VST DLL file locations...best practices

Hello Everyone,

I recently heard some advice about customizing the folder location for VST instrument and plug-in DLL files.

It was suggested to create a non-default folder, preferably on a different hard drive than the one running Cubase, to maximize system speed, or put another way, reduce CPU load. In the preset manager, simply pointing to it would accomplish the loading of all presets and instruments as usual.

I would be interested in hearing some opinions and suggestions on this. Having just upgraded from Elements 8 to 9, I am seeing CPU overloads where there were none before, so am looking for ways to lighten the load, and this is one consideration.

Looking forward to any advice.

Thanks in advance.


It’s not about the VST plug-ins (DLL), it’s more about the sound libraries of the VSTi.

If you place the sound libraries to other drive, you can read from two drives in parallel, so the drive doesn’t swap. This is true especially for HDD. With SSD the technology is different.

Thank-you Martin. I would like to do this. Would I be correct in assuming that once I locate and move the libraries for each VST instrument, that pointing the instrument to the new location is a function within the plug-in and not Cubase per se? Could you please give me an example of how to do this with Halion Sonic SE and/or Groove Agent?

When you first load those plugins they should promt you to point to the library files location one time, or as mentioned make sure those locations are selected and everything else is set proper in Mediabay. Other various plugins, sample libraries, or vsti libraries are handled in various different ways.
Sometimes you can set the directories the way you like during installation ( best case scenario)
You may be able to manually do this after installation but this could also require more effort/problem solving, if problems arise.

Also, I recently discovered here a nice plugin tool to help with all the path locations (3rd party software, use at your own risk). But found it to be helpful, and informative with path location issues. (it’s called Ultimate PLugin Tool)

Cubase 9 does perform a little worse than Cubase 8, all other things being equal, but you have to be working pretty close to your computer’s breaking point to notice the difference. I did end up having to increase my audio interface’s buffer size from 256 samples to 512 samples in order to work on a recent Cubase 9 project without glitching the audio, and that’s usually all you have to do in cases like this.

For years I’ve seen people say “put OS on one drive, programs/plugins on another, data on yet another” for optimized performance, but I’ve never seen any actual numbers to back that suggestion up, particularly in the modern era of 2-digit-gig RAM and reasonably large SSDs. (*)

I do in fact keep my programs and plugins in custom locations, but it’s not for performance reasons:

  1. First, my boot drive is an early PCIe NVMe drive and I could only justify the cost of the 480GB version at the time, so I install all programs/plugins on a dedicated SATA SSD. The boot drive is only for OS, data, and anything that defaults to installing on the boot drive (an increasing number of music and non-music applications are removing the ability to customize install location).
  2. Second, on Windows, the default install location of C:\Program Files/C:\Program Files (x86) is protected by Windows User Account Control, which blocks any non-administrator process from writing files. This causes problems with poorly-designed plugins that store preferences/activation info/presets in the same folder where the plugin resides.

My programs/plugins drive is SSD drive “G:”. So I point every installer/setup program that allows custom paths to g:\programs32, g:\programs64, g:\vstplugins32, or g:\vstplugins64, depending on the product type/bitness. I also have a third drive for samples/library content.

For those evil manufacturers who don’t let you customize install location (MusicLab, Waves, etc.) I let the software install to its default place, but then I move the program/plugins/content to my desired locations and leave symbolic links in their old locations. I do this using a feature of a program I wrote, but I’m thinking of writing a more intuitive, dedicated wizard for this purpose, because it’s something I do a lot, and while my existing tool works it’s not the most intuitive thing in the world.

Steinberg partially falls into the evil camp here, because they install tons of library content in the hidden ProgramData (and sometimes AppData) directories on the system drive often without giving you a choice. I can’t remember whether Groove Agent/HALion let you choose where their libraries go. I have moved Steinberg content to external folders using symbolic links before, though.

(*) Final performance note: You can make an argument that library content should go on a (hopefully) dedicated samples SSD because some large sample libraries can take quite a long time to load at project startup time, and some samplers, like Kontakt can even stream in sample data at play time, so a big, fast, dedicated drive can actually make life a little better. In my case, my samples/libraries are on a traditional 7200RPM drive because I couldn’t justify the cost of a 2TB SSD. Someday.