
- Low frequency, or LF, (125 kilohertz – 134 kilohertz)
- High frequency, or HF, (13.56 megahertz)
- Ultra-high frequency, or UHF, (433, and 860-960 megahertz)
Most door access systems use a low frequency; low frequencies have long wave lengths and are better able to penetrate thin metallic substances, such as a microchip. Low frequencies must work within a limited range, making them suitable for key fob door systems.
You can determine the frequency by googling your type of fob with the word “frequency,” by buying an RFID frequency detector ($40 or so) or by making a homemade one.
Determine the Chip in Your FobYou cannot exactly determine the type of microchip in your fob unless you open it up. Opening up a fob almost always irreparably damages it, so that you can no longer use it. We’ve had numerous customers come in with drilled fobs, trying to do this themselves, and the fobs can no longer be used or duplicated.
The safest way to determine the microchip in your fob is to figure out the type of fob you have and then google the type of microchip for your fob. The standard microchip format is 26-bit and if you have a 26-bit fob and a 26-bit blank fob, you should be able to transfer the RFID from one to the other.
Transferring Your RFID from Your Fob to a Blank Fob
Most fobs are read-only, meaning they will not write their RFID onto anything else. This means that you need to have something to receive the RFID and then write the RFID signal onto the new, blank fob.
There are lots of cheap RFID duplicators available online. Most of them are garbage but you can try buying one or two and see if they work. You can find them as cheap as $10, but good luck with that. You should know that cheap RFID readers/writers likely only duplicate one range of RFID signals, or one format, and may not be able to duplicate your fob. When buying an RFID duplicator, make sure that it duplicates your frequency and format before purchasing.
Just like the homemade frequency detector you can build, you can also build a homemade RFID duplicator. However, we don’t recommend this method unless you are really technically savvy.
Make Sure your Blank Fob is Compatible with Your System
Whatever device you are writing your RFID onto must be compatible with that frequency, with the chip format and with your entry system at your condo. Having accomplished the above steps, you now know the new fob is compatible with the frequency of your original and the chip, but do you know it will work at your building?
If you are able to successfully write your RFID onto a new, blank fob, and you can use your RFID detector to confirm it was successfully copied, then your fob should work with your system. But the only way you can know for sure is to try out the copy. If it doesn’t work, you’ll have to find a different blank fob.
When purchasing blank fobs, make sure they are of the correct format to store your RFID at the right frequency. You might think you’ve copied it successfully, only to try out the new fob at your condo and not be able to enter your building.
This sounds really complicated, doesn’t it? We at FobCopy take the stress out of this and you don’t have to learn how to build electronic devices. Just come into our main office at 22 Linden Street (near Sherbourne station) and we will copy your fob within seconds. We offer better rates than your condo or the other fob duplicators in Toronto and we guarantee your new fob will work or your money back.