Kodi is a highly versatile and open source media streaming solution available across a wide range of platforms. The successor to Xbox Media Center (XBMC), Kodi is an effective tool for organizing and playing your favorite video content. Like a lot of open source software, Kodi comes with a ton of documentation and broad community support, but it can still be a bit overwhelming to get it set up and figure out how to actually use it. Our guide walks you through the basics, including installation, updates, libraries, add-ons, and customizations.
First, however, let me clarify some common misconceptions about the software. First, Kodi’s official software is perfectly legal. However, since the software is open source, shady individuals can use it to nefarious ends. For example, some people install modified versions of Kodi on third-party hardware, bundle it with illicit content via unofficial third-party add-ons, and sell them as “fully loaded” Kodi boxes. Stay away from those types of boxes, as they can lead to legal troubles.
Legit Kodi does not come with any content; you add files you legally own or connect to an add-on that hosts legal content. Kodi takes a hardline stance on piracy, stating that “The watching or listening of illegal or pirated content which would otherwise need to be paid for is not endorsed or approved by Team Kodi.” Accordingly, your Kodi implementation depends on the content you feed it. For example, you can use Kodi as the software backbone of a speaker system for your music library or in a Home Theater PC (HTPC) setup for your DVD and Blu-ray collection.
For further information, check out our in-depth explainer of Kodi.
Depending on your device, installing Kodi can be a simple taks, or an arduous one. Either way, you start at Kodi’s downloads page; here, Kodi lists all the platforms it supports, which at the time of publishing are: Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, Raspberry Pi (RPi), and iOS. Kodi is also available on the Xbox One, but that version of the app is reportedly still quite buggy. Click on any one of the platform logos to see the available install files. There are three version options available for each platform: Recommended,
At one end of the difficulty spectrum, there are the straightforward Windows and macOS installs. On the Windows side of things Kodi offers two options: a download from the Microsoft Store (incorrectly labeled on the Kodi site as the Windows Store) or a 32-bit installer available from the Kodi downloads page linked to above. For macOS, your choice is simple; the only choice is a 64-bit installer from the Kodi downloads page. Once the file download completes, just follow the install prompts through to the end.
For Linux, simply open a terminal window or SSH and type in the commands below, one line at a time:
sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install kodi
Getting Kodi running on iOS is considerably more complex. One way to get Kodi onto your iPhone or iPad is to jailbreak your device and install Cydia, a self-described alternative to Apple’s App Store. Explaining how to jailbreak your iPhone (and weighing in on the advisability of doing so) is beyond the scope of this piece.
If you do decide to go that route, however, open the Cydia app and navigate to Sources > Edit > Add and type in http://mirrors.kodi.tv/apt/ios/. Select the teamKodi source > All Packages > Kodi-ios and then hit install. This should add a Kodi icon to your home screen.
Alternatively, there is a workaround for iOS devices that does not require jailbreaking, instead using Xcode and App Signer, a macOS app that can (re)sign apps (bypassing Apple’s app verification system) and
For this method, you will probably want need access to the full version of Xcode7 or later. Free Xcode users will need to reinstall Kodi every seven days, which is not a particularly elegant solution.
The first step is to open Xcode and create a new iOS or tvOS application, depending on your target device. Then you type in a name and a unique identifier. Click past any issues that arise, sign in to your Xcode account (or create a free account if you don’t already have one), and then choose a development team from the pop-up. You need to repeat these steps for any additional devices.
Next, open App Signer, select the deb file (the latest Kodi install package available from its download mirror). Finally, you choose your signing certificate and provisioning profile (the same ones you set up earlier) before selecting an output location. Finally, you go back to Xcode and select the Window menu > Devices. Here, you click the + and choose the file iOS App Signer created. The App Signer website has screenshots and a video explanation of this process if you get tripped up at any step.
On Android, the easiest way to install Kodi is directly from the Google Play Store. If for whatever reason that doesn’t work, you can sideload any of the ARM-based install packages (newer devices should opt for the ARMV8A (64-bit) option) on to your device as well.
To set things up, simply enable installs from unknown sources (for Android 8.1 navigate to Settings > Apps & notifications > Special App Access > Install unknown apps). Browse to the Kodi Download Page using one of the privileged apps and then just download and install the package.
The easiest way to get Kodi up and running on the RPi is via a Linux distribution specifically made for running Kodi. Kodi’s official site lists a few options, including the “just enough OS,” LibreELEC. To install this distro, simply download the LibreELEC USB-SD Creator tool (available on Windows, macOS, or Linux) and choose the correct image for your generation RPi. Then, you select the removable SD card that you plan to use with your RPi as the target.
Although the LibreELEC image only requires 2GB of free space, it recommends at least 4GB, so you have room for everything else you want to store locally. Once you’ve finished the installation process, you simply plug the card into your RPi, connect the RPi to a display, and turn it on.
Getting Kodi installed can feel like a hassle depending on your platform. Still, at some point, you are going to need to update the software. For the most part, updating Kodi is no different than installing it. With the exception of the Google Play Store and Microsoft Store Versions, Kodi does not auto-update any of its apps, so you need to download and reinstall the newest version on your own.
For Windows, MacOS, and Android devices, simply return to Kodi’s download page and grab the latest version for your platform. You don’t even need to uninstall the previous version before running the install process on the new one. All of your user data lives in a separate folder than the installation files, so none of your existing configurations will be affected. Of course, you can back up these files before you upgrade your software via the Backup Add-on (I discuss add-ons a little further down) if you have any grave concerns. This Add-on exports (manually or on a schedule) your database, playlist, thumbnails, add-ons, and other configuration details to a local folder or Dropbox.
iOS users who installed Kodi via Cydia can check the app’s Changes section for any updates. Any stable releases simply show up there when it is available.
For those who went the Xcode route, just open iOS App Signer, download the latest .deb file, and (using the same provisioning profile) reload Kodi on to your device.
For Linux installs, simply enter the following code in Terminal or SSH one line at a time:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
In some cases, if the installation fails, you also may need to run the below command to install any missing packages:
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
RPi users are in luck. If you used the LibreELEC distro, Kodi should update itself automatically. If for some reason, Kodi does not automatically upgrade itself, then you can try some of the manual alternatives LibreELEC outlines on its website.
Once you install Kodi, it’s time to add some files. For the purpose of this guide, I tested with the Windows and Android versions of Kodi, but all the options and procedures should be identical across platforms so long as you install the official Kodi release. I did not have any issues installing version 17.6 (Krypton) on either platform.
To reiterate, Kodi does not provide any content. Therefore, you need to add it on your own. Along the left-hand side of the application, you will see a wide range of content categories including Movies, TV Shows, Music, and Pictures. These categories work with any local or remote files, so all you need to do is add a source. Click on the Videos section, for example, and then hit the Add videos button. Each content section works this way. From the pop-up, you select files from any folder on your computer or an external drive (local or network). Once you add files, Kodi will index everything and populate the respective sections with your files.
Some of the other categories in this menu, such as TV and Radio require a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) back end. Setting up this connection can be complex, and I recommend you visit Kodi’s full-fledged PVR FAQ page on the topic if you actually plan to use this functionality. In short, PVR software converts your cable signal into something Kodi can actually process. If you use an antenna to watch TV, you can install a PCI tuner or receiver for your computer or laptop. Cable users (especially in the US) might face more difficulties, since providers typically encrypt the signal. In that case, you need to purchase a TV Tuner that supports CableCARD, and then connect that to your PC via Ethernet. In this scenario, cable companies need to physically come out to your home to install and activate the CableCARD.
Kodi add-ons vary widely in their utility. Some more technical ones add support for various audio codecs or PVR back ends. Others affect more visual elements, such as screensavers or playback visualizations. The best way to discover useful add-ons is to spend some time browsing the catalogs. You never know what might catch your attention. I would recommend starting in the Video add-ons section, since this section features some recognizable apps such as Plex, Twitch, and Vimeo. Regardless of what you choose, installing add-ons is a simple process. Simply select the add-ons section from the main content menu and enable the add-on browser extension. Categories of add-ons include: Look and
Once you find one that interests you, go ahead and hit the install button. All the add-ons I downloaded took were fully usable seconds after I did so. Some may require some additional configuration, but these settings are easily accessible via the My add-ons section of the interface. Here, you can launch, configure, update, disable, or uninstall any add-ons. For example, for the Google Drive add-on I downloaded, which lets me stream media from my cloud storage, I had to log in to my Google Drive account.
Kodi makes add-ons conveniently accessible from relevant sections of the interface, in addition to this central repository. For example, if you navigate to the Pictures content menu section, Kodi shows you all the related add-ons you installed. In my case, Kodi listed the Google Drive, Flickr, and XKCD (for viewing entries from the satirical daily webcomic) add-ons.
The easiest way to customize Kodi’s look and feel is by changing the theme. Simply navigate to Settings > Interface > Skins. Kodi comes preinstalled with two default skins, Estuary (default) and Estouchy (touch-screen friendly). Click the Get More button to the right to add additional skins, but keep in mind that not all skins support all interfaces and features. For example, some are only suited for touch-screen devices, and others do not work with the previously described PVR functionality.
Once you decide on a general theme, head over to the Skin settings menu item to customize its look and feel. You can select which items appear in the main content menu and toggle on or off other elements and animations. Kodi also lets you update various art throughout the application, such as the thumbnails for music genres (Kodi refers to these sets as Fanart) or changing the application background.
Users can also customize the way Kodi works by, for example, choosing the start page. If you use Kodi specifically to power an HTPC setup, it makes sense to set the Movies or TV Shows content sections as the default. You can also set up a screensaver for when you aren’t using your setup. The default options are a bit boring (either dim the screen or fade to black), but more visually captivating ones are also available, such as the one that displays Bing’s photos of the week or scrolls multiple Instagram feeds, for example.
Kodi displays useful information, too. You can configure weather forecast information in the main content menu with a number of different services, such as Weather Underground and Yahoo Weather, and add it permanently to the top menu. Although it’s not customizable, the System Information tab is a great place to go if you need to collect hardware or network info on your device or quickly see how much storage you have left.
If you run into any issues or simply want to share your experience with Kodi on any of its many platforms, please add a comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Kodi and are curious to know how you use the software. Also, be sure to check out Kodi’s official community forums for all the latest news and updates.