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How to Install and Set Up Reaper for the First Time

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Read Time: 9 min

Reaper is a powerful, flexible and customisable audio application. You can use Reaper for music creation and production, podcasts, voice-over, sound design, audiobooks, live performance, mixing for video, mastering, and much more.

In our free Reaper course, you’ll learn the basics of Reaper with Dave Bode, and in this lesson Dave will show you how to download and install Reaper.

How to Install and Set Up Reaper for the First Time

Download and Install Reaper

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To get started, you can head on over to and click the Download Reaper link at the top of the page and then select your operating system of choice. I'm using Windows, so I've got the Windows 64-bit version. Don't worry if the version that you see is older, Reaper is updated all the time and there's no way I could make a course like this and use the same version that you see when you download but don't worry because pretty much everything is going to be exactly the same.

Reaper Install

Reaper InstallReaper InstallReaper Install

The only thing that I'm going to do differently than what you’ll do is I'm choosing to do a Portable Reaper install. A portable install is a really handy thing if you want to experiment with Reaper or try some different settings and not alter your main install. As I already have a main Reaper install, I'm going to do a portable install, but you can just click Next on that screen without doing that.

The first time Reaper runs, it will scan my system for VST and VST3 audio effects. These are effects that may have been previously installed to some default folders on the OS drive, and Reaper will search for those and make those available in the effects list. If you don't have VST effects, don't worry, I'm going to be talking about effects in more detail in an upcoming lesson.

Reaper Preferences

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Next, Reaper will ask if I want to select my audio device driver, and I'll click Yes. Reaper then opens up the preferences and takes me right to the device setting for my audio device. If you're on a Mac, this is going to be a slightly different experience because on a Mac, you set up your audio device in your audio and MIDI settings in the System Preferences, but it should be pretty easy to follow along.


The first thing that I want to do is click this audio system drop down and show you that there are a bunch of options here. Don't let this confuse you though, there are only two that are really relevant. If you were using an external audio device, a USB audio device or a Firewire audio device, you should choose ASIO.

ASIO stands for Audio Stream Input/Output. And it's a high performance driver protocol that is definitely going to be what you want to use because it gives you a lower latency experience. If you were not using a USB or Firewire audio interface, and you're on Windows, you'll want the WASAPI option down at the bottom. That's the Windows audio system, and it's perfectly fine to use to follow along for this course.

As I’m using an audio interface, I'm going to choose ASIO, and then in the Driver section I can select my specific audio interface, because I have used and am using, multiple audio interfaces with my system, so I'm going to select the MOTU M series. I'm currently using the MOTU M4, it's a very good unit.

Inputs and Outputs

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Next, I'm going to configure my inputs and my outputs. By default, there may not be anything that you need to change here. Reaper automatically selects the first and second input, if you have two inputs available, and the first and second output. I happen to have more inputs available, so I'm going to choose number 4, because I have four analogue inputs and inputs 5 through 8 are actually digital loopback inputs, and they're not really relevant for this course. So I'm going to keep it to the first four inputs.

On the output side, I'm also going to select my last output so that I have all four outputs available for Reaper, and I'm good to go.

In this bottom section there are some more technical audio settings that you may or may not need to tweak. I'm not going to mess with these because my device driver is already set to 48 kHz or 48,000Hz as a sample rate, and it’s set to a buffer size of 128, which works for me. If you’re unsure of what to use, you can set up your audio device to use 44,100 hertz as a sample rate and 512 as a buffer size.

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    While you’re looking at preferences, there are a few more things that I can go over that will make your life a lot easier as you move forward in Reaper. If you click on Paths, I would recommend setting up some default paths.

    First, set up a default path to save new projects. For me, that’s my portable drive and then a folder called. Reaper Saves. This way every time you hit Save in Reaper, it's going to save in this location.

    I'm not going to set a default render path because if I leave this empty, it's going to render my project in the current project directory, which I know will be in a subfolder in the Reaper Saves folder.

    However, I am going to set a default recording path and I already have a folder set up called Reaper Media. This is in case, for whatever reason, if I start recording and I don't have a project saved, I know where that audio file is going to be if I need it later. Which is unlikely but it's nice to set up now.

    And then I'm going to click the check box Store All Peak Caches or Reapeaks in an Alternate Path. By default, when you insert audio files into Reaper it creates a little Reapeak file and puts that right next to the audio file, wherever it is on your hard drive. That Reapeak file represents the wave form that you see inside of Reaper and that drives me nuts because it makes my files bloated – if I pull in 10 files I have 20 files instead because of all those wave files.

    Instead, I like to set a folder for all of my peak files so any time I import audio files, it’s going to pull all of those peak files in that Reapeaks folder.

    Project Settings

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    The next area that I wanna show you is in Project. One thing that I would recommend is that you check the option to have Reaper prompt to save on a new project. With this option enabled, any time you create a new project, Reaper will come up with a dialogue box and I would recommend that you just save whatever you’re doing.

    Even if you're just opening up Reaper to mess around or experiment you have a record of that and that way if you come up with some amazing idea, you have it saved.

    Down at the bottom of the page there are several options having to do with project saving. You can keep multiple versions of your project, you can keep a time stamped backup, you can keep your undo histories. You you can explore what all of those things do in the Reaper manual.

    However, the one thing that I would recommend that you do is enable autosave or a timestamped backup and you have options for that as well. You can select the frequency at which a timestamped backup is created. By default, this is 15 minutes, I would recommend dropping this to 5 minutes because you can get a lot of stuff done in 15 minutes. In order for this to work, you need to select either save to timestamped file in project directory, which will create a timestamped backup next to your save file, wherever that is. Or you can also enable save to timestamped file in additional directory, so you could, for example, put it on another drive and then you have a safety system in place where you have an alternate location with an autosave of your project.


    You can also select when to create this timestamp backup or this autosave. By default, it's selected to When Not Recording but you can choose when stopped or Any Time. If it's Any Time you may have an issue when you are recording and it may cause an interruption there. So, either when not recording or when stopped is probably your best option.

    A Reaper Install Gentle Nag…

    a gentle naga gentle naga gentle nag

    When you’re done in settings, Reaper will come up with a little nag screen saying hey, Reaper is not free ,it's a paid product. If you use it for more than 60 days you are required to buy a license. Reaper is a great value at $60 for a personal license, that should cover most people, unless you’re making a lot of money, and then you need a pro license for Reaper.

    One Last Setting: Project Settings

    There's one more setting that I think is really handy to show you and that is in Project Settings, which you can get to if you click the I with a circle around it. Once you’re in Project Settings, hop over to the Media tab and I would recommend that you type in something like Audio Files into the Path box at the top. This way every time you create a project, you save your project, and you start recording in Reaper, it will create a sub folder wherever you have your project saved and all of those audio files will go into that folder. It makes file management much easier. Then hit Save as Default Project Settings and you’re ready to get started with your Reaper install!

    About This Page

    This page was written by Marie Gardiner from the transcript of a course by David Bode. Dave is an expert on video and audio production. Marie is a writer, author, and photographer. The page was edited by Gonzalo Angulo. Gonzalo is an editor, writer and illustrator.

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