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How to do a Portable Install of REAPER on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux

Last Updated: Saturday, 26 May 2018

If you install Reaper with the "portable install" option selected, it places the entire program and associated configuration, themes, hotkey settings, etc, into a single directory (rather than the traditional method of installation, which is not fully self-contained.)

This has a few advantages:

  • You can install different versions or configurations of Reaper, and they do not bother each other (and do not bother a regular Reaper install). If you're done with one, you can just delete the folder, and it will do no harm to the rest of your installs.
  • You can put your portable install on a flash drive and take it with you for use on other computers: your entire Reaper working environment travels with you (except some plugins -- see the section below).
  • You can back up your entire Reaper environment, or make an experimental duplicate of it, simply by copying the portable install folder.
  • Before reporting a bug, you can try to reproduce it in a portable install, since all settings are at their defaults (which helps developers debug the situation).


Windows:

  • Enable "Portable install" on the first step of the installation, and click "Browse..."
  • Make a new folder, name it whatever you want, and continue with installation as normal.
  • You'll notice that certain install options are disabled, such as "Desktop icon", "Start menu shortcuts", etc. This is normal for a portable install.
  • Once the install is complete, simply open the folder and run reaper.exe. You can easily create a desktop or start menu shortcut to reaper.exe. (It might be a good idea to rename the shortcut according to which portable install it points to so you don't get confused later.)
  • Finally, see the "All Platforms" section below for notes on configuring your new install.


Mac OS X:

  • Make a new folder named whatever you want.
  • Download the .dmg file from from reaper.fm.
  • Open the .dmg file and copy REAPER64.app (or REAPER32.app) into the folder you created (instead of into your Applications folder).
  • Create an empty text file named "reaper.ini" inside the folder. You can do this with TextEdit -- but make sure that you save it as a "plain text" file (not a rich text file.)
  • After the text file is created, select it in the Finder and go to the menu item File -> Get Info. Disable the "Hide extension" checkbox, and you will see that the Name is actually "reaper.ini.txt". Rename it to "reaper.ini". Hit return, and when prompted if you are sure, choose 'Use .ini".
  • Run the REAPER64.app file.
  • You can put a shortcut to REAPER64.app in your application dock if you like. (It might be a good idea to rename the shortcut according to which portable install it points to so you don't get confused later.)
  • Finally, see the "All Platforms" section below for notes on configuring your new install.


Linux:

  • Linux installs are portable installs by default, except that the configuration directory is kept at ~/.REAPER. You can swap out .REAPER config directories as needed.
  • To make a truly portable install you can make a directory that contains the normal REAPER/ application folder, and alongside it use a second directory called something like "reaper_config" (if you are transitioning to a portable install, just copy your ~/.REAPER directory to your portable location and rename it to reaper_config). Then run reaper with "/path/to/reaper5 -cfgfile /path/to/reaper_config/reaper.ini".
  • See the following section for notes on configuring your new install.



All Platforms -- after you have installed:

  • You will need to import your license key into the portable install. Find reaper-license.rk by running your regular Reaper install and choosing "Options -> Show REAPER resource path in explorer/finder...". You are allowed to install a license as many times as you want, on as many computers as you want, as long as you run Reaper on one computer at at time.
  • You may want to export the configuration from a different Reaper install and import into the new install: Preferences -> General -> Export configuration. (With Linux there is an easier option as described above: simply copy your configuration directory to the new install.)
  • If you are not importing configurations you will also need to configure your audio device.
  • Your plugins (VST, etc.) will be found once Reaper is configured to see the proper folders. (This is likely to happen automatically on the mac, and might happen on windows as well.)
  • ...however your plugins are not contained in a portable install: they typically live in a separate directory, so they won't "travel" with your portable install if you run it on another computer. (Many plugins can be made portable: see below.)
  • If you use the SWS extension, you will need to install it as well: configuration export/import will not transfer the SWS extension (although it should transfer configurations related to SWS). When installing SWS to a portable install, simply point it to the portable install folder when prompted.

Making plugins portable:

  • How to make your plugins portable, or whether it is even possible, will depend on your particular plugins and your OS of choice. I am not able to provide comprehensive instructions, but this section might help some Windows users of VST plugins.
  • Reaper's built-in plugins, and the JS plugins that come with Reaper or which you have added, will travel with your portable install.
  • VST2 plugins can be sometimes be made portable. If the plugin installs in such a way that it requires access to the Windows registry, or has associated files that must live in a certain place in the filesystem, it may not be able to be made portable. On the other hand, if it only needs the associated .DLL file to operate (as is the case with many simpler or free plugins), you can copy the plugin's .DLL file into your portable directory under UserPlugins\FX\VST\ (you may need to create hte FX and VST directories) and your portable Reaper should find it when it starts up.
  • VST2 plugins that use associated files/directories (e.g. sample libraries that come with them, documentation, other program files) might still be able to be made portable, depending on how they are configured, where the configuration is stored, and how flexible they are in terms of directory location. It will depend on the plugin. Some store those files in the same place as the .DLL and the files and directories can simply be copied over. Others might require more finessing.
  • VST3 plugins may not be able to be made portable without more in-depth hacking, as the VST3 spec apparently ties into the Windows registry. This is annoying, yes. (More info in the following threads.)
  • Some relevant threads on the subject are here, here, here, and here.
  • If you are running your portable install from a USB drive, It may be helpful to assign a permanent drive letter to the drive so that the paths you configure in Reaper are consistent from machine to machine when you plug it in. Instructions are here.