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Is Eagle PCB design software free?

An overview of Eagle PCB design software

Eagle (Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor) is a popular printed circuit board (PCB) design software package developed by CadSoft and now owned by Autodesk. It allows electronic engineers and enthusiasts to design printed circuit boards and schematics for electronics projects.

Eagle consists of a schematic editor for creating circuit schematics and a PCB layout editor for designing PCBs. It also includes an auto-router module for automatically routing traces on the PCB.

Some key features of Eagle include:

  • Schematic capture with over 7000 parts in component libraries
  • PCB layout and routing
  • Design rule checking to ensure manufacturability
  • Autorouting of PCB traces
  • Gerber and NC drill file generation for manufacturing
  • Import/export of CAD and image files
  • Simulation and 3D modeling

Eagle is available in free and paid versions. The free version has limited board size, number of layers and part libraries but is sufficient for basic projects. The paid versions start at around $500 for a yearly subscription and allow bigger board sizes, more layers and components.

Eagle Free vs Paid

Here is a comparison between the free and paid versions of Eagle:

FeatureEagle FreeEagle StandardEagle Professional
Board size100 x 80 mm160 x 100 mmAny size
Schematic sheets1UnlimitedUnlimited
Library partsLimitedOver 7000Over 7000

So in summary, the free version is great for basic projects but limits board size and layers. The paid versions unlock more features and capabilities.

Is the free version really free to use?

Modular PCB Design
Modular PCB Design

Yes, the free/Lite version of Eagle is completely free to download and use. There are no hidden costs or licensing fees associated with it. The free version is meant to allow hobbyists, students and enthusiasts to get started with PCB design at zero cost.

However, the free version does have some limitations imposed to encourage users to upgrade to the paid versions. As seen earlier, the free Eagle has limited board size (100 x 80 mm), only 2 layers, and a restricted component library. These constraints may be inadequate for more complex projects. But for simple boards, the free version offers full access to schematic capture, layout, autorouting and file generation features.

The free version is licensed for non-commercial use only. Those intending to manufacture and sell boards designed with free Eagle need to purchase a commercial license.

Some key things to note about the free Eagle license:

  • No cost to download, install and use
  • Available for Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Fully functional schematic and layout editors
  • No locked features or disabled tools
  • Can be used to design basic PCBs for hobby and learning
  • Output files can be used for manufacturing with PCB fabrication services
  • Non-commercial license only – commercial use requires paid license

So in summary, the free Eagle provides a very capable design tool at no cost for non-commercial use. It is a great way to get started with PCB design with no financial investment. The feature limits encourage upgrading to paid versions when more complex or commercial boards are required.

What are the steps to download and install the free version?

Downloading and installing the free version of Eagle is quick and straightforward. Here are the steps:

1. Download Eagle from the Autodesk website

Go to the Autodesk Eagle website and click the “FREE DOWNLOAD” button to download the latest free version install file. Choose the version for your Windows, Mac or Linux OS.

2. Run the install file to launch the installation wizard

Locate the downloaded install file and double click to launch the installation process. Follow the setup wizard by clicking Next and accepting the license agreement. Choose the installation folder location.

3. Select the ‘Lite’ installation when prompted

During installation, you will be asked to select between the Free/Lite version or Premium/Standard version. Make sure to select the ‘Lite’ or ‘Free’ option.

4. Allow the installation to complete

Continue with the installation by leaving the default options enabled. The setup will copy Eagle files and install required libraries and device files.

5. Launch Eagle in EAGLE Lite mode

Once installation completes, you can launch Eagle directly. The software will open in the Free/Lite mode with restrictions applicable.

That’s it! With those simple steps you will have the free version of Eagle ready to start designing basic PCB projects.

What are the key limitations of the free version?

esp32 pcb design
esp32 pcb design

While the free Eagle allows unfettered access to the core PCB design features, it does impose some constraints to limit board complexity. Being aware of these limitations will help make best use of the free version.

1. Limited board size

The maximum PCB size is restricted to 100 x 80 mm or about 4 x 3.2 inches. This allows simple and compact boards but rules out bigger designs.

2. Only 2 PCB layers

Designs are constrained to 2 copper layers – top and bottom. High density designs may require 4 or more layers.

3. No auto-routing

The autorouter module is disabled in the free version. Traces will need to be routed manually.

4. Restricted component libraries

The component libraries contain fewer parts compared to the paid versions. If required parts are unavailable, they will need to be created from scratch.

5. Single schematic sheet

Designs are limited to one schematic sheet. Multi-page schematics for complex circuits cannot be done.

6. No technical support

There is no technical support for the free version. You will need to rely on online help resources and communities.

7. Non-commercial use license

Boards designed in free Eagle cannot be used for commercial production and sale.

So in summary, the free Eagle is very capable for basic hobby and learning projects but hits limitations for more advanced PCB designs intended for volume production.

What projects is the free version suitable for?

The free Eagle toolset is well equipped for hobbyist and student projects that require simple PCBs without high complexity. Here are some examples of projects suitable for the free version:

  • Simple microcontroller boards like Arduino shields
  • Basic breakout boards for sensors, motors, connectors etc.
  • Analog circuits like opamp filters, oscillators and amplifiers
  • Power supply circuits using linear regulators and charge controllers
  • LED lighting projects using a few discrete components
  • Prototyping boards like breadboards and perfboards
  • Education and learning focused projects
  • Wireless circuits using modules like Bluetooth, WiFi
  • Non-critical, low-volume or one-off personal projects

For such applications, the free Eagle provides full PCB design capabilities without limitations. Complex commercial projects with higher layer counts, small features and tight tolerances may require the paid version.

Overall, the free Eagle is a great design tool for educational, hobby and basic prototyping applications thanks to its generous non-commercial license.

What are some tips to work around the free limitations?

The generous free capabilities of Eagle allow designing surprisingly complex boards despite the imposed restrictions. Here are some tips to work around the limitations:

Optimize component placement

Careful placement while leaving room for routing helps reduce the need for extra layers. Place connectors, keys and grouped components intelligently.

Use both sides for routing

Effectively utilize both top and bottom copper layers for routing traces. Plan component placement to simplify routing.

Use surface mount devices

SMD parts take less space than through-hole, allowing greater component density.

Utilize Eagle libraries

Make use of the huge selection of readymade schematic symbols and PCB footprints in Eagle’s component libraries.

Break out sections into modules

Partition complex circuits into smaller sub-sections using connectors to interface between modules.

Design hierarchically

Group related schematic sections into hierarchical blocks to reduce clutter.

Create custom libraries

For unavailable parts, build custom schematic and package libraries.

Reduce trace width

Use thinner traces when layout area is constrained.

Share grounds

Use ground planes/polygons instead of drawing individual ground traces.

With smart strategies like these, fairly complex boards can be designed and routed within the free version’s limitations.

What are some good projects for getting started?

Corne PCB Layout
Corne PCB Layout

Eagle’s free version provides an excellent platform for electronics enthusiasts and students to gain experience with PCB design. Here are some recommended beginner-friendly projects:

1. Arduino Shield

Arduino shields are add-on boards that stack onto an Arduino board to expand its capabilities. A custom Arduino shield is a great first project to implement in Eagle.

2. LED Blinkers

A simple circuit with a microcontroller, clock source and a few LEDs makes for an easy first project in Eagle. Useful to gain experience with schematics and layout.

3. Voltage Regulator

Linear voltage regulator designs allow creating a clean and stable power supply source for other circuits. Simple to layout and route.

4. H-Bridge Driver

Used to control motors, H-bridge drivers utilize a few MOSFETs or transistors and passive components. Easy to design and construct.

5. Buck Converter

Switching buck converter circuits efficiently step down voltage levels. Good practice for SMD-based designs.

The open-ended nature of these projects provides flexibility to get comfortable with Eagle’s interface and features at your own pace.

What are some good resources for learning Eagle as a beginner?

Here are some recommendations of resources to help get started with learning PCB design using the free version of Eagle:

Eagle Tutorials


YouTube Tutorials

Great Eagle video tutorials are available on YouTube channels like All About Circuits and Contextual Electronics.


The Eagle Support Forum at Autodesk and Element14 Community are active in solving issues with Eagle.

With these excellent guides, tutorials, books and an active user community, the free Eagle provides everything you need to get started with PCB design for your own projects.

Top 5 FAQs about Eagle Free

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about using the free version of Eagle:

Q1: Does the free version expire after some time?

No, there is no expiration date associated with the free Eagle. You can use it indefinitely for free with no time restrictions. Only a paid license is required for commercial use.

Q2: Can I use the AutoRouter with the free version?

Unfortunately no, the AutoRouter module is disabled in the free version and can only be used after buying a paid license.

Q3: Can I design 2-layer boards for commercial production?

PCBs designed with free Eagle cannot be used for commercial purposes due to the non-commercial license. A paid license is required for mass production.

Q4: Does free Eagle allow importing custom libraries?

Yes, you can freely import custom created or downloaded schematic symbols and package libraries into the free version of Eagle.

Q5: Can I unlock more features in the free version?

The free Eagle is deliberately limited in capabilities to motivate purchasing the paid versions. There is no way to unlock features like board size or layers in free Eagle.

So in summary, the free Eagle provides plenty of capability for hobbyist use but paid licenses are required for commercial projects and access to advanced features. The limitations are what make the free version viable for Autodesk.




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