Installation of any software application should be straightforward, intuitive, and, perhaps above all, fast. Furthermore, when you have the software installed, you want to be able to update it as and when you deem necessary, and in a streamlined fashion.
Altium Designer provides a fast, efficient Installation Management System that caters to this very need - a system that not only expedites the initial installation process but lets you handcraft the features available to that software at any time after installation.
For the recommended and minimum system requirements to install and run Altium Designer, see the System Requirements page.
Initial installation of Altium Designer is performed using the Altium Designer Installer. This wizard-based installer is accessed by running a small (approx. 25MB) executable - AltiumDesignerSetup<Version>.exe. This executable is downloaded from the Downloads page of the Altium website and can be saved anywhere on your hard disk.
Each version of the software has its own dedicated installer.
Streamlined installation courtesy of the Altium Designer Installer.
There are two key elements to installation that are definable across the various pages of the installation wizard, allowing you to control what gets installed, and where:
Design Functionality - allows you to specify which features are installed initially. The PCB Design option provides the base software and core technologies required to perform PCB design. It is always installed and cannot be deselected. Use the remaining options to tailor the installation to suit your needs. This will also have an impact on the initial installation time.
Install Location - allows you to specify the destination folders for the installation in terms of both the Program Files and Shared Documents install locations. These locations become especially important when installing multiple instances of Altium Designer.
The installation itself is streamlined and expedient. This allows you to get the software installed and up-and-running in the quickest time possible. Once installed, you can further refine your installation in terms of available features and functionality.
Altium Designer includes a streamlined licensing system that enables you to get licensed and up-and-running with your Altium Designer Software in a timely and efficient manner. The system offers various licensing types to suit your licensing needs.
On-Demand - client-side license acquisition is administered by an Altium managed server.
Standalone - client-side license acquisition is managed by the user through the use of a licensing file (*.alf).
Private Server - client-side license acquisition is administered by the Private License Service of an Altium Infrastructure Server, which is a free, on-premise server that provides remote Altium product installation and license management.
Facilitating the ability to enhance your Altium Designer instance, customization of the software is made possible through the concept of Extensions. This is a key concept of the system to understand. An extension is effectively an add-on to the software that provides extended features and functionality. A core set of features and functions are installed and handled transparently as part of the initial installation, referred to as System Resources. In addition, Optional Extensions are available, which are packets of functionality that are optionally installed or removed by the user as required. It is the extension concept that enables the installation to be handcrafted in accordance with design needs.
Customization of an Altium Designer installation essentially boils down to management of the available extensions. Install, update, or remove available extensions as and when you need to. Many extensions are available from Altium for use with Altium Designer. In addition, and with the Altium Developer extension, you can extend the functionality of Altium Designer through use of the Altium Designer SDK (Software Development Kit) by creating your own extensions for the software.
And inherent to the Altium Developer extension is the dedicated Developer Interface, which is the user interface for managing custom extensions. Part of this interface is a publishing feature that enables you to share those extensions securely with a wider audience through release to a global repository of extensions (a global extensions gallery, if you will). This is a cloud-based Altium repository and opens up the possibility for third-party developers to offer and trade extensions for Altium Designer through secure distribution, licensing, and installation of the extensions they craft.
The global repository of extensions can be accessed through the AltiumLive Partner Dashboard at https://apps.live.altium.com. The Dashboard exposes a newly-published extension to other registered users, such as those in a company group, by providing controlled distribution and (if necessary) licensing of the extension.
Functionality is added to or removed from Altium Designer through installation and removal of optional extensions.
Within Altium Designer, management of extensions for the software is performed from within the dedicated Extensions & Updates view, which is accessed by clicking on the control at the top-right of the design space then choosing the Extensions and Updates command from the menu.
Accessing the Extensions & Updates area - command central from where you can efficiently manage the functionality available in the software.
The Extensions & Updates view can also be accessed directly from the License Management view by clicking the Extensions and updates option below the Available Licenses listing.
We all can appreciate using examples to get us going with specific aspects of software. At times, such examples showcase a feature or set of features that make the learning curve a little less steep. In a similar fashion, we like to have access to a pre-developed set of libraries, giving us a boost in the choice of components we can use 'out-of-the-box'.
A selection of example designs is installed as part of the initial installation. In a standard default installation of the software, these can be found in the \Users\Public\Documents\Altium\AD21\Examples folder of the installation. Further reference designs, design components, and board templates are available through various sections in the Design Content area of the Altium website:
Reference Designs are available that showcase functionality in the PCB design domain. These can be downloaded from the Reference Designs section.
Legacy reference designs, built at the launch of Altium Designer 10, can be downloaded here. These include a number of simulation and scripting examples. Keep in mind that these are legacy and are not updated.
Installing Multiple Instances of the Software
Once the base version of Altium Designer is installed on a computer (e.g., 21.0.x), you can either update to a subsequent version (e.g., 21.0.x +1), or that subsequent version can be installed as a fresh and distinct instance. The installation system supports the concurrent installation of different instances of the software. The beauty of installing different version instances is that it enables you to quickly access a previous version directly and independently, whereas an update effectively replaces the earlier version with the later one.
When running the installer for a subsequent version of Altium Designer, an additional page of the Altium Designer Installer wizard will be available called Installation Mode. This page gives you the choice of either updating an existing version instance of Altium Designer or installing as a separate new version instance. Choose the New installation option to maintain separate version instances of the software on the same computer. Remember to specify different destination folders for the new instance later in the wizard.
To install a separate instance, ensure the New installation option is chosen as the mode of installation.
There are two important factors that facilitate the installation of multiple individual version instances of the software:
The ability to specify different destination folders during the install in terms of both the Program Files and Shared Documents install locations.
The system's use of a Globally Unique Identifier (GUID) for each independent instance. This identifier, which uses the standard 128-bit URN model and is displayed as a 32-character hexadecimal number, is used to uniquely distinguish the application data folders, as well as entries in the registry. When you run a particular instance of Altium Designer, the system handles (through use of this identifier) only those files and registry entries specific to that instance.
The following is a summary of the default installation folders for Altium Designer 21.x (Windows 7 and above):
The default main installation path for Altium Designer is:
Examples, libraries and templates for a default installation can be found in the following directory:
System application data (including Extensions, Portal Cache) and security files (license ALF) for a particular instance can be found in the following two directories:
For the main program installation and shared documents folders, you have the ability to give those folders meaningful names, which can come in very handy for a machine containing multiple different version instances of the software. But for other folders, they are only distinguished by their GUID. Being able to tell that you have the right folder for the right version instance suddenly becomes more difficult. However, help is at hand. By using the Preferences dialog, you can quickly identify the GUID used for the currently open instance of the software and, armed with that knowledge, you can pick the right folder through Windows Explorer.
The GUID can be identified on the following pages of the Preferences dialog (in a standard default installation of Altium Designer):
CAM Editor - General: in the Default log files location field.
Identifying the GUID used for the active version instance of Altium Designer.
Changing Installed Core Functionality after Installation
During initial installation of Altium Designer, you have a choice over the core design functionality you want to be installed. This choice is not 'set in stone', however, and can be modified at any time after installation. This can be performed in two places:
Internally from within Altium Designer from the Installed page of the Extensions & Updates view.
Externally from within Windows from the standard Programs and Features page (accessed from the ControlPanel in Windows 7 and above).
From Altium Designer
Access the Extensions& Updates view (click on the control at the top-right of the design space then choose Extensions and Updates from the menu) and switch to the Installed tab.
Click the button at the top-right of the Platform region. This accesses the Configure Platform page, which presents the core feature set for the software including platform extensions and is identical in content to that found on the Select Design Functionality page of the Altium Designer Installer.
Make changes to the core functionality of your Altium Designer installation by configuring the platform from within the Extensions & Updates view.
Make changes to the installed core feature set as required by checking/unchecking the box next to a feature. Modifications are distinguished by the applicable entry becoming bold. Once modifications have been made, click the button at the top-right of the page. A confirmation dialog will open; click OK to apply the changes and restart Altium Designer. The instance of Altium Designer will close and a window will appear showing progress in terms of the download of the files required to implement the change(s) followed by the installation of those files.
Altium Designer will then be restarted.
Access the Programs and Features page through the Windows ControlPanel then right-click on the entry for Altium Designer and use the Change command from the context menu.
If you have installed multiple instances of Altium Designer, ensure changes are being made to the correct instance. It can be a good idea to have the Version attribute displayed as an additional column on the Programs and Features page so that the correct instance can be quickly verified.
The Altium Designer Installer wizard will be presented. Log in through the Account Log In pop-up window, after which you will be taken to the Select Design Functionality page. Make changes to the installed core feature set as required then click Next.
Modify the installation at any stage by changing the core functionality installed.
The Ready To Modify page will be presented. At this point, the Installer has all the information it requires to proceed with modification of the installation. If you need to change anything, click the Back button. If you want to cancel out of the install, click Cancel. To proceed with the modification, click Next. The page will change to Modifying Altium Designer and the files required to implement the change will be downloaded and installed.
Modification of the installation proceeds by downloading the files required to implement desired changes to the software. Once downloaded, those files will be installed.
The modification to the installation is now complete. An option is provided to launch Altium Designer when you exit the Installer, which is enabled by default. Click Finish to exit the wizard.
Updating to a Later Version
Updating to a later version can be performed from two places:
Internally from within Altium Designer: from the Updates page of the Extensions & Updates view.
Externally from within Windows: from the standard Programs and Features page (accessed from the ControlPanel in Windows 7 and above).
From Altium Designer
Access the Extensions& Updates view (click on the control at the top-right of the design space then choose Extensions and Updates from the menu) and switch to the Updates tab.
The page presents all Altium Designer platform updates that are available, arranged in chronological order, to provide a historical view of platform changes since the last update. The most recent version build incorporates the changes from all previous updates. To view further information on any platform update, click on the name to open a detailed view. In most cases, this will provide an expanded description of the update's function and Release Notes that summarize its changes over the previous version.
New software updates are always visible but require a valid Altium subscription and account login to be downloaded and installed.
Update to a new version of Altium Designer directly from within the current version.
To download and install a software update listed under the main Updates tab, click its associated button that appears when you hover the mouse cursor over the update entry name. Alternatively, if browsing the detailed view for the update, click the button. If your license or subscription status does not allow the update, or you are not logged in to the Altium portal, a warning message will pop up to indicate the issue.
A progress bar will appear that shows the progress of the download (essentially getting the installer for the later version from the secure cloud-based Altium Repository). Should you need to cancel the update, click its associated cancel icon ().
A confirmation dialog will open, alerting you to the fact that a restart is required to install the platform update; click Yes. The instance of Altium Designer will close and a window will appear (essentially the Updating Altium Designer page of the Installer wizard) showing progress in terms of download of the files required to implement the update followed by the installation of those files.
Altium Designer will then be restarted.
Verification that you now have the later version of the platform installed can be made either from any page of the Extensions & Updates view or from the Help » About splash screen.
Updating your current instance of Altium Designer to a later version is performed during installation of that later version.
Download and run the AltiumDesignerSetup<Version>.exe file associated with the latest version of the software.
Follow the installation process using the Altium Designer Installer for the new version. After agreeing to the End-User License Agreement, you will be presented with the Installation Mode page. This page gives you the choice of either updating an existing version instance of Altium Designer or installing it as a separate new version instance. Choose the Update existing version option then use the drop-down field to select the specific instance of the software you want to update. The Programs and Documents install locations will be summarized based on the chosen instance.
Choose to update an existing instance of Altium Designer during installation of a later version of the software.
Click Next. The Ready To Update page will be presented. At this point, the Installer has all the information it requires to proceed with the update of the existing installation. If you need to change anything, click the Back button. If you want to cancel out of the installation, click Cancel. To go ahead and proceed with the update, click Next.
Login through the Account Log In pop-up window. Once this is done, the page will change to Updating Altium Designer and the files required to implement the update will be downloaded and then installed.
Update of the installation proceeds by downloading the files required to implement required changes to the software. Once downloaded, those files will be installed.
The update to the installation is now complete. An option is provided to launch Altium Designer when you exit the Installer, which is enabled by default. Click Finish to exit the wizard.
Uninstalling Altium Designer is performed using the Altium Designer Uninstaller. This wizard-based uninstaller is accessed from the standard Programs and Features page (accessed from the ControlPanel in Windows 7 and above). Right-click on the entry for Altium Designer and use the Uninstall command from the context menu.
If you have installed multiple instances of Altium Designer, ensure that the correct instance is being uninstalled. It can be a good idea to have the Version attribute displayed as an additional column on the Programs and Features page so that the correct instance can be quickly verified.
Uninstalling the software is streamlined, courtesy of the Altium Designer Uninstaller.
Three actions are provided, facilitating varying degrees of 'uninstall' as follows:
Uninstall - removes the install folders (program files and shared documents locations) but leaves preferences-based folders alone. This enables you to have a build that is not currently installed, but whose preferences can still be reused, for example, by importing into another installed version.
Remove Preferences - removes just the preferences-based folders, covering system application data and security files, user application data files, and user local application data.
Remove Completely - total removal of the entire installation (i.e. installation folders and preferences folders).
Choose the uninstall action required. If you want to cancel out of the uninstall, click Cancel. To proceed with the uninstall, click Next. The page will change to Uninstalling Altium Designer and the chosen action will be processed. Once the uninstall is complete, click Finish on the Uninstallation Complete page of the Uninstaller.