Installing Live in a Multi-User Environment (with Sassafras)

  • Live Versions: 9.1 and higher
  • Operating System: All

Installing Ableton Live for use in a multi-machine, multi-user environment requires some additional configuration to: 

  • enable floating license use with Sassafras KeyServer (see Authorization, authorizing without KeyServer see this dedicated article)
  • set up shared and user-specific files in a way that minimizes data overhead (see Library Configuration
  • make sure certain files will not be part of a roaming profile or be accessed over the net-work (see Setting file paths
  • switch off certain behavior that might not be desired in a lab environment (see Other options). 

This guide explains how to go about each of these steps. It applies to Live versions 9.1 and later. It is provided as-is and carries no guarantee. 

1. Quick Reference Guide

  1. Add the license file(s) you've received from Ableton to your Sassafras KeyServer installation and restart KeyServer.
  2. Create the shared preferences folder for the release you're installing.
  3. Edit the provided Options.txt file to include the location of Live's database, caches and unsaved recordings to a non-roaming/ non-network location (-DatabaseDirectory and -DefaultsBaseFolder). Use the placeholder %%USERNAME%% in the paths for per user locations. 
  4. Install Live and start it; enter your admin password on prompt if you want to use ReWire. If you wish to bypass this, then add the line -DontAskForAdminRights to Options.txt. If Max for Live is part of your license, please also install the latest version of Max
  5. Set the installation folder for Packs to a shared, non-roaming location in Live's Preferences (Library tab) and install your packs.
  6. Set the User Library folder to the location of your choice (Live's Preferences, Library tab).
  7. If you want to offer Max for Live to users on Mac OS X, open any Max patch and enter your admin password on prompt.
  8. Move Library.cfg from your user Preferences to the shared Preferences and replace your username with %%USERNAME%% in the <ProjectPath>-tag for the User Library.

To test what you just configured in the shared location, remove your user Preferences folder before you start Live. 

2. Configuration Files

Most of Live's configuration is contained in the Preferences folder. Each user has their own. This folder is created per Live installation at first startup.

If a user has no Preferences folder yet, Live will look for it in a shared location when the user starts this installation of Live for the first time. This way, you can create a template configuration that will work for all users. Be careful to make all necessary changes to this template before users start Live.

Note: To test the template configuration, remember to delete any user configuration that might already have been created.

Location of the user preferences:

Mac OS X:

/Users/[username]/Library/Preferences/Ableton/Live 11.x.x/


\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Ableton\Live 11.x.x\Preferences\


Location of the shared preferences:

Mac OS X:

/Library/Preferences/Ableton/Live 11.x.x/


\ProgramData\Ableton\CommonConfiguration\Live 11.x.x\Preferences\

Note: Replace “Live 11.x.x” with the name of the version you're installing (e.g. Live 11.1). 

3. Authorization


KeyServer (the Server) must be installed on one computer and visible on the network to all Live clients.

KeyAccess (the Client, and available in the Sassafras KeyClient package) must be installed on each machine you want to use Live on, and the IP address or DNS name of the KeyServer computer must be supplied in the appropriate place during the client install.

If you do not have KeyServer, you can instead follow the normal unlocking procedure as you start Live on each machine (see Appendix). Floating license use will not be possible in that case.

Set up authorization:

•Put the license file(s) (ableton_xxx.lic) you got from Ableton into the “KeyServer Data Folder” of your Sassafras KeyServer installation.

•Stop and then start the KeyServer service (restart might not be enough). 

•Create a shared preferences folder for the release of Live that you're installing. 

•Create the plain text file Options.txt in the shared preferences folder or use one you already have. Add the line -Licenseserver

Information about authorization success and failures is logged by Live (search the log file for "Licensing"). The location of the log file can be found in the Appendix.

4. Library Configuration

Live's Library consists of the Core Library, Live Packs, and a User Library, located in separate locations.

Live Packs can often be large in filesize, and should exist only once on a single machine, and not be included in the roaming profile. The “Core Library” which is part of Live's installation, is installed in the same location as the program. All other factory packs can be installed in any location.

User content is stored in “User folders”, which can be configured by the user. There's one special user folder, the “User Library” which should always exist.

Adding Factory Packs:

•Install Live on the client machine (or, if you are creating an image, on the machine to be cloned) and start it. On machines with Rewire configurations, you may see a prompt to enter an admin password at this point.

•In Live's Preferences -> Library Tab, set the installation folder for Packs to a shared, non-roaming location. Then install your Factory Packs.

•If you want to use Max for Live, make sure to have the latest version of Max installed. To use Max for Live on Mac OS X, open any Max Instrument or Effect by double clicking it from the Live 9 browser. This will avoid users being asked for an admin password when they use Max for Live. 

•Quit Live and make the configured Factory Packs folder read-only, so users can't install or uninstall packs. 

Adapt the User Library location to work for all users:

•Move the Library.cfg (found in the user preferences) to the shared preferences folder. This way, information about the packs you just installed will automatically be available to all users.

•Open Live, and define the user library folder in Live's preferences, Library.

•Open the Library.cfg in a plain text editor, look for the <UserLibrary> tag and add the placeholder “%%USERNAME%%” as shown below. The directory containing the user specific folders must be readable and writable for all users, other- wise no subfolders for non-admin users can be created.


<ProjectLocation />
<ProjectName Value=”User Library” />
<DisplayName Value=”C:\Users\admin\Documents\Ableton\User Library”/>
<ProjectPath Value=”C:\Users\%%USERNAME%%\Documents\Ableton\” />

If the specified folder doesn't exist yet, it will be created when a user runs Live for the first time. 

5. Setting File Paths

Live keeps user specific information in default locations (see Appendix), e.g. the central Live database, caches and the temp folder for unsaved recordings. It is strongly recommended setting all of these to non-roaming/non-network locations.

The database especially should never be located in a network location, since this may influence performance drastically or even lead to database corruption.

Add the following lines to Options.txt in the shared preferences

-DefaultsBaseFolder=<folder for “Live recordings” and “Sample Cache”>
-DatabaseDirectory=<folder for Live's database “files.db”>

Note: These folders must be created per user. To achieve this, use the placeholder “%%USERNAME%%”. The directory containing the user specific folders must be readable and writable, otherwise no subfolders for non-admin users can be created.



6. Other Options

Auto updating, Live reporting and usage data

For a lab situation, we recommend switching off automatic updates.

Protocols of all user actions for the purpose of crash reporting and the collection of usage data can also be turned off completely if e.g. your client machines have no or a restricted internet connection.

Add the following lines to Options.txt in the shared preferences:


Live as ReWire Device

When you run Live, files are created so you can use it with ReWire. On Mac OS X, an alias of the Live engine is created in:

/Library/Application Support/Propellerhead Software/ReWire/

~/Library/Application Support/Propellerhead Software/ReWire/

On Windows, the Live installer installs ReWire in:

C:\Program Files\Common Files\Propellerhead Software\ReWire\

Both require admin rights.

Note 1: Only the last installed version of Live can be used as a ReWire Device. If you have several versions of Live installed on your system (e.g. Live 8 and 9, or Intro and Suite), the user will be prompted with a dialog requesting admin's password during startup whenever a different version is started. To disable this prompt, add “-DontAskForAdminRights” to the Options.txt in the shared preferences

Note 2: The term Host defines a computer or software that sets the tempo of a project as well as the transport functions such as Play and Stop whereas Device defines a computer or software that is connected to the Host and in consequence is following the tempo and transport changes sent by the Host.

7. Appendix

7.1 Locations

Example of file locations for user “alex” and Live 11.1. Differences between Live 9 and Live 10 are mentioned where necessary.

Mac OS X

Shared preferences location:

Macintosh HD/Library/Preferences/Ableton/Live 11.1/

User locations:

Macintosh HD/Users/alex/Library/Preferences/Ableton/Live 11.1/
(Library.cfg, Options.txt, Log. txt)

Macintosh HD/Users/alex/Library/Application Support/Ableton/Live Database/
(files.db, files.db-wal, files.db-shm)

Macintosh HD/Users/alex/Library/Application Support/Ableton/Live Reports/
(location for event recordings and crash packs)

Macintosh HD/Users/alex/Music/Ableton/Live Recordings/
(default location for ad hoc recordings) 

Macintosh HD/Users/alex/Library/Caches/Ableton/Cache/
(default location for the mp3 decoding cache)

Note: in Live 9 the database is stored here:
Macintosh HD/Users/alex/Library/Application Support/Ableton/Live 9.7.5/Database/


Shared preferences location:

C:\ProgramData\Ableton\CommonConfiguration\Live 11.1\Preferences\
(Library.cfg, Options.txt)

User locations:

C:\Users\alex\AppData\Roaming\Ableton\Live 11.1\Preferences\
(Library.cfg, Options.txt, Log.txt)

C:\Users\alex\AppData\Roaming\Ableton\Live Reports\
(location for event recordings and crash packs)

... \Live Database\ (files.db, files.db-wal, files.db-shm)
... \Cache\ (default location for the mp3 decoding cache)

C:\Users\alex\My Documents\Ableton\
... \Live Recordings\ (default location for ad hoc recordings) 

Note: in Live 9, database and cache folder are located here:
C:\Users\alex\AppData\Roaming\Ableton\Live 9.7.5\Database\

7.2 Example Options.txt

-DefaultsBaseFolder=<path to folder where “Live recordings” and “Sample Cache” reside>
-DatabaseDirectory=<path to folder where Live will create its database>

Learn more about the options.txt file for Live.

7.3 Per-machine unlocking

If you are not using KeyServer licensing, Ableton Live needs to be authorized on every client machine separately because Live's standard challenge-response-based authorization uses a machine-dependent hardware fingerprint.

Authorization data is contained in a file ‘Unlock.cfg’. By default, it is created in the following location when a user authorizes Live:

Mac OS X:

/Users/[username]/Library/Application Support/Ableton/ Live 11.x.x/Unlock/


C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Ableton\Live 11.x.x\Unlock\


Authorize each machine: 

•Install Live on each individual machine, and authorize it.

•After quitting, copy the Unlock.cfg file to the following location so all users on the machine have reading permission; Live will automatically look for unlock information there:

Mac OS X:

/Library/Application Support/Ableton/Live 11.x.x/Unlock/


C:\ProgramData\Ableton\CommonConfiguration\Live 11.x.x\Unlock\


Note: Users must not (re)authorize. 

Master unlock file

The fact that authorization information stored in the file “Unlock.cfg” is different for every client machine makes it difficult to routinely wipe client machines and restore from a central place (e.g. using a disk image).

Create one unlock file that will work on all clients: By copying the file “Unlock.cfg” from client to client prior to authorizing a new client, the authorization information will be added to the same file. After all, clients have been authorized once always using the same “Unlock.cfg”, this single file will contain valid response codes for all machines. Consequently, the resulting “master” unlock file can be used on all clients, i.e. it can be distributed to the client machines from a central place.

If you keep a copy of this file, you can wipe and re-install client machines without having to request more unlocks or repeat the process of unlocking on every single machine. 

Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: