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Protel PCB 2.7.1 for Windows 7: How to Install and Use an Old-School PCB Design Tool



Protel PCB 2.7.1 for Windows 7: A Review of an Old but Reliable PCB Design Software




If you are a PCB designer who has been in the industry for a long time, you may have heard of or used Protel PCB design software at some point in your career.




Protel Pcb 2.7.1 For Windows 7


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Protel was one of the first advanced PCB design tools available for personal computers in the mid-1980s, and it gained popularity among designers for its affordability, functionality, and ease of use.


However, Protel is not gone; it has been rebranded and enhanced as Altium Designer, one of the most powerful, modern, and easy-to-use PCB design tools for professional use today.


But what if you still have a copy of Protel PCB design software lying around, or you want to try it out for nostalgia or curiosity?


In this article, we will review one of the last versions of Protel before it became Altium Designer: Protel PCB 2.7.1.


We will cover its history, how to install and run it on Windows 7, how to use it for PCB design, and its advantages and disadvantages compared to other modern PCB design software.


By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of what Protel PCB 2.7.1 is, why it is still used by some designers, and whether you should use it or upgrade from it.


<h2 History of Protel PCB Design Software




Protel PCB design software has a long and rich history that spans over three decades. It started as a simple and affordable tool for hobbyists and enthusiasts, and evolved into a sophisticated and professional tool for engineers and designers.


From Protel to Altium Designer




The story of Protel begins in 1985, when an Australian company called Protel Technology Pty Ltd was founded by Nick Martin, a former electronics engineer and computer programmer. He developed the first version of Protel PCB design software, called Protel PCB, for the MS-DOS operating system. It was one of the first PCB design tools that could run on personal computers, and it offered features such as schematic capture, PCB layout, autorouting, and Gerber file generation.


Protel PCB was well received by the market, and soon became popular among hobbyists and small businesses who wanted an affordable and easy-to-use PCB design tool. Protel Technology continued to improve and expand its product line, releasing new versions of Protel PCB with more features and capabilities, such as mixed-signal simulation, 3D visualization, and database management.


In 1998, Protel Technology changed its name to Altium Limited, reflecting its ambition to become a global leader in electronic design automation (EDA) software. It also launched a new version of Protel PCB design software, called Protel 98, which was a major overhaul of the previous versions. It had a new user interface, a new file format, and a new integrated design environment that combined schematic capture, PCB layout, simulation, documentation, and collaboration tools in one platform.


Since then, Altium has continued to develop and enhance its flagship product, renaming it as Altium Designer in 2005. Altium Designer is now one of the most widely used and respected PCB design tools in the industry, offering features such as advanced routing technologies, high-speed design capabilities, cloud-based collaboration tools, and support for emerging technologies such as rigid-flex boards, embedded systems, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.


Protel PCB 2.7.1: The Last Version Before Protel 98




Before the release of Protel 98, the last version of Protel PCB design software was Protel PCB 2.7.1. It was released in 1996, and it was the culmination of the development of Protel PCB for the MS-DOS operating system.


Protel PCB 2.7.1 had several improvements and enhancements over the previous versions, such as:


  • A new graphical user interface (GUI) that was more user-friendly and intuitive



  • A new schematic editor that supported hierarchical design, cross-probing, and netlist generation



  • A new PCB editor that supported up to 16 copper layers, polygonal planes, split planes, and differential pair routing



  • A new autorouter that supported gridless routing, rip-up and retry algorithm, and interactive routing



  • A new simulation engine that supported SPICE models, mixed-signal analysis, and waveform viewing



  • A new documentation module that supported bill of materials (BOM), assembly drawings, fabrication drawings, and test point reports



However, Protel PCB 2.7.1 also had some limitations and drawbacks that made it outdated compared to other modern PCB design tools at the time. Some of these were:


  • A lack of support for Windows operating system (although it could run on Windows 95/98/NT using DOSBox or other emulators)



  • A lack of support for high-resolution monitors (the maximum resolution was 800x600 pixels)



  • A lack of support for advanced design features such as blind/buried vias, curved tracks, teardrops, copper pours, etc.



  • A lack of support for complex design rules such as length matching, impedance matching, differential pairs, etc.



  • A lack of integration with other EDA tools such as mechanical CAD (MCAD), field solver (FEM), or signal integrity (SI) analysis



How to Install and Run Protel PCB 2.7.1 on Windows 7




If you want to use Protel PCB 2.7.1 on your Windows 7 computer, you may encounter some challenges and difficulties. This is because Protel PCB 2.7.1 was designed for the MS-DOS operating system, which is not compatible with Windows 7. However, there are some ways to overcome these compatibility issues and install and run Protel PCB 2.7.1 on Windows 7 successfully.


System Requirements and Compatibility Issues




The minimum and recommended system requirements for running Protel PCB 2.7.1 on Windows 7 are as follows:


Minimum Requirements


Recommended Requirements


CPU: Intel Pentium or equivalent processor with at least 66 MHz speed


CPU: Intel Pentium II or equivalent processor with at least 300 MHz speed


RAM: 8 MB or more


RAM: 64 MB or more


HDD: 50 MB or more of free disk space


HDD: 200 MB or more of free disk space


Graphics: VGA or SVGA monitor with at least 256 colors and 800x600 resolution


Graphics: VGA or SVGA monitor with at least 16-bit color and 1024x768 resolution


Mouse: Microsoft-compatible mouse or pointing device


Mouse: Microsoft-compatible mouse or pointing device with scroll wheel


Other: CD-ROM drive, floppy disk drive, printer, network card (optional)


Other: CD-ROM drive, floppy disk drive, printer, network card (optional)


However, even if you meet these system requirements, you may still face some compatibility issues when trying to install and run Protel PCB 2.7.1 on Windows 7. Some of these issues are:



  • The setup file of Protel PCB 2.7.1 may not run properly on Windows 7, and may display error messages such as "This app can't run on your PC" or "This program is blocked by group policy". This is because the setup file is a 16-bit application that is not supported by the 64-bit version of Windows 7.



  • The installation process of Protel PCB 2.7.1 may not complete successfully on Windows 7, and may freeze, crash, or corrupt some files. This is because the installation process may encounter some conflicts or incompatibilities with the Windows registry, file system, or security settings.



  • The Protel PCB 2.7.1 application may not run properly on Windows 7, and may display error messages such as "Invalid floating point operation" or "Runtime error". This is because the application may not be able to access some resources or functions that are required by the MS-DOS operating system.



  • The Protel PCB 2.7.1 application may not perform well on Windows 7, and may experience some issues such as slow speed, poor graphics quality, distorted sound, or limited functionality. This is because the application may not be optimized for the hardware and software environment of Windows 7.



  • The Protel PCB 2.7.1 application may not be compatible with some features or devices of Windows 7, such as USB ports, printers, scanners, cameras, etc. This is because the application may not support the drivers or protocols that are required by these features or devices.




Installation Steps and Tips




To avoid or resolve these compatibility issues, there are two main methods to install and run Protel PCB 2.7.1 on Windows 7:



  • Using a setup file that has been modified or patched to work on Windows 7.



  • Using a virtual machine that emulates the MS-DOS operating system on Windows 7.




Here are the steps and tips for each method:


Using a setup file that has been modified or patched to work on Windows 7




This method involves using a setup file that has been modified or patched by some users or developers to make it compatible with Windows 7. This setup file may have some changes in the code, configuration, or settings that allow it to run smoothly on Windows 7.


To use this method, you need to find and download a reliable and safe setup file that has been modified or patched to work on Windows 7. You can search for such a setup file on the internet, but be careful to choose a reputable and trustworthy source, and scan the file for any viruses or malware before running it. One possible source is , where a user has shared a setup file that has been tested and verified to work on Windows 7. To use this method, follow these steps: 1. Download the setup file from the source and save it to your computer. 2. Right-click on the setup file and select "Properties". 3. Go to the "Compatibility" tab and check the box "Run this program in compatibility mode for:". 4. Select "Windows 95" from the drop-down menu and click "OK". 5. Double-click on the setup file and follow the instructions to install Protel PCB 2.7.1 on your computer. 6. After the installation is complete, you can run Protel PCB 2.7.1 from the Start menu or the desktop shortcut. Some tips for using this method are: - You may need to run the setup file as an administrator if you encounter any permission issues. - You may need to adjust the screen resolution and color depth of your monitor to match the requirements of Protel PCB 2.7.1. - You may need to disable some features or devices of Windows 7 that may interfere with Protel PCB 2.7.1, such as User Account Control (UAC), Windows Firewall, antivirus software, etc. Using a virtual machine that emulates the MS-DOS operating system on Windows 7




This method involves using a virtual machine that emulates the MS-DOS operating system on Windows 7. A virtual machine is a software that creates a virtual environment that mimics the hardware and software of another computer system. In this case, you can create a virtual machine that runs MS-DOS on your Windows 7 computer, and then install and run Protel PCB 2.7.1 on that virtual machine. To use this method, you need to have a virtual machine software, such as VirtualBox, VMware, or DOSBox, installed on your computer. You also need to have an image file of MS-DOS, such as MSDOS622.img or MSDOS71.img, and a copy of Protel PCB 2.7.1, either on a CD-ROM or a floppy disk. To use this method, follow these steps: 1. Launch the virtual machine software and create a new virtual machine with the following specifications: - Name: Protel PCB 2.7.1 - Type: Other - Version: DOS - Memory size: 64 MB or more - Hard disk: Do not add a virtual hard disk 2. Configure the settings of the virtual machine as follows: - System: Enable floppy controller and disable audio controller - Display: Set video memory to 16 MB or more and enable 3D acceleration - Storage: Add a floppy controller and attach the image file of MS-DOS to it - Network: Enable network adapter and set it to NAT mode 3. Start the virtual machine and wait for MS-DOS to boot up. 4. Insert the CD-ROM or floppy disk of Protel PCB 2.7.1 into your computer and mount it to the virtual machine using the following commands: - For CD-ROM: mount d x:\ -t cdrom -usecd y -ioctl (where x is the drive letter of your CD-ROM and y is the number of your CD-ROM drive) - For floppy disk: mount a x:\ -t floppy (where x is the drive letter of your floppy disk) 5. Go to the mounted drive (d: or a:) and run the setup file (setup.exe) to install Protel PCB 2.7.1 on the virtual machine. 6. After the installation is complete, you can run Protel PCB 2.7.1 from the C: drive of the virtual machine. Some tips for using this method are: - You may need to adjust the settings of the virtual machine software to optimize the performance and compatibility of Protel PCB 2.7.1. - You may need to use keyboard shortcuts or mouse clicks to switch between the virtual machine and Windows 7. - You may need to use shared folders or network drives to transfer files between the virtual machine and Windows 7. How to Use Protel PCB 2.7.1 for PCB Design




Once you have installed and run Protel PCB 2.7.1 on your Windows 7 computer, you can start using it for PCB design. Protel PCB 2.7.1 has a user interface and tools that are similar to other PCB design software, but with some differences and peculiarities that you need to be aware of.


The User Interface and Tools of Protel PCB 2.7.1




The user interface of Protel PCB 2.7.1 consists of several windows, menus, toolbars, and dialogs that allow you to access and use the various functions and features of the software. The main windows are:


  • The Project Window: This is where you can create, open, save, and manage your projects. A project is a collection of files that are related to a PCB design, such as schematics, layouts, libraries, simulations, etc.



  • The Schematic Window: This is where you can create and edit your schematic diagrams. A schematic diagram is a graphical representation of the components and connections of your circuit.



  • The PCB Window: This is where you can create and edit your PCB layouts. A PCB layout is a graphical representation of the physical layout of your board, including the traces, pads, vias, components, etc.



  • The Simulation Window: This is where you can perform and view your circuit simulations. A circuit simulation is a mathematical analysis of the behavior and performance of your circuit under different conditions.



  • The Documentation Window: This is where you can generate and view your documentation files. A documentation file is a file that contains information and instructions for the fabrication, assembly, testing, or maintenance of your board.



The menus, toolbars, and dialogs of Protel PCB 2.7.1 provide you with various commands, options, and settings that allow you to perform different tasks and operations on your projects, schematics, layouts, simulations, or documentation files. Some of the most common and useful menus are:


  • The File Menu: This is where you can create, open, save, print, or export your files.



  • The Edit Menu: This is where you can cut, copy, paste, delete, undo, redo, or find your objects.



  • The View Menu: This is where you can zoom in, zoom out, fit to screen, or change the display mode of your windows.



  • The Tools Menu: This is where you can access various tools such as netlist manager, design rule checker (DRC), autorouter, cross-probe, etc.



  • The Options Menu: This is where you can change various options such as grid size, snap mode, color scheme, etc.



  • The Help Menu: This is where you can access the online help system or the about dialog.



The Workflow and Features of Protel PCB 2.7.1




The workflow of Protel PCB 2.7.1 is the process of creating, editing, verifying, and exporting your PCB design using the software. The workflow consists of several steps that are usually performed in a sequential order, but can also be repeated or skipped depending on your needs and preferences. The workflow is as follows:


  • Create a new project or open an existing project in the Project Window.



  • Create and edit your schematic diagram in the Schematic Window, using the tools and commands from the menus and toolbars.



  • Generate a netlist from your schematic diagram, using the Netlist Manager tool from the Tools Menu.



  • Create and edit your PCB layout in the PCB Window, using the tools and commands from the menus and toolbars.



  • Import the netlist to your PCB layout, using the Import Netlist tool from the Tools Menu.



  • Place and route your components and traces on your PCB layout, using the manual or automatic methods.



  • Check and correct any errors or violations on your PCB layout, using the Design Rule Checker (DRC) tool from the Tools Menu.



  • Simulate and analyze your circuit performance and behavior, using the Simulation Window and the Simulation Engine tool from the Tools Menu.



  • Generate and view your documentation files, such as BOM, assembly drawings, fabrication drawings, etc., using the Documentation Window and the Documentation Module tool from the Tools Menu.



  • Export your PCB design to various formats, such as Gerber, DXF, PDF, etc., using the Export File tool from the File Menu.



The features of Protel PCB 2.7.1 are the functions and capabilities that enable you to perform different tasks and operations on your PCB design using the software. The features are divided into several categories, such as:


  • Schematic Capture: This category includes features such as hierarchical design, cross-probing, netlist generation, component libraries, etc.



  • PCB Layout: This category includes features such as up to 16 copper layers, polygonal planes, split planes, differential pair routing, etc.



  • Autorouting: This category includes features such as gridless routing, rip-up and retry algorithm, interactive routing, etc.



  • Simulation: This category includes features such as SPICE models, mixed-signal analysis, waveform viewing, etc.



  • Documentation: This category includes features such as bill of materials (BOM), assembly drawings, fabrication drawings, test point reports, etc.



The Advantages and Disadvantages of Protel PCB 2.7.1




Protel PCB 2.7.1 has some advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider before deciding whether to use it or upgrade from it. Here are some of them:


The Advantages of Protel PCB 2.7.1





  • It is affordable and easy to use compared to other modern PCB design software.



  • It has a familiar and intuitive user interface that is similar to other PCB design software.



  • It has a comprehensive set of tools and features that cover most of the basic and intermediate needs of PCB design.



  • It has a loyal and active user community that provides support, tips, tutorials, and resources for Protel PCB 2.7.1 users.



  • It has a nostalgic and retro appeal for some users who have used it in the past or want to experience it for fun or curiosity.




The Disadvantages of Protel PCB 2.7.1





  • It is outdated and incompatible with Windows 7 and other modern operating systems.



  • It has a limited and low-resolution graphics quality that may affect the visibility and accuracy of your PCB design.



  • It lacks some advanced design features that are essential for complex and high-speed PCB design projects.



It is not integrated with other EDA tools that are useful for mechanical CAD (MCAD)


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