System Installation, Licensing & Management

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Installation of any software application should be straightforward, intuitive and, perhaps above all, fast. Furthermore, when you have that 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 for 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.

Altium Designer 16.0 is a major update. It is not possible to update from Altium Designer 15.x/14.x (and it is a completely different install mechanism to Altium Designer 13.x/12.x/10.x). As such, a new installation is required for Altium Designer 16. You have the choice to continue with your current version or to install Altium Designer 16.0 to access the latest features. Alternatively, have both installed side-by-side, and use the version that best suits your needs.
This page was written for Altium Designer 14, and includes references to drive locations, such as "found in the \Users\Public\Documents\Altium\AD14\Examples folder of the installation". For a subsequent Altium Designer installation, simply replace AD14 with ADxx (e.g. AD16, AD15) to get the correct reference.
For the recommended and minimum system requirements to install and run Altium Designer, see the System Requirements page.

Initial Install

Main article: Installation with the Altium Designer Installer

Initial installation of Altium Designer is performed using the Altium Designer Installer. This wizard-based installer is accessed by running a small (approx. 11MB) executable – AltiumDesigner<Version Number>Setup.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, starting with Altium Designer 14.0, has its own dedicated installer.

Streamlined installation courtesy of the Altium Designer Installer.

There are two key elements to installation, definable across the various pages of the installation wizard, allowing you to control what gets installed, and where:

  • Design Functionality – allowing 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 install to suit your needs. This will also have an impact on the initial installation time too!
  • Install Location – allowing you to specify the destination folders for the install, 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 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.

Licensing Altium Designer

Main article: Altium Designer Licensing System

Altium Designer includes a streamlined licensing system, enabling 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 meet, and suit, your licensing needs. This includes web-based, on-demand licensing. Tightly integrated with customer accounts through the Altium portal, web-based on-demand license management allows a license to be used on any computer without the need to move license files or activate on each machine. This provides a global floating license capability – within the geographic scope of your license and the conditions set out in the EULA – without needing to implement your own server.

License Types

The Altium Designer licensing system features three distinct license types:

  • On-Demand – client-side license acquisition is administered by an Altium managed server. There are two 'modes' when using a seat of an On-Demand license:
    • On-Demand – a seat of an On-Demand license acquired by any client computer, only while you are signed in to your account. When you sign out, the seat is released so that another user can acquire it.
    • Roaming – a seat of an On-Demand license acquired for a specified time. In this mode, you can sign out and work offline, in essence roaming freely with your acquired seat
  • Standalone – client-side license acquisition is managed by the user through use of a licensing file (*.alf). This file can be saved, copied and backed-up as required. The .alf file is reusable on a home computer (in accordance with the EULA) simply by copying the file to a specific folder on that computer and then adding the file as part of Standalone License Configuration.
  • Private Server – client-side license acquisition is administered by a user-managed server. Your administrator sets up a Private License Server to access and use Private Server licenses. Once the license is in use on the server, that server will then serve the license to local computers. Users on the local network do not need to sign in to their Altium accounts to acquire the seats from the Private License Server.

License Availability, Selection and Configuration

License configuration and selection is performed from the License Management view – one of several views available under Altium Designer's Home page. Access from the Admin view of the Home page, or directly using the DXP » My Account command. This is 'command central' for obtaining a license. Sign-in to your Altium account and view and select On-Demand licenses available to you. Add a Standalone license file. Or, connect to your Private License Server and use a seat from any of the associated Private Server licenses made available to you by your network administrator.

Whether using an On-Demand license, Standalone license, or Private Server license, the Available Licenses region of the page will automatically present the specific licenses available to you. Choose the license that you want to use and then click on the applicable command, depending on how you want to use that license.

Accessing the License Management view.

Extending the Functionality of Your Installation

Main article: Altium Designer Extensions

Facilitating the ability to enhance your Altium Designer instance, Altium supports customization of the software 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, providing extended features and functionality. A core set of features and functions are installed and handled transparently as part of the initial install, referred to as System Resources. In addition, a range of Optional Extensions are available – 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. A range of extensions are available from Altium for use with Altium Designer. In addition, and with the Altium DXP Developer extension, you can extend the functionality of Altium Designer yourself through use of the Altium Designer SDK (Software Development Kit) – creating your own extensions for the software.

And inherent to the Altium DXP Developer extension is the dedicated DXP Developer Interface - the user interface for manging 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 the Global Extensions Gallery. This is a cloud-based Altium Vault 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.

Functionality is added to, or removed from Altium Designer, through installation or removal of optional extensions.

Within Altium Designer, management of extensions for the software is performed from within the dedicated Extensions & Updates view – one of several views available under Altium Designer's Home page. Access from the Admin view of the Home page, or directly using the DXP » Extensions and Updates command.

The Extensions & Updates view - command central from which to efficiently manage the functionality available to the software.

The Extensions & Updates view can also be accessed directly from the License Management view, by clicking on the Extensions and Updates control, below the available licenses listing.

Where are the Examples and Libraries?

We all can appreciate using examples to get us up-and-running with specific aspects of the software. At times, such examples showcase a feature, or set of features, that makes 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 can be installed – either as part of the initial installation, or added at any time thereafter. In a standard default installation of the software, these can be found in the \Users\Public\Documents\Altium\AD14\Examples folder of the installation. Further reference designs, design components, and board templates, are available through various section in the Design Content area of the AltiumLive community:

  • Reference Designs – are available that showcase functionality both in the PCB design and Soft design domains, as well as a full complement of designs relating to the hardware available from Altium – including NanoBoards, Daughter Boards, and Peripheral Boards. These can be downloaded from the Reference Designs section. In addition, the NanoBoard Examples section offers a wide variety of example projects targeted to the use of Altium's NanoBoards.
  • Components – delivered through the Altium Content Vault, they can be accessed for placement during design-time via Altium Designer's Vaults panel. Vault-based (or 'managed') components deliver another level of unification – not only do they include all models, they also include up-to-date supply chain information. In fact, this spanning of the design and supply chain worlds empowers the components to become truly Unified Components. For the latest information on what components are available, including descriptions of all device families, check out the Unified Components section. As well as access to the vault-based components, you can also download an up-to-date Integrated Library of each available component family. Just look for the link on the left when you're reading about a component family.
  • Board Templates – also offered through the Altium Content Vault, and providing a range of board templates, managed sheets, and board connector components. Check out the Template Designs section to browse what's available.

With an Altium Vault Server installed for your organization, you also have the ability to acquire data from the Altium Content Vault – copying data Items to your own vault. This places ownership of that data firmly in your hands, giving you the freedom to make local modifications and maintain the content as you desire moving forward. For more information, see Vault Data Acquisition.

Legacy component libraries and reference designs, built at the launch of Altium Designer 10, can be found on the Download Libraries and Download Examples and Reference Designs pages in this Wiki. Bear in mind that these are legacy and not updated. To ensure the latest offerings, it is advised to source components and reference designs from the Design Content area of the AltiumLive community.

Installing Multiple Instances of the Software

Once the base version of Altium Designer is installed on a computer (e.g. 14.0), you can either update to a subsequent version (e.g. 14.1, 14.2, etc), 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 – 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.

Installation Folders

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 sections provide a summary of the default install folders for Altium Designer, according to operating system used.

Windows 7 (or Windows Vista)

  • The default main installation path for Altium Designer is:

\Program Files (x86)\Altium\AD14

  • Examples, libraries and templates for a default installation can be found in the following directory:

\Users\Public\Documents\Altium\AD14

  • System application data (including: Extensions, Portal Cache) and security files (license ALF) for a particular instance can be found in the following two directories:

\ProgramData\Altium\Altium Designer <GUID>
\ProgramData\Altium\Altium Designer <GUID>_Security

For two example instances, the paths might therefore be (inserting example GUIDs): 

\ProgramData\Altium\Altium Designer {7DF7280E-CD03-40A9-A6A4-DDD057140F70}
\ProgramData\Altium\Altium Designer {7DF7280E-CD03-40A9-A6A4-DDD057140F70}_Security
\ProgramData\Altium\Altium Designer {566C1AFA-49CA-4B17-B7CB-70A2042D8DAC}
\ProgramData\Altium\Altium Designer {566C1AFA-49CA-4B17-B7CB-70A2042D8DAC}_Security

  • User application data files (including: DXP.rcs, UserTools.tlt, AdvPCB.dft, AdvSch.dft, last workspace, PCB view configurations) for a particular instance can be found in the following directory:

\Users\<ProfileName>\AppData\Roaming\Altium\Altium Designer <GUID>

For two example instances, and a user profile of Des Igner, the paths would therefore be: 

\Users\Des Igner\AppData\Roaming\Altium\Altium Designer {7DF7280E-CD03-40A9-A6A4-DDD057140F70}
\Users\Des Igner\AppData\Roaming\Altium\Altium Designer {566C1AFA-49CA-4B17-B7CB-70A2042D8DAC}

  • User local application data for a particular instance can be found in the following directory:

\Users\<ProfileName>\AppData\Local\Altium\Altium Designer <GUID>

For two example instances, and a user profile of Des Igner, the paths would therefore be: 

\Users\Des Igner\AppData\Local\Altium\Altium Designer {7DF7280E-CD03-40A9-A6A4-DDD057140F70}
\Users\Des Igner\AppData\Local\Altium\Altium Designer {566C1AFA-49CA-4B17-B7CB-70A2042D8DAC}

Identifying the Right Folder

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 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, can pick the right folder through Windows Explorer.

The GUID can be identified on the follow pages of the Preferences dialog (in a standard default installation of Altium Designer):

  • Data Management – Backup: in the Path field.
  • Schematic – Default Primitives: in the Information region.
  • PCB Editor - Models: in the Directory field for Temporary Mesh Data.
  • CAM Editor – General: in the Default log files location field.

Identifying the GUID used for the active version instance of Altium Designer.

Importing Preferences from a Previous Version or Major Release

After installing and launching a new version instance of Altium Designer, the designer is given the opportunity to import preferences from the most recent previous installation at startup. Not only will the preferences be imported, but the user settings will be copied across too –- ensuring the new version opens with the same look and feel created in the previous version, even down to the last opened workspace and panel positioning!

If the option to import preferences on initial startup is not taken, don't worry – preferences can be quickly imported, at any time, from within the Preferences dialog. Simply click the  button, at the bottom of the dialog. The associated menu will list all previous versions/releases currently installed on the computer, and that can be imported from.

Preferences can be imported from any individually installed version instance of Altium Designer (AD14, AD13, AD12, AD10), or any of the following previous major releases of the software: Summer 09, Winter 09, Summer 08, and Altium Designer 6.

The benefit of importing at startup is getting the working environment looking exactly the way it was set up in the previous installation. Importing preferences at a later stage will only 'restore' a subset of this environment.

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 from 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 Control panel in Windows 7).

From Altium Designer

Simply access the Extensions & Updates view (DXP » Extensions and Updates) and switch to the Installed page. Then click the Configure control, at the top-right of the Platform region. This accesses the Configure Platform page, presenting 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 and click Apply. A confirmation dialog will appear, 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 download of the files required to implement the change(s), followed by the installation of those files.

Altium Designer will then be restarted.

From Windows

Simply 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, open at the Select Design Functionality page. Make changes to the installed core feature set as required and 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 go ahead and proceed with the modification, click Next. You will be required to login to your Altium Account using your AltiumLive Credentials. Once this is done, the page will change to "Modifying Altium Designer" and the files required to implement the change will be downloaded and then 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.

Updating to a Later Version

This 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 Control panel in Windows 7).

From Altium Designer

Simply access the Extensions & Updates view (DXP » Extensions and Updates) and switch to the Updates page. When a new version of the platform is available, a notification will be present. Simply click the  icon to proceed with the update. Hover the mouse over the icon, to view details of the platform version available.

If there is no later version of the platform available, then the text Platform software is up to date will be displayed to reflect this.

Update to a new version of Altium Designer, directly from within the current version!

A progress bar will appear, showing progress of the download (essentially getting the installer for the later version from the source vault). Should you need to cancel the update of the platform, simply click its associated cancel icon ().

A confirmation dialog will appear, 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 dialog) 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.

From Windows

Updating your current instance of Altium Designer to a later version, is performed during installation of that later version. Simply 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 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 wish to update. The Program Files and Shared 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.

The Ready To Update page will be presented. At this point, the Installer has all the information it requires to proceed with update of the existing installation. If you need to change anything, click the Back button. If you want to cancel out of the install, click Cancel. To go ahead and proceed with the update, click Next. You will be required to login to your Altium Account using your AltiumLive Credentials. 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.

Uninstalling

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 Control panel) in Windows 7. Simply 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 go ahead and proceed with the uninstall, click Next. The page will change to "Uninstalling Altium Designer" and the chosen action will be processed.

The Altium Designer Uninstaller in action!

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