How To: Installing XBMC using OpenELEC on the Raspberry Pi

How To: Installing XBMC using OpenELEC on the Raspberry Pi


Considering purchasing a Raspberry Pi? At around $35, it is quite an exceptional value for a device that can be used for a lot of general computing tasks. So what exactly CAN you do with the Raspberry Pi? Honestly, it really depends on how much work you are willing to put into it and how wide your imagination extends.

If you want to do something simple yet quite fun, the Raspberry Pi can easily transform into a very capable media center device using the XBMC video player.

How well does the Pi work as a media playing device? Considering it is only a 700MHz processor with 256MB of RAM– not bad at all. It might run even better if I overclocked it, but I haven’t messed around with that yet.

The only downside to the Raspberry Pi is that it is in such high demand that you will probably wait a few months after purchasing before it actually ships to you.

If you have your Pi now and want to see how it works as a media center, follow the instructions I’ve listed below.

I’ve posted a short video that shows Raspberry Pi running XBMC, I apologize if the video is a bit bright but it at least gives you an idea of what to expect if you want to use the Pi as a media center device.

Getting Started

There are several ways to go about getting XBMC up and running. What I’m going to do is use something called openElec. This basically is a simple installation of XBMC that takes under a minute to boot.

Alright, so what do you need to get started? Let’s talk about hardware and components, first:

  • HDMI or AV cable
  • SD Card
  • micro-USB charger
  • a Rasberry Pi
  • USB keyboard and mouse
  • (optional) a media center remote

Alright once you get all the hardware together we’re ready to start downloading the necessary files. Here is what you’ll need:

Formatting the Memory Card

Once you’ve downloaded the SD Formatter program, install it and start it up. You’ll see an option to choose your device– make sure you have the right card chosen. Next you’ll press ‘format’. You’re now ready for the direct installation of openELEC.

Installing OpenELEC

Remember the Win32 Disk Imager I had you download? Now it’s time to install it and run it. You’ll see an area where it asks for the image file. You’ll want to navigate the folder that you downloaded OpenELEC to.

Once you’ve selected it, press “WRITE”. It will load up and that’s basically it. You now have your SD card ready for the Rasbperry Pi.

Additional Media Files and Add-Ons

This gives you a stock experience of XBMC running through OpenElec. Now it is up to you to expand its capabilities. You can hook the Pi up to your network through Ethernet or a compatible Wi-Fi card to get full access to your media files.

This will also give you access to the “Add-On” option inside of XBMC.

Want to bring your local media files directly to the device? You can add files to the memory card or in my case I brought along a Flash Stick that had extra movies right on it. XBMC easily can connect with external HDD as well. If you want to use the Raspberry Pi as a permanent media center, you’ll probably want to add on a case as well.