How to Use Pro Tools Without iLok: A Beginner’s Guide

Pro Tools is a fantastic software for music production, recording, editing, and mixing. It’s widely used in the audio industry and has become the go-to choice for both amateur musicians and professional producers. 

However, one of the requirements for using Pro Tools is an iLok. This is basically a USB-based licensing system that securely stores and manages software licenses. 

In this guide, I’ll show you how to use Pro Tools without iLok. This is a huge game-changer for many aspiring music producers and audio engineers. 

For those unfamiliar with iLok, it’s a USB device used for software license authorization. Although convenient and secure, iLok can be a hassle for some, and I’m eager to share an alternative.

A Quick Word About Pro Tools

Pro Tools, developed by Avid Technology, is a powerful digital audio workstation (DAW) offering advanced music production features. 

It’s a great piece of software whether you’re just starting out or have years of experience. Pro Tools 12 provides a range of tools and functionalities to bring your musical ideas to life.

Avid’s Pro Tools software is a powerful digital audio workstation that offers advanced features and capabilities.

You can use it for recording, editing, and mixing audio. It’s widely used in the music, film, and broadcasting industries and supports a wide range of audio formats and plug-ins.

Some features that set Pro Tools apart include:

  • High-quality audio recording and editing capabilities
  • Advanced mixing and automation features
  • Seamless compatibility with a vast array of plug-ins and hardware
  • Integration with video editing tools for post-production

What is iLok?

Before we dive into using Pro Tools without an iLok, let’s understand what iLok is. iLok is a USB-based licensing system that acts as a security key for software licenses. 

use pro tools without iLok

It is widely used in the audio industry, and Pro Tools typically requires an iLok dongle for authorization.

This method involves using the iLok License Manager software to authorize your Pro Tools 12 license on your computer, without the physical iLok device. 

The iLok Cloud is a feature that enables you to access your licenses from any computer connected to the internet. This significantly simplifies the workflow and reduces the risk of losing the physical iLok. 

It’s important to mention that this solution relies on an active internet connection for license verification.

Why Use Pro Tools Without iLok?

There are a few reasons why you might want to use Pro Tools 12 without an iLok:

  • Cost: iLok devices can be expensive, and if you’re on a tight budget, you might want to save money by not purchasing one.
  • Convenience: Carrying around a physical iLok dongle can be inconvenient, especially if you’re always on the go.
  • Compatibility: Some computers may have a limited number of USB ports, making it difficult to connect an iLok alongside other essential devices. 

Common Issues With Pro Tools iLok

When using Pro Tools 12 without an iLok, you may encounter some common issues. 

Here are a few solutions to address them:

  • Error messages during installation: Ensure that your computer meets the minimum system requirements and that you have administrator privileges while installing the software.
  • Audio interface issues: Make sure that your audio interface is compatible with Pro Tools and configured correctly in the Playback Engine settings. This ensures smooth communication between your hardware and the software.
  • Plugin authorization issues: Remember that some third-party plugins may still require iLok authorization. If you encounter such issues, be prepared to find alternative plugins that don’t rely on iLok authorization.

Pro Tools First: A Free Alternative

If you’re looking to use Pro Tools without an iLok dongle, Avid offers a free version called Pro Tools First. Pro Tools First provides many of the same features as the full version but with a few limitations.

It’s an excellent option for beginners who want to learn the software. It’s also useful if you want to work on smaller projects without making a significant investment.

Using Pro Tools Without iLok: Key Considerations

Before you start using Pro Tools without an iLok, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Compatibility: Make sure that your computer meets the minimum system requirements for running Pro Tools. You don’t want to run into performance issues or limitations due to hardware constraints.
  • Licensing: It’s important to note that using Pro Tools without an iLok may not be officially supported by Avid. This means you may encounter issues with software updates or technical support. Keep this in mind before proceeding.
  • Functionality: Understand that some features may be limited or unavailable when using Pro Tools 12 without an iLok. The free version, Pro Tools First, does have certain restrictions compared to the full version.

Installation and Setup Process

To install Pro Tools without an iLok, follow these steps:

  1. Download Pro Tools First from Avid’s website. It’s a straightforward process, and you’ll find the necessary files there.
  2. Create an Avid account if you don’t have one already. This account will be used for signing in to Pro Tools First.
  3. Sign in to your Avid account and follow the prompts to download and install the software.
  4. Launch Pro Tools First and sign in with your Avid account details.
  5. Please note that these steps assume you’re using Pro Tools First, the free version that doesn’t require an iLok dongle for authorization.

Navigating Pro Tools Without iLok

Once you’ve installed Pro Tools First, you’ll notice that the interface is similar to the full version of Pro Tools. 

Here are some key features to familiarize yourself with:

  • Edit Window: This is where you’ll perform most of your audio editing tasks, such as cutting, copying, and pasting audio clips.
  • Mix Window: Here, you’ll adjust track volumes, pan settings, and apply audio effects to achieve the desired mix.
  • Transport Controls: These controls are used for playback, recording, and navigating through your session.
  • Tool Palette: The Tool Palette contains various tools for editing and manipulating audio. Some commonly used tools include the Trim, Selector, and Grab tools.

Tips and Tricks for a Smooth Experience

To make the most of your Pro Tools experience without an iLok, consider these tips and tricks:

  • Save often: Pro Tools can sometimes crash or become unstable, so it’s essential to save your work frequently. You wouldn’t want to lose your progress due to a sudden software glitch.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts: Learning keyboard shortcuts can greatly speed up your workflow and make tasks more efficient. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the shortcuts relevant to your workflow.
  • Optimize your system: Close any unnecessary programs running in the background and adjust your computer’s settings to ensure optimal performance while using Pro Tools.
  • Stay organized: Use track names, colors, and groups to keep your sessions organized and easy to navigate. It’s much easier to work on your projects when everything is neatly organized.

Pace Anti-Piracy, the company behind iLok, offers a few options to store your licenses:

  • iLok USB device
  • iLok Cloud
  • Machine License (for select software)

In order to use Pro Tools without iLok USB devices, users have two options available:

  • Using the iLok Cloud
  • Acquiring a machine license (if applicable to their Pro Tools version)

The iLok Cloud is a convenient way to access your licenses from any computer connected to the internet. This way, there’s no need for a physical device such as a USB

The iLok Cloud enables users to work with Pro Tools 12 seamlessly and worry-free, as long as they have a reliable internet connection.

For producers who prefer not to use iLok Cloud, Avid also offers Pro Tools First users the option to acquire a machine license. 

This type of license ties the software to a specific computer, eliminating the need for an iLok dongle. 

Keep in mind that transferring or moving this license may not be as flexible as using an iLok USB device or iLok Cloud.

Alternative Authorization Methods

Let’s cover some alternative authorization methods that can help you enjoy the vast capabilities of Pro Tools 12 without needing that pesky iLok dongle. 

Let’s dive in.

Avid Cloud Subscription Service:

The first alternative to using Pro Tools with an iLok is Avid’s own cloud-based subscription service. 

When you subscribe to this service, your Pro Tools 12 license will be in the cloud, eradicating the need for a physical iLok. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Subscribe to either a monthly or annual plan
  • Pro Tools activation card is not needed
  • Your license is stored on your Avid Master Account
  • Log in to your account from any computer running Pro Tools
  • You’ll need an internet connection to access your account and start a Pro Tools session

Don’t worry, once your Pro Tools session is up and running, you don’t have to remain connected to the internet. You can work offline and your progress will be saved.

Another option for users who still prefer a physical authorization method is the iLok USB-C Smart Key. 

This product functions like a traditional iLok but offers many improvements:

  • Improved USB-C connector
  • Convenient keychain design
  • Connects to modern devices without needing adapters
  • Offers similar license management features to the standard iLok dongle

Now, let’s talk about some third-party tools that can help you authorize your Pro Tools 12 without an iLok. 

There are three main options that you can explore:

  • PACE Central: PACE Central is a product from PACE Anti-Piracy, the company behind iLok. It provides cloud-based license management and activation services that are compatible with Pro Tools. 

You create a PACE Central account, authenticate with your Pro Tools license, and you’re good to go.

  • X-Post-Auth: X-Post-Auth is a plug-in that allows you to bypass the iLok requirement for Pro Tools. It registers your Pro Tools software using an alternative method and provides you with full access to your DAW.
  • Cracked Pro Tools software: Although it’s not recommended or condoned, some choose to use cracked Pro Tools software. They do this as a means to activate the software without an iLok. I must strongly advise against this option, as it poses legal and ethical risks and may expose your system to malware.

While these alternative authorization methods may work for some, it’s always best to follow the recommended process. 

Keep in mind that using any method outside official channels may result in voiding warranties, loss of support, or other negative consequences.

In any case, it’s worth exploring the options mentioned above if you want to use Pro Tools without the iLok dongle. 

Just be sure to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. 

Let’s Recap The Main Points

Opting for the iLok Cloud: As long as you have an internet connection, this method allows you to access and manage Pro Tools licenses with ease.

Using a USB flash drive: While not officially supported, transferring your license to a standard USB drive offers a workaround if you don’t have an iLok or an active internet connection.

It’s important to consider the potential drawbacks of these alternative methods:

Reliability: The iLok Cloud may face downtime due to maintenance or technical issues, causing disruptions to your workflow.

Security concerns: Having your licenses on a standard USB flash drive can be less secure than using an official iLok device.

Despite these concerns, exploring alternative solutions may prove beneficial for some users. Ultimately, the best approach depends on your specific requirements and workflow preferences. 

Final Thoughts

Using Pro Tools without an iLok is possible with Pro Tools First, the free version of the software. There are certainly limitations and potential issues to be aware of. 

It can be an excellent option for those looking to learn the software or work on smaller projects without investing in an iLok. 

By now, you should have a clearer understanding of the steps and options available for a smooth workflow. 

Trial periods for Pro Tools 12 can offer a valuable opportunity to test these methods. They will ensure you make an informed choice. 

Pro Tools 12 and its cloud-based licensing system has revolutionized the way people use Pro Tools. 

Choosing to use Pro Tools without iLok provides cost savings, convenience, and improved compatibility. It allows musicians and producers to focus on what they do best—creating exceptional music.

Whatever you decide, I hope this guide has provided valuable insights into using Pro Tools without iLok.


What can I use if I don’t have an iLok USB?

You can use the iLok Cloud, which is a free service that allows you to store your iLok licenses online. This means that you can access your licenses from any computer, even if you don’t have an iLok USB with you.

How to get Pro Tools Ultimate for free?

There is no way to get Pro Tools Ultimate for free. However, you can get a free trial of Pro Tools Ultimate for 30 days. After the trial period, you will need to purchase a license.

Do I have to use iLok?

No, you do not have to use iLok. However, many software programs, including Pro Tools, require an iLok to authenticate and protect their licenses. If you do not want to use an iLok, you can find software programs that do not require one.

Is iLok license free?

Yes, the iLok license is free. However, you will need to purchase an iLok USB if you want to use it. iLok USBs are available for purchase from Avid and other authorized retailers.

What happens if I lost my iLok?

If you lose your iLok, you will need to contact Avid to get a replacement. Avid will charge a fee for a replacement iLok. You will also need to transfer your licenses to the new iLok.

Can I transfer Pro Tools to a new computer?

Yes, you can transfer Pro Tools to a new computer. However, you will need to deauthorize Pro Tools on your old computer before you can authorize it on your new computer.

Can I use Pro Tools offline?

Yes, you can use Pro Tools offline. However, you will need to have a Pro Tools license that allows for offline use. You can also use the iLok Cloud to access your licenses offline.