Raspberry Pi is an inexpensive, fast single-board computer that can easily be turned into a media center. One of the most popular operating systems for the Raspberry Pi is OSMC (Open Source Media Center). OSMC is built around the Kodi media player, but it can do more than play media files.
In this guide, we’ll:
- Introduce you to OSMC
- Show you how to install OSMC on your Raspberry Pi
- Walk you through common customization options for OSMC
- Discuss the pros and cons of using OSMC vs. other Kodi OS options (LibreELEC, OpenELEC)
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Let’s begin by discussing the basics of OSMC.
What is OSMC?
OSMC is quite similar to other media centers such as LibreELEC and OpenELEC. It’s a lightweight Linux distribution that is built primarily to support Kodi installations. However, there are some differences.
OpenELEC and LibreELEC were built to be installed on a large variety of devices, including the Raspberry Pi, as well as some Odroid and WeTek devices. In contrast, OSMC was built specifically for the Raspberry Pi and OSMC’s streaming box, Vero.
OSMC is more feature-rich than OpenELEC and LibreELEC. OSMC retains more of the base Debian Linux operating system, so its functionality can be expanded more easily.
If you’re interested in running Kodi on your Raspberry Pi and you’re looking for a customizable operating system, OSMC is an excellent option.
How to Install OSMC on your Raspberry Pi
The process for installing OSMC on your Raspberry Pi is quite easy. This is thanks to the OSMC installer, which streamlines the process of creating a bootable SDHC card.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- A Raspberry Pi 1, 2, 3, or 0. You’ll also need a power source and HDMI cable, as well as a WiFi adapter if you can’t use Ethernet.
- An SDHC card (2GB minimum size)
- A computer with an SD card reader, or an external USB-based SD card reader
That’s it! Let’s begin.
Step 1: Download the OSMC Installer
The first step of the process is to download the OSMC installer. This utility makes it easy to create a bootable SD card.
Head to https://osmc.tv/download/. Choose Windows, Mac, or Linux, depending on the OS you’re using. The installation process is essentially identical for each download option.
We’re using a Mac, so we’ll choose the OS X option to download the OSMC installer .DMG, as seen in the below screenshot.
After downloading the .DMG (Mac) or .exe file (Windows), navigate to your downloads folder and run the application, which will be called qt_host_installer. Your screen should look like this:
To begin the process, select your language and the device on which you’d like to install OSMC. In this case we’ll be using a Raspberry Pi 3, so we will select Raspberry Pi 2/3 in the options menu.
Step 2: Create a bootable SD card
The next step is to use the OSMC utility to create a bootable SD card, from which your Raspberry PI can use OSMC. You will want to use an SD card that holds at least 2GB.
A higher speed SD card capable of at least 15MB/s is recommended. While it may be tempting to choose a cheap SD card, investing in a higher-speed card will pay off with better performance and reliability.
Here’s how to use the OSMC utility to create your bootable SD card.
Note: The Raspberry Pi 2 & 3 use microSD cards, while the older models use standard-sized SD cards. If you’re not sure which type you need, you can purchase a microSD card and an SD card adapter. This will ensure that you have the proper SD card for your device.
After choosing your language and device, press the right arrow button to continue. You’ll see the following screen.
Select the build you want to use from the drop-down menu, then press the right arrow button to continue.
In almost every case, you’ll want to choose the top-most option, as this will be the latest OSMC build. You can optionally choose from a variety of older builds as well, or even select a local disk image from your computer. However, this is not necessary for our purposes.
Next, you’ll be able to choose between 4 different installation options. Select On an SD Card, then choose the right arrow button to continue.
Now, select the networking method you’ll use to connect OSMC to the internet. In our case, we’re using Ethernet, so we’ll select wired connection. (If you plan on using a Wi-Fi adapter, select wireless connection instead.)
Next, select your SD card.
- Note: If your SD card is not visible, press refresh on the bottom left. This should prompt the proper SD card to appear. You may also need to do this if you have not inserted your SD card until now. Press the right arrow button to continue once you find your SD card.
Finally, select I accept the End User License Agreement on the next screen. Tick the checkbox to agree and press the right arrow button.
Your selected disk image will now begin downloading. Depending on the speed of your internet connection, this may take a few moments.
After your disk image has downloaded, a popup will appear. This is a warning that continuing will format the data on your SD card, deleting it forever. Select Yes to continue.
OSMC will now install to the selected SD card. Depending on the speed of your SD card, computer, and other factors, this may take a little while, so be patient.
That’s it! Once the data transfer has been completed, you’ll see the following message. Press Quit to exit the utility.
You now have a fully-functional OSMC operating system loaded onto a bootable SD card. Let’s move onto the next step.
Step 3: Put it all together
After you’ve burned your disk image to your SD card, it’s time to put everything together.
- Safely eject your SD card from your computer’s SD card reader.
- Plug your Raspberry Pi into your monitor or TV.
- Connect the power source, HDMI cable, and ethernet cable/WiFi adapter to your Raspberry Pi.
- Insert your SD card into the SD card slot in your Raspberry Pi. Boot up your system.
- Your device will be formatted, and OSMC will be installed. This process may take a few minutes. You’ll see the following screen:
Congratulations! Now, it’s time to boot up OSMC, and get started with Kodi!
Step 4: Boot up OSMC and Kodi
After starting up OSMC for the first time, you’ll be able to choose your preferred language. Choose the option appropriate for you, and continue. Confirm your choice by pressing Yes on the next screen.
Next, you’ll be asked to agree to OSMC EULA. Select I Agree to continue.
Next, you can opt-in to receiving the OSMC newsletter. Which option you choose is entirely up to you. After that, you’ll see the OSMC main menu.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully loaded OSMC onto your Raspberry Pi!
Installing Kodi Add-Ons on OSMC
The process for installing Kodi add-ons on OSMC is simple, and nearly identical to other Kodi installations. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
- Launch your OSMC app and navigate to Addons.
- Select Video Addons. Choose the Package Installer Icon.
- Navigate to Install from Repository → Kodi Add-on Repository → Video Addons.
- Select the add-on you wish to install and wait for the Addon Enabled notification.
- Your selected add-on will now be available on the Video Addons section of the OSMC home screen.
Adding new repositories is also easy. Here how to do so.
- Choose Settings from the OSMC main menu, then navigate to File Manager and select Add Source.
- Here, you’ll be able to enter a URL to your desired repository, just like in the main Kodi application. Enter the URL of the repository and continue.
- If you’ve entered the correct URL, your chosen repository will now be available in OSMC.
- Follow the steps outlined above to install your desired Kodi add-ons from your newly-added repository.
If you need more help understanding how to install third-party add-ons to Kodi on OSMC, take a look at our beginner’s guide to Kodi!
And if you’re looking for the best Kodi add-ons and repositories to use with OSMC, take a look at these related articles:
- Best Live TV Addons for Kodi 2017 – Watch Live TV on Kodi
- Best Kodi Addons for Movies 2017 – Watch Movies on Kodi
- Best Kodi Repositories of 2017 – These 5 Kodi Repositories are Still Working
Why Use OSMC? The Pros and Cons
OSMC is a simple and easy to use OS for Kodi on the Raspberry Pi. However, it’s not for everyone.
- Customizable – One of the primary reasons Kodi users like OSMC is that it’s very customizable. You can reskin the OSMC program to your own taste, modify font sizes and change how you interact with your media player.
- Can run other Linux programs – OSMC can run other Linux programs like torrent clients, VPNs and a variety of other Linux packages.
- Easy to install – The installation and setup of OSMC is very easy, thanks to the disk image burning utility and step-by-step walkthrough
- Different interface compared to LibreELEC, OpenELEC – LibreELEC and OpenELEC both currently run “Vanilla” Kodi. This means that, if you know how to use Kodi on your PC, you can easily use it on OpenELEC devices, or LibreELEC devices. OSMC is also easy to use, but it’s a totally different system.
- Requires more processing power – It’s best to use OSMC on a more recent Raspberry Pi. This is because OSMC requires more processing power than LibreELEC or OpenELEC. Because OSMC has more of the base Debian Linux distribution running, it may perform slowly or unreliably on older hardware. This is especially true if you install lots of Linux packages on your OSMC device.
Alternatives to OSMC
There are two main alternatives to OSMC; OpenELEC and LibreELEC.
LibreELEC was created as a “fork” of OpenElec, after ideological differences split up the original OpenELEC development team.
LibreELEC is probably OSMC’s biggest competitor. Just like OSMC, it offers an easy-to-use SD card creation utility and it’s regularly updated with the latest version of Kodi.
If you’re interested in an OS that’s easier-to-use, but less customizable, LibreELEC is a perfectly viable alternative.
OpenELEC was the first Linux-based Kodi platform for devices such as the Raspberry Pi. It offers a lightweight, bare-bones Linux OS on which Kodi comes pre-installed.
We recommend using either LibreELEC or OSMC instead of OpenELEC. OpenELEC has no disk creation utility, which makes installation more difficult.
In addition, OpenELEC has lost developers and community members since LibreELEC was founded. This means it’s updated less frequently – so it is not the best choice for a Raspberry Pi Kodi installation.