How to use and upgrade Scanner in Starfield

The planetary view in Starfield used to scan for objects on its surface.

The planetary view in Starfield used to scan for objects on its surface.
November 1, 2023: Finally diving into Starfield but unsure on what the scanning feature does? This guide has you covered!

The Starfield scanning feature is one of its most integral parts. It serves a function whether you're drifting between plans, surveying the map, walking around a barren wasteland or bustling city, or partaking in a bit of pirate plundering, too. Here's how it works, how to do it, and why you might want to invest in it.

If you ignore Starfield scanning entirely, you'll play the whole game through look and feel alone. It's trying to navigate a foreign country without your phone on a galactic scale - possible, but probably a huge waste of time.

Afraid of wasting time in the grand cosmos all of a sudden? We've got your back. If you're looking to make a killing with cargo, here's how to increase carry capacity. Learning how to craft will help, and knowing how to invert flight controls might be useful if your specific situation as well. And with an easy way to get XP fast in Starfield, you can spec out a scanning build in no time.

What is Starfield scanning for?

Scanning in Starfield is a way to quickly uncover the materials, flora, and fauna you'll find on any given planet. You can do this before you land, saving you time.

On land, you can scan those specific objects to eventually learn how to find them more quickly.

Scanning also helps when attempting to target ship parts. This can help you destroy or board enemy ships more efficiently.

How to scan in Starfield

For the most part, you can simply tap the F key in Starfield to scan a vast variety of flora, fauna, and inorganic materials. Enabling the scanner will highlight objects that can be scanned, but you'll need to get within range to actually pull data from them.

Scanning a Mossgnath in Starfield.
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Once you're close enough, use the E key to scan the object in question. If used on a planet, you'll uncover its natural inorganic resources. From that point on, you can use the Show Resources button to view where on the surface they're most likely to appear for you to mine with your cutter.

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If on land, you can use the scanner on flora and fauna to learn more about them. Scan enough of the same species to fill out the meter and you'll be able to track them, making it much easier to quickly collect resources from that specific plant, animal, or alien.

How to improve the scanner in Starfield

The hand scanner can spot items in view, but it can only scan those that are close enough. You can increase the usable range of the scanner by ranking up the Surveying skill in the first tier of the Science tab.

You'll even unlock a zoom function that acts like a binocular. This increases in magnification with each rank. Use it to scan an area for any hostile life that may surround a material you're looking to grab.

How to improve planet scanning in Starfield

If you're on the hunt for precious metals, you may want to think about spending a few points in the Scanning skill on the Science tab of the skill tree. Found in tier two, the more points you put into it, the rarer materials you'll be able to pinpoint on the Show Resources satellite view.

By default, you'll be able to spot metals of every rarity with a scan from your ship, but you won't be able to see the locations of anything other than the basic rarity. Ranking up the Scanning skill not only extends the distance from which you can scan a planet from your ship, but also flags these rarer minerals for you to quickly grab when you land.

How to fix the 'Scan Unavailable' error in Starfield

If a planet has the Scan Unavailable error over it when you view it from the map screen, the fix is simple: get closer. Even making out the Scanning skill won't allow you to scan a planet at the other end of the universe. Close the gap and try again.

Community stories can help immerse you in Starfield outside of the game. Take a look at this moving tribute to a fan who sadly didn't live to play it. And if you like Twitch culture, watch these streamers encounter and hilarious bugs if you're not busy finding them yourself.

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