Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Advertisement

You need a media center solution, and you’ve heard about Kodi. Is it suitable, and can you install it on your Raspberry Pi? And once you’ve done that, how do you turn it into a world-beating home media center? We’ll show you how.

Hardware for Your Raspberry Pi Media Center

You won’t need much to get started with your Kodi + Raspberry Pi media center. But if you’d like to enhance the experience, there are a few things you can add to the basic setup.

Basic Setup

You might already have a Raspberry Pi. Alternatively, you might be about to buy one. At a minimum, you’ll need:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B+ or later.
  • Optional USB Wi-Fi dongle for pre-Raspberry Pi 3 devices.
  • HDMI cable.
  • 2A USB power adaptor, or specific Raspberry Pi power supply.
  • MicroSD card (8 GB or more recommended).
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit - 32 GB Edition CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit - 32 GB Edition Includes Made in UK Raspberry Pi 3 (RPi3) Model B Quad-Core 1.2 GHz 1 GB RAM Buy Now At Amazon $65.00

As long as you have a PC to download your preferred operating system and write to the microSD card, you should be ready to go.

How to Install Kodi on Your Raspberry Pi

Two options are available for installing Kodi on your Pi.

Advertisement

Standard Kodi Install

If you’re running Raspbian Jessie 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use Following the release of Debian Jessie in July, the Raspberry Pi community has been blessed with a new release of the Raspbian variant, based on the "parent" distro. Read More  on your Raspberry Pi (or any of the many other Raspberry Pi-compatible Linux operating systems Not Just Raspbian: 10 Linux Distros Your Pi Can Run Not Just Raspbian: 10 Linux Distros Your Pi Can Run You're presumably running the latest version of Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi. But is it the best Linux distro for the device? Could there be an alternative that you might find suits you better? Read More ) you can manually install Kodi with ease via the command line.

With your Raspberry Pi already set up What You Need to Know About Getting Started with Raspberry Pi What You Need to Know About Getting Started with Raspberry Pi The Raspberry Pi computer is the latest in a line of compact, multi-function devices, shipped as a barebones package so that end users can use the hardware for virtually any computing project that comes to... Read More , simply open a terminal window and enter:

sudo apt-get install kodi

Once this is done, you’ll need to make a config file edit to ensure that the media center software automatically loads whenever you boot your Raspberry Pi.

sudo nano /etc/default/kodi

Change the ENABLED setting to 1:

ENABLED=1

Press Ctrl + Z to exit, making sure you save the change.

Otherwise, you can run Kodi with a mouse click from the desktop, or with a single command in the terminal:

kodi

You’re good to go!

Install a Media Center Operating System

More preferable, however, might be the option to have a dedicated Raspberry Pi running an already-optimized version of Kodi. This way, it will automatically boot into the media center software without any fiddling around with text files.

You have two main options here: OpenElec and OSMC.

To use OpenElec, you can either download the operating system from openelec.tv or use the NOOBS software to select it from a list (see below). OSMC can also be installed via NOOBS, or you can download it from www.osmc.tv.

Manual installation will require you to first format your microSD card, then copy the unzipped download to the card using dedicated SD card writing software. We’ll assume you’re using Windows for this, so you’ll need to download SD Card Formatter from the SD Association, and Win32DiskImager from SourceForge.

With your SD card inserted into your PC’s card reader, run the SD Card Formatter, select the correct drive letter (confirm this in Windows Explorer) and select Option. Here, choose Full (Erase) and On, then OK. With this done, click Format.

Once the SD card is formatted, exit SD Card Formatter and load Win32DiskImager. Again, select the correct drive letter, then browse to the downloaded image file (from the OSMC website, or from the OpenElec website). Click Write to commence and wait until completion.

Your SD card can then be removed and inserted into your Raspberry Pi. Next time you boot, Kodi will be ready to use!

See our guides to installing an OS with NOOBS How NOOBS For Raspberry Pi Can Help First Time Users How NOOBS For Raspberry Pi Can Help First Time Users There is something about the Raspberry Pi that might just put people off: until now, setting it up has not been particularly user friendly. NOOBS aims to change that! Read More , or installing a Raspberry Pi operating system to a microSD card How To Install An Operating System To Your Raspberry Pi How To Install An Operating System To Your Raspberry Pi Here's how to get a new OS installed and running on your Pi – and how to clone your perfect setup for quick disaster recovery. Read More for more details on the process if you get stuck.

Remote Control

Having a USB keyboard to hand is always good idea, as you can just plug it in and navigate the Kodi user interface. Most of these Kodi keyboard shortcuts 50 Kodi Keyboard Shortcuts You Really Need to Know 50 Kodi Keyboard Shortcuts You Really Need to Know If you've discovered Kodi you probably couldn't live without it now. However, if you're tired of controlling Kodi through a remote control app, you can use these keyboard shortcuts instead. Read More should work on the Raspberry Pi. If you’re using a Raspberry Pi 3 with built in Bluetooth, or have a compatible Bluetooth USB dongle for the device, a Bluetooth keyboard will also be useful.

You have another choice though: several mobile apps are available for iOS and Android, which can control your media center over the network. We’d recommend those produced by Kodi on either platform. On iOS look for Official Kodi Remote in the App Store, whereas on Android find Kore by the XBMC Foundation.

Once installed, these apps will auto-detect your Kodi installation, as long as they’re connected to the same home network as your Raspberry Pi.

You also have various options for additional hardware that you can add to your Raspberry Pi Kodi media center. These include adding a sound module, or even an IR receiver for use with a physical remote control.

Raspberry Pi Kodi Media Center to the Next Level

At this point, you’ve got everything you need to enjoy your Kodi media center. But you can take things further. With the right hardware and peripherals, you can make your compact Raspberry Pi media center the envy of your friends and family.

Use a Raspberry Pi 3

Perhaps the most obvious option is to use a Raspberry Pi 3 The Raspberry Pi 3: Faster, Better, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth The Raspberry Pi 3: Faster, Better, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Today, the Raspberry Pi foundation announced the release of the Raspberry Pi 3. It's the most significant update to the popular line of low-cost computers yet. Read More rather than a B+ or Raspberry Pi 2. There have been many iterations of the little computer since its 2012 launch, but in short, if you’re using the Pi 3 (or later), you will get superior performance from Kodi, OSMC, or OpenElec.

Use Ethernet, Not Wi-Fi

We’ve recommended using the Raspberry Pi 3, but this is really for performance reasons rather than anything else. As the Raspberry Pi 3 ships with a built-in wireless dongle (and Bluetooth too) you might be tempted to use this. If your Pi is situated close the router, and you have a strong signal, then this should be OK, but for the best results — particularly when streaming HD content — you should be relying on an Ethernet cable. This might mean employing powerline adaptors, but the important thing here is to get the best possible picture and sound quality, so use whatever works.

Sound

By default, you’ll get sound via HDMI, and if you have an AV receiver, it should be getting a surround sound digital signal through the HDMI where available in your media. If for some reason you’re stuck using the 3.5mm stereo socket, you may find the audio quality is unacceptable. To improve this, you’ll need some sort of external sound module. Various USB-compatible options are available but on the whole these are unreliable or inconsistent. Instead, you should look at the HAT-standard HiFiBerry range.

IR Remote

We mentioned above how a remote control mobile app can be with any Kodi device, but if you’re more inclined towards dedicated remote hardware, you’ll need an IR receiver on your Raspberry Pi.

Several of these are available, either USB or something that connects directly to the Raspberry Pi board. They all ship with a remote control included, enabling you to easily navigate your Kodi home theater. Note that for regular searches and adding third party repositories, however, you’ll need something with a keyboard or at least a keypad.

CTYRZCH HX1838 Infrared Remote Control Module IR Receiver Module DIY Kit HX1838 for Arduino Raspberry Pi CTYRZCH HX1838 Infrared Remote Control Module IR Receiver Module DIY Kit HX1838 for Arduino Raspberry Pi Sensor uses HX1838, high sensitivity Buy Now At Amazon $6.99

Only Install the Add-Ons You Need

Finally, you need to be aware of the add-ons that are available for Kodi, and which ones you’ll use. With such a vast selection of add-ons to choose from (official and third-party) you should stick to a narrow collection of options. The more add-ons you choose from, the more will need updating, and this will slow down your Kodi experience.

While there isn’t currently a functional Amazon Instant Video/Prime add-on, you should be able to find options for other popular services like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Spotify, and even BBC iPlayer (though you’ll a VPN The Best VPN Services The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More  for that outside of the U.K.). Niche add-ons can be found too: TED Talks, YouTube channels, podcasts and far more can be found in the add-on repository. It’s best to research what you want first, lest you end up spending too much time browsing the endless lists.

Build Your Own Raspberry Pi Home Media Center Today

We won’t pretend that putting this together is easy, but it is certainly straightforward and achievable within an hour. Once Kodi is setup in your living room or bedroom, you’ll be able to enjoy the vast selection of add-ons provided for your entertainment, and with a few hardware enhancements, your little Raspberry Pi will be able to produce results comparable to media center hardware costing ten times the price!

Do you use a Raspberry Pi to run Kodi? What do you think of it? What do you see as its strengths and weaknesses? Tell us in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Nikko
    May 22, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Great tutorial! But I'm having some problems launching Kodi (krypton) on straight from boot. When I enter: sudo nano /etc/default/kodi

    I only get an empty blank screen, no text to edit.....help please? :)

    • Christian Cawley
      May 22, 2017 at 10:11 am

      It's possible that the kodi file has moved in recent versions. The best option is to look for this new location in /etc/.

      Or you could use the NOOBS installer tool and bypass those steps.

  2. D Mac
    February 13, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    A couple of points if you are going to use Raspbian and want keyboard input:
    1. You will need to add user "Kodi" to the group "input".
    2. You'll probably have to chmod 0777 /dev/tty0 to get round a problem where keyboard input isn't accepted in Kodi.

  3. Fischi
    February 9, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Use OSMC project ! There is an amazing difference between to run kodi without a resource hungry deskop environment - OSMC is well configured - also I suggest a case which is able to house an additional hard disk or better SSD

    • Andrew Gulak
      February 9, 2017 at 11:57 am

      Completely agree. I have used both Kodi and OSMC, and the difference is startling. I have a 5 tb hdd hooked to mine (with it's own power supply of course, and it runs pretty seamlessly. Te interface is way more intuitive as well imo.

  4. Markaisi
    February 9, 2017 at 4:47 am

    There are actually two ways to get Amazon video on kodi. First one is PlayOn which is very reliable and the other is Amazon VOD which I have been using for a while with no problems.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 10, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      I wonder if these are US-only?

      I've tried a couple of Amazon add-ons on Kodi and failed with them both, but I'm in the UK. I'll check these recommendations, Markaisi, thanks for sharing.

  5. Jason
    February 8, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Currently, there is no simple way to watch shows on sites like Hulu and Netflix. You can thank DRM for that. Unless you're willing to pay for a third party service (more money) to stream those sites through another PC (even more money), it won't work. I hate how so many sites are treating these devices like a do-anything magic box. If you want a decent home theater PC, just get a micro PC for a couple hundred bucks and install Kodi on whatever OS you prefer.

    There is so much misinformation going around about these things, it's infuriating.

    Raspberry Pi's are...
    1) awesome project boards
    2) not just $35, there's a case and power supply to consider
    3) not designed for high-end graphics
    4) still awesome, that's with saying twice.

    I hope this clarifies any misconceptions anyone might have.

    • Andrew Gulak
      February 9, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      My Pi 3 plays 1080 video pretty flawlessly. The 2B was spotty and had some choppiness to it. That said, I went into it knowing what you said about being realistic about it's limitations. I have a media PC set up. I only did the Pi thing to see how it would work (had the board anyway for other projects). Media PC running Kodi is not as smooth as Pi 3 running OSMC.

  6. VFerg
    February 8, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    I have been using a Pi 2 for 2 years 24/7 service as my dedicated Kodi server and its been wonderful. I went with OSMC though, never tried openelec since I never had any issues with OSMC and the original reviews seemed to point at OSMC as being slightly ahead. I recently obtained a Synology NAS and put Emby on it and use the sync plugin exclusively now. Its so easy to set these up now I have 1 for all my TV's in the house and Emby allows it to be the central database for statistics, and all metadata letting any new units to be added to be done within an hours time. I definitely recommend these completely for anyone looking to setup a media center.

    • likefunbutnot
      February 9, 2017 at 1:41 am

      @VFerg, Have you tried using literally any other device as a Kodi client? Anything at all?

      With regard to Emby, something to consider is that it does not have nearly degree of acceptance of Plex. Emby and Plex have a very similar feature set, but Plex clients are available on pretty much everything and the Plex ecosystem has remote access and access control baked in, features that are still experimental and immature on Emby.

  7. likefunbutnot
    February 8, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    For the most part, a Pi makes a pretty lousy Kodi device. They're sort-of OK for audio only, but they're still painfully slow and laggy for most purposes. I can't find a way to make browsing LAN shares, whether via SMB or NFS, fast on a Pi, so they're even pretty pathetic for locally stored media. It's less of a concern for audio controlled via a third party remote (I like Music Pump for Android), but given that a similar or even smaller amount of money will score someone an Amazon Fire Stick with a much better Kodi Implementation and several better control options and all I can do is beg people to do something else with their Pis, like running Lakka or Retropie.

    • Andrew Gulak
      February 9, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      You seem rather invested in steering people away from using their Pis as a media center. So much so that you go to the insane levels of recommending a Fire Stick? I was so excited when those released, and so disappointed at the sheer lack of performance and resolution it delivered. I stated in a earlier comment that the Pi 2 certainly was unsuitable as a media server running Kodi... What I didn't state was the only experience I had worse than that was the Fire Stick. I literally sent it back it was so bad. I went into the Pi experience knowing it might not work out, forearmed with the knowledge that I could at least use it for other projects, unlike the Fire Stick, which basically wasn't even good as a paperweight .

      • likefunbutnot
        February 9, 2017 at 3:44 pm

        @Andrew,

        Yes. I actively discourage people from using an RPi as a Kodi device. I don't want anyone to blame a crummy Kodi experience on Kodi when the fault is entirely the fault of the hardware on which it's running.

        The Fire Stick is essentially comparable to the RPi3 as far as hardware specification. They have the same amount of RAM and similar CPUs (quad core ARM @ 1.2 or 1.3GHz). Sure, the Pi theoretically has ethernet and USB, but even given USB access to a disk drive full of media, let alone files sitting on a local server, it's not going to access that data quickly. Filesystem access on Pi-class hardware appears to be retarded in the dictionary definition of that word. Neither of them have a perfect 802.11 implementation though in my experience the Pi is worse in that area as well.

        The Fire Stick still wins as a media access device, though. It's running a lighter OS (Android vs. whatever cut-down Linux). That device already has access to services that can't be used from a Pi for licensing reasons, like Netflix (even if we're discussing this purely in Kodi terms, this is a bit of a cheat, but Kodi can invoke an Android application from its Programs menu). Neither device has full audio and video Codec support, but to the Fire Stick's advantage, it doesn't actually have to use Kodi and can instead run the technically superior SPMC fork, which allows for things like DTS transcoding if that's necessary. Crucially, I've found that it's faster for LAN access to remote filesystems. So if all your media is on a File Server or NAS box, it'll come up faster on the Stick, all other variables being equal.

        Moreover, the Fire Stick comes with a decent remote and doesn't have the extra expense for things like case, heat sinks, SD card, 2A charger, HDMI cable et al. Taken as a whole, these push the cost for getting a Pi up and running far past the ~$40 cost of a Fire Stick. It's a better package and a better value proposition for an entry-level media client.

        Given the choice, no, I wouldn't pick either device. I'd guide someone to a full FireTV or an nVidia Shield as a best-bet option. I'd advocate for SPMC instead of pure Kodi. But as a starting point, I do think the Stick is objectively better in all categories.

        • Andrew Gulak
          February 13, 2017 at 9:38 pm

          Thanks for the reply. You clearly know more than I do about the how of things inner workings. I'm more along the lines of how a thing feels. For me, in my application, the Pi just works better. Primarily because I can watch movies stored on a 5TB hdd pretty flawlessly on mi Pi running OSMC. In this instance, the Fire Stick just doesn't satisfy my needs. Thus far, I have had a great experience with the Pi3 running Kodi. Again, thanks for the reply. I like to learn things.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 10, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      I've got two RPi3s and an Amazon Fire Stick all running Kodi. Literally nothing between... if anything, the Pis are faster (although this is likely due to them using Ethernet.

      • likefunbutnot
        February 10, 2017 at 4:56 pm

        The Pi3 has a notoriously poor Ethernet implementation, but moreover I've found that both NFS and SMB access are considerably faster on Fire Sticks. They're about the same (I.e. slow) for opening streaming content. It may be your experience is different because of differences in 802.11 access points and signal quality, but the Pi3 is a genuinely anemic Kodi experience and I can't recommend it if that is the dedicated purpose of the device. They cost more. They run poorly. There are just better ways to Kodi.

        • Christian Cawley
          February 14, 2017 at 1:04 pm

          Of course there are.

          The Fire Stick is not one of them.

    • D Mac
      February 13, 2017 at 6:57 pm

      I disagree. I own both a Pi2 and a Fire TV Stick and if you are au fait with Linux the Pi is more powerful, customisable, and expandible and works just fine for fullHD content and streaming locally stored content over the network. You can't even run OpenVPN properly on the Fire TV Stick and Kodi addons like e.g. Plexus require you to fiddle about on Android where you don't on Linux if you set it up right.

      I see no advantage either in the remote of the Fire TV Stick as it is less functional than a standard TV remote via CEC. Better to get your own bluetooth remote like the Rii i8+.

      • likefunbutnot
        February 13, 2017 at 9:05 pm

        @D Mac,

        The use case of configuring a Kodi client with a general purpose low-spec device is vanishingly small. People want an appliance. Yes, I can install Kodi on my Pi Linux variant of choice, but if I'm going to take the time to that, then screw using the Pi. At that point, I'd rather run it on an old PC where I have real access to grown-up amounts of RAM and peripherals. Let's face it: Nobody is running Kodi on the same Pi where they're learning Python and/or building some kind of microcontroller project in their copious free time.

        All the crap needed to make a Pi3 run Kodi isn't free. You're probably looking at US$65 - 70 to get a Pi to the point where you have everything to make it usable, and I'm assuming at that point that you can find a keyboard and mouse for $10 or less. The Fire Stick costs approximately half as much and comes with a controller that is entirely usable (but, I'll carefully note, can also be supplemented with a bluetooth keyboard or either FireTV or a Kodi remote app for a mobile device if you find the dedicated control too limiting for some reason).

        Kodi on a Pi costs more and runs slowly. Why bother?

        ... and I'm typing this in a classroom full of Pi3 kits right now.

        • D Mac
          February 15, 2017 at 1:40 am

          @Likefunbutnot
          "I'd rather run it on an old PC "
          Surely the Pi sips far less power than using an old PC? Why waste energy?

          "Nobody is running Kodi on the same Pi where they're learning Python and/or building some kind of microcontroller project in their copious free time"
          Ia run a personal webserver and rsync backup-server on my Pi2 at the same time for Kodi 17 and it works fine for my needs. Video playback is fine at 1080p (gpu_mem set to 256). I also used to use it connected to a webcam to keep an eye on an elderly relative with dementia.

          I also already had an SD card, a HDMI cable and a phone charger lying around so used those. As I said, if your TV supports CEC you don't need a remote. Spent $5 on a case so for me it was $40. I see your point that these may add up if you don't have them. Later I added an old HDD I had for the backups and needed a beefier 2.5A power supply which cost an additional $10 but was worth it for the flexibility (also have to set max_usb_current=1 and the old HDD works reliably for my needs).

          That said, I correct myself that OpenVPN will probably now work on the just-launched 2nd generation Fire TV stick which might be better than the 1st generation (no idea why it is locked down on the 1st) Another advantage of the Fire might be if there is a specific Android app that you want to run (though there is now Android TV for the Pi which seems to run quite well from videos I've seen, though I'd rather run standard mainline Linux -- anyone set up the ability to run Android apps on the Pi with an emulation layer on standard Linux?). If I wanted an out-of-the-box Android device though I'd rather consider a full Fire TV with Ethernet or nVidia Shield or one of the Chinese AndroidTV boxes rather than the stick. I really hate though that the experience is so locked down on Android (rooting is difficult, with no solutions at this moment for Amazon devices with latest software) and that rarely can you keep an Android device up-do-date and secure in the long-term.

      • Andrew Gulak
        February 13, 2017 at 9:41 pm

        That's the remote I have, and you're right, what a great experience. I felt so limited with what I could do with the Fire Stick. Hell, I had a better experience with the Chromecast I bought a few years ago than I did with the Fire Stick.