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Starship Krupa

Plug-in installer clutter

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Maybe this topic ought to be made a "sticky" it comes up so often. Mostly because every so often I go poking around my system/program/plug-ins drive to see what sort of cruft program installers are leaving behind.

Having noticed that plug-in manufacturers don't like to waste support money answering the eternal question "why aren't my plug-ins showing up?" when instead they could be wasting space on my SSD, I've learned about all these different types of plug-ins that I don't use that get installed anyway by certain companies' installers. Because room on my hard drive is free (to them), while support inquiries cost effort and irritation (to them).

Today I learned about the "DAE" folder, because I stumbled across "C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Digidesign\DAE\Plug-ins" that was harboring 20 files from iZotope, Celemony, AIR, and of course, A|A|S. Because Applied Acoustics Systems, while being my favorite supplier of soft synths, is also far and away the worst when it comes to scattering copies of their plug-ins all over the place.

The other companies had, oddly, just one or two in this folder. iZotope had a couple Neutron 3 components, there was Melodyne, and although I have several AIR instruments, Vacuum Pro was the only one in this odd rabbit hole. A|A|S had everything I own from them.

I had to do some Googling to find out what this folder was about and as it turns out, DAE was the location for storing the since-deprecated (7 years ago) RTAS format plug-ins. Which explains why there is no corresponding such folder below the non-(x86)Program Files folder. Not a lot of 64-bit RTAS pluggos, I guess.

So how about that for "gee, thanks?" If asked, I would have told the installer "64-bit VST3's only." I don't run Pro Tools, and even if I did, it would be using AAX's and those AAX's would be 64-bit. Bad installer! If you want to be nervous nellies about it, just put in a dialog after your doofus customer has clicked "Custom" saying that if they are not sure, just leave everything checked. But let the people who know what we are doing choose what we get.

If you have it, and many if not most of us do, either from owning the Platinum Suite or freebie deals at Pluginboutique, search your system drive for Strum Session 2. I can think of 9 locations A|A|S puts that plug-in in different forms when I run the installer just off the top of my head and I'm sure there are a couple more. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that the installer scans every folder on your system and if it has the string "VST" in its name, they put a copy of the VST2 in it.

Waves is the other company that's insane about this, but I'm too scared to delete any of their .DLL's. I used to have one of those Waves issues where whenever I'd start a DAW, Waves would ask me for its own file location over and over again and finally let me start the DAW only after the last drop of my creativity had been converted to irritation. Now I realize why the poor plug-in couldn't figure out where it belonged, its DLL's are strewn all over the disk.

Whatever that bit of code in Cakewalk is that checks to see if a plug-in has already been scanned, that bit of code must get a pretty good workout.

So, at this point, if you want to check your precious SSD space for plug-in clutter, assuming that you're a Cakewalk user who doesn't run another program that needs 32-bit plug-ins, here's where to look for overzealous installer clutter:

Your regular 32-bit plug-in folder, wherever it is

C:\Program Files (x86)\Steinberg\VSTPlugins

C:\Program Files (x86)\VSTPlugins

C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\VST3

C:\Program Files\Common Files\Avid\Audio\Plug-ins

C:\Program Files\Common Files (x86)\Avid\Audio\Plug-ins

If you don't keep your VST2 plug-ins in C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VSTPlugins check there for extra copies

C:\Program Files\Common Files (x86)\Digidesign\DAE\Plug-ins

C:\Program Files\Cakewalk\VstPlugins

I've found spurious copies of plug-ins in all of those locations. With some it's no big deal, but with others, like iZotope, you can reclaim a lot of disk space. Meldaproduction installs 32-bit plug-ins whether you want them or not. Same with Native Instruments. You're getting 32-bit copies of Kontakt and Reaktor whether you want them or not.

Edited by Starship Krupa
Make pertinent folder locations bold
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Thanks that was useful - got rid of a fair few AAX plug ins - I'd had a clean out of those once before but there were folders you mention that I hadn't looked in! A few had VST dlls in but I left those to be on the safe side as in total they probably didn't amount to more than a couple of hundred MB

Presumably if I have a 64 bit version of a plugin I don't need the 32 bit version? I got into the habit of installing both when one of my DAW's was 32 bit - think it might have been Ableton Lite 8 before I updated to 10.  I've got Reason 10 on my PC but I assume that is ok with 64 bit?

Thanks again

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If you are not running 32-bit audio software, then there's no reason to install 32-bit versions of your plug-ins. Unless your version of Reason is 32-bit, in which case you would have both Reason and a reason.

IMO, there are multiple reasons for not installing them.

First, if you are like most and have an SSD as your system/program/plug-in drive, you may be like me and consider space on that drive to be at a premium. I am currently disabled and working at reduced capacity so was only able to afford a 240G drive for my computer. The first time I did a sweep I reclaimed about 4G, which for me, is a Cakewalk project or two's worth of SSD space. My system drive is also my only SSD, so it gets the projects, too. As you noted, this stuff builds up!

Second, there's the matter of plug-in scanning and registering, which for most happens each time Cakewalk starts up. If you still wish to have a few legacy 32-bit plug-ins, you need to have Cakewalk scan your 32-bit plug-in directory. If it's full of iZotope and Native Instruments plug-ins, Cakewalk (and other DAW's that natively support 32-bit plug-ins) still scans and makes registry entries for all of them It's smart enough to hide 32-bit plug-ins that it knows you have 64-bit versions of, but that takes more time, makes for more possibility for error, etc. It's needless work for your DAW. (what you did with leaving the .dll's in there is fine in this scenario, because the devs recently made it so that Cakewalk will ignore VST2 .dll's in VST3 folders)

Third, I'm a cantankerous sort of person who doesn't want companies putting software on my computer that I didn't ask for. I'm willing to jump through the hoop of installing their installation/authorization manager, I'm fine with iZotope Portal, Cakewalk Command Center, Waves Central, BandLab Assistant, Native Access, iLok et al, but what I want is 64-bit VST3's, and if they only have VST2's, then those. Period. I don't use 32-bit VST2's or VST3's, I don't use AAX's and I sure as heck don't use RTAS, thank you iZotope, A|A|S and Celemony for heaven's sake.

I've gone to the trouble of learning that the VST2 spec has both a registry entry and an environment variable that installers may query to find out where the system's VST plug-ins directory is, and I have set my systems up to have that. Not many installers seem to look for it, though.

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Thanks very much. Is it safe then just to delete the  redundant 32 bit .dll's ?  Do they leave any detritus behind eg registry entries. Most of my VSTs are on my 1tb data drive (apart from some that weren't happy on there!) so space isn't too much of an issue so I'll probably keep the VST2's that I also have as VST3's

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I just trash them, and I've had no problems.

If you want to play it safe, and I do recommend playing it safe, you can create a folder on another drive called "32 VST Hold" or whatever, and drag them there temporarily until you are sure that there are no unintended consequences. I've never seen it, but it's not 100% impossible that the 64-bit version of a plug-in could be using the 32-bit .dll as a resource or something.

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Cleaning out this clutter is a good idea for sure. I usually un check all AAX and 32 bit plugins on installation. I do keep VST 2 and 3 though.

In terms of actual space used they pale in comparison to those installer files that can be laying around. One folder in my old Platinum setup had gobbled up 88gb full of nothing but installer files of back generations.

I generally put my program downloads in the "downloads" folder on my OS. That folder can also grow if you save all of the zips. If you've already downloaded the program there probably isn't a reason to keep most of those. At the very least they could be moved over to an outboard drive and probably be forgotten. All of my plugin folders probably don't amount to over 500mb. Plugins are relatively small in size and I guess I haven't worried as much about them.

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