Altium Designer Documentation

Routing the PCB in Altium Designer

Created: December 6, 2022 | Updated: June 19, 2023
Applies to Altium Designer versions: 23 and 24

Parent page: Laying Out Your PCB

Colorful image of PCB routing

Working in harmony with the component placement, the routing is the other key factor in the success of your PCB design. Altium Designer includes a number of intuitive interactive routing features to help you efficiently and accurately route your board, from a simple double sided board all the way through to a high density, high speed, multi-layer board. It also includes a differential pair router, and interactive length tuning of both single-sided and differential routes. If your design is dense and has a high net count then you might like to explore ActiveRoute - it's not an autorouter, it is automated interactive routing technology that delivers efficient multi-net routing algorithms, applied to the specific nets or connections selected by you, the designer.

Where to Next?

Before you commence routing, it is important that the board is ready. Use the Preparing a PCB for Routing page as a checklist to help you work out if your board is ready.

Ready to route? Altium Designer includes a number of interactive routing capabilities, including the interactive routing tool. Interactive routing is fast and efficient, with walkaround, hug and push modes that let you get the job done quickly and efficiently.

There is full support for differential pair routing, as well as single-sided and differential pair length tuning.

You also might like to explore ActiveRoute, an automated interactive routing technology that delivers efficient multi-net routing algorithms, applied to the specific nets or connections that you select. ActiveRoute also allows you to interactively define a route path or Guide, which then defines the river along which the new routes will flow.

The topological autorouter produces routes like that of a skilled board designer. Being a topological router, it is not constrained to an orthogonal grid, instead being guided by preferred direction settings and connection paths.

Nowadays, routing is no longer a simple, join the dots process. Fast device switching speeds mean that many boards have high-speed signals, requiring impedance profiles to be defined, and controlled impedance routing. The PCB editor's routing width design rule can be width-driven or it can be impedance-driven, where the routing width changes as the routing moves from one layer to another.

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