Install Kodi to Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Home Media Center
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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.

You won’t need much to get started with your Kodi and 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.

Raspberry Pi Media Center: 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 (we recommend a Raspberry Pi 3B+).
  • Optional USB Wi-Fi dongle for pre-Raspberry Pi B+ or 2.
  • HDMI cable.
  • 2A USB power adaptor, or specific Raspberry Pi power supply.
  • MicroSD card (8 GB or more recommended).

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.

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Advanced Setup for a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Media Center

There have been many iterations of the Pi since its 2012 launch, but to enjoy superior performance from Kodi, OSMC, or OpenElec, use the most recent model, the Raspberry Pi 3B+.

For a standard setup, relying on the microSD card is fine. However, if you plan to use the Raspberry Pi as your Kodi system long-term, then a more reliable storage solution is needed. The Raspberry Pi supports USB storage, which you can use for your own library as well as downloaded media.

Connecting a USB HDD to your Raspberry Pi for Kodi is a smart idea. Keep reading for more on this, and some other advanced hardware options.

How to Install Kodi on Your Raspberry Pi

Two options are available for installing Kodi on your Pi.

The Raspberry Pi 3 B+

Standard Kodi Install

If you’re running Raspbian Jessie on your Raspberry Pi (or any of the many other Raspberry Pi-compatible Linux operating systems) you can manually install Kodi with ease via the command line.

With your Raspberry Pi already set up, 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 Kodi Operating System on Your Raspberry Pi

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 three main options here: LibreELEC, OpenElec and OSMC.

Install a Raspberry Pi operating system easily with NOOBs

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 osmc.tv.

For LibreELEC, head to libreelec.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.

The best option for this is Etcher, which you can download from etcher.io. This is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and is the easiest flash memory writing tool, suitable for SD cards and USB thumb drives.

Flash your SD card with Etcher

Once installed, launch Etcher, making sure the microSD card is inserted into your computer’s card reader. Click Select image to browse for the OpenElec or OSMC image file, then confirm the correct drive letter is displayed under Select drive. Finally, click Flash to commence writing.

Etcher will display a message when the IMG file has been written, and the data checked.

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 a Raspberry Pi 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 OS 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 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.

Use Kodi remote apps to control your media center

Once installed, these apps will auto-detect your Kodi installation if 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.

Supercharge Your Raspberry Pi Kodi Media Center

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 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 using powerline adapters What Are Powerline Adapters? 8 Things You Need to Know What Are Powerline Adapters? 8 Things You Need to Know Powerline ethernet adapters basically turn regular electrical outlets into ethernet outlets. As useful as this is, there are some things you should know before using them for your own home network. Read More , but the important thing here is to get the best possible picture and sound quality, so use whatever works.

High-Quality Sound for Kodi

To accompany your Raspberry Pi 3-based Kodi home theater, it’s a good idea to consider some audio improvements.

By default, you’ll get sound via HDMI, and this should be fine. After all, most TVs have reasonably good audio. But if you want enhanced audio, perhaps output through a soundbar, then you’ll need an external sound module.

Various USB-compatible options are available but on the whole, these are unreliable or inconsistent. Instead, you should look at the Full-HD PCM5122 Amplifier X400 Expansion Board.

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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.

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Find a Compatible Hard Disk Drive

For extended storage, a hard disk drive is vital. A standard 8GB microSD card will quickly run out of space if used for storing media. Meanwhile, a 64GB (or larger) card cannot be expected to work indefinitely.

While modern SD storage is far more reliable (thanks to better error correction), it is safer to rely on a HDD. Most USB hard disk devices can be connected to a Raspberry Pi, although whatever you use will need its own power supply.

You can even hook up a SATA drive to your Raspberry Pi using a storage expansion board.

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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.

Raspberry Pi running Kodi

Along with popular services like YouTube, Hulu, Spotify, and BBC iPlayer, it’s even possible to install Amazon Video, Plex, and Netflix.

Niche add-ons can be found too: TED Talks, specific 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 Theater 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!

Want more from your Raspberry Pi Media Center? Why not add RetroPie or RecalBox for some retro gaming fun How to Run Kodi and Retro Games on Your Raspberry Pi How to Run Kodi and Retro Games on Your Raspberry Pi Want to use your Raspberry Pi for Kodi and retro gaming at the same time? Here's how to install Kodi as an app, and dual boot it with a retro gaming suite. Read More ?

Explore more about: Kodi, Media Center, Media Player, Raspberry Pi.

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  1. Paulo Braga
    November 23, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    No mention of LibreELEC, an OpenELEC fork that's updated much more often.

    It runs on Intel powered boxes and uses very few resources.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.