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Where to store your VST Plugins on Windows 10

Wondering what I can write about on Publish0x. After a disastrously off-kilter analysis in one recent post, I may as well write about something I know a bit about. I should know a little bit about plugins since I have been madly collecting free ones and attempting to sort them out for much of the last month. By plugins I'm referring to small apps created by music software developers to use within a DAW (which is a kind of much bigger music application). So this article is about using a computer to make music and much, not all, of what I say will relate specifically to 64-bit fairly modern Windows operating systems (Windows 10, 11 maybe?).

So... on a Windows 10 OS (64-bit desktop PC) my suggestions for folders to store your plugins in are as follows:

64-bit VST plugins (suffix .dll) go in C:\Program Files\VSTPlugins\
64-bit VST3 plugins (suffix .vst3) go in C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3\

32-bit VST plugins (suffix .dll) go in C:\Program Files(x86)\VSTPlugins\
32-bit VST3 plugins (suffix .vst3) go in C:\Program Files(x86)\Common Files\VST3\

That might seem a bit complex. It is really. The whole set-up is quite complicated for various reasons - different formats, different conventions, different installation procedures, different default paths for different DAWs on different operating systems. Usually (but not always) you get to choose where to put your plugins. Software developers also have an annoying tendency to create (sometimes empty) folders with their name on in odd places on your filesystem.

Installing plugins often give you multiple options of the type of file you want. In addition to the four types above you may be offered standalone files (plugins that also work outside of the DAW as separate applications) and AAX and/or RTAS files (new and old file formats for plugins on Pro-Tools). In most cases you only need to choose one option. VST3 plugins are more modern at least and they are packaged to a slightly more standardised format than older VST plugins but the choice between .dll (called VST) and .vst3 (called VST3) is a fairly arbitrary one. The important point here is you only need one plugin (and in some rare instances perhaps the standalone version also). You don't require two or three different versions of the same plugin in different places on your filesystem so don't download everything just because you can.

If not stated, assume most modern plugins are 64-bit. 32-bit plugins are fairly old now but may still be very good. They won't work in Ableton Live. You can easily convert many 32-bit plugins to 64-bit plugins using the application jBridge. JBridge is a fairly inexpensive application and you can test it out beforehand with a demo. I've found it works very well.

Plugins may come with associated files such as banks of presets (which could be .fxb format but could be anything). Store these wherever the installer suggests maybe. And once stored best not move them. If you do, shortcuts may be of use. But don't worry overly about where the presets go. It's very frustrating but different installers have many different ideas for where to put associated files. Plugins may come with quite big libraries (of samples, for example). You may have a dedicated storage location for samples but the installer may suggest you locate these elsewhere. Don't worry about it.

Computer Music Magazine: 150 Plugins

Ok... a dull post above but comprehensive, I hope, and potentially useful. I find there is scarcely little useful advice out there regarding installation and where to house different things. My filesystems were a complete mess and I have cleaned up to an extraordinary extent. Really comprehensively. And downloaded a lot (far too many) free plugins that I have little idea how to use. I never knew there were quite so many, many free plugin applications about.

I don't know if I've downloaded a plethora of viruses along with them but Windows seemed ok. Didn't really moan much security-wise. It kept very quiet. jBridge worked really nicely. Live crashed now and again as I was testing these out but seems pretty stable with the situation now. Even Audacity - the rather swish new Audacity experience for those who haven't heard (version 3.2) - accepted quite a number of my plugins. Plugins in Audacity... whatever next?

Well, Gatwick Airport to be honest, vaguely eavesdropping on a couple of chaps returning from Newbury races. I suppose if you're still reading I know a bit about plugins. Yes, a little. The plugins of MNtra (crashed Live) and Freakshow Industries were a step too far. It's a relief to come out of my plugin collecting madness.

Microsoft Windows 10 has been... impressive. I have like a decent machine in terms of RAM specs (didn't cost a lot). This OS has been working for about two years. Very strange, compared to how often Windows systems have failed on me in the past. I'm so bored of this train journey. I need a coffee. Went crazy with the Red Bull earlier. Very nice... been a while. I might be feeling the comedown off that. Or maybe it's just how grimy this journey is. Anyway, yeah, my Windows used to break all the time. I do need to, I guess, back up a bit... maybe. Or maybe not. Does the old occasionally fantastic System Restore still work? I don't know. I could have a look. Actually it's the Xubuntu 20 half of my PC that seems most likely to quit these days. Anyway if it breaks, it breaks and I reinstall the OS and Live with my serial numbers and yeah... it's fine.

I suppose also where to get free plugins from? There are many resources for that (like search engines) but I was quite impressed with a website called plugins4free. That was very useful for streamlining the process of downloading plugins while also being informative about the type of plugin (32-bit or 64-bit? and VST or VST3?) with a helpful facility for searching by software developer.

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Returned to Publish0x which has treated me well in the past. And enjoying writing on various subjects in a vaguely anonymous capacity. I'm nearly 50 years old. Music is a passion but there's also horse racing, books, film and oh dear... crypto.

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