This is a common question I get here on the blog and from my students at

And while Rockwell has released many different platforms since 1970, there's one current gen and one last gen I usually recommend.

Budget Minded

First let's assume you're on a budget and need to get started as quickly as possible.

In that case I would recommend the MicroLogix 1100 which you can typically find under $200 here.

MIcroLogix 1100The advantages of the ML1100 start with the fact that it can be programed with Rockwell's free RSLogix Micro Starter Lite software.

Next, it includes an Ethernet port so there's no need to purchase a usb to serial converter.

And finally, it programs almost identically to the SLC-500. And while the SLC-500 is also fairly inexpensive on the used market, it doesn't have a free or low cost software option like the MicroLogix family does.

The downside is that while the Ladder Logic in the ML1100 is very similar to Ladder Logic in the ControlLogix and CompactLogix, there are also a lot of differences between the two.

If you decide to go this route, you may also want to check out my affordable PLC Basics course which is focused on the MicroLogix at PLC Basics Second Edition

Current Gen Controllers

If you have a little more disposable income and want to focus on A-B's current generation of ControlLogix and CompactLogix controllers, I recommend the CompactLogix L1 5370 controller which you can often find under $1,000 here.

To program it you'll need a copy of Studio 5000 (aka RSLogix 5000) which starts around $870.

Note: It may be worth your time to ask your local Rockwell distributor for a combination “starter pack” price on the above two items. These starter pack “bundles” usually include a substantial discount.

The advantage of learning on the CompactLogix over the ControlLogix is one of cost.

While the price of the CompactLogix L16 and Studio 5000 Mini software combined is typically under $2,000, the programming software for the ControlLogix alone starts at $3,600.

If you decide to go with either the CompactLogix or ControlLogix, you may also want to check out my PAC Basics course at PAC Basics Course


If you have any questions about the above two recommendations, don't hesitate to ask by clicking the “post a comment or question” link below.


Shawn Tierney
Automation Instructor and Blogger (post views: 1,791 views)

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Forum Comments:
  1. Hi Shawn,
    Not sure where to post or ask about this but I have a "program" written by a PLC company that I would like to run/test out on my local pc without being connected to the controller. It's for a Compactlogix 1769-L33ER controller on a skid 1000 miles away from me. Is there a way to do this? I'm not a PLC guy so don't know all the details needed, but in general would like to be able to "view" and go through the menus as if I was standing next to the machine. Thanks in advance.
    Good morning JeffR,
    To view a CompactLogix program (online or offline) you will need a copy of Studio 5000 (v21+) or RSLogix 5000 (v1-20) (today you buy Studio 5000 and also get RSLogix 5000)
    To run or test a CompactLogix program you will either need a physical CompactLogix (your local rep may be able to loan you one for a two week period) or you'll need to purchase a copy of Emulate 5000 (which is not inexpensive and you may need some help from your local rep to get it running:
    PS - Always check the software minimum requirements as some packages won't run on Windows "Home" operating systems,
    Hope this helps,
    Shawn Tierney,
    You're welcome JeffR!
    If you go with a hardware and/or software solution, as them if they have any "Starter Packs" - they a priced lower than buying the individual hardware & software.
    Best of luck,
    Shawn Tierney,

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