Entertainment Linux

7 Awesome Linux Media Center Distros for Your HTPC

Christian Cawley Updated 16-12-2019

Since Microsoft abandoned Windows Media Center Edition, home theater PC (HTPC) builders have looked to Linux. While proprietary options are available, the best solution is to rely on Linux for your media center OS.


Looking for a Linux media center, or an alternative to the abandoned Kodibuntu? Try these open source HTPC operating systems.

7 Linux Media Center Kodibuntu Alternatives

The Linux scene is an ever-changing, evolving environment with new development teams releasing new distros every week, while others close. For example, Kodibuntu is a big name in the Linux media center arena, but it’s pretty much a dead project.

It’s time for you to move onto a Kodibuntu alternative Kodibuntu Is Dead? Turn Any Linux PC Into an HTPC Without It Kodibuntu is dead. Here's how can you build a Linux-based Kodi media center using LibreELEC, the best Kodi Linux distro. Read More .

We’re not just talking about desktop and server operating systems either. Linux-based media center distributions, with built-in media playback and library management tools, are also launched, updated, and abandoned.

We’ve compiled the following list of the best Linux media center distros:

  1. GeeXboX
  2. OpenELEC
  3. LibreELEC
  4. Recalbox
  5. LinuxMCE
  6. LinHES
  7. DIY with Kodi

Let’s look at each of them in turn.

1. GeeXboX

Watch videos on your Linux HTPC with Geekbox

GeeXboX is a full-fledged Linux media center operating system, a lightweight distro available for desktops and embedded devices. With a tiny footprint, you can run it straight from a flash drive or install it in the traditional way.

The latest version, 3.1, is only a 160 MB ISO. As a result, GeeXboX makes the perfect distro for booting off a USB drive or installing on older hardware. GeeXboX is based on Kodi, so you’ll spot the familiar user interface.


2. OpenELEC

OpenELEC Linux media center software
Image credit: Mel-and-Jym/Flickr

Originally built to run XBMC, OpenELEC (Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) has been around for some years now, and has evolved to run Kodi. All you need to do is install the downloaded file on a bare hard disk partition. Once complete, your Linux HTPC system will be running Kodi.

With access to the full library of Kodi add-ons, you can configure your Linux media center exactly how you want. Need to stream video from a Netflix account? Install the add-on and you can. Want access to your favorite podcasts through your TV? They’re available via Kodi, either as individual add-ons or via a podcast player.

Kodi even has live TV and DVR support, giving you the full media center experience.


3. LibreELEC

LibreELEC on Linux
Image credit: Pierra Lecourt via Flickr

Like OpenELEC, LibreELEC is a Linux operating system designed to run Kodi as the main user interface. With versions for 32-bit and 64-bit PCs, the benefit of this option is that it is easier to install.

Rather than download a disk image, LibreELEC comes with a USB/SD card writing tool. This guides the creation of installation media on USB or SD card, resulting in an easy install.

Once installed, you’ll find the Kodi media center software is ready to use. All the usual Kodi add-ons can be incorporated to customize your experience.


LibreELEC and OpenELEC are also available for the Raspberry Pi How to Choose the Best Version of Kodi for Raspberry Pi Not sure how to get started with Kodi for Raspberry Pi? Here are your best options for an awesome home media center. Read More .

4. Recalbox

Want to combine retro gaming with your Linux HTPC? Recalbox, a combination of the EmulationStation frontend and Kodi, is the perfect choice. Originally built for Raspberry Pi, it’s a Linux-based operating system that can also be installed on 32-bit and 64-bit PCs.

By default, Recalbox boots into EmulationStation, but can be set to first boot into Kodi.

Combining Kodi and retro gaming on the same platform is a smart move. Connect a retro game controller to your computer to get the best gaming and media playback experience.

5. LinuxMCE: The Linux Media Center

LinuxMCE is a great Linux media center solution

LinuxMCE is a Linux media center hub with an automation twist. In addition to media metadata organization (found in other releases such as Kodi), there’s an onus on streaming and automation. You can listen and view content in multiple rooms, control audio and video equipment, and play retro games.

Want to have a smart home, not just a media hub? LinuxMCE monitors sensors and security cameras, connects with lighting and climate controls, and more. It can even serve as a VoIP and network management hub.

Consequently, these added smart home features position LinuxMCE as a great alternative to pricier proprietary devices with home automation.

If all of that sounds more than you need, don’t worry—you can easily ignore these functions. Instead, kick back and watch some movies, or even play some retro games! LinuxMCE includes Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) for classic arcade games, and Multiple Emulator Super System (MESS) for home video systems.

6. LinHES

Linux media center software LinHES

LinHES stands for Linux Home Entertainment System and boasts a 20-minute HTPC setup. Highlights include full DVR, DVD playback, music jukebox, and metadata support. You’ll also enjoy full video information, fan art, games, and access to your image library.

Like a beefed up Mythbuntu, LinHES is a beefed up HTPC. Because LinHES is centered on the DVR capabilities of MythTV, it’s a bit more suited to non-DVR users.

On the downside, LinHES has a garish blue user interface by default, which might put some users off. Dig deeper, however, and you’ll find a capable Linux media center.

7. Roll Your Own Linux HTPC With Kodi

Kodi running on a Linux PC

If you’ve already installed a Linux operating system on your intended HTPC, you might not need to do much more. Rather than undo your hard work so far, you might opt to simply install Kodi.

Available from kodi.tv/download, you can have the popular media center environment installed in minutes. With various legal Kodi add-ons The 10 Best Legal Kodi Add-Ons for Free Movies Kodi is one of the best ways to watch movies for free. Here are the best legal Kodi add-ons for free movies. Read More available, you can install YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, even Plex on your Linux HTPC.

Arguably the best operating system for Kodi is Ubuntu for complete driver support and media playback. However, you might find your Linux media center OS of choice differs, determined by personal preference and hardware.

Build a Linux HTPC or Media Center Today

With nine strong options for your media center, it makes sense to find a Linux distro to suit your needs. Whether it’s a HTPC, a media center, or a straightforward Kodi distro, you’ll find your solution in this list. At any point, if you have trouble playing audio/video in specific formats, run them through any of these top Linux apps for media conversion.

Want to know more about Linux operating systems? Check our list of the best Linux distros The Best Linux Operating Distros The best Linux distros are hard to find. Unless you read our list of the best Linux operating systems for gaming, Raspberry Pi, and more. Read More .

Related topics: Home Theater, Linux Distro, Media Center, Media Server, Media Streaming.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Glenn
    October 12, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    OpenELEC & LibreELEC both are only available as a USB-install file. Hardware that does not allow for that (ie, BIOS with CD/DVD boot or HDD/SSD boot only) is unable to install these OS’s because an ISO is unavailable. This situation is more common than apparent at first glance.

  2. William Vasquez
    August 27, 2019 at 5:24 am

    How can you not even mention OSMC (Open Source Media Center)? so lightweight it works on Raspberry Pi. Easy to load; use; and a great modern looking GUI. Tailor made for Kodi. Forget the list. Your entire column should have said, "OSMC, pure and simple...'nuff said!"

  3. Cecil Watson
    June 6, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    With respect to LinHES, you state "but still lacks the features found in non DVR-centric releases.". What features are those?

  4. Joseph Shumway
    May 1, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    I am using android right now but I am tired of android!

  5. Kate
    November 14, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    what nice apps for enjoyable home cinema watching!!!!! I love watching my favourite films comfortably at home, with a big cup of popcorn. But do you know, do all of these apps support DLNA? 'cause I have Plex and use it with ArkMC. which of these apps will fit perfectly?

    • Jimmy
      December 28, 2017 at 2:03 am

      These aren't the apps you're looking for.

      These aren't apps at all, they are operating systems. You don't install them on your system, they are the system.

  6. Väinöälä
    November 3, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    LibreELEC takes out most of the hassle included in step 9 and at the same time will give you a good up-to-date software and great user experience. Download the installer from libreelec.tv

  7. Ned Scott
    November 3, 2016 at 5:27 am


    Kodibuntu is discontinued, by the way.

  8. Donpach
    November 2, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Libreelec and/or openelec is missing. Should be in first places

  9. Donpach
    November 2, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Libreelec and/or openelec is missing