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I've been using the new(ish) GarageBand on Lion for a month or so now. Early on, it prompted me to download instrument sample libraries and loops of around 1.5 GB which were not included in the initial installation. Then, it wanted a similarly-sized download to support iOS GarageBand files. I just recently found another download to enable more loops and MIDI voices.

What is the total size of all of these extra downloads, and where do they go?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

As for total size, that is difficult to say. I got my GarageBand instrument, sample library and loop files from an iLife DVD installation a few years ago, rather than downloading them from the Mac App Store, which is the only way to get them today.

It's my understanding that when you first purchase and install GarageBand from the Mac App Store, you do not get all the musical instrument sample libraries and loop libraries that are listed in GarageBand's indexes. If you try to select an instrument or loop from an index and it is not found on your Mac, then you are prompted to download another large section of the libraries. Then there are the music lessons, which you must purchase one at a time, download and install.

My basic installation for GarageBand instruments and music lessons in ~/Library/Application Support/GarageBand is 2.74GB.

The loops for GarageBand are stored in ~/Library/Audio/Apple Loops/, and my installation is 629.9MB. However I do not believe that I have downloaded the whole set.

At an Apple retailer where I have worked, their installation in

~/Library/Application Support/GarageBand is 14.57GB,

and their installation in

~/Library/Audio/Apple Loops/ is 32GB.

This includes the GarageBand-compatible instruments and loops that you get when you purchase Apple MainStage, which you can get from the Mac App Store for $30. However, this does not include all the music lessons you can purchase within GarageBand.

Furthermore, you can purchase all sorts of Audio Unit-format effects, musical instruments, sample libraries and loop libraries from third parties that you can use within Garage Band or Logic, so you could add many hundreds of gigabytes of additional material if you want to.

It is worth mentioning that electronic musicians who work with large libraries of virtual instruments, samples and loops in GarageBand or other similar programs invariably move all such libraries to external high-speed disk drives so as not to slow down their systems with too much read-write activity on the system hard drive.

If your work with GarageBand is simple enough--not too many tracks in a mix--you can work with just your Mac and system hard drive. But if you discover that Garageband is glitching, hiccuping, or failing to record or edit correctly, or you get errors about input and output being too slow, you need to incorporate additional high-speed hard disks into your system.

It's a general principle that you need at least three hard drives:

  • your system drive inside your Mac, which holds Mac OS X and the GarageBand app
  • an external high-speed hard drive for sample libraries, virtual instruments and loop libraries
  • another external high-speed hard drive for recording and mixing audio tracks.

All of these have to be interfaced with a high-speed interface such as FireWire 800, USB 3.0, or Thunderbolt. USB 2.0 will not work, because it is not fast enough for composing, recording and mixing music and audio.

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This wasn't in my original question, but can you answer why I was prompted for the first download, the one which was required in order to run GB at all? – timothymh Mar 18 '12 at 1:03
That's because when you buy GarageBand from the Mac App Store, you first only download a small software package that begins its installation. Then you get prompted for additional downloads to complete the installation. It's just the way that Apple chooses to manage the digital online distribution of a very large program that requires several gigabytes of files. – user9290 Mar 18 '12 at 1:07
That makes sense, I guess. Thanks for the help. :) – timothymh Mar 18 '12 at 1:08
I had trouble getting Software Update to download the Extra Content, so I got it from this link instead:… – Colin Mar 28 '14 at 9:03

The last time I looked it was in:

/Library/Application Support/GarageBand

If they aren't there you can also try:

~/Library/Application Support/GarageBand

Since all the downloaded content is installed per machine, and not per user, it does make it a bit easier to backup if you don't use a Time Capsule, or otherwise to transfer these downloads between multiple machines.

I use the Learn To Play videos and when having to move them between 4 different Mac's I learned quickly where to go find them.

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That's only half-right. Loops go in ~/Library/Audio/Apple Loops. See my post. – user9290 Mar 17 '12 at 23:41

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