How to Measure Frequency with a Multimeter

Multimeters are versatile tools used by electricians, technicians, and enthusiasts to measure various electrical properties such as voltage, current, resistance, and frequency. Understanding how to measure frequency with a multimeter is essential for diagnosing and troubleshooting electrical and electronic circuits.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the steps, tips, and safety precautions necessary to measure frequency with a multimeter accurately.

Understanding Frequency Measurement

What is Frequency?

Frequency is a crucial concept in the realm of electronics and electrical engineering. It denotes the rate at which an alternating current (AC) or a periodic electrical signal oscillates, typically measured in hertz (Hz).

One hertz equals one cycle per second. This measurement is crucial because different devices operate at different frequencies, which dictates how they interact with other components in a system.

For example, the standard power supply frequency in the United States is 60 Hz, while it is 50 Hz in many other parts of the world. Electronic devices such as radios, TVs, and smartphones operate at much higher frequencies, ranging from thousands (kilohertz) to billions (gigahertz) of hertz.

Frequency affects various aspects of electrical and electronic devices, including energy consumption, efficiency, and the quality of signals produced or received. Therefore, measuring frequency accurately is vital for diagnosing issues, designing circuits, and ensuring the compatibility and optimal performance of different components within a system.

How to Measure Frequency with a Multimeter

Step 1: Safety First

Before starting, ensure that all safety precautions are in place. Disconnect any power sources before making connections, and wear protective gear if necessary.

Step 2: Setting Up Your Multimeter

Turn your multimeter on and set the dial to the frequency (Hz) setting. If your multimeter has multiple frequency ranges, select the one that best fits the expected frequency of the circuit.

Step 3: Connecting the Probes

Connect the black probe to the common (COM) port and the red probe to the voltage or frequency port (often marked as VΩHz). Ensure that the connections are secure to prevent any inaccurate readings.

Step 4: Measuring the Frequency

Place the probes across the component or part of the circuit where you wish to measure frequency. Ensure the probes are in firm contact with the circuit to obtain a stable reading.

Step 5: Reading the Measurement

Observe the display on the multimeter. The reading will show the electrical signal frequency in Hertz (Hz). Record this value if necessary.

Step 6: Safety Check and Disconnection

Once the measurement is complete, remove the probes from the circuit and turn off the multimeter. Always follow proper safety procedures when disconnecting equipment.

Why Measure Frequency?

Measuring frequency is essential in various fields, such as electrical engineering, telecommunications, and signal processing. Understanding the reasons behind frequency measurement can highlight its importance across different applications:

Ensuring Compatibility and Performance

Electronic devices and systems often must operate at specific frequencies to ensure compatibility with other components and optimal performance. For instance, processors, oscillators, and communication devices have designated operational frequencies.

Measuring and adjusting these frequencies ensures that devices function correctly within their designed parameters, avoiding interference and maximizing efficiency.

Troubleshooting and Maintenance

In troubleshooting electrical and electronic equipment, frequency measurements can help identify issues such as oscillations, noise, and other signal irregularities. By comparing the measured frequency against expected values, technicians can diagnose problems, such as faulty components or incorrect configurations, and take corrective actions.

Regular frequency checks are also part of preventive maintenance to ensure equipment continues to operate correctly over time.

Signal Clarity and Quality

The clarity and quality of transmitted signals are paramount in communications systems, from broadcast radio to high-speed data networks. Measuring frequency helps tuning systems to the right channels and avoiding cross-channel interference.

This is crucial for maintaining clear signal transmission and reception, directly impacting the quality of voice, video, and data communications.

Safety and Compliance

Certain industries and applications require adherence to strict frequency standards to ensure safety and regulatory compliance. For example, in power distribution, the electrical supply frequency must be kept within tight limits to prevent grid and connected devices damage.

Frequency measurements allow for the monitoring and control necessary to meet these standards.

Energy Efficiency

In power systems, frequency measurement can help in optimizing energy efficiency. For instance, the frequency of the electrical grid can indicate the balance between supply and demand.

By monitoring and adjusting the frequency, utilities can reduce wastage and improve the overall efficiency of the power system.

power utility

Research and Development

In the R&D of new technologies, measuring frequency is a fundamental part of testing and development. Engineers and scientists measure frequency to analyze the behavior of new materials, components, and systems under different conditions.

This information is crucial for designing more effective and efficient solutions.

Can Frequency Measurement Impact the Lifespan of Electronic Devices?

Yes, frequency measurement can significantly impact the lifespan of electronic devices. This impact is most evident in how frequency-related issues are identified and resolved, affecting these devices’ operational efficiency and longevity.

When electronic devices operate at their correct frequencies, they function as intended, with all components working in harmony. This optimal operation reduces the stress on individual parts, leading to less wear and tear over time.

For example, a power supply operating at the right frequency will ensure all connected components receive the correct voltage and current, reducing the risk of overheating and potential damage.

Conversely, if a device operates at an incorrect frequency, it can lead to problems such as excessive heat generation, increased mechanical stress, and inefficient power consumption. Over time, these issues can degrade sensitive components, leading to premature failure and a shorter lifespan.

Regularly measuring and adjusting the frequency of electronic devices can help prevent these issues. By ensuring that devices operate within their specified frequency ranges, technicians can minimize stress on components, reduce the likelihood of faults, and ultimately extend the devices’ operational life.


Measuring frequency with a multimeter is straightforward, but it requires the right equipment and a careful approach to ensure accurate and safe measurements. Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively measure frequency in various electrical and electronic circuits.

Always prioritize safety and refer to your multimeter’s manual for specific instructions and information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I measure frequency in any type of circuit?

While you can measure frequency in most AC circuits, ensure that your multimeter is rated for the specific type of circuit and frequency range you are testing.

What if my multimeter does not have a frequency measurement function?

If your multimeter does not have a frequency function, you may need to use a specialized frequency counter or another instrument capable of measuring frequency.

How accurate are multimeter frequency measurements?

The accuracy varies between different models and brands. Always refer to the multimeter’s specifications for measurement accuracy and range details.

Can I measure frequency on live circuits?

Yes, but ensure that your multimeter and probes are rated for the voltage present in the circuit and follow all safety guidelines to avoid electric shock.

Alex Klein Author


Alex Klein is an electrical engineer with more than 15 years of expertise. He is the host of the Electro University YouTube channel, which has thousands of subscribers.