Kodi has exploded in popularity in recent years for good reason: this media player is lightweight, runs on loads of devices. Is easy to use and is expandable via optional plug-ins. But it’s the latter point that has seen Kodi make headlines for the wrong reasons, with plenty of developers using the software to stream pirated movies, TV and even live sport. Don’t let that cloud your judgement of what’s an excellent media streamer, though, as the base program is completely legal and a great way of viewing video and photos on your TV or PC.
In this complete guide, we’ll show you how to get started with Kodi, how to use its advanced features, install add-ons, and stay legal and safe with It. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll be a complete Kodi expert.
What is Kodi and is it legal?
Kodi has had loads of negative press, proclaiming that it’s a haven for pirated content. But that’s not the whole picture – here we show you what you can and can’t legally do with the software
Kodi has moved from being a rather niche media streamer for enthusiasts to something that has started to appear in mainstream news reports. Unfortunately, a lot of the coverage has been for the wrong reasons, with the software being branded as a platform that gives people illegal access to all kinds of premium content, from films to live sports.
This is rather alarmist, as Kodi is totally legal and there are no penalties for downloading and using it. In its default state, Kodi is a well-designed media streamer with an interface that’s been designed for a TV.
A Kodi Itself Is just software for streaming photos, videos and music
Kodi is open-source software, developed and maintained by a dedicated community.
It started life as a product for the Microsoft Xbox and was called the Xbox Media Center (XBMC). It soon escaped its humble beginnings and the community realized that the media streamer could do more. As a result, there was a name change to Kodi, and the software was developed to run on multiple platforms. Now it’s maintained by the non-profit XBMC Foundation, whose goal is to maintain, update and develop the platform.
What does Kodi do?
Just like a traditional media-streaming box that you plug into your TV, such as the Apple TV, Kodi turns practically any computer, smartphone or tablet into a digital set-top box. It lets you stream files from the internet, your home network or local storage.
Kodi is available for practically any device you can think of, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and even the Raspberry PI.
A Kodi’s big Interface Is designed to be used on a TV
The one platform that’s not well supported is Apple’s iOS, which requires you to jailbreak your phone to install it.
Kodi’s purpose-built UI makes browsing through your content simple. The software features what its developers call a “10-foot Ul” meaning that it can be read from a theoretical distance of up to 10ft away.
On smaller devices, Kodi offers a similar experience but can be hooked up to a larger TV for big-screen viewing.
Unlike other TV streamers such as the new Apple TV, Chromecast 2 and Amazon Fire TV Stick, Kodi isn’t held back by licensing or a curated app store, so it lets you download a range of community-made add-ons, and watch whatever you like.
Why do people say Kodi is illegal?
Kodi’s open-source nature and open plug-in architecture mean that developers are free to create their own add-ons for the media streamer. While there are plenty of good (and legal) uses for add-ons, some developers have decided to use the Kodi platform to develop plug-ins that let you stream pirated content.
The XBMC Foundation has distanced itself and the Kodi platform from these add-ons, but it currently is unable to prevent them. It’s the same with Windows: Microsoft doesn’t promote piracy, but it can’t prevent people from writing dodgy software to run on its OS.
A The Premier League can now shut down entire streams, rather than targeting Individuals
The real question is this: are these add-ons illegal?
The simple answer is yes. A recent EU court ruling has stated that streaming copyrighted content is illegal, as it reduces the copyright holder’s income.
The EU has also ruled that selling fully loaded Kodi boxes (those with all the dodgy plug-ins pre-installed) is illegal. Following this announcement, Amazon and eBay are clearing up their listings, removing any device that falls foul of the new laws.
The Premier League has also won the right to shut down the servers responsible for streaming live football matches to Kodi boxes. Previously, it was possible to block only individual users’ computers, which could easily reconnect to a different stream. In other words, even if the plug-ins aren’t illegal, the chances are that you’ll get less content in the future as rights holders start to crack down on streams.
What should I do?
Cracking down on individual users is hard, and law enforcement agencies typically target big offenders and sources of pirate material. Ultimately, how you use Kodi is up to you, but if you install a plug-in that gives you access to material that looks too good to be true, you’re most likely breaking the law.
How to install Kodi on the Raspberry Pi 3
The tiny, cheap Raspberry Pi 3 can be turned into an incredibly powerful media server thanks to Kodi. Here’s how to set it up
The Raspberry Pi 3 is one of the best microcomputers around, combining impressive speed with fantastic value in a tiny form factor. It’s also versatile, and can run Kodi.
To follow these guides, you’ll need a Raspberry Pi and a microSD card. The Raspberry Pi Foundation recommends a minimum of an 8GB card, but buy a larger card if you want to install media directly on to your media server; we recommend buying at least a 32GB card.
1 Download NOOBs for Pi
We recommend using OSMC, a complete operating system that comes packaged with Kodi and is optimized for the Pi. To install this OS, you need the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s NOOBS installer (www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/noobs), which automatically configures an SD card with the OS of your choice. To get started, download the NOOBS installer file to your hard disk; it’s a 1.1GB file, so it may take a while to download.
Once you’ve downloaded the NOOBS zip file, extract the contents. Insert your microSD card into your computer, either through a built-in port on your PC or an adaptor, and copy the files you just extracted to the blank card. Once that’s done, you’re ready to install Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi.
2 Run NOOBS
Connect your Raspberry Pi to a display, and plug in a keyboard and mouse. Insert the microSD card with NOOBS on it and then attach the power cable to the Pi. When your PI starts up, you’ll see the NOOBS menu. Just select the OSMC option and the software will be downloaded to your Pi automatically.
3 Configuring OSMC
When you start OSMC for the first time, you just need to follow the wizard through to set up the language, time zone and your initial preferences.
You get an option to use the OSMC interface or the Classic Kodi interface.
The latter makes a lot of sense, as it will make our other guides easier to follow.
If you’re not using a wired Ethernet connection, you’ll need to set up Wi-Fi. Select My OSMC at the bottom of the main menu, and then choose Network. Select Wireless, and then Enable adapter. You can now choose from your list of Wi-Fi networks and join your Pi 3 to your home network.
How to install Kodi on a PC
Installing Kodi on a regular PC Is the way that most people will use It. Fortunately, this Is really easy. Go to kodi.tv/download and scroll down. The first Current release section contains the release candidate of the next version of Kodi. In our experience, this version is very reliable, but you can continue to scroll down the page to the next Current release section. This section contains the current most stable and complete version of Kodi. Once you’ve made your choice, click the Installer link underneath the Windows logo, and the latest installer will be downloaded and saved to your hard disk.
Next, run the installation package that you downloaded. Windows will display a dialog box asking If you want to run the program, so click the Yes box to continue. Click Next, and then I Agree, and you’ll be given a choice of which Kodi components you want to install. We recommend installing all of the available options as this will give you the best experience, so click Next. Choose an installation folder and dick Next to continue, and finally click Install to complete the process.
How to install Kodi on the Amazon Fire TV Stick
Amazon’s tiny USB media streamer is the perfect home for Kodi
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is a brilliant place for Kodi. This small USB stick plugs into an HDMI port on your TV and is the simplest, cheapest and most convenient way of getting Kodi. Even better, the Fire TV Stick runs a custom version of Android, which means it’s compatible with mostapps, including Kodi. Note that these instructions will also work on other Amazon Fire TV devices, not just the Stick.
Enable apps from unknown sources and ADB
Plug your Amazon Fire TV stick into your TV and plug the USB power cable into a spare USB port or use the power adaptor. Go to Settings, Device, Developer options. Find Apps from unknown sources, which should be switched off, and turn it on, then say yes in the pop-up box. Do the same thing for the ADB debugging option, which is in the same menu.
Find your IP address
You need your Fire TV Stick’s IP address to continue. You can get this by going to Settings, Device, About, Network. Note down the numbers listed underneath IP address, as you’ll need these later to send the installation file to your media streamer from your computer.
How to Download Kodi
On your PC, go to kodi.tv/download.
Scroll down and click the Android icon to bring up a pop-up box. From this list, click the ARMV7A (32BIT) link. This will download the installer .pkg file to your computer, which you’ll need later.
The easiest way to install Kodi is to use adbLink, which you can download for your PC for free from jocala.com. This software sends an installation package over your home network to your Fire TV Stick. Once you’ve installed the software, run adbLink and click New. Enter a description – any name will do – then enter the IP address that you noted down in Step 2. Click Install APK, browse to the file you downloaded in Step 3 and click Install when prompted. You’ll see at the bottom right of the screen the message ‘ADB Running’. Once this completes, Kodi Is installed on your Fire TV Stick.
From your Fire TV Stick’s home page, go to Your Apps and Games, and you’ll see that Kodi is in the list. Just select the file to run it, and you can launch the media player.
After you’ve launched the software once, it will appear In the Recent section, too.
How to install kodi - Installing on regular Android
If you have an Android smartphone or tablet, you’re in luck, as you can just download and install Kodi using Google Play. When you download the software, you’ll get the latest stable release of the media software and regular, hassle-free updates.
The interface for Android is the same as for the other versions, only you have to tap the screen rather than use a remote control.
How to stream videos, music and photos
Kodi can play practically any type of file, making it a very powerful media player. Here’s how to play local and remote content
Kodi can play practically any type of media file straight out of the box, whether that file is stored locally or on a server. In this guide, we’ll show you how to tell Kodi where your files are located, so that it can start to index them for you. We’ll show you how each media section (photos, videos and music) works, too.
Kodi works by building up a library of content: you tell it where the files are stored, and the media center software catalogs everything neatly for you. As you add new files to the watched folders, Kodi automatically expands its library section.
To add folders to watch, go to Settings, Media Settings and select Videos, Music or Photos under Manage Sources. Then select the Add option to add a folder. For the menu Items that you want to populate, select the section in the main menu and then choose the Enter files section. Select Add videos and then choose Browse. You’ll see a list of every type of connection that Kodi can make, including your computer’s hard disks, UPnP media servers and network shares.
If Kodi can’t see your NAS or other shared folder, select Add network location, type in your device’s IP address and select OK.
You’ll now be able to browse your NAS.
Select an entry to browse the options, and navigate to a folder that contains the type of videos you want Kodi to index. Click Add to add the folder to Kodi.
Select media type
When you add a new folder for movies, you get a choice of the type of content: Music, TV Shows,
Movies or None. Select the type that matches the folder you’ve added and then select OK.
Simply tell Kodi where your media files are stored and it will create a library for them
Click Yes to agree to refresh all content. This selection defines which content appears from the main menu options, so that Kodi can let you distinguish between films and TV shows.
Please note that you don’t get these options if you add a folder from a UPnP Media Server, as Kodi assumes that the files are already organised. As a result, we recommend using local storage or a network share for all video content.
Repeat the above steps until you’ve added all of your media folders.
It will take Kodi a little while to scan all the content that you’ve added, but once it has done so, your main menu items will now be populated. Select TV Shows, for example, and you’ll see a list of all TV shows that you’ve saved, complete with thumbnail views. You can browse by genre, title, year and actors, and Kodi even helpfully shows you a list of your unwatched shows.
Kodi can view content from a variety of sources, whether files are stored locally or on a server
Select any thumbnail, and the related video will start to play automatically. You can use the playback controls in the bar at the bottom of the screen to control playback, and you can hit the ‘I’ icon to bring up more information about the video that’s currently playing.
Select the Music option in the main menu and then select any track, and Kodi will start playing It, moving on to the next track automatically. To get full playback controls, expand the main menu and click the pop-out button (a square with arrows pointing diagonally outwards). Here you can play, pause, skip and fast-forward your selection.
You can browse TV shows by genre, title, year and actor
Kodi gives you full playback controls for your music, which means you can skip all those Weezer tracks
Add music to a playlist
Go to the main menu and select Music, Playlists. Just browse through your library and right-click an item, then select Add to put it on your list. Use the Save option and give your playlist a name to save it for later.
Once you’ve added your photo folders, you can immediately start to view them from the Photos option in the main menu. There’s no smart organisation or sorting of photos, as Kodi just creates thumbnails and lets you browse them by folder. Just select Photos from the main menu and then choose the folder that you want to view, as well as any subfolders. You’ll see a list of thumbnail images to browse through. Just select any thumbnail image to view it full-screen.
When you’re in a folder, choose Options at the bottom of the screen (you can also press the left arrow until a menu appears). From this menu you can change the Viewtype. Infowall is our favourite: you see more thumbnails on screen, and selecting an image gives you more information, including the camera that was used and the location, if available.
View a slideshow
Kodi can automatically create a slideshow of your photos, too. From any folder, open up the Options menu and then select View slideshow. You can also open any photo to view it and tap the spacebar to jump into slideshow mode from that point.
View photos on a map
If you want to see where photos were taken, Kodi can do that, provided that the images still have embedded image locations. Open the Options menu and select View photos on a map. You’ll get a dialog box telling you that this requires an add-on to be installed, so select Yes.
Kodi will then automatically download the Maps Browser add-on and install it on your computer. After that, you can use the option to view a map, complete with red pins that show you where an image was taken. You can even search by location if you want to see all the photos that you took in a particular place.
The Maps Browser add-on shows where photos were taken
You can browse through thumbnails of your photos
Kodi can also create a slideshow of your favorite snaps