If you want to use plug-ins in Live, they need to be set up first whether it's VSTs or Audio Units (Mac only). It's an easy and quick process when you know how. This tutorial will guide you step by step through it.

  1. First they need to be installed correctly. If they're new(ish) plug-ins, check if you've installed the 32-bit or 64-bit version of it. Also check the same for Live (there's a 64-bit beta since 8.3). Live can only detect plug-ins of the same bit depth. Always check the manufacturer's website for the most current version as this will help avoid crashes.
  2. Now start Live and go to the Preferences > File/Folder.
  3. Turn on 'Use VST Plug-In System Folders' if the VSTs are installed in the default location as indicated by the plug-in installer.
  4. 'Use VST Plug-In Custom Folder' if you have installed all or some of the VST plug-ins in a dedicated folder of your own choice, i.e. 'VST Plug-ins'. Click on the Browse button and navigate to this specific folder. Don't set it to a big folder, partition or hard drive as this will crash Live.
  5. On a Mac you can also use Audio Units. Turn on 'Use Audio Units' for this.
  6. You can hit Rescan.
  7. Now you should see all your plug-ins in the Plug-In Browser. You can simply drag and drop them into tracks just like Live's own devices.

Quick tip:

If you've accidentally chosen a big folder as the VST custom folder, you can keep ALT pressed when starting Live. This will keep Live from scanning for plug-ins and you can then go into the Preferences > File/Folder to change it to the appropriate folder.

Any questions or comments are welcome as usual. :)

There are plenty more Ableton Live tutorials where this one came from.