Using multiple hard drives

  • Live Versions: 9-10
  • Operating System: All

Your system can achieve a higher level of performance using a multiple hard drive set up. In this article, we will provide an example that uses three drives, plus an additional backup drive. For the purposes of this article, the terms “drive” and “disk” are interchangeable.

System Disk

The system disk would ideally be a Solid State Drive (SSD) in this configuration.

Using such a drive will greatly improve the loading times of your applications, because of the drive's superior speed in accessing data.

We recommend installing the Ableton Live application and all third-party plugins on this system drive. It is highly recommended to always keep at least 10% of free space on your system disk.

2nd drive - Samples and Libraries

The second hard drive in this configuration is used to store samples and sound libraries, including the User Library. For optimal performance this drive would be an SSD, or alternatively an HDD SATA 3 (7200 RPM). Please format this drive into your operating system's native format to ensure the best performance possible. On Windows, this format would be NTFS. On Mac OS X, this would be HFS+ (Mac OS Extended).

For more information regarding SSD and HDD drives take a look at this third-party article from PC Mag: SSD vs. HDD: What's the Difference?

If you are working with a desktop computer, the best choice would be to install this drive in your computer's dedicated SATA slot.

Should no slot be available, or if you work with a laptop computer, an external hard drive will suffice. Drive enclosures can also offer some speed benefits compared to a typical external drive, but this is a more costly and bulky solution, and is not always practical.

If possible, use Thunderbolt or USB 3 drives for maximum transfer speed. USB 3 enclosures need to be plugged in to a USB 3 port to access full bandwidth capabilities. We recommend avoiding the use of external USB hubs.

To install or move your Ableton Live Packs to this drive, navigate to the Library tab in Live's Preferences as displayed below:

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Next to "Installation folder for Packs" click the “Browse” button and set the "Installation folder for Packs” to a dedicated Packs folder on your secondary drive.

Upon choosing a new location for your Ableton Live Packs, Live will ask if you wish to “Move existing Packs to new installation directory”. If you have already installed a number of Live Packs, you can move them to this new directory by selecting “Yes”.

More information regarding installing and managing Live Packs can be found here:

Installing and managing Packs

We also recommend using this drive for any third party audio libraries and sample packs.

3rd drive - Audio Recording and File Caching

If you are performing multi-track recording we recommend using a third dedicated SSD or HDD. Please format this drive into your operating system's native format to ensure the best performance possible.

This third dedicated drive for the recording of audio data will help avoid the “traffic jam” caused by reading and writing simultaneously to a single hard disk. In addition, recordings using higher bit depths (such as 24-bit) and higher sample rates (such as 88Khz - 96Khz) will consume large amounts of disk space. Thus, using an external drive is highly recommended.

Before a project is saved, your audio recordings are stored in a temporary folder. To configure Live so that this third drive is also used for these temporary recordings, open Live’s Preferences and go to the File/Folder tab. The File/Folder Preferences tab will allow you configure the default folder for audio recordings.

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Once you save your Live Set, all the recordings stored in this temporary folder will be copied over to the Project Folder that contains the Live Set. For this reason, we recommend saving your Live Projects to this third drive.

Whenever you import a compressed audio file such as MP3, FLAC or AAC, Live will need to decode this file before playing it back. The decoded file will be saved in the Cache folder, so it might be a good idea to use this third drive for this purpose as well. Your Cache folder can also be set from Live’s Preferences > File/Folder Tab > Cache Folder.

4th drive - Back-up

We highly recommend keeping a dedicated drive for regularly backing up your data. Drive speed is not as relevant in this case, so you can get away with using your slowest drive for this purpose.

If compatibility with both OS X and Windows is a requirement for this drive, you might decide to use FAT32 or NAS drives. Both Windows and Mac computers can read and write on such drives without third party applications. Remember that the FAT32 file system does not allow the storage of files larger than 4GB.

Troubleshooting

To avoid disk performance issues, we recommend using different connections for your audio device and hard drives. Connecting them all to your computer via a single USB hub may cause a bottleneck of the data stream.

If you experience issues with crackles and dropouts, it may be because your drives cannot provide the audio stream quickly enough. Find out how to troubleshoot such issues in this dedicated article.