How to run Pro Tools First under Linux for free

Pro Tools First is a version of Avid Pro Tools which can be used for free. It’s limited in what it can do but for many applications is just fine. Pro Tools First and all of Avid’s line of digital audio software is create exclusively for Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OSX, not for Linux. Pro Tools apparently doesn’t work in Wine.

Here’s how to run Pro Tools First under Linux using all free (as in beer) software. In my case I did this under Ubuntu 14.04 LTS but since there is no Linux package specific steps this should work on any major distro (e.g. RPM based CentOS systems).

  1. Download and install Oracle VirtualBox
  2. Download the Microsoft Windows 10 free virtual machine
  3. Download the Vista/Win7 (32/64 bits) Realtek AC’97 Driver which you’ll need to enable the VirtualBox virtual audio device in the Windows 10 guest
  4. Download the ASIO4ALL driver which will create a virtual audio device in the Windows 10 guest which Pro Tools First will recognize
  5. Import the Microsoft Windows 10 ova appliance that you downloaded into VirtualBox, creating a VirtualBox VM.
  6. Edit the settings of the newly created VirtualBox VM
    • Change the number of CPUs dedicated to the VM from 1 to some greater number. This depends on how many CPU cores your host computer has. I dedicated 4 of my 8 cores to the VM. If you don’t set this high enough you’ll hear crackling and skipping in your audio (though the crackling/skipping won’t end up in the recording)
    • Enable Audio support and chose the “AC97” audio driver, which should be the default.
    • Create a shared folder so that you can make the downloaded AC97 and ASIO4ALL drivers available to the Windows 10 guest
    • Maybe increase the video memory as mine started out with a value that was too low and VirtualBox complained. I don’t know that this step is required.
  7. Create a snapshot of your VM at this point, before your first boot but after tweaking the settings. I called mine “Before First Boot”. This is the snapshot you’ll go back to every 90 days as the Windows 10 license only works for 90 days.
  8. Start/Boot the Windows 10 VirtualBox VM
  9. Once it’s booted, reboot the VM with driver signature enforcement disabled by following these steps
    1. Click the Start menu and select Settings.
    2. Click Update and Security.
    3. Click on Recovery.
    4. Click Restart now under Advanced Startup.
    5. Click Troubleshoot.
    6. Click Advanced options.
    7. Click Startup Settings.
    8. Click on Restart.
    9. On the Startup Settings screen press 7 or F7 to disable driver signature enforcement.
  10. Set the display resolution of Windows to whatever you prefer as it defaults to 800×600 which is small
  11. Copy the AC97 drivers and ASIO4ALL drivers that you downloaded earlier from the shared folder to somewhere on the Windows 10 guest, for example the Desktop. Unzip the AC97 drivers into a folder.
  12. Open the Device Manager by running devmgmt.msc or searching for it in the Start menu
  13. Find the Multimedia device with the exclamation mark over it in Device Manager, this is your virtual sound card
  14. Right click the device to update the drivers
  15. Select drivers from your local computer
  16. Navigate to the folder with the downloaded AC97 drivers
  17. When prompted if you’d like to load the drivers even though they’re not digitally signed, choose Yes.
  18. This should remove the exclamation mark in Device Manager and your virtual sound card should be working. You can test this by clicking the volume slider or playing an audio file and confirming you hear sound.
  19. Install ASIO4ALL
    • If you forget this step you’ll see this error when you try to use Pro Tools First.
    • Here’s a video showing how to work around this error and force Pro Tools First to reprompt you to select the ASIO4ALL device.
  20. Download and install Pro Tools First
  21. Launch Pro Tools First to confirm that it recognizes the ASIO4ALL virtual sound card.
  22. Take a VirtualBox Snapshot now that you have a working setup.

At this point you have a working Pro Tools Firs installation under Linux. Because you’re using a test VM of Microsoft Windows 10, you’ll need to redo these steps every 3 months (90 days) as the Windows 10 OS will stop working when the license runs out.

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