How to Build a Raspberry Pi Media Center

Install Kodi through OSMC and start watching now

The Raspberry Pi is one of the most versatile devices you’re ever going to come across. It’s a full-fledged computer, but it’s the size of a credit card or a small cell phone. Due to its diminutive size, the Pi is also an energy-efficient option, powered by a phone charger. One of the uses the Raspberry Pi is best known for is as a media center. It’s simple to install Kodi on the Pi, and from there, you can stream tons of content from both your personal library and the Web.

Unlike some other media center distributions, like LibreELEC, OSMC retains enough of the underlying Linux operating system to let you customize the system more, mount networked directories automatically, and install extra software needed for some Kodi add-ons, like Netflix.

What You’ll Need

Before you get started, you’re going to need a few things. You can modify these slightly to better fit your needs, but some parts are absolutely essential.

  • A Raspberry Pi 3 B+ or 4.
  • A power supply.
  • A 16GB or higher MicroSD card.
  • A Raspberry Pi case for your model Pi.
  • A USB or Bluetooth keyboard/mouse.
  • A screen to connect to and the HDMI cable to connect.

How to Download and Flash OSMC

There are a few options for media center distributions on the Pi, but OSMC seems to be the perfect balance of control and polish. OSMC is what this guide covers. It boots right into Kodi, so you won’t need to set that up either.

  1.  On your computer, open your browser and go to the OSMC download page.

  2. Select Disk images to reveal the list of available images for the Pi.

    The OMSC homepage with the disk images option highlighted
  3. Locate the latest image for your version of the Pi, and download it.

    OSMC disk images
  4. Extract the downloaded Pi image. You want the file to end in .img, not .img.gz. On Windows, you can use 7-zip. On Linux, you can use your regular archive manager or the command:

    gzip -d OSMC_*.img.gz
  5. With the image unpacked, the next step is to write it to your microSD card. Insert your microSD card into your computer’s card reader.

  6. There are a few ways to write the image to your SD card. If you have a preferred method, like 'dd' on Linux, go for it. Otherwise, balenaEtcher is an excellent choice, and it works across Windows, Linux, and Mac. Go to the balenaEtcher download page, and grab the latest release for your operating system.

    Someone downloads balenaEtcher for Windows
  7. Either install balenaEtcher or run the portable version, whichever you downloaded. If you opted for the installer, run through the steps. It’s all basic and the default settings will do in most instances.

  8. With Etcher open, you’ll notice your screen divided into three sections. In the first section, select the OSMC image you extracted.

    The balenaEtcher app with 'Select Image' highlighted
  9. Select your SD card in the center panel of Etcher.

    The balenaEtcher app with 'Select Target' highlighted
  10. When you’re absolutely sure you have the right image and microSD card, select Flash in the final panel.

    The balenaEtcher app with the 'Flash' option highlighted
  11. Etcher will take a few minutes flashing your microSD with the OSMC image you downloaded.

    If you aren’t familiar with the Raspberry Pi, there aren’t operating system installers like on traditional PCs. Instead, it relies on pre-made disk images with everything already set up.

  12. By flashing the OSMC image on the microSD card, you’ve installed OSMC on the Pi. When it’s done flashing, you can safely remove your microSD card from the computer.

How to Put Your Pi Together

It’s time to set up your Raspberry Pi. Put the Pi in its case, insert the microSD, hook up your keyboard, mouse, and screen.

However you plan on setting up the Pi, remember to plug it in last, since plugging in the Pi powers it on automatically and will start the OSMC boot and setup process. You don’t want to do that until everything else is connected.

How to Set up OSMC

  1. Select your timezone and locale.

  2. Choose a hostname for your Raspberry Pi. This is how it’ll be identified on your network and to remotes.

  3. Enable SSH if you need it. It could be a potential security risk.

  4. Next, you’ll be given the option to connect to your Wi-Fi network. Select your network and enter the password.

  5. Finish the OSMC setup. When it's done, it'll drop you onto the home screen.

Add Your Video Library

If you have your own video library, it’s very simple to add them to Kodi. The videos can be on a drive connected directly to the Pi via USB, or they can be on a networked drive.

  1. Make sure your drive is available. Either plug in the USB or make sure the networked files are accessible.

  2.  Select Videos on the OSMC main menu.

    The OSMC app with the Videos option highlighted
  3.  Under the Videos menu, select Files.

  4.  Select Add videos.

    OSMC app with the Add Videos option highlighted
  5.  On the window that opens, select Browse.

    The OSMC app with 'Browse' highlighted
  6. Browse to the location of your video library. When you’re there, select OK to add the folder.

    The OSMC app

     For some networked drives, you’ll need to manually enter the path.

  7.  Enter a name for your new video directory, then select OK to add it.

  8. OSMC will ask to scan the files into your library. This is entirely up to you. Adding them to your library comes with artwork and easier browsing. Not adding them is faster, but you need to browse the actual files as they're on the drive. Select Cancel if you don’t want to add them to your library.

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