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No Man's Sky guide: Find the best locations with Signal Scanners

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Upgrades, alien words and all the locations you can find

So you've got the basics of No Man's Sky down. You're a planet-hopping, resource-mining, creature-befriending machine. But how do you make the most out of your planet-side expeditions and keep yourself from wandering aimlessly?

This guide focuses on the Signal Scanner. You might've already used it to expand your Exosuit's inventory, but now we'll focus on what else it can do and how it'll make your trips to solid ground more worthwhile.

What's a Signal Scanner?

Signal Scanners scan for signals from a variety of destinations on the planet and then let you know where to find them. You could just wander around the world and stumble onto any of these locations, or you can hit up a Signal Scanner and fly straight there.

Where to find Signal Scanners

You can find Signal Scanners almost anywhere on a planet. They are most often behind Shelters, but they sometimes appear on their own in the middle of nowhere. Just watch for their telltale red beam of light to find one.

If you're having trouble finding your first location to visit on a No Man's Sky planet, your ship's Scanner can help you out. Trigger it the same way as your Multi-Tool while you're flying and it will mark a nearby point of interest on your HUD.

Building Bypass Chips

To access a Signal Scanner, you'll need at least one Bypass Chip. If you have the resources, you can make as many Bypass Chips as you can carry and just keep hitting up the same Signal Scanner as many times as you'd like.

To build a Bypass Chip, you'll need 10 Iron and 10 Plutonium. Iron is pretty much ubiquitous, hiding inside of just about every rock on every planet. If you can find cave that has Plutonium, you'll quickly end up with as much as you could possibly need. Keep pinging your Scanner as you explore and watch for clusters of red lightning bolts to appear on your No Man's Sky HUD.

What do the four types of signals mean?

When you hack your way into a Signal Scanner with a Bypass Chip, you'll find a menu with four options. Choosing Monolith will find the various alien cultural locations, Colonial Outpost will find Operations Centres, Transmission scans for Beacons and Transmission Towers and Shelter will turn up Shelters and Drop Pods. These locations are broken down below.

Monolith

You're probably already familiar with No Man's Sky's Knowledge Stones and know a few words of the local language. The Plaques, Ruins and Monoliths that this scan reveals are your next step.

Visiting them will earn you a few new words and will increase your standing with the local alien race. Adding to your knowledge of languages helps you interact with the aliens you encounter, their Monoliths and the Operation Centres and Manufacturing Facilities.

Ruines and plaques

Ruins and plaques are both relatively simple artifacts. There are usually some Knowledge Stones scattered nearby, and interacting with the artifact will give you some lore, a word and improve your relationship with the locals.

Monoliths

Monoliths are a little more complicated. They will also have a few Knowledge Stones nearby, but interacting with them is a little more nuanced. When you activate the Monolith, you'll be faced with a puzzle. Based on your knowledge of the language, the culture and context clues, choose your answer. A correct answer will grant you a new local race's vocabulary word, improve your standing with the locals, grant you a Trade Commodity or blueprint and also teach you a word of the Atlas language.

Colonial Outpost

Scanning for Colonial Outposts will turn up two types of locations: Operations Centres and Manufacturing Facilities. Both of these operate like the Alien Monolith above.

You will have to shoot your way through a reinforced door to gain access to either type of Colonial Outpost. Shooting the door will alert the Sentinels, but the damage they cause is often so low that you can ignore them and just focus on getting through the door.

Once inside, you'll be faced with a puzzle. Again, use your knowledge of the language and context clues to make the correct choice and disable the alarms. If you're right, you'll receive a new vocabulary word or other gifts. A Manufacturing Facility will reward you with a Recipe.

Recipes

Recipes are especially important in No Man's Sky, not only because crafting can be wildly profitable on the Galactic Trade market, but also because the ability to craft things like Warp Cells and Dynamic Resonators frees you from having to travel to space stations to repair and refuel your ship.

Transmission

Scanning for a transmission will find nearby Beacons, Observatories and Transmission Towers.

Beacons and Outposts

Beacons are an intermediate step that will point you to a nearby Outpost (not to be confused with the Colonial Outpost above) and an alien for you to interact with. Outposts are useful because they will give you access to a Galactic Trade terminal without leaving the planet. Interacting with the locals will usually net you a new Companion Unit or vocabulary words.

Observatories

With their distinctive domed roofs, No Man's Sky's Observatories are buildings that point you to a nearby alien point of interest, much like the Monolith scan above. You have to solve a math problem to access the Observatory scan.

Transmission Towers

Transmission Towers, as we discuss in our Starship guide, point you to a nearby abandoned Starship. These, too, are gated by a math problem you'll need to solve.

Identifying both

Confusingly, No Man's Sky uses the same icon as the general Shelter on your HUD to display Outposts and Transmission Towers. If you get confused by too many icons, just point your targeting reticle toward an icon and more detailed information will pop up.

Shelter

Using a Signal Scanner to find a Shelter will give you the location of either a generic Shelter or a Drop Pod.

Shelters are the small Quonset hut-looking structures. Inside, you can usually find things like blueprints for your Multi-Tool, Exosuit Companion Units or research specimens that will increase your standing with the local alien race. You will almost always find another Signal Scanner nearby.

Drop Pods

As we pointed out in the Beginner's Guide, Drop Pods are a great thing to find because they allow you to expand your Exosuit's inventory slots. Each time you upgrade your storage, it'll cost you 10,000 units more than it did the last time. This adds up quickly, but the extra storage space is basically priceless. If you've got the cash on hand, there's basically never a reason to pass up a Drop Pod.

Save everywhere

When you arrive at your destination, look for the nearby save point. Not only will these allow you to claim the location and upload it to No Man's Sky's Library for units, but it will also ensure that your subsequent visits to Signal Scanners won't just keep turning up the same places. Interacting with these beacons marks the location as visited.

Would you like to know more?

No Man's Sky is a largely solitary experience, but that doesn't mean you have to travel the universe alone. This is but one small section of Polygon's No Man's Sky guide.

Be sure to check out the rest, where you can learn all about your ship, your Multi-Tool and Companion Units and even get answers to some of the biggest questions about No Man's Sky. We also have a guide to No Man's Sky's resources that'll teach you the difference between Oxides and Silicates and No Man's Sky's various elements.

If you're just looking for a quick reference guide to locations, like where you can save and trade — we've got you covered — too.