ILok opinions

A month ago picking libraries I opted for the ones that came sans iLok and will likely stay that path til I’m convinced otherwise. I was right up to the point of purchase when iLok popped into view, at which point I was still willing. Because the process failed I went into the VSL site for help and found a river of customer frustrations about iLok

This came up briefly in a prior thread here and a couple of folks seemed ok dealing with iLok, but it doesn’t take much searching to find the downsides, including that zone on the VSL site devoted to iLok questions/problems

It seems like the best option would be the dongle but I also got the impression they’re leaning more into the cloud which isn’t for everyone

The VSL libraries are impressive but fortunately they’re not the only game

I’m wondering how common the problems are

I’ve used an iLok for 20 years and never had a problem. I’ve used the iLok version of VSL since the changeover from eLicenser and never had a problem.

I recently moved to an Apple Silicon M2 Ultra and all I had to do to use VSL on the new Mac was plug in the sample drive and plug in the iLok and it all just worked.

If you have the cloud version, you need to have a reliable internet connection.

VSL support is second to none and, for me, the quality of their libraries can’t be beat.


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At this point in my life I refuse to deal with dongles.

I’m not using Dorico but have had an iLok for about 10-15 years now. No problems. Love being able to jump on a different studio’s computer and just plug it in and all authorizations I need are there.


I quite recently had a physical iLok die on me, though I admit it was about nine years old. It wasn’t observably broken physically; it just stopped being recognised by any computer or hub I plugged it into.

I considered the replacement - both in terms of time and cost - to be unreasonable. The process involves shipping the broken iLok to the USA, waiting for PACE to determine that the iLok is indeed broken, and them either putting your licenses back onto a new iLok and physically shipping it or putting them back into your iLok account in such a way that you can purchase a new iLok locally and download the licenses to it.

PACE offer a Zero Downtime service, which costs $30 per year per iLok. It grants you two-week temporary licenses - to be downloaded to a spare USB iLok that you must purchase - to cover you while you’re going through the RMA process detailed above.

In my case, I hadn’t been paying for Zero Downtime, and two weeks wouldn’t have been long enough - it took the best part of three weeks from sending from the U.K. to them actually “recovering” my licenses, and it would’ve taken longer still if I’d paid their (not especially cheap) international shipping rather than picking up a new iLok locally.

If you have the option of using VSTs that are compatible with the iLok cloud-based system then go for it. Unfortunately I have some older licenses that still have to be tied to the USB iLok.


I appreciate the opinions

Leigh_d so that sounds simple enough. Im putting everything directly on a M3 max hard drive and not sure if that changes anything. I think most of the problems I’ve read about were to do with the cloud though seems like there were some to do with dongles

Is there much of a dongle process when you add a new library? I watched a video with the cheery VSL guy and wasn’t all that comforted at the end but that was to do with the cloud

Also I somehow had the impression the dongle option was going away but I could’ve misread something

My aim from the start is go with quality and keep things as simple as possible, so the prospect of complications is a big negative

Some of those VSL libraries were/are at top of the list since I started putting a system together. And still very tempting so I’m trying to sort that out

I don’t know much about these things but that approach to anti-piracy seems a little overkill. The libraries I’ve bought are just as susceptible to piracy and once the initial install is finished nothing else to think about

Thanks pianoleo and Mathias we must have been typing and posting simultaneously

and pianoleo that’s exactly the kind of scenario I want to avoid so I’ll hold off. It’s a shame to not take advantage of the great VSL instruments but I quite literally don’t have time for that kind of thing

On the bright side think of the money I’ll save on libraries

This is why the “TLC” option is of value. No need to spend time contacting software sellers or going through the same type of RMA process. No extra monetary cost. You only need to be online at least once per 90 days.

So metal iLok, ZDT, TLC and a spare iLok and you’re set.

My understanding is that in the case of a broken iLok there is no difference between TLC and regular ZDT - if two weeks isn’t long enough to get a broken iLok to PACE, and for them to do their bit, you’re not going to be covered for the additional time.!zdt-coverage shows icons over which one is supposed to hover to see more information - nothing seems to appear for me on Chrome or Safari. I note, though, that the icons are exactly the same for the Broken iLok scenario shown in the TLC Off and On columns:

In my case I don’t have terribly many products that demand an iLok, so the outlay for a spare physical iLok plus the $30 annual subscription for ZDT feels steep relative to the overall cost of my VSTs.

There is a difference and you can see it once you hover over them, and you can also see that the colors are slightly different.

For TLC enabled you no longer have to send in your broken iLok to get ZDT. It is optional in order to get warranty information.

Additionally, without TLC the authorizations are recovered (if possible) from your broken iLok that you send back, but with TLC you just get new ones regardless of your old broken iLok. This refers to the full authorizations, not the temporary ones that you have for 14 days.

And if you lose your iLok or it is stolen then without TLC you have to deal with manufacturers yourself, with TLC it is again automatic and you get the full authorizations put into your account quickly.

Basically the idea is that the iLok with TLC will stop working after 90 days unless you connect to the server. Each time you connect you get another 90 days. This means that if the physical key is stolen anyone who gets it doesn’t have your password and won’t be able to refresh it once the 90 days are done. So the iLok is rendered useless.

That’s a way to protect the software makers. Imagine someone who buys an iLok and puts a bunch of licenses on it and then sells the iLok for half price to someone, and then reports it stolen. Without TLC that original owner has to prove they really did get it stolen. Or at least it needs to look that way, and they can probably only get away with that once. But with TLC enabled the software makers can trust iLok (the company) to turn off the stolen one so the number of authorizations on the market doesn’t change. It’s still just the one set because the old “stolen” iLok is effectively deactivated.

That’s the whole idea behind it I believe.

So to recap;

Plus - Much better protection for us users.
Minus - Have to be connected once every 90 days.

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I can’t see anything if I hover over the icons, and the video above the icons doesn’t explain the differences clearly.

Either way, I’m not happy paying out extra money every year to have unencumbered access to the licenses I’ve paid for. Having gone through the painful process recently for an ilok user that doesn’t have TLC or ZDT, I can’t recommend it to anyone else.

It does.

TLC means you just get the licenses dumped into your account and you don’t have to send in your broken, lost or stolen iLok and you don’t have to contact the companies that sold you your licenses.

It further explains (better than the icons) that if they can’t recover a license from your damaged iLok that you sent in then without TLC you might be up s#%t creek, but with TLC you just get a new one.

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I agree that a dongle is worse than no dongle, all else being equal.
I agree that if people don’t enable ZDT and TLC it’s going to suck losing the iLok.
I agree that for some $30/year isn’t worth it.

For me it’s totally worth it. I get portability and easy use of my authorizations. I forget how much money I have on that thing but it’s thousands of dollars. Since I do this for a living those $30 are potential tax write-off, but even if that’s not the case it’s really just about 10-15 cents per work day, and if that amount of money is a problem for me then I really have bigger problems.

But like I said, I get where you’re coming from.

I’m not sure how iLok protects the users

I’m putting money into libraries none of which require iLok. I’m pretty sure if something happened I could log in on those sites and recover the VSTs on a new computer down the road

It sounds like if you know that you need to be all in with the iLok thing and are ok with that it might be worth it if you really want to use those libraries

I’d already be using VSL elite strings and maybe other string libraries + a piano or two if I hadn’t looked into how iLok works. The libraries are good for sure and if there was an alternative to iLok they’d be in the toolbox now

I appreciate all the opinions here as always it’s been very helpful

I assume that was for me;

What I meant was that specifically TLC offers much better protection for those that have an iLok with ZDT.

I did not mean that iLok in general offered better protection compared to not using an iLok.

I run once instance of VEPro via the cloud-based iLok and another via the dongle. The cloud-based version forces me to keep WiFi enabled, which is sub-optimal (to say the least) for pops and clicks under high loads. It also takes longer to authorize and load. The dongle version just loads and it’s disconnected from the internet 99% of the time.

My Steinberg e-licenser is from 2005 or so. It’s bandaged with tape now and bent but it’s still more practical, in my opinion, than Steinberg Licensing (which forces auto-updates of itself and the Media Bay that I cannot pause or postpone).

Ultimately, I think it depends on what you are looking for. For portability, I totally understand laptops and cloud-based authorization. For studio-like environment especially with heavy loads, multiple computers and libraries, I still prefer hardware authorization.

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