There could be many reasons why VST plug-ins may not show up in your Ableton Plug-in browser. These reasons may include incorrect installation, installation folders or you may need to rescan plug-ins in Ableton’s preferences.
If you have a look at this article on the differences between VST2 vs VST3 Plug-ins in Ableton, you will notice that they have differences in function and format. Furthermore, VST2 and VST3 formats install into different folders for both MacBook and Windows, you can solve this issue while you’re in the installation process.
Before you start this tutorial and install a plug-in, make sure that it is compatible with your OS and hardware. This step will save you issues upfront. Now, to the tutorial. So here is how you can solve your plug-ins not showing up in Ableton:
- Proper installation: this means that you go through all the correct installation steps to completion, and if errors occur, restart the installation process. Most importantly Correct folder selection during installation: Ableton will have default folders allocated to find your plug-ins.
- Rescan: this is the simplest and fastest way to resolve your missing plug-in issue by simply rescanning your plug-ins
- Enable your plug-in format for use in Ableton preferences: this simply allows Ableton to use plug-ins in whichever plug-in format you use (VST 2.0, VST 3.0 or Audio Units)
- Restart your computer: some plug-ins require that you restart your device to activate and appear in your DAW
In the tutorial on How to Install and Use Plugins in Ableton, I go through a step-by-step breakdown of how to install your plug-ins for windows and MacBook. You will notice that it is important to go through all the steps to the very end, understanding all the instructions and parameters to install your plug-ins correctly. These steps will include (steps 3 & 4 are the most important to solving your plug-ins not showing up):
- Introduction: this is a welcome page and an instruction to follow the guiding steps to a successful installation.
- License agreement: this is a must. You will have to accept this step to complete your installation. This segment generally covers, data collection, protection and distribution of the plug-in’s manufacturer
- Select Components: this is a very important step. You shall select which format your plug-ins install and whether you will see them appear on Ableton. Ableton generally uses VST 2.0 and VST 3.0, and Audio Units on MacBook.
- Select the VST plug-in folder: this is the most important step to solving your missing VSTs. Every plug-in format has a default installation location depending on your computer OS type. In this step, you shall select the specific folder in which your plug-ins install. If you have a custom folder, you can change the installation path here.
This is the quickest way to solve your missing plug-ins issue. Firstly, this issue may occur because you have installed the new plug-in with Ableton open, and you may need to restart Ableton to resolve your missing plug-in issue.
If this does not work, then you shall have to manually rescan your plug-ins in Ableton’s preferences for both Windows and IOS. Here is how you do it:
Go to Ableton preferences (CMD +, On Mac, or Ctrl +, on Windows) and go to the Plug-ins folder and select rescan
If this does not resolve your issue, you might have to select the folder you have installed your plug-ins in during the installation process, or if you have a custom plug-ins folder you can change the custom plug-in folder for both VST 2.0 and VST 3.0 your preferred folder by selecting browse, choosing your folder, and then select rescan
Enable your Plug-in Format for use in Ableton Preferences
This method works as a ‘permissions’ enabling function essentially allowing Ableton to access and use plug-ins installed in your system files and folders, as well as your custom installation folders by activating both functions you will be able to access plug-ins in either type of folder for both Mac and Windows. This is how you go about this:
Open Ableton’s preferences and select the plug-ins folder
Enable Ableton to use all VST plug-ins in system folders, and custom folders to suit your utility
Rescan to find your plug-ins
Restart your Computer
This method might just be the ‘Hail Mary’ of the missing plug-ins issue. In some instances, heavy plug-ins may require you to restart your computer to finalize your installation process. Normally this is indicated in the final step of the installation process, but if not, you may do this yourself. If you had Ableton open during the installation process, you may need to restart Ableton.
Your plug-ins not showing up can be sorted out through the methods I have provided. The most important step, however, is to follow the installation steps correctly. In some cases, the manufacturer will provide you with a step-by-step guide to the correct installation process so that your plug-ins install correctly and appear in Ableton. If step 1 through 4 does not work, repeat the cycle. Have fun!