Free and Trial A-B Software for PLCs, PACs, and HMIs

Here at The Automation School we know that learning PLCs can be frustrating if you don't know how to get your hands on the actual PLC Programming and Simulation Software.

That's why we cover this topic in detail in all of our courses, and in today's article I'll give you a brief walkthrough on how you can get free or trial version of Allen-Bradley Programmable Controller Programming Software

Rockwell's Legacy PLCs:  PLC-5,  SLC-500,  MicroLogix

If you work in a plant with a lot of legacy A-B PLCs, you'll be happy to know that for years Rockwell has made RSLogix Micro Starter Lite, RSEmulate 500, and RSLinx Classic Lite available as free downloads.

While the free version of RSLogix Micro Starter Lite only programs the MicroLogix 1000 and MicroLogix 1100 controllers, those two controllers program very much like the rest of the MicroLogix family, as well as the SLC-500 and PLC-5.

So by learning RSLogix Micro you'll also be learning key aspects of the SLC-500 and PLC-5, as I discuss in the sample lesson in my MicroLogix PLC course designed for new users, PLC Basics Second Edition.

Another topic I cover in that course is how to get and use the free edition of RSEmulate 500, which allows you to complete the optional exercises without having to purchase a PLC.

Rockwell's Low Cost PLC Line:  Micro800  (810, 820, 830, 850, 870)

If you're looking for the newest and most modern “low-cost” Programmable Controller from Rockwell Automation, then look no further than the Micro800.

This small and cost effective PLC shouldn't be confused with “smart relays;” not only are Micro800s full fledged PLCs, they also support Ladder Logic, Function Blocks, and Structured Text programming languages.

While the programming software for the Micro800 doesn't look like RSLogix, its simple “standards based” programming environment supports three of the IEC-61131-3 languages, and in my opinion is a great place to start before going on to more complex development environments like Studio 5000.

And as you've probably guested, the Micro800's programming software, Connected Components Workbench (CCW,) is completely free. The latest versions even includes a free Micro850 simulator so students can complete option PLC Training exercises without having to purchase a physical PLC.

As someone with over thirty years of experience using Rockwell PLC's, and having used RSLogix since its initial beta release, I can honestly say that once you learn how to use CCW in my Micro800 Nano Basics course, you'll feel right at home creating, editing, and debugging Micro800 programs.

Rockwell's Premier PAC Line:  ControlLogix,  CompactLogix,  RSLogix/Studio 5000

Learning Rockwell's premiere line of Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs) is the goal of many who are looking for PLC Training.

But unlike other vendors, Rockwell doesn't make getting a trial copy of their Studio 5000 Programming and Emulation software as easy as just downloading it from their website.

*UPDATE: New $300 ControlLogix Software and Hardware simulator available! For more information, click here.

To get a trial copy you have two options:

First, you can call your local Rockwell distributor (find them here) and ask them for a 30 Day Temporary Activation (learn more about that here.)

The problem is, while this program has been around for decades, most distributors don't know it exists.

If you run into that situation, or you're located overseas and don't have a local Rockwell representative, the other option is to contact Rockwell's Online Activation Support Chat as per Rockwell's advice to me on social media when I asked them about Temporary Activations (see below):

That said, since I started The Automation School back in 2014 I've run into a few challenges actually getting Rockwell to send out a Trial License to my students, and below I'll cover the four most common issues and how to avoid them:

1) Ask specifically for a “30 Day Temporary Activation” of Studio 5000 FullEmulate 5000

Clarity is a beautiful thing, and using Rockwell's own terminology can be very helpful when you're trying to get a 30 day trial of their software, which is why I suggest specifically asking for a “30 Day Temporary Activation” of Studio 5000 FullEmulate 5000. 

Studio 5000 Full Edition not only supports all CompactLogix and ControlLogix controllers, it also includes all the programming languages including Ladder, Function Block, Structured Text and Sequential Function Charts

Note: All editions of Studio 5000 come with Logix Designer for PACs, and View Designer for PanelView 5000 HMIs.

And if you don't have CompactLogix or ControlLogix hardware, Emulate 5000 will give you a way to test run your code.

2) Don't tell them you're a student, or in training course.

Sadly, if you tell them you're a student they will assume you're a college student and will refer you to your college instructor who can sell you a “6 month student toolkit.” Unfortunately those toolkits are only available to students perusing a four year degree at select high-end colleges and universities.

With that in mind, I suggest you tell them you are requesting a 30 day temporary license of the software so you can “try it out” without going into the details about your goal to become a proficient user of it.

3) Use your name as your company name

Since the folks at Rockwell must fill in a preset “TA Form” that requires a “company name,” if you tell them you don't have a company they can't process your request.

That said, if you don't feel comfortable using your current employer's name, keep in mind it's your right in the USA to use your legal name as your business name. In fact, every US citizen has the right to do business in their own legal name without the need to register as a business with anyone.

4) Temporary Activation are a One Time option

The purpose of Rockwell's Temporary Activations is ostensibly to give new users an opportunity to try their software. And Rockwell temporary activations will enable the software to work for just thirty calendar days for the day of receipt (not a total of thirty days.)

If you're serious about learning how to use Rockwell's Logix PLCs, in my ControlLogix PAC Basics and CompactLogix Basics courses I cover all this and more, including how to setup, program, and debug CompactLogix and ControlLogix programs based on real world applications.

Note about FactoryTalk View:

If you want to learn how to use FactoryTalk View Machine (and PanelView Plus) or Site Edition, you can request a TA for FactoryTalk View Enterprise Edition, and the good news is after the 30 days run out the software will continue to work, reverting to a demo which will run for 2 hours at a time and work with projects with 5 graphic displays or less. This demo version is more than enough to learn with, and to complete the optional exercises in our PVP and ViewSE courses.

If you have any questions about the courses I mentioned above, please feel free to reach out to me directly here.


Shawn Tierney
Industrial Automation Instructor
Founder of The Automation School