All Articles Logic Pro
Trash Talk: A Guide To Why, When, and How to Reset Logic's Preference Files
Peter Schwartz on Tue, April 26th 8 comments
Since its earliest incarnations, one of the most common prescriptions for curing Logic of its occasional ills (read: wonky, strange, or seemingly buggy behavior) has been to trash its preference file.

Since its earliest incarnations, one of the most common prescriptions for curing Logic of its occasional ills (read: wonky, strange, or seemingly buggy behavior) has been to trash its preference file. This practice is not specific to Logic, as almost all applications create preference files, and when those files occasionally become corrupted they can adversely affect the behavior of the app.

The mechanism behind how such files can ever become corrupted has always been a mystery to me. Maybe it is to you too. Regrettably, I can't shed any light on the causes, though it's not like I haven't tried over the years to find out. You may take solace as I have, however, in the answer provided me from numerous conversations I've had with computer programmers on the question of "why do the prefs get corrupted?" Their answers, almost without variation: "it just happens sometimes".

Thus, while the cause itself is not known (and perhaps doesn't even matter) I can't provide you with, as the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention. What I can offer instead is the pound of cure in the form of:

  • knowing when (and when not to) trash your prefs
  • which preferences to trash (there are two preference files to consider)
  • what preferences to make sure you restore to their previous settings, including a few that are little-known, not visible from the Preferences pane, and thus easily overlooked
  • information about what kinds of information can (or will) be irretrievably lost when you trash pref files

01 - Seek and Destroy!

Before any otherwise mild-mannered Logic user goes off on a preference trashing rampage, it would serve them well to know what their names are and where they're located:

"Main" Logic Preferences (.plist)

Control Surface Preferences

Once you've located those files, you'll be in a fine position to do away with, finish off, rub out, or in some other way dispatch them. Though before taking any such actions, let's get familiar with what kinds of information those files contain.

The .plist preference file stores all of the parameters found under the various tabs in Logic's Preference pane, as well as some important parameters which don't appear in there at all (to be revealed shortly).

Figure 1: General Preferences: Project Handling

02 - Stalking Your Prey

There are a considerable number of parameter settings that will be wished into the cornfield (lost forever) by trashing the .plist file.

Wait. I've just realized that the heading for this paragraph in conjunction with "cornfield" might be regarded as an intentional pun. I can assure you, dear reader, that it was not. I would never stoop so low. Never. [ahem]

Consider this: the Preferences Pane has nine categories of options. Between them there are 21 tabs as well as various individual settings panes, totaling over 150 parameters that will potentially be initialized when you trash the prefs. I offer this perspective to temper your enthusiasm should you get the urge to pommel your prefs just because something isn't working right in Logic. Trashing prefs should be a last resort. And trashing the prefs doesn't guarantee that it will fix a problem! But even if you do polish off the .plist prefs in an attempt to right some strange behavior in Logic, you can create additional headaches for yourself by not restoring them back to the setting that gave Logic the operation you were used to prior to finishing off that file.

03 - Preferences Prefer Not to be Called "Settings" - (They're picky like that)

Here we see the icon for accessing the Preferences as seen in the header above the Arrange area.

Figure 2: Prefs & Settings can be accessed from Logic's Toolbar

It's important to note the distinction between the Preferences and Settings ("Project Settings"). Preferences are "global" and shape the way Logic looks, feels, and operates for any project, whereas Project Settings are parameters used to adjust the behavior or alter various aspects of Logic's operation for individual Projects. Examples of these include the metronome settings, or the number of count-in bars when recording. So when it comes to trashing prefs, a song's Project settings will not be affected.

04 - Choosing the Right Moment

So when is the right time to consider snuffing your .plist file? Well, let's start with a few situations which, in my opinion, don't warrant trashing prefs:

  1. when you install a new plugin or JamPack and the plugin (or sounds) don't show up
  2. when one or more instrument or audio tracks don't play back correctly
  3. when automation doesn't play back correctly or in time
  4. when your MIDI controller isn't recognized by Logic
  5. when strange fonts show up in the score editor
  6. when you get error messages reporting synchronization or disk too slow errors
  7. when certain keys or controls on your controller stop working correctly (this is a sign of control surface pref file corruption, not .plist file corruption)
  8. when key commands stop working correctly

All of the above are common problems which -- in most cases -- have nothing to do with a corrupt .plist file.

OK, so when should you opt to trash prefs? Well, it would be impossible to catalog all of the errant behaviors that would suggest driving a stake through the heart of the .plist file, especially because the symptoms indicating that Logic's performance is going south can be rather subtle. So my best advice, as I mentioned earlier, is to use the technique of trashing prefs as a last resort when all other troubleshooting efforts have failed to right Logic's wrongs. Trashing prefs, then, is a form of troubleshooting voodoo, but it might just save the day.

05 - Going In For the Kill

Now, this process of "trashing" the preferences is a bit of a misnomer, as it doesn't literally mean finding the .plist file, moving it to the trash, and then emptying the trash. That would be an extreme and unnecessary (if not potentially regrettable) maneuver. Here's the preferred technique:

  • Open your Key Commands window and export your Key Commands. If you fail to do this you run the risk of losing your custom key commands!
  • Quit Logic
  • Locate the .plist file and move it to the Desktop
  • Re-launch Logic

Upon re-launch, Logic will create a fresh preference file, with all parameters set to their default settings. The very first thing you should do now is re-load your key commands to re-establish the way you navigate around Logic. Next, go into your preference files and re-establish your preferred settings. This means methodically going through the settings and restoring them. Yes, it may be a bit time-consuming, but really you have no other choice if you want Logic to behave as it did (in all the good ways) prior to trashing the prefs.

At this point you should open a song that was previously exhibiting problematic playback and see if trashing the prefs has resulted in a fix.

06 - You Win Some, You Lose Some

Assuming that Logic is now running smoothly as a result of forcing it to create a fresh .plist file, there may be some residual "loss" of certain parameter settings. Amongst the preferences and other user settings that are stored in the .plist file are:

  • custom colors you've made in the Color Palette (figure 3)
  • EXS-24 virtual instrument settings and preferences (you may wish to take note of these before you trash the prefs so that you can restore them later. See figures 4 - 6)
  • stored Zoom 1/2/3 settings
  • the list of recently opened files
  • possibly some other settings which I haven't yet discovered (just covering myself here LOL!)

Figure 3: the color palette, showing a few custom colors in the lower left-hand corner

Figure 4: EXS24 Preferences menu

Figure 5: EXS24 Sampler Preferences

Figure 6: EXS24 Virtual Memory Settings

If you find that the troublesome behavior that prompted you to trash the prefs remains, you have the option of restoring your original prefs, especially if you wish to regain the attributes that were lost (as listed above). The procedure is:

  • Quit Logic
  • Locate the newly created .plist file and move it to the trash
  • Move the old .plist file back to the preferences folder
  • Re-launch Logic

07 - My Least Favorite Reset Pref

Out of all of the items that get reset to default settings after trashing the prefs, the one that is the most highly problematic (in my opinion) is the setting for Sample Accurate Automation. The default is "Volume, Pan, and Sends". I don't understand the "logic" of this setting, but be that as it may, after trashing your prefs I suggest setting it to what you see in the illustration below, "Volume, Pan, Sends, Plugin Parameters".

08 - When to Put the Kibosh on the .CS Prefs

I'll make no bones about it:  Logic's control surface preferences are flaky, flaky, flaky. They get corrupted frequently, and even if you don't have a control surface such as a Euphonix or Mackie Control, these prefs can be cause for concern, as  they govern the way incoming MIDI messages are interpreted. Symptoms of a .cs file gone bad are:

  1. your sustain pedal or other controller suddenly stops working
  2. a single key on your controller suddenly stops working (and pressing it doesn't "register" in Logic's MIDI Monitor, located in the Transport)

In these situations it's best to double-check that the fault is not with your controller. But if you're reasonably sure that it's fine, go ahead and "trash" the .cs prefs:

  • Quit Logic
  • Locate the .cs file and move it to the desktop
  • Re-launch Logic

If your controller now works as expected, the likelihood of your .cs prefs having become corrupted is fairly high. One caveat:  trashing the .cs prefs will wipe out any custom control surface functions you've programmed (e.g., the Learn function). But what this operation reveals is that you can build a library of custom control surface settings by moving (or copying) those files to a folder to which you give a descriptive name. The reason for this is that you can't rename the .cs files, otherwise they won't be recognized by Logic. And to restore a custom CS setting, quit Logic and swap out the existing .cs file with one of those you've saved.

(Ed- The MIDI Video Tutorial by Peter Schwartz is essential edutainment in my humble opinion. If you work with MIDI in any way, then you need to check this out!)

Check out some more Logic troubleshooting tips here and the full range of Logic Studio Video Tutorials here!

Related Videos
Comments (8)

You must be logged in to comment.

  • Excellent tutorial. You know how many times I have fussed over why something was not working. To realize that all it was was a corrupt preference file.
    • 10 years ago
    • By:
  • Rounik Admin
    Nice one Peter! Definitely no trashy talking in this tutorial ;-)
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Rounik Admin
  • Peter Schwartz
    Thanks Gary and Rounik. Rounik, the only reason I didn't talk trashier in my article is because that MPV editor guy emailed me after submitting my first draft, writing, "My dear man, taking a reasonable approach to troubleshooting is much more preferable than the yelling, screaming, and cursing route." After reading it, I stomped around the studio for a while, throwing my hands up in the air for dramatic effect (and aerobic exercise), sulked for about an hour, maybe two, and only then did I wipe away the tears and get to work on the second draft. Man, it's really hard work writing for these guys... : - )
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Peter Schwartz
  • Dekuruy
    Thanks 'ski', this article is packed with good info. Oh, btw, I'm glad you referred to trashing preferences as 'a form of troubleshooting voodoo', which made me chuckle, because there's a certain 'MPV editor guy' who I've seen recommend trashing Logic's preferences a number of times! Well, maybe for him it's more like acupuncture than voodoo! ;-)
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Dekuruy
  • Peter Schwartz
    I'm pretty sure that... No, I'm *absolutely* sure, that... Well, at the very least I'm **pretty darn sure** that Mr. "MPV Editor Guy" (who shall, of course, remain nameless) wasn't entirely unjustified in his recommendations. Even for an editor! Then again, you know what they say, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". But in all honestly -- and all kidding aside -- I can't foist that sentiment upon Mr. Editor, as I've gotten to know him quite a bit over the past few months and he's the furthest things from being an irresponsible sorta guy. So call it voodoo, magic, or technological snake oil, but sometimes it's the most effective Rx.
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Peter Schwartz
  • Rounik Admin
    Ha! yeah... the pesky MPV Editor guy -always with the same turbulent, trashy, troubleshooting tricks. Not sure I'd go for the snake oil or acupuncture analogies... but perhaps I see it more like a detox diet - flush out those bugs! :-)
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Rounik Admin
  • Dekuruy
    Leave it to the editor to come up with the most appropriate analogy. Detox diet it is!
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Dekuruy
  • drusif
    nice tutorial. i need to reset my preferences cause logic is doin my head in now. keep gettin prompt about a midi controller ive never used and tried deleting many times. however i dont have the plist u talk about, only this one is that any good? cheers
    • 10 years ago
    • By: drusif
Pro Tools 2021 - Beginner's Guide
Pro Tools 101
Dream It. Do It.
Do you want to learn Pro Tools 2021 - Beginner's Guide?
Yes, I want to learn!
No Thanks, I just want to read the article.
Course Advisor
Don't Know Where To Start?
Ask A Course Advisor
Ask Us!
Copy the link below and paste it into an email, forum, or Facebook to share this with your friends.
Make money when you share our links
Become a Affiliate!
The current affiliate rate is: 50%
Classes Start Next Week!
Live 8-week Online Certification Classes for: