Ableton VST Scanner: 4 Issues (Solved)

If you’re an Ableton Live user, or any music production software for that matter, you’ve no doubt dabbled in the fine arts of third-party VST plug-ins.

Countless VST plug-ins are available on the market, like Waves or Izotope, and some cult favorites, like Goodhertz or Soundtoys.

However, it’s all good and well having all the best VST plug-ins available, but what if your Ableton VST scanner isn’t picking them up?

Don’t worry, in this article, I’ll dive into 4 issues you might be encountering with the Ableton VST scanner, and get you back to using your plug-ins in no time.

Your VST Scanner is Getting Stuck

Let’s set the scene: you’ve just installed new VST plugins on your computer, but the Ableton Live VST Scanner is getting stuck while trying to find them. How frustrating!

No need to stress, let’s help you figure out how to get your Ableton VST Scanner back up and running in no time.

First, it’s important to note that Live’s scanner looks through every file and folder, including shortcuts.

  • While you may not be able to delete all shortcuts to folders, as some plugins may require them for resource files and presets, you can still manage them effectively.
  • For certain plugins that have folders or folder shortcuts in the plugin folders containing resource files and presets, you may consider using only either the VST2 or VST3 versions, depending on your preference.
  • This can help reduce the number of files that need to be scanned by Live’s scanner.

It’s also a good idea to review the contents of your plugin folders and remove any files that are not related to plugins, all the while being cautious of folder shortcuts that may lead to unnecessary subfolders.

By keeping your plugin folders clean and organized, you can help streamline the scanning process and improve performance.

Remember to always make backups of any files or folders that you delete, and consult the plugin manufacturer’s documentation or support if you have any questions or concerns about managing plugin folders.

Another reason for the Ableton VST scanner getting stuck could be that you may have a folder shortcut leading to the same folder it was in, causing an endless loop in Ableton Live.

If you have folder shortcuts in your folder, it’s a good idea to double-check them to make sure they’re not pointing to the same folder they’re in.

This simple step might just fix the issue for you, as it did for you in this case.

RELATED: Please also read our article about common issues with Ableton Plug-Ins.

Ableton Live Crashes on Startup When You Select a Custom VST Folder

This is an issue that will likely affect you if you’re a Windows user.

If you’re encountering crashes in Ableton Live during the scanning process after selecting an incorrect VST directory, such as the root directory of the C:\ drive, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • VST plug-ins are typically .dll files
  • Live may not be able to distinguish between VST .dlls and other .dll files, such as drivers.
  • If your custom VST folder contains non-VST .dll files, Live may crash during the scanning process as it tries to interpret them as VSTs.
  • To resolve this issue, reset Live and ensure that you remove all non-VST .dll files from your custom VST folder.

Here’s how to do this:

  1. You can do this by either deleting or relocating any .dll files that are not related to VST plug-ins.
  2. If you want to avoid resetting all of your preferences settings, you can also hold the [ALT] key during the restart of Live, which will temporarily deactivate the VST folder and allow you to troubleshoot the issue.

This is almost like starting your Ableton Live in “Safe Mode”, where you can try to figure out any issues with Ableton scanning for plug-ins.

Ableton VST Scanner Not Picking Up New VST Plug-Ins

If you’ve recently purchased some new and exciting VST plug-ins, you probably can’t wait to start using them.

This can be all the more frustrating when your Ableton Live VST scanner isn’t picking up your recently installed VSTs.

1. Double-check the plug-in installation location:

  • Ensure that you’ve installed the correct version of the plug-in (VST2, VST3, AU) to the correct plug-in folder.
  • You can check and enable/disable plug-in folders in Live’s Preferences under “Plug-ins”.

2. Try turning off and on the plug-in folder:

  • If you’ve confirmed that the plug-in is installed correctly and the folder is active in Live’s preferences, try disabling and re-enabling the plug-in folder.
  • You can also perform a full rescan of installed plug-ins by holding ALT/Option and pressing “Rescan Plug-Ins”.

3. Verify the bit-depth compatibility:

  • Live 10 and 11 are 64-bit only, so 32-bit plug-ins won’t appear in the browser. Make sure you’ve installed the correct bit-depth version of the plug-in for your Live version.

If you’re still running into problems, here are some more troubleshooting tips for you to try!

Check OS and Live compatibility: Ensure that the plug-in is supported on your operating system and Live version. You can find compatibility information on the manufacturer’s website.

Update Live and the plug-in: Make sure you have the latest version of Live and the plug-in installed. VST3 is only available in Live 10.1 or later.

Properly install Waves plug-ins: If you’re using Waves plug-ins, make sure you’ve correctly installed the WaveShell file to the appropriate plug-in folder, especially if you’re using a custom VST folder.

Install VST files directly to the destination folder (Windows only): For Windows users, it’s recommended to install VST files (.dlls) directly to the correct destination folder during installation, rather than manually moving them afterward.

Avoid moving standalone versions (Windows only): Moving, renaming, or uninstalling standalone versions of VST plug-ins may cause them to stop working in Live.

Use Admin rights (Windows only): Some plug-ins may require Live to run with admin rights. For example, plug-ins that allow dragging MIDI clips into Live, like Toontrack’s EZDrummer.

You’re Getting a “Plugin Scanner.exe Missing” Error Message

What’s more annoying than an error message when you’re trying to use VST plug-ins in Ableton Live? The answer is not much!

Here are my top 6 (tried and tested) troubleshooting tips to get your Ableton VST scanner back up and running in no time!

1. Check if the “Plugin Scanner.exe” file is missing:

  • You can go to the installation directory of Ableton Live on your computer (usually located in C:\ProgramData\Ableton\Live x.x\Resources) and look for the “Plugin Scanner.exe” file.
  • If it’s not there, it may have been accidentally deleted or moved. In that case, you can try reinstalling Ableton Live to restore the missing file.

2. Temporarily disable antivirus software:

  • Sometimes, antivirus software can interfere with Ableton Live’s scanning process and mistakenly flag “Plugin Scanner.exe” as a threat, causing it to be quarantined or deleted.
  • Temporarily disabling your antivirus software during the scanning process can help rule out this possibility.
  • Just remember to re-enable your antivirus software after scanning.

3. Update to the latest version of Ableton Live:

  • Make sure you are using the latest version of Ableton Live, as updates may include bug fixes and improvements that can address the issue you’re facing.

4. Check VST plugin compatibility:

  • Ensure that the VST plugins you are trying to scan are compatible with the version of Ableton Live you are using. Some older VST plugins may not be compatible with newer versions of Ableton Live, or vice versa.

5. Reinstall VST plugins:

  • If you have recently installed new VST plugins, it’s possible that they were not installed correctly or may have caused conflicts with Ableton Live’s scanning process.
  • Try reinstalling the VST plugins, following the manufacturer’s installation instructions carefully.

6. Rescan VST plugins manually:

  • Instead of relying on the automatic scanning process, you can try manually scanning your VST plugins in Ableton Live.
    1. Go to Ableton Live’s “Preferences”
    2. Then, “Plug-ins”
    3. Click on “Rescan” or “Clear Cache” to manually initiate the scanning process.

RELATED: Check out our article with solutions to Ableton not showing Plug-Ins.

Final Thoughts

Although third-party VST plug-ins can really elevate your production and writing in Ableton Live, it’s important to remember that they can be more problematic than native effects and plug-ins.

This is why it’s important to be as thorough as possible in the installation process, endeavoring to be methodical and precise when selecting root folders and files, etc.

Because Ableton Live has such an intensive and thorough VST scanner (normally a good thing), being accurate with your file naming, folder selecting and shortcuts is important for seamless scanning.


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