External Storage and Backup

When creating projects with Ableton Live, a dedicated external hard drive is a reliable place to back up your work. To free up storage capacity on your computer, an external drive can also be used to store audio samples, Packs, and other files in active use.

Note: The Ableton Live application should be installed on your main system drive. (Macintosh HD or Windows C: Drive) We also advise installing all third-party plug-ins to the system drive. To ensure sufficient space on this disk for cache and memory swap files, keep at least 10% of the system drive's capacity free.

  1. Setting up External Drives
  2. Backup Drive
  3. Storing Samples, Libraries, and Projects
  4. Audio Recording
  5. Troubleshooting for External Hard Drives

Setting up External Drives

Consult your computer retailer to choose a drive with sufficient storage space, drive speed, transfer speed, and connectivity. For desktop computers, a secondary drive can be installed in your computer's dedicated SATA slot. For laptop computers, choose an external drive with adequate transfer speed, and avoid connecting the drive via external USB hub whenever possible.

External drives should be formatted for your operating system.


  • NTFS


  • Apple File System (APFS): The file system used by macOS 10.13 or later.

  • Mac OS Extended: The file system used by macOS 10.12 or earlier.

  • MS-DOS (FAT) and ExFAT: File systems that are compatible with Windows.

More information on macOS drive formats is available from Apple Support

Use different ports for your audio interface and hard drives when possible to prevent bottlenecks, rather than connecting multiple devices via a single USB hub. 

Backup Drive

As a primary safeguard against losing creative work, we strongly recommend manually backing up your Live Projects and recordings to a dedicated backup drive, in addition to any cloud-syncing (e.g. OneDrive, iCloud) or automated backup systems (such as Time Machine) you may have in place. 

Choose a backup drive format that's compatible with your operating system. Drive speed and specifications are not as critical for a backup-only drive as they are for a drive used to store actively-used files or audio recordings. 

Storing Samples, Libraries, and Projects

An additional secondary drive can be used to store samples and sound libraries, including the User Library. To make sure Live is able to find media stored on an external drive, follow these guidelines:

  • Connect the drive to your computer before launching Live.
  • Follow the tips linked here on managing Places in Live's Browser.
  • Make sure all necessary permissions are granted for the drive. 

Live Projects in active use may also be stored on an external drive. Be sure to save Live Sets into unique Live Projects to maintain the organization of your Sets and samples. Keep in mind that saving a Set to an external drive using Save or Save as... does not automatically save all the media files referenced in your Set onto the drive as well. To save copies of all files and samples referenced in the Set, use Collect All and Save.

Ableton Live Packs

To install or move your installed Ableton Live Packs to a secondary drive:

  1. Navigate to the Library tab in Live's Preferences.
  2. 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.
  3. 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”.


Audio Recording

You may choose to use a dedicated SSD or HDD for audio recordings.

Note: Before a Live project is saved, audio recordings are stored in a Temporary Folder. If desired, you may configure Live so your dedicated audio recording drive is also used for these temporary recordings. Go to Live's Preferences > File/Folder tab to configure the default Temporary Folder for Live Recordings.


Once you save your Live Set, all the recordings stored in this Temporary Folder will be copied over to the Project Folder containing the Live Set. For this reason, we recommend also saving your Live Projects to the dedicated audio recording drive if using this setup. Be sure to save Live Sets into unique Live Projects to maintain the organization of your media. 

Troubleshooting for External Hard Drives

If you experience performance issues or missing files when using external drives, follow these steps:

  • Make sure all necessary permissions are granted for the affected drive.
  • Follow the tips here to troubleshoot crackles and audio dropouts. 
  • Test all connection points, including ports and cables. Avoid connecting via hubs whenever possible, and do not connect your audio interface and external hard drive via the same hub if avoidable.
  • On Windows, when using multiple external hard drives, make sure to always connect them in the same chronological order. If you connect external drives in a different order, the disk designators may change – for example, the D: drive may be renamed E:, and vice versa. Due to these changed file paths, Live will not be able to reference files stored on the drives.


Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: