Are PACE iLok's worth it? Cost vs. Convenience, etc

Are PACE iLok's worth it? Cost vs. Convenience, etc

Over the years many people have complained about iLok’s, though I was apparently lucky to never have had a significant problem. Until now. My iLok 2 decided to up and die. It won’t light up (except a flash when inserting), and Windows 7 will no longer recognize it. I did a License Manager install on my Windows 10 box and same issue. For a few months I have intended on getting their Zero Downtime Coverage (that nagging feeling) and I waited too long. I think it’s $30 a year. For an RMA (return authorization) submission without ZDC they want $50 U.S. for “License Recovery Fee”, which will include a new iLok 3 USB-A (I wager that’s what the recovery fee is actually for, the rest is a cakewalk). It will also cost $23 for FedEx Express Saver shipping (slow boat) - for something the size of my finger! :unamused: Maybe tax on top of that.

I had already started saving licenses to my computer instead, for quite some time, so I’m not completely sunk. And I think I can re-authorize the licenses to the computer, but that might conflict with something if I log in to iLok, so it may not work. Most iLok codes allow a number of installs, for say multiple machines.

So that’s my cry-in-beer story. What do you think of iLok cost vs. convenience over time? I don’t think computer assigned licenses can be recovered, they recommend uninstalling iLok licenses before your computer crashes. Good luck with that! :joy: :crystal_ball:

signed: Stuck in iLokville.

Hey Stan,

I dislike dongles as much as the next person, that’s why we got rid of ours at MAAT. That said, they are a fact of life if you’re an audio pro. Having all your licenses on a lanyard that travels with you is usually more than a convenience. For many, it’s a necessity.

Also, dongles ensure “business continuity,” which you have now witnessed the lack of firsthand. When your host dies, it’s not an “if”, your licenses are all on the lanyard, not on the now dead host…

So, I assume you recovered from a backup and still cannot get everything back. No backup? I very highly recommend Backblaze I tried quite a few over the years, and these guys win so far.

Okay, to your question: If you are a pro, it’s a no brainer. Your ZDT subscription is tax deductible so just get it. If you’re an enthusiast, the answer is less clear cut though. In comparison, what do you spend on other subscriptions; phone, streaming, etc? Can your discretionary income accommodate the additional cost? If you’re on this forum, then I think the answer is probably yes.

1 Like

Thanks for the reply Oliver! Yes, I felt they were necessary for a long time, and they are handy for moving locations or computers. But not everyone travels around, especially these days :wink:, so I’m just questioning the efficacy of the investment. Though the ZDT is quite reasonable in retrospect. As I mentioned, I had been planning to do that lately as my licenses increased and my dongle got older. As with auto repairs, maybe it’s good to just plan on replacing parts after a certain ‘mileage’.

Oh, my computer is fine, no crash or anything. Just the iLok dongle died. So it’s the opposite right now for me, I have iLok licenses (some of them) registered to the computer so I can still use those. I actually have seen this coming, but didn’t act quickly enough on ZDT. Though I’m not clear on what happens with computer crash. I’m now trying to figure out if I really need the Recovery, or if I can do some of this myself. I have all my iLok license codes handy, so that’s not the problem. Just with how the software manufacturers and iLok handle repeat registrations. I actually have a never-used iLok 1 that might suffice for now also, if I can just re-authorize the licenses. Or register them to the computer instead.

So I’m not saying dongles aren’t worth it, just asking the questions in light of experience. As long as you can re-authorize licenses to recover, it’s probably not that big of a deal, but it seems plugin makers and iLok put limitations on this, which might be the big complaint. I still have licenses (on paper) so I don’t need to recover them, just re-authorize to computer or another iLok.

Thanks for the BackBlaze suggestion though, as incidentally I’m also in the midst of reworking my computer backup situation.

I don’t know that you can have all your licenses with you, since there are a significant number of plugin makers who don’t use iLok or even offer the option IIRC. I actually have many more licenses still available to me on the PC (which didn’t crash) because of the machine based licensing format they use. I would say that if you want to carry the licenses on an iLok, you’re limited to those plugin makers that offer it.

The ones I like that I have tied up on the dongle at the moment are Nembrini, Eventide, Slate Digital, and Soundtoys. A few more, but those are the major ones. I might venture to say that these criteria could drive the choice of plugin makers to buy from and stick with. If they use machine registration and can easily be un-registered from a crashed PC and registered again, quite a plus for some people. For those that want portability, then, you may have the opposite situation and go for iLok oriented plugin makers.

1 Like

The only problem I’ve ever had with an ilok is when someone smashed my car window and stole a pro tools HD rig. Avid promptly replaced it after I sent them the police report. Fortunately, the only license on there was a pro tools hd package.

I have about 6 dongles that live in a powered Belkin USB hub which is attached to a voltage regulated surge protector. I’ve never had a problem with them, but they are over 10 years old, so it might be a good idea for me to replace those dongles.

I would never store a license on one for any plugins that I need to play live with though. Basically if the license key can’t live on the computer locally, it doesn’t go in my Ableton or MainStage live rig.

1 Like

I had a lot of licenses on that iLok that died, but at least half of them are ‘legacy’ or Pro Tools related from back in that time period. I no longer use Pro Tools so those are essentially useless to me. I’m looking at the options to use another old iLok 1 that I have, and delete the dead one on my iLok account, but I have never had to do the replacement process so I don’t know how iLok handles this. And there’s no phone/email contact info for them that I can find. I may try a plugin company customer support and see if they can advise. I think I can probably just authorize the ‘lost’ licenses to my PC since iLok doesn’t really track those, just shows them in License Manager. Not sure though. I was hoping someone here had experience with something like this before.

It might depend on how much you use them. I don’t know how much the electronic usage factor contributes to their lifespan, but my iLok 2 was plugged in for a number of years and was always accessed by the PC electronics as a USB device. If yours have been in storage for awhile, they may not have had that wear and tear. I don’t recall how long I have had the iLok 2 but at least 6-7 years. The legacy licenses on there were migrated from an iLok 1 that I started using about 13 years ago. So they certainly have lasted pretty well, but their lifespan also seems to have a finite limit electronically.


I did a little web searching, and one comment mentioned putting a dead iLok in the freezer for a few minutes, and then it worked. Something about a broken IC board weld or something. So I tried it … and IT WORKED! Hallelujah!

I don’t know how long it will last, but I managed to move most licenses off that iLok 2 onto my Computer, and one license that requires an iLok (only) onto the old unused iLok 1 that I had. There were 3 licenses I could not move because they require an iLok 2: Two of those were Slate licenses (though I was able to move Slate Drums 5 to the computer, but not those two), and the other was a McDSP license.

I just wanted to pass on this workaround in case anybody can use it. Now to decide whether I want to purchase an iLok 3 and move some licenses to that, and whether to go with ZDC ( Zero Downtime Coverage).


BTW, I haven’t knowingly used the iLok Cloud before and I find it a bit confusing. I actually managed to move the McDSP license off the iLok 2 onto the Cloud for “safekeeping” in case the iLok 2 dies again. But the license doesn’t seem to work, and I have the Cloud Session “Open” while trying that. The Slate licenses that wouldn’t move previously still won’t move to Cloud either, they lack the Cloud icon in the list so I guess they’re not allowed.

Is this iLok Cloud a way to “safekeep” your licenses? If it’s not on a dongle and not on a computer, but “in the Cloud”, theoretically you can never lose it due to a failure? The condition being that you must be connected to the internet while using the license, of course. Also, I seem to have duplicate licenses on the Cloud (even though I never used it before …) as well as old iLok dongles and new computer iLok Activations. I’m a bit puzzled how that happened, and how some licenses have multiple possible Activations and some only have one. I may have to go through and sort this out, though I’m wondering if the Cloud is the safest way to go right now.

Any advice?

I use the iLok Cloud for some of my plugins/ licenses. It works fine as long as you have a steady internet connection. I’ve had problems maintaining a wifi signal with my recording laptop for quite awhile now and that has given me some headaches with iLok Cloud. What I’ve noticed is that as long as you’ve loaded your DAW (with the Cloud plugins) before you lose your connection to the internet there won’t be any problem using the plugins. The problem always arises when you try to load a project that uses the Cloud when you’re disconnected from the internet, or when you try to load a plugin that is on the Cloud but you’re not connected to the internet. The project will freeze and you’ll have to close it…and most likely have to restart your computer.

1 Like

Thanks! Yeah, it seems to check when launching a project, but not after that. So do you have to log in to your iLok account with License Manager and “Open a Cloud Session” to access those licenses? That’s what it looks like to me so far. Internet shouldn’t be a problem, not very often anyway, but doing the Cloud involves extra steps. It may be worth it to have the licenses secure though.

I messaged Steven Slate Audio about the dying iLok, and they prompted me do an RMA with iLok, and then they can provide any necessary licenses. I have Trigger 2 and Virtual Mix Rack on there, which require either iLok 2 or iLok 3, no other options. So to go that route and then get ZDC on top of that, I’m looking at about $100 (it comes with a new iLok 3). Only for those 2 licenses at this point, so I’m still considering the cost/benefit. But with ZDC then I might as well load more licenses back onto an iLok.

I did find a possible workaround for the McDSP plugin. If I update to a slightly higher version (6.1 to 6.6) it should work with Cloud, as their plugins after version 6.5 say they will work with it. I’m slowly crawling out of the iLok hellhole. :roll_eyes:

1 Like

I haven’t logged in to my iLok account for a few months but I think that is the way you would access those licenses…, although I think you can access the licenses from the emails that you received when you purchased the plugins, also. It’s all a bit foggy to me right now because I haven’t looked at my licenses in quite awhile.

I think you’ll be happy with the iLok Cloud thing. As long as you have a decent internet connection, you’re good. Once your project/ song is loaded you can lose your internet connection but your plugins will still work. You just need the internet to connect the plugins initially when you open your project.

1 Like

OK, thanks! I’ll play with the login thing for Cloud, which I did a little bit last night, but am still not sure if login in necessary. Logged out, Cloud is in the list of ‘devices’ but is usually grayed out. I generally only log in to License Manager to add a license, then log out. I’ll try it some more.

If I decide to not spend the cash on a new iLok device (RMA), I’m really only out Trigger 2. I’m not happy about that, but it’s a factor in my decision, which I’m still weighing. The update to McDSP worked with the Cloud license, so that’s great, though they only updated the VST3 plugins to v6.6, not the VST2. Not a big deal, as I tend to use VST3 mostly unless a plugin has an issue, then I’ll revert back to VST2. Really, at the moment I only need to use Cloud for McDSP, so even logging in to Cloud would be occasional.

1 Like