Introduction: Decode Your License

Picture of Decode Your License


Using a cool little program I dug up on the web, and a scanner I was able to decode the barcodes on the back of my NY drivers license, and find out what information people get when they scan it. I'm pretty sure that just decoding the barcode is not illegal, but some of the other things I describe probably are, so let those be just proof of concept.

All the times my license (well technically my permit, but its all the same) appears, I mess up the barcodes a bit so (hopefully) no one can get my information. Personally I don't care, but theres probably some good reasons why I should not let it out so I'm just being safe.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Most people probably have this stuff:

1. Scanner
2. License/Permit from any state ( I think there are a few states ids that do not work, but most should)
3. Swipe Barcode Program
4. A Hex converter (more on this later)
5. Photoshop or similar program
6. Optional 1d barcode decoder

Step 2: Procedure

Picture of Procedure

All of this is fairly straight forward.

1. Scan the back of your license / permit using a medium - high resolution. The resolution should be set so that the 2d barcode is about 2000 pixels long.
2. Open up the image in Photoshop and cut out the 2d barcode. The 2d barcode is the one on the bottom in the picture. Most states use the PDF-417 (Portable Data File, with 17 modules each containing 4 bars and spaces, thus 417). Edit the barcode so that it is exactly 2000 or less pixels long because that is the maximum the program will allow, and save it.
3. Open swipe toolkit pdf417 barcode reader, available to download in the last step, and load your barcode into it. Click decode image, and a window with all your information should pop up. The picture shows the window that I got ( I removed thinks I should probably care about). As you can see, you can view the information processed, in raw bytes, or in hex. An interesting thing to note is if your card contains your social security number, some states put it on and some states don't.

Step 3: Legality Becomes Iffy Here

Picture of Legality Becomes Iffy Here

Cyansoft makes a pdf 417 barcode encoder, which you can use to modify the barcode.

If you select raw bytes(you can also select hex if you want to use a hex editor to edit the information) on how the decoded information is shown in the pdf 417 reader, examine it and you should be able to pick out your information such as d.o.b, name, license number, etc. You can edit that information, copy the selection into cyansoft's barcode encoder, and tweak it to look like the original barcode. Some of the settings you may need to change are the Error correction level, the number of columns and rows, and the bar width. The overall purpose of tweaking the barcode is to get it to look and read the same before, just with the modified data.

To test out the modded barcode, export it as an image and run it through the decoder again, if it works great, if not just keep tweaking the settings in the encoder until it looks exactly like the original. You now have your modded barcode, but what should you do with it?

Step 4: From This Point on Everythings Definitely Illegal

Ive never tried these, so don't blame me if you screw up and ruin your license.

If you want to use the fake barcode you just make on your license, there are many possible ways to transfer it. The easiest is probably to erase the old barcode with some acetone and paper towels, and when your sure its completely erased, carefully print directly onto the license. The only problem with this method is that you would need a high density printer (thermal transfer or laser), and would have to be extremely careful that it printed in the right spot nice and cleanly.

Another method could be to clean off the old barcode with acetone, and then print out the new one on a transparency and affix it to your license. The problem with this method are that it would be easy to tell its fake, unless done really carefully.

Remember if you are changing a piece of information that is on the front you have to change it on the license too. It doesn't matter if the id scans 21, if it says 18 on the front they are not going to accept it.

(Note: Most licenses also have a 1d barcode on the back too. It contains much less information then the 2d barcode. To edit it you will need to find out what specific type of barcode it is, there are many sites online with pictures of different barcodes that can help you. Then download a decoder for that type, and decipher the information they give you, see if it matches up with your license number, dob, etc. Then change it and re encode it using a program for that type of barcode.)


kallyfok (author)2017-10-11

This result seems good.

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JoeA92 (author)2016-06-26

I know this is an old post, but all the info I've read in the comments is wrong.....

License barcodes DO NOT contain pictures, or anything but the data any barcode scanner reads. Its encoded with certain bytes of data and a specific header to make it read properly in a scanner. Search the net for "aamva license standards" for all the info you need. Its best to find a barcode creator which can edit the hex values and make sure you encode it exactly to the aamva specifications. Also the x and y dim, and error correction need to be correct for any store/bar scanner to read properly.

cpushrod (author)2011-07-05

Target store clerks will ask you for your driver's license when making certain purchases, such as games rated "M", but then they will scan it without warning you that they intended to do so. Show me where it says it's illegal to prepare a fake ID for the express purpose of preventing theft of your identity by Target. It's only a matter of time before they get broken into like Sony recently was.

ZachB27 (author)cpushrod2016-01-29

Damn dude did you call it or what?

ChristopherO26 (author)ZachB272016-04-07

Too good

redxine (author)cpushrod2013-02-16

The computer discards all the information except for the d.o.b. on age restricted materials. It is a violation of federal law to collect any information (such as your address, for things such as a mailing list) other than your date of birth from your license. Considering Target is asking to see your ID to prevent being charged with selling an age restricted item to a minor (and thereby breaking the law), it would be silly to break the law while enforcing it. Since the scanner can also read the PDF417 barcodes on DoD CACs, I assure you that the government would have looked into it by now.

The exception to this rule (which is allowed by U.S. federal law) is when you open a Target Visa. The information verifies your line of credit and is easier than typing a name and address on the already difficult to use signature pad.

You should also consider that any time you swipe a card, sign a pad, enter a PIN, or pay with a cheque, you're trusting that very same machine to handle your financial data.... When you pay with cash, you're also trusting that the cash point you withdrew it from didn't have a skimmer installed.

Since American POS systems have yet to adapt Chip and PIN card readers completely, scanning your ID for an age-restricted product doesn't reveal any more personal information that swiping a credit card doesn't already.

ElvenChild (author)redxine2013-06-08

Well,actually, I'm fairly certain there is no law requiring you to be of a certain age before you can purchase "R" rated movies and "M" rated games.

Think about it, getting your movie "Content Rated" by the MPAA, by law,is completely optional. However to be displayed in a theater, it must be. However theres also not a law that says minors can not go to an "R" rated movie, however the theaters have an agreement with the production companies that they won't let unaccompanied minors in.

It's really all up to store policy.

Luannes6 (author)2015-09-08

SolidSilver (author)2009-02-03

Just for kicks, I scanned my Maine license and ran it through pdf417decode 2.0 (a Linux package from SourceForge). There's pretty clearly some binary data in the last field, but I don't know the format and there's no recognizable header. Any ideas how to decode it? I think it's a copy of the picture on the license. Also, the Swipe decoder doesn't seem to recognize the Maine fields, as it doesn't show anything in the processed data view.

pcooper2 (author)SolidSilver2013-09-13

SolidSilver, there's not enough space in the PDF417 code to encode the picture, nor is there need to do so. It just contains text information, mostly what's human-readable on the front and back of the license. The purpose of PDF417 codes on licenses is to make it faster and safer for traffic officers to get the information; they can do it quickly with a handheld barcode scanner, instead of having to laboriously type it in on the laptop computer with which many police cruisers are now equipped. By not being distracted with typing, officers can keep an eye on traffic and potential bad guys in the vehicle they've stopped. Once they have the text data from the PDF417 code, it can be linked to a government database via radio and a medium resolution picture of the license holder can be transmitted to the cruiser's laptop computer within a few seconds. Obviously, if the image on the card doesn't match the image on the screen, the officer will know he's dealing with a forgery and a potentially dangerous situation.

I suspect the PDF417 code contains exactly the same data as the magnetic stripe, if the license is so equipped. My state driver license has both.

jknutson1978 (author)pcooper22015-04-25

pcooper2, actually, their could be a picture in the bar code. The PDF417 can have photographs, fingerprints, signatures, text, numbers or graphics.

"PDF417 barcodes are special in that they can hold upwards of 1.1 kilobytes of machine-readable data, making them much more powerful than other 2D barcodes. This storage space has been utilized in cases which require the storage of photographs, fingerprints, signatures, text, numbers or graphics."


ZzWy (author)2014-06-05

I've tested several PDF417 barcode reader toolkit, but most of them cannot recognize rotated barcodes. Then, tried this good PDF417 barcode reader software.

Dean AAron (author)2011-11-17

Here's an comprehensive barcode professional website.
It provides barcode solutions for .NET, Java, and Smartphones. Easy and efficient to use, so try them at following web sites. I do believe they are helpful to solve problems.

lil parka (author)2011-05-10

can someone help me im not that advance as all you seem i would like to know if i decode my az lisence and change some info would it still scan and be on the dmv database? i need help pleaase.

the1man (author)lil parka2011-05-11

You can edit the code to change your information . I would be happy to help you with this.

mccrackn (author)the1man2011-10-13

I also need help changing the barcode on my license. Can you help?

Dean AAron (author)mccrackn2011-11-17

Try these sites to change the information in your 2D barcode. Just input your information, then generate a barcode and save the image.

Also, you can use this barcode reader to check your encoded information.

amamedov1 (author)the1man2011-07-18

I have the same problem, I need to figure out how to change the decoded information so that it still comes out right when scanned. Please help

funni64 (author)2007-03-10

anybody know where to find a 1d/Code 39 barcode decoder?

Dean AAron (author)funni642011-11-17

Hey, this is my favorite barcode decode which provides an awesome linear(Code 39 included) barcode decoder. Try it~
More barcode tools are also available here: Hope it is useful.

techjunkster (author)funni642011-05-10

A bit late on this one, but ran across this post when hunting around for barcode related info.

There's an online barcode decoder that decodes 1d as well as driver's licenses. It's pretty easy to use - just upload an image and you get results. Also has an SDK if you want to integrate into your app.
Free Online Barcode Decoder

PR22 (author)funni642008-10-07

I second this

keastes (author)PR222009-02-27

when in doubt check sourcefourge

RansomReckon (author)2011-06-15

You can print directly on a PVC card with an Epson r200 inkjet printer as long as you buy the PVC card tray to use with the printer. I got my (brand new in box) printer at GOODWILL for $10! And the tray I got on EBAY for $20.

I haven't tried your method yet, but, just for fun, I will try.

ncryder450 (author)2009-03-29

i understand how to decode the license and i have the pdf417 bar code maker, and i have the "raw bytes" do i put the raw bytes info in to the fixed code value? and then tweak the size an wat not...becuase when i do that and then export it is not at all like the original

ybunnygurl (author)2009-03-27

if your dieing to know what the code is I can tell you. its a digital copy of your ID. I asked at target when I returned something and they scanned the bars(1D). (I also tried the when i worked at a retail store and had to fill in information in to code boxes... and was shocked to find it worked with almost all of the different states ID's , except for DC's... theirs gave me different stuff, just random numbers. the 2D is a digital image of the front and back of your card.

Brick-To-Face (author)2008-11-03

Seems like a waste for all that "[value type] = " stuff to be on there
They could probably save space by having a standard order of values. Then the could fit more fun stuff on there, like "Suspected member of known terrorist group", or, "Kite enthusiast"

keastes (author)Brick-To-Face2009-02-27

>MODE:conspiracy_theorist< or they could just put an unique ID number and require you to "swipe your license to, say, buy food down @ your local grocer and keep track of what you buy >end:mode_Change< welcome to America, God help us.

idiotjohn (author)2008-04-08

Excuse me, but what normal person owns a scanner?

ReCreate (author)idiotjohn2008-12-14

This(me) normal person

bikerbob2005 (author)idiotjohn2008-08-07

OMG i'm not normal mama lied
i got my cat for free in the mail years ago

themasterpyro (author)idiotjohn2008-05-31

I do, but I'm far from normal.

tigerboy (author)idiotjohn2008-05-01

not a barcode scanner,a printer,faxer,scanner kind

hjjhjhgjjh (author)2008-10-07

IDK Think That Program works???

TKDYBBS (author)2006-10-24

I worked staffing a company that was deploying the new barcode system to a southern state. I was given secure information about the barcodes. You are correct that they do include printed information. However, the barcode also includes an encrypted image file of the photograph that is on the front of the license. The biometrics firm used an existing 2d barcode to create this embedded image. When a picture is taken a biometric readout is created and hypothetically any camera at a stop light, mall, airport or your seven-eleven could then be used as a capture device to help track known or suspected criminals. The biometric firm had plans on selling decoders to hotels, stores, gas stations, etc. in an attempt to help reduce fraud. The companies would have three choices of how to use the product. First it would simply display the decoded image on a screen for visual comparison. This would have been the cheaper solution. The second solution would generate a revenue stream for the state. For a subscription fee the scan could then be sent, via vpn, to a state computer for a triple check. In other words the state would provide a third database copy of the image for comparison to the printed front copy and the decoded copy. It would also provide publicly available information to the company and automatically populate the companies data base with said information. The third option was to combine option number two with a photo taken by the merchant using a web cam and then the image would be biometrically matched with records on file with the state to provide a positive id. The second and the third options provide the state with a number of revenue streams. One from the subscription service, another for the database access and database population and perhaps most importantly it would provide local, state, and federal law enforcement with an ability track individuals with outstanding warrants. The cost of implementation has thus far been cost prohibitive and since 9/11 there has been some fear of the system being misused for the identification of government operatives by terrorist cells within and outside of the United States.

pushybaby (author)TKDYBBS2008-06-17

Hi, my name is Eugene, I wonder if you could help me. Do you know how much data is encoded on the barcode at the back of a drivers license? As far as I know, it's a PDF-417 Symbology. The reason why I'm asking is that I have a Barcode Scanner that supports the PDF-417 Symbology. I designed such barcode & managed to scan it, but when I scan the one on the drivers license it couldn't pick it up.Could you please help? I have a project to run and I need some advises.

connielomill (author)pushybaby2008-08-03

can you help me too . connie

Tetranitrate (author)TKDYBBS2006-10-24

Yeah in the instructable I mention the possibility of a compressed image file in the 2d barcode, but I wasn't sure what states, if any, used it.

martyvonx (author)2007-02-25

I live in MD and I tried for a long time to get my barcode to decode in that program. I cleaned it up in Photoshop and everything, but it wouldn't work, then I found this program:
It decoded it without even cropping.

connielomill (author)martyvonx2008-08-03

can you help me change my license. Connie

chriskarnaze (author)martyvonx2007-05-24

Can you recommend any pdf417 encoders that will work with that decoder? I have tried several but can't produce any barcodes that the decoder will decode. It says "BarCode not found" with dimensions -1 x -1. The decoder will decode the bar code on my driver's license, so I'm not sure if the problem is with the encoders I'm using or the way the barcode image is being prepared for the decoder. Thanks

mrmath (author)2006-10-20

I live in NY, and my license looks just like that. I have never seen it scanned. Unless the police have scanners in their cars, I don't know what good it does us. Has anyone out there ever seen their license, or anyone's license scanned?

Tetranitrate (author)mrmath2006-10-20

Yes, the police have scanners in their car, they use them to save time instead of typing in all the information; however, the most common places scanners are used is at bars, clubs, and liquor stores. The first thing most kids ask when buying a fake ID is "Is it scannable?". Ive heard arguments debating who would go in the store and buy the hooch, and scannability was the big issue ex: "Well I look the oldest and my ID is chalked to say I'm 23, but its not scannable" "Do you know if they scan here" "Yeah I think they do, so we should send in Jessica, she looks the youngest, but she has her sisters ID which is scannable" 2 hours later "GESSHhikkkka, I mmmaay n0t telll you thissss eneeough, but ::hiccup:: I...I...I lllurrvvee youuu" "OHHh youu, yerour jusss saYinggg that ::giggles:: ::burps:: ::pukes:: ::passes out:: ::farts:: Ahh, the sweet cherished memories of youth.

spinach_dip (author)Tetranitrate2006-10-20

Even if you are 100% legal, don't you think it's kinda creepy that they are scanning and saving the data? Do they have a privacy policy or a data retention policy, or do they consider that they just now own the information and can do with it as they please?

spinach_dip (author)spinach_dip2006-10-20

I'm talking about the liquor store retaining your data. Also, this barcode seems to be called a PDF417 barcode

Tetranitrate (author)spinach_dip2006-10-20

Yeah many stores keep and some even sell the information they get when they swipe the id, and I mentioned it was a PDF417 in the instructable.

pushybaby (author)Tetranitrate2008-06-17

Hi, my name is Eugene, I wonder if you could help me. Do you know how much data is encoded on the barcode at the back of a drivers license? As far as I know, it's a PDF-417 Symbology. The reason why I'm asking is that I have a Barcode Scanner that supports the PDF-417 Symbology. I designed such barcode & managed to scan it, but when I scan the one on the drivers license it couldn't pick it up.Could you please help? I have a project to run and I need some advises.

spinach_dip (author)Tetranitrate2006-10-21

I missed the ref for PDF417, I started googling for 2D barcodes. Anyway, if you get the reader software, here's a file you can download to try it out:

which came from this page here:

It's not from anyone's ID, so you will have to switch over to "show raw bytes", but at least you can give it a workout.

mrmath (author)Tetranitrate2006-10-20

No wonder I've never seen it happen. The police always are in their car, and I'm in mine. And the scanable licenses didn't come around until after I was old enough, and looked old enough.

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