GarageBand 3 Tip: How to install loops on an external hard drive

Posted by Pierre Igot in: GarageBand, Music
January 22nd, 2006 • 6:58 pm

This is a problem that has been bugging me for a while. GarageBand includes a large bank of loops, which can be augmented with several Jam Packs sold by Apple, as well as loops from third-party sources.

By default, Apple’s loops are stored in locations on the startup volume. However, as you accumulate more and more loops (I have several Jam Packs myself), the disk space required by these loops increases substantially. For example, the first three Jam Packs represent a total of over 6.5 GB of files. That’s quite a lot.

This default behaviour causes two problems:

  1. The size of your startup volume is not infinite. As you add more and more music files, you’ll get closer and closer to your limit.
  2. If you ever have to erase your hard drive and reinstall your Mac OS X system, you also have to reinstall all these loops.

I have personally encountered both problems, and for a while I was looking for a solution. I experimented with things, for example installing everything in its default location with Apple’s installers, and then copying the application and the loops manually to a separate volume, and putting “symbolic links” to them on my startup volume. But that did not work, apparently because GarageBand creates index files that contain references to all your loops.

Then I read on Mac OS X Hints that GarageBand 3 actually included an option to install Apple’s loops in a different location. When I got GarageBand 3, as part of iLife ’06, I decided to try this myself. When you install GarageBand 3, you have to choose the “Customize…” option during the installation process. The installer then gives you the option to change the installation location for the loops and for the demo songs. I tried it, and it works.

Unfortunately, as Inside Stretch notes, this “improvement” is of very limited use, for the very simple reason that it is not compatible Apple’s own Jam Packs. Even if you use the custom installation options to install GarageBand 3’s default loops on a separate volume, when you try to install Jam Pack loops using the Jam Pack installers, you have no option to customize the installation, and the loops get put in the default locations on the startup hard drive again.

At that point, I decided that it was ridiculous, and that there had to be a way to install the loops elsewhere. It also didn’t help that I had just purchased a couple of additional Jam Packs and that, when I tried to install them, the installer told me that I didn’t have enough room on my startup volume! (I have a large hard drive, but it’s divided into several partitions, and my startup partition is “only” 40 GB, because I only put on it the system itself and the applications that really cannot function from another partition—including, unfortunately, most of Apple’s own software offerings.)

So I try a different approach, and I actually managed to install GarageBand 3 itself on my startup volume and all its loops (including several Jam Packs) on another partition. Here’s how I did it.

  1. First, I deleted all my existing GarageBand files in the main library folder (the one that’s used to store stuff that’s available to all users). This included the “Audio” folder located inside the main “Library” folder and the “GarageBand” folder inside the “Application Support” folder, still inside the main “Library” folder.
  2. Then I ran the GarageBand 3 installer again, without any customization. This installed the application itself on the startup volume and recreated the two library folders mentioned in step 1, i.e. the “Audio” folder inside the main “Library” folder and the “GarageBand” folder inside the “Application Support” folder, still inside the main “Library” folder.
  3. Then I copied these two folders (the “Audio” folder and the “GarageBand” folder from the main library folder) to another partition where I wanted to store all the loops.
  4. Then I carefully deleted the “Audio” folder and the “GarageBand” folder on the startup volume, and replaced them with symbolic links to the folders copied on the other partition. In other words, in my main library folder, I now had a symbolic link named “Audio” linking to the “Audio” folder on the other partition, and a symbolic link named “GarageBand” inside the “Application Support” folder linking to the “GarageBand” folder on the other partition.
  5. After that, I launched GarageBand to see what would happen. I created a new project, opened the loop browser, and all the default loops that come with GarageBand and were now on my other partition were there and were working fine!
  6. Then I quit GarageBand and I inserted the CD for the first Jam Pack. I ran the Jam Pack installer as usually and let it select my startup volume as the destination. (It doesn’t give you any other choice.)
  7. When the installation was over, in the Finder I checked to make sure that my two symbolic links on the startup volume were still there and had not been overwritten by real folders. They were still there.
  8. I then opened the “Apple Loops” folder inside the “GarageBand” folder that I had on my other partition, and indeed it contained a folder called “Apple Loops for GarageBand Jam Pack” containing all the Jam Pack loops. Success! In other words, I had managed to fool the Jam Pack installer into thinking that it was installing the loops inside a folder on my startup volume, when it was in fact installing them on my other partition. That’s the beauty of symbolic links for you, I guess. (Aliases are supposed to work the same way, but in my experience they don’t really work properly for such purposes in Mac OS X.)
  9. I then launched GarageBand and opened the loop browser, and indeed all the new loops from the Jam Pack were there as well!
  10. I then repeated the operation with all the other Jam Pack installers, each time selecting the startup volume as the destination, and each time the loops got installed on my other partition. Each time, I also launched GarageBand to verify that the loops were being added to the loop browser as well. And each time it worked.

So there we are! Now I have a perfectly operational GarageBand 3 program, with the application itself on the startup volume and all its support files—i.e. all its loops—on another partition. For some strange reason, Apple installs the loops for Jam Packs 1, 2, and 3 in the “Apple Loops” folder inside the “GarageBand” folder in “Application Support,” whereas the Jam Pack 4 loops are installed in the “Audio” folder. Go figure!

And, strangely enough, for the recently released “World Music” Jam Pack, the installer actually created a brand new “Library” folder at the root level of my other partition where the loops are! As long as things stay on that other partition, I’m cool, although it now means that I have Jam Pack loops in three different locations. To me, it looks as if Apple is actually in the process of implementing a more flexible way of installing your Jam Pack loops, but they just haven’ t done anything to make it backward compatible with earlier Jam Packs, and it’s still a bit mysterious in the new “World Music” Jam Pack. If I had installed the default GarageBand loops on the other partition using the custom install option in the iLife ‘O6 installer, would the World Music Jam Pack then have installed itself there automatically as well? I don’t know… But it doesn’t give any indication that it’s flexible enough to do that, and it certainly wouldn’t have worked for older Jam Packs anyway.

The bottom-line is that, as far as I can tell, this method works to install the loops on a separate volume. Now I will never run out of room, and if I ever have to reinstall the system, I just have to follow the steps above again, except that in step 3, instead of copying the support folders, I’ll just trash them before replacing them with the symbolic links to the already existing folders on the other partition. (I am not sure what will happen with the World Music Jam Pack, since it’s outside the two support folders referred to by the symbolic links, but on the same volume. I guess we’ll see what that happens.)

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