Kodi: What It Is and How to Use It

How to use Kodi to get your favorite movies, music, and more

Kodi on different devices

Kodi is a popular computer application that turns your Android, iOS, Linux, MacOS or Windows device into a virtual hub for all of your multimedia needs by playing audio, video and image slideshows in dozens of different file formats.

What Is Kodi?

Formerly known as XBMC, Kodi is a free program that makes accessing music, movies and TV shows much easier; featuring a user interface that scales seamlessly from the smallest smartphones to the biggest television screens.

While Kodi itself does not actually contain any content, it facilitates access to movies, music, and even games via its highly customizable interface. This media can be hosted on your PC's hard drive, for example; elsewhere on your networks, such as on media like DVD or Blu-ray Disc; or somewhere out on the internet.

Add-ons Help Create Options Like Kodi TV or Kodi Music

While many people use Kodi as their own personal multimedia hub to play content that they already own, others utilize the application to view or listen to a seemingly limitless amount of streaming content available on the web. These streams are accessed via Kodi add-ons, small programs usually created by third-party developers that augment the application's native functionality.

Before you can set up these add-ons, however, you'll need to install the version of Kodi created for your operating system and device by following the platform-specific instructions found on Kodi's official website. It is recommended that you run the latest stable version of the application. While development builds are available, they should only be downloaded by advanced users. 

The majority of Kodi add-ons are housed in repositories that make distribution simpler for both the host and the user looking to browse or install one or more of these packages. There are two types of Kodi repositories, designated as official or unofficial.

Official repositories are maintained by Team Kodi and are included by default with the application. Add-ons found within the branches of these official repos are sanctioned by the XBMC Foundation and can generally be considered legitimate and safe to use. Unofficial repositories are hosted remotely and administered by a third-party. Add-ons available from these repos are not explicitly endorsed by Team Kodi so there is an inherent risk involved when utilizing them. With that said, some of the most popular Kodi add-ons and plugins fall into the unofficial category.

The methods for procuring add-ons from the two types of repositories vary significantly, mainly because the official repos are already integrated with Kodi while all others need to be mapped to your application before you can peruse their contents. Follow the steps below to install add-ons from both official and unofficial Kodi repositories. These instructions assume that you are running Kodi v17.x (Krypton) or above with the default skin active. If you are running an older version, it is recommended that you upgrade as soon as possible.

Installing Official Kodi Add-ons

  1. Launch the Kodi application if it is not already open.

  2. Select the Add-ons option, found in the left menu pane.

  3. At this point, there are several ways to view the various add-ons available in the official Kodi repository. One is to use the Add-on Browser, which lists add-ons from all repositories that you have installed broken down into the following categories: Video, Music, Program, and Picture. To access the browser, select the Enter add-on browser button in the particular category that you're interested in.

  4. For the purposes of this tutorial, however, we're going to browse and install add-ons directly from the official Kodi repository. To do so, first, click on the package icon; located in the upper left-hand corner of the Add-ons screen.

  5. Select the Install from repository option.

  6. If you have an unofficial repository already installed, you will now see a list of available repos. Select the one labeled Kodi Add-on repository with Team Kodi listed as its owner. If you have not installed any other repositories, you will be taken directly to a list of over a dozen folders found within Kodi's official repo. These include a wide range of add-on categories that allow you to stream audio and video content, view still images and even play games. If you're interested in a particular add-on, select its name from the list.

  7. You'll now be taken to the details screen for that add-on, displaying information about the specific package. Select the Install button, found towards the bottom of the page, to enable the add-on in your Kodi application.

  8. As soon as the installation process begins, the real-time progress percentage will be displayed next to the respective add-on's name. Upon completion, your newly enabled add-on will have a checkmark to the left of its name; meaning that it is now available for use. If you select the add-on once again from the list, you'll now notice that several other buttons have been activated towards the bottom of the screen. These allow you to disable or remove your new add-on, configure its settings as well as modify whether or not it will be updated automatically when a new version becomes available. Most importantly, you can launch the add-on and begin using it by selecting the Open button. Installed add-ons can also be opened from Kodi's main screen as well as from the individual category sections (Videos, Pictures, etc.).

Installing Unofficial Kodi Add-ons

As mentioned above, any add-ons installed from a repository other than those managed by Team Kodi are not officially supported. While many unofficial add-ons do not possess any detrimental qualities, others may contain security vulnerabilities and malware.

Perhaps more concerning for the XBMC Foundation are the number of unofficial add-ons that are utilized to stream copyrighted content including movies, music, TV shows and sometimes even live broadcasts of sporting events and other feeds. It is not surprising, however, that these are some of the most popular add-ons with Kodi users. In the end, you have to make the decision on whether or not you want to download such add-ons.

Lifewire does not condone the illegal streaming of copyrighted material.

  1. Launch the Kodi application if it is not already open.

  2. Select the Settings button, represented by a gear icon and located directly below the Kodi logo in the upper left-hand corner.

  3. The System interface will now be visible. Select the option labeled System settings.

  4. In the lower left-hand corner of the screen should be an option labeled Standard, accompanied by a gear icon. Select it twice so that it now reads Expert.

  5. Select Add-ons, found in the left menu pane.

  6. In order to install unsanctioned add-ons, you first need to allow Kodi to trust unknown sources. This presents a potential security liability but is a necessity if you wish to take this route. Select the button found to the right of the Unknown sources option.

  7. You should now see a warning message, detailing the possible dangers involved when enabling this setting. Choose Yes to continue.

  8. Return to Kodi's System screen by hitting the Esc key or its platform-specific equivalent once.

  9. Select the File Manager option.

  10. In the File manager interface, double-click on Add source.

  11. The Add file source dialog should now appear, overlaying the main Kodi window.

  12. Select the field labeled None.

  13. You will now be prompted to enter the path of the repository that you want to add. You can usually obtain this address from the repository's website or forum.

  14. Once you're done entering the URL, select the OK button.

  15. Type in the name of the repository in the field marked Enter a name for this media source and select OK. You can enter any name that you desire in this field, but note that it will be used to reference the source path throughout the application.

  16. You should now be returned to the File Manager interface with the newly created source listed.

  17. Hit Esc twice to return to Kodi's main screen.

  18. Select Add-ons, located in the left menu pane.

  19. Select the package icon, located in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

  20. Choose the option labeled Install from zip file.

  21. The Install from zip file dialog should now be displayed, overlaying your main Kodi window. Choose the source name that you entered in Step 15. Depending on the host server's configuration, you may now be presented with a set of folders and sub-folders. Navigate to the appropriate path and choose the .zip file for the repository that you wish to install. You can also utilize this option to install a repository from a .zip file located on your hard drive or removable disk. Some sites allow you to directly download the file required to install their repository.

  22. Your installation process will now begin, usually taking under a minute to complete. If the repository was installed successfully, a confirmation message should briefly appear in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

  23. Select the Install from repository option.

  24. A list of available repositories should now be displayed. Select your newly installed repo.

  25. You may now be presented with a list of add-ons at the top level, or a list of categories and sub-categories containing packages within each; depending on how the particular repository is set up. When you see an add-on that you may be interested in, click on its name to open the details screen.

  26. Each add-on's details screen contains relevant information about the package along with a row of action buttons at the bottom. If you'd like to try out a particular add-on, select the Install button on this screen.

  27. The download and installation process will now begin, with its progress shown in the form of completion percentage. As is the case with official Kodi add-ons, you may notice notifications in the upper-right hand corner of the screen stating that other add-ons and plugins are also being installed. This only occurs when the add-on that you chose is dependent on the presence of other packages to function correctly. If the add-on installation was successful, there should now be a check mark next to its name. Click on this name.

  28. You should now be returned to the add-on's details screen. You'll notice that the rest of the action buttons found in the bottom row are now available. From here you can disable or uninstall the package, as well as modify its settings by selecting the Configure button. To launch the add-on and begin using it, select Open. Your new add-on will also be accessible from the Add-ons section on the Kodi home screen, as well as in its respective add-on category (i.e., Video Add-ons).

The Best Unofficial Kodi Add-on Repositories

There are a large number of independent Kodi repositories on the web, with more popping up all of the time. Below are some of the best in terms of uptime and available add-ons.

  • Fusion: Hosted by TV ADDONS, Fusion offers some of the most sought-after unofficial Kodi add-ons in one place, providing access to individual repositories which are updated often.
    • Source URL: http://fusion.tvaddons.ag
  • SuperRepo: Lives up to its name, offering individual repositories in over a dozen categories as well as one main repo containing thousands of add-ons. When installing from SuperRepo, be sure to choose the folder branch that matches your version of Kodi.
    • Source URL: http://srp.nu
  • Noobs and Nerds: Source URL: http://noobsandnerds.com/portal/
  • Mucky Ducks: Source URL: http://muckys.mediaportal4kodi.ml/
  • Xunity Talk: Source URL: http://xunitytalk.me/xfinity

For a list of other unofficial repositories, visit the Kodi wiki.

Time to Stream

As you dive deeper into the world of Kodi add-ons, official or unsanctioned, you'll find that the variety and quantity of content available are practically boundless. The add-on development community is both active and creative, deploying new and improved packages on a regular basis. Since each add-on tends to feature its own unique interface and functionality, some trial and error are usually required. For the most part, though, Kodi add-ons are user-friendly and can supercharge your media center in no time!