Do I Need a USB Dongle for iLok? We’ll Answer This and Many Other Common iLok Questions

ilok concerns - your questions answered!

Concerned or have questions about iLok? Here’s everything you need to know! (and no, you don’t need the dongle!)

Ahh, iLok – the Marmite of the audio world. If you work in audio or music, you will most likely have come across it when using Pro Tools or one of a myriad of plugins out there.

iLok is a convenient and organised way to maintain your software licenses, with the capacity to transfer these licenses from one machine to another with ease. For years, it was only usable through a physical USB dongle which you connected to your workstation to use your software plugins.

This presented a number of issues that forced the perception of iLok to be where it is today – complicated, misunderstood, and the butt of many a joke in the sound and audio community…

The problem was this: 

If your iLok key was misplaced, you lost your licenses.

Your key contained all the licenses for all of your software – if you lost your iLok key, you lost your studio. The session was over, with nothing to show for it except one very upset, potentially prestigious client.

If your dongle broke, you lost your licenses.

Initially, iLok dongles were huge – easily kicked or snapped when poking precariously out of your PC. If this happened, then it was goodnight Vienna.

Fortunately, it isn’t hardware only anymore!

The days of the physical key system have passed, and thanks to the nifty iLok cloud, it is accessible to everybody.

Makes sense right? So… why do people hate iLok so much?

Broken iLok GTA Meme

History is hard to erase

Regardless of the changes made by PACE, the anti-piracy company behind the iLok system, there will always be a select few who refuse to align themselves with it based on the issues the physical-only format faced. But the system has changed, and for the last half-decade it has been software based and dongle-free.

iLok can be completely cloud-based, much like iZotope’s Product Portal, Arturia Software Center or the Native Access platform by Native Instruments.

Each of these companies has also moved away from easily copyable, easily crackable serial numbers and call-and-response challenges and have formulated their own cloud-based security services, just like iLok – these companies just don’t have the stigma of a physical model in their chartered paths.

So let us try to answer some of those concerns for you!

Do I need a USB Dongle for iLok?


You used to, but not anymore. The key meant you could take your studio with you – all licenses were centralised with no need to authorise the serials of a bunch of plugins when working in a studio – simply plug your iLok key in and all your licenses were activated. This is now done through iLok License manager.

A tonne of reliable plugin companies, both big and small rely on it to keep their software safe and secure, and to put their customers’ minds at ease.

Slate Digital, Avid, Softube and us here at Krotos (among many more) all aim to keep our software intact by relying on a stable, secure platform to protect our customers’ investments in our products.

iLok may have had a rough patch, but technology has developed and software piracy is becoming more sophisticated than it has ever been. This technology allows us to keep software secure. Fortunately, there’s no need to rely on a cumbersome USB stick to do so!

Can I use my iLok on another computer?


Simply download the free iLok license manager, log in with your User ID and Password and synchronise your licenses to your second machine. Some software companies only permit one machine to be licensed at a time – all this means is you unsync your license through the License manager from one computer, and license it to your current one, no need to access both machines to do so… Simple!

Is iLok safe to install?


It is important to understand the purpose of iLok – it is designed to keep software safe and secure. It aims to maintain the integrity of software developers, and reassures license owners of the software that they invested in is theirs legitimately – it can’t be copied or stolen.

There are tonnes of videos available to get you started with the iLok license manager, and its pros absolutely outweigh the cons in this dongle-free age, so let’s put the iLok concerns to bed once and for all, and get back to creating awesome sounds, shall we?

Feel the need to be angry and vent about iLok still? That’s totally fine! Let us have it in the comments below!

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Read our interview with Christa Giammattei

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