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I am using FL Studio as my DAW. I am currently running the problem of overflowing my computer with a lot of plugin installations. A lot of these installations cause operating system related issues and slow down the overall computer performance. I see that whenever I have to open a project in a different computer, I have to install a lot of plugins as well.

I'm thinking about using VSTs without installing them like copying the .DLLs and other files to a VST folder (this does not work all the time) so there will not be any OS related issues and I can easily move my plugin folder for different environments.

Does anyone have some idea or experience about using VSTs without installing them? Can someone point me with the right direction? Help is appreciated.

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  • installation will usually give you fewer problems than trying to do this manually, as it should sort out dependencies. Trying to do that manually can be a nightmare.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 9, 2023 at 15:30
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    @RoryAlsop - I'm not very good on Win, but don't .dlls have to be registered with the system, not just the DAW? On Mac you can see any new plugins being enumerated by the DAW at startup but the plugs aren't .dlls on Mac & don't have to be system registered other than more advanced structures like Waves, so a simple symlink/alias from the correct folder would probably be enough. I'm not sure that would work for Win...
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 9, 2023 at 18:19
  • to be fair, last time I tried to do any dll addition manually was Win XP. Doable, but you had to edit registry etc
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 10, 2023 at 19:37
  • In my experience, you don't have to register them in Windows, unless device-specific info pertinent to other progs or to the uninstall process needs to be stored. But for sole DLLs, if you put it in your VST folder, which the DAW checks, it doesn't need an "install" per se. This is for 80% of plugins - the rest have accompanying executables, which makes things more complicated, with configuration files with references, Win registry entries etc. Making moving difficult.
    – n00dles
    Jan 13, 2023 at 16:24

2 Answers 2

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I recommend - as a safety precaution - printing your channels to disk from 00:00:00, otherwise known as a bounce in place. Do a Save As... beforehand naming the session as not the master and putting MASTER into the filename of the real master.

All edits, volume automation, effects and virtual synths go down as a mono 24 bit file just ahead of the balance knob and fader during production. Another way is to setup busses for each class: drums, bass gats+synth, melodies, vocals, click. That's how this file was prepared:

https://www.triptonites.com/remix-competition/

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That's so in 20 years you can still open the session for multi-channel work without any plugs. Make sure each channel bounces from zero point

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(I don't really have a definite answer, but I have some experience with this sort of thing)

VST/VSTi plugins are quite small, storage-wise, and I don't think they slow the computer down - only in the initial search and update. I always install the data libraries (presets, samples etc) to a high capacity external drive. That way, I can take that with me when I'm away and using my laptop with a smaller set of plugins.

(I have FL Studio btw and have noticed a few issues, one of which is the folder structure of third-party plugins. I created a program to fix this, but I forget what exactly the problem was - something to do with the one-level plugin folder structure in the FL UI.)

Anyway - I've always been quite fastidious when it comes to organizing my plugins - I now have a neatly organised VST Plugins folder (organised into a huge folder tree of plugin types). In the past, I have been annoyed by the ones you can't move about and while you could do it by editing references, it's better to just point to the correct folders on install.

But how did I move them around? I haven't done this for a long time, but when I did - I simply took my neatly organised VST Plugins folder and copied it to the new machine. Any that wouldn't work (~10%), I would install. Once, I tried installing all these "un-movable" plugins on my external drive, but unfortunately, I forget if it worked or not. Probably not, though. But maybe it's something you could try. Obviously, the drive would need to be assigned the same letter on any machine.
But even if you just have to install them on the external drive for each machine, then only connect it when you need the plugins. I'm not guaranteeing this won't cause more issues than before, though. It's just one possible option

Note: Some plugin install executables are just zip extractors - they simply extract DLLs to your selected VST plugins folder - that's all the install process does. It's analogous to download "helpers" which just download files to your folder you could download easily yourself, but they show you ads of their newest product during the download.

As for performance, ensure you keep your system as efficient as possible, with regular clean-up routines.

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