Before you even download and install Ableton Live, follow this advice to make managing the application and content easier.

Folder and file organization is a very important part of setting up and installing Ableton Live. You should not ignore this and think carefully about how you are going to use it for years ahead. Planning from the start will save you a lot of grief and down time if you do it right.

I am assuming here, that you are using Windows 10 and Ableton Live 9. I have the Suite version which contains more things like additional content and Max. In general though, what is said here should apply for the Standard and Intro versions.

Use A Hard Drive For Each Content Type

Yes, you read the title right. Get a bunch of them. I strongly recommend you do this to keep all your assets away from one another. I should note that most computer desktop systems only support up to 4 SATA ports so please be aware of this. If you need to, go buy larger hard drives in the 4TB range and create two volumes per each. Its better though to keep the drives small just in case one fails. At least that way you won’t lose a lot of work for multiple content types and backups will be faster.

If you need more file storage, consider using a JBOD network file server as your needs grow. This file server can be shareable across your entire company with many people working with a library of content and multiple DAW instances per client workstation.

Remember though that network file transfers are much slower in most cases than straight motherboard to hard drive storage transfers.

Here’s a high level overview of a local drive and volume layout that I use.

Drive   Volume Label
C:      1TB Windows
D:      2TB Music
E:      2TB Video
F:      2TB Images
N:      64TB JBOD

For the sizes of each drive, I recommend at least 2TB for the Music, Video, and Image drives. The Windows drive can be 500GB or 1TB if you want.

You want to avoid placing application programs on the Windows drives as much as possible. The reason is, you will quickly run out of disk space as you add more programs. Then, you are faced with the problem of installing programs on other drives or redoing your entire computer system with a bigger Windows boot drive. That would be a very big undertaking which often leads to broken file and folder links. Avoid it entirely.

Go buy 3 high end SATA III drives – the best money can buy.

I only use the Winchester Digital Black drives. They are the highest performance 7200 RPM 6GB/s drives you will find. I have had no problems with these drives and they are very fast. If you do audio work on a laptop, look to use something like a Seagate 2TB Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) instead.

Prices have dropped a lot over the last year to be around $120 for 2TB. I’m sure they will come down even further.

For your Windows boot drive, you can use a Winchester Digital Blue 500GB Solid State Drive (SSD). SSD’s have also come down in price to be way more affordable, just above SATA prices.

This drive doesn’t need to be large – only to install Windows and keep system files on.

There will be applications that allow very little flexibility in installing VSTs, plugins, and even itself on another drive. So you have to have enough disk space for those just in case.

Folder Layout

Now to the meat of this article – how to layout the folders and files. I am only going to discuss the music perspective in this when it comes to Ableton Live.

Here is an overview of my Music Drive:

Audio clips
Audio Interfaces
  Ableton Live Suite
  FL Studio
  Audio Clips
  MIDI Instruments
My Music
  Akai MPC

When I first start out, I create a Downloads folder and put everything into the categories you see listed. Underneath each of those categories are the manufacturers folder followed by a subfolder for each product. I keep these files archived and also run the execution programs (after extraction) from these folders. This way, I keep them in one place and know exactly where things came from. It makes for easier cleanup. It helps also if I need to roll back a version in case software bugs or problems creep in.

Audio clips and loops that were purchased are stored in their own folder. They need to go some place and its its best to devote a dedicate folder to them to find things easier.

I have a separate folder for my Audio Interfaces. I list these in folders according to manufacturer and then subfolder them according to product model. This lets me quickly try different audio interfaces out.

I keep all my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application under the Daws folder. I do this to quickly find the product and to avoid installing them in the Windows boot drive.

All VSTs get installed in the Plugins folder. I keep them separate according to 32-bit and 64-bit formats. Underneath each bits folder, are the manufacturer folders followed by subfolders of each companies plugin. Ableton Live is very good in rescanning according to a set location and can walk the folder tree correctly to find plugins to be listed in the browser. Sometimes VST developers do not allow very good flexibility in storing their plugins. In those cases, I basically say “Screw It!” and move the files over to the right location myself fully knowing that if I uninstall them, I will run into problems.


I hope this gets you thinking about how to organize your programs and content in the future. By planning ahead, you will be able to scale up as your content and application needs grow. In todays digital workflow with content growing in size, being prepared to scale horizontally by adding more hardware can save you a lot of time and headaches.

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