Using VST plug-ins on Windows

  • Live Versions: All
  • Operating System: Windows

VST plug-ins are instruments and audio effects offered by third-party developers that can be installed on your computer and used to expand creative possibilities in Live. They can be installed in either of two formats: VST3, or VST2 (also called VST2.4, or simply VST.) To use plug-ins with Live, follow this guide covering:

How to install VST plug-ins on Windows

How to activate plug-ins in Live

How to avoid common plug-in issues

How to install VST plug-ins on Windows

1. Download the latest plugin installer file from the plug-in developer's website. If available, use the developer's Plug-Ins Manager or Product Portal. Check carefully for posted information on system requirements and supported host information (where available), to make sure all devices are compatible with your version of Live and your operating system.

Note: As of Live 10, 32-bit VST plug-ins are no longer a supported plug-in format

2. When prompted, choose an installation path for the plug-in files. 

  • VST3 devices, in most cases, will be installed by default to the dedicated VST3 Plug-In System Folder at C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3.

  • VST2 devices do not have a default dedicated installation path. Instead, most manufacturers allow a path to be selected during installation. Unless there's a specific reason otherwise, VST2 devices should be installed to one of these locations:

    C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST2
    C:\Program Files\VST Plugins
    C:\Program Files\Steinberg\Plugins

    If possible, use the same folder for all VST2 plug-ins. Note the location selected during installation, as you'll need to specify this when activating plug-ins in Live.

Note: The folder you select must exclusively be used to install .dll files of VST2 plug-in devices. Picking a system folder, hard drive, or directory containing other file types may cause Live to crash when plug-ins are scanned. 

  • Some plug-ins may also be available as a standalone application. Do not install the standalone and VST versions to the same folder.

3. Once installation is complete, launch Live.

How to activate plug-ins in Live

1. Open Live's PreferencesPlug-Ins → Plug-In Sources

Note: If using Live 10.1 or earlier, open Preferences → File/Folder → Plug-In Sources.

2. Set Use VST2 Plug-In Custom Folder to "On" and click Browse to select the folder specified during installation.


3. Set Use VST3 Plug-In System Folders to "On" to activate VST3 plug-ins. In most cases, you can leave Use VST3 Plug-In Custom Folder turned off. 

Note: In rare cases, the manufacturer's installer may define a path other than the default VST3 System Folder. If needed, you may then select and enable a VST3 Plug-In Custom Folder. Do not select the same location as either the VST3 System folder (C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3), or your VST2 Plug-In Custom Folder. 


4. Once Live has completed scanning plug-ins folders, the devices will show up in Live's browser under Plug-Ins in the respective folder, VST (referring to VST2) or VST3. If you've installed a plug-in as directed, but it's still not appearing in Live, see VST/AU plug-in doesn't appear in Live.

How to avoid common plug-in issues

Installing plug-ins:

  • VST2 and VST3 devices must be installed to separate, dedicated folders. To differentiate these files, note that VST2 plug-ins (also called simply VST, or VST2.4) use the .dll file extension, while VST3 plug-in files use the extension .vst3.
  • Keep all third-party software up to date. Outdated plug-ins are very often the cause of crashes and performance issues. Regularly check the developer's website for updated supported versions, and install updates whenever available. 
  • It is possible to use sub-folders, within the plug-in installation folders described above, to keep plug-ins organized, for example by manufacturer. However, plug-in installation folders must not contain any other files besides valid, authorized audio plug-ins. Do not install device preset files or audio sample libraries inside the plug-in folders. Use the plug-in's installation application to install presets and sample libraries to the location specified by the manufacturer. 

Using plug-ins in Live:

  • Avoid mixing plugin formats (VST2, VST3) for the same plug-in in the same Live set. You can identify the format based on the categorized plug-ins folders in Live's Browser, or by the appearance of the device: only VST (short for VST2) includes a preset browser. 
  •  After launching updates of Live for the first time, allow Live to index plug-ins for several minutes. If a device still doesn't show up, reset Live's database as explained here.


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