Kodi (formerly known as XBMC) is a great entertainment center software.
But, here’s the deal:
Like many other open source projects, it is driven by a very technical community, and it is not necessarily user-friendly enough for the average person to use and customize.
Fortunately, with a bit of time and the right skin, you can set things up properly and make Kodi (XBMC) very user-friendly and rock solid.
I have spent countless hours crawling forums and websites, trying to get the live TV setup, premium online content, automatic light control, and all the other settings right.
Note: These step-by-step instructions have been tested with Kodi v15, but they should also be compatible with v16 (codename Jarvis). I’m currently updating this post to include some new instructions for the Kodi v16.
In this extensive and updated guide, I will walk you through the relevant customization tips and tricks needed to take your Kodi installation to the next level.
Download the PDF version of this Kodi Guide.
Jump to any section of this post
This guide is written to be read from start to finish, but you can jump ahead using the links in the table of contents if you feel like you have the basics covered.
Install Kodi and Configure Basic Settings:
Configure Media Sharing Options:
- Set up a media library
- Enable AirPlay
- Add Netflix, Hulu, and other premium channels
- Change media library views
- Create custom playlists and filters
- Show movies as collections
Install Must Have Music, Video and Photo Add-ons:
- Watch videos with YouTube
- Access all music with Spotify
- Enjoy HiFi music with Tidal
- Turn your media library as an EPG with PseudoTV Live
- Improve your TV viewing experience with LazyTV add-on
- View photos with an Apple TV like screensaver
Watch and Record Live TV:
- Install PVR back-end software
- Enable PVR support (watch live TV on Kodi)
- Use HDHomeRun LiveTV add-on
Make Kodi Look More Beautiful:
Stream Content from Media Servers:
- Modify playback settings for better picture quality
- Dim your lights with the ambilight add-on
- Add user profiles to tailor settings
- Copy your Kodi settings to other devices
The latest Kodi 15, like its predecessor version 14, is mostly about minor improvements and cleaning up of the code, which means for us media center enthusiasts, some new features, a faster speed and a lot of bug fixes.
You will find that most of the instructions and the tips in this guide are also applicable to the previous Kodi 14 Helix and XBMC 13 Gotham.
I have tested all the steps included in this guide with the latest Kodi version 15, so this guide should save you a lot of time in configuring the system properly.
Reading the entire guide will take about 25 minutes.
So, let’s dive right in…
What is Kodi (was XBMC)
Kodi open source media center (formerly known as XBMC) was originally developed for the first-generation Xbox game console.
Today, it is available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android (now in the Google Play store) and iOS operating systems and many hardware platforms such as Raspberry Pi.
You can use Kodi to play movies, TV shows, home videos, PVR & live TV, music, pictures, and games.
In addition, Kodi has a huge list of add-ons for online content like YouTube and Spotify, as well as beautiful skins (themes).
New Kodi 15 (codename Isengard) features include:
Now that you know what Kodi is, let’s dive right in to install, configure and customize it.
You can download the latest Kodi v15 version from kodi.tv. If you have an older version of Kodi 14 Helix or XBMC 13 Gotham, you can simply install the new version over the old one. Your settings and media library should be preserved during an upgrade.
The Kodi Entertainment Center is a truly multi device platform, and it can be ran on many different hardware. Here are my popular installation guides for Windows, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and Android platforms.
|In this guide, you will learn how to start Kodi automatically
when Windows boots up and how to keep on focus.
|In this simple guide, I will show you the steps to install
Linux-based OpenELEC OS in less than 15 minutes.
|In this tutorial, you will learn how to build a lightweight HTPC
by installing Kodi on Raspberry Pi.
|In this guide to set up Android-based Ouya, I will show you
easy and advanced ways to set up Kodi on Android.
Configure Kodi settings
After installing the Kodi and launching it for the first time, it is good to perform these basic configuration steps.
Disable RSS feed
An RSS feed that scrolls at the bottom of the screen consumes a little computing performance and can be irritating over time, so I would recommend disabling it, unless you really need it.
|In the Kodi main menu, go to System > Settings.|
|Select the Appearance tab to configure appereance settings.|
|In the skin tab, scroll down and disable show RSS news feed.|
|Now, go back to the main menu by pressing the back key on the remote control or ESC-key on the keyboard.|
Change language and timezone
You may want to change the language of the user interface or select the formats for temperature, time, and date.
|Go to System > Settings > Appearance.|
|Select the second tab called International. Select Language to change it and then select Region.|
|Select the suitable region from the list.|
|Now, your system clock will show the correct time.|
With Kodi, you can change the traditional QWERTY to another international keyboard layout. You can change the keyboard layout from the International section of the Appearance tab and select Keyboard layouts.
Configure Weather settings
Next, let’s configure Weather settings for your location.
|Go to System > Settings > Weather.|
|Select “Service for Weather Information”.|
|Select “Get More…”|
|Select “Yahoo! Weather” add-on.|
|After installation is completed, go back to System > Settings > General > Service for weather information and select “Yahoo! Weather” from the list.|
|Next, in the General tab, select “Settings”.|
|In the location setup, choose the Location 1 and enter the name of the nearest town. Press “OK”, once you have located your city.|
Now, you will find Weather menu in the home screen.
How to enable audio if it is not working
It is fairly common that after a fresh install the audio is not working. This can be easily fixed by following these steps:
|Go to System > System > Audio output. Make sure that the “Settings level” at the bottom of the screen is set at least to “Standard” level.|
|Set the Audio output device to the output you are using.|
Set Up a Media Library
If you don’t have much content yet, you can download this free Big Buck Bunny short movie in various formats to test your system.
There are many ways to organize your media collection. For example, I am using a Network Attached Storage (NAS) where I have set the folder structure as follows:
In order to set up your media library, you will need to add sources to video, music, and photo menus.
|Go to videos in the home screen menu and select “Files”.|
|Select “Add Videos” and “Browse” in the add video source.|
|Browse to the folder where your media files are stored. If your files are located on a network attached storage, you will need to add the SMB or NFS share from the NAS server.|
|Rename the media source, if needed, and select “OK”.|
|In the set content window, you can set the type of media. Kodi will automatically scrape the movie, TV show, or music information after you have set up the media content.|
|If your movies are located in separate folders, enable “Movies are in separate folders that match the movie title”.|
|Confirm Yes in the Change content question.|
|Now, you can go back to main menu where you will find a new “Movies” menu with your recently added movies.|
If you wish to check for new media files on Kodi startup, go to System > Settings > Video > Library and enable “Update library on startup”. You can also select “Hide progress of library updates” if you do not wish to see the progress indicator everytime the library gets updated.
Airplay allows you to play music or video from your iPhone, iPad, and other iOS devices.
|First, go to the “Services” tab under the “System” menu. Then, navigate to the “Zeroconf” settings menu and enable “Announce these services to other systems” via zeroconf.|
|Next, go to Airplay and enable the “Allow Kodi to receive AirPlay content”.|
In order to play video or music, select the “AirPlay” icon in the lower-right corner of the application on your iOS device and choose your Kodi device from the list.
Add Netflix, Hulu, and Other Premium Channels
While there are free plugins to get online services working with Kodi such as NetfliXBMC, most of them are quite buggy and limited in terms of functionality. For example, the Netflix plugin only launches the Netflix website on a separate internet browser window.
The easiest way to add almost 60 channels of premium content to Kodi is with the PlayOn Media Server for Windows. With the PlayOn running, you can stream online shows and movies via an UPnP share to other Kodi powered computers (e.g. Raspberry Pi) on your home network.
In addition to streaming movies, PlayOn allows you to record your favorite shows from Netlix and other services and watch them anywhere, even offline.
I have written a complete tutorial on how to install and set up PlayOn Media Server, but below you will find the summary of the main configuration steps:
|In Kodi, go to “Videos” menu > “Files” and select “Add videos…”|
|In the Video source settings, browse for the media locations.|
|Select UPnP Devices and then “PlayOn” (your computer name) and then select “OK”.|
|Go to “Videos > Files > PlayOn (your computer name)” and start browsing through the list of media services.|
Once you have the PlayOn media server running on a Windows PC, you can watch Netflix, Hulu, etc. on Raspberry Pi and Linux PCs.
Change media library views
You can change the way you present the media library, if you do not like the default view in the movie, music, and photo library.
|Go to movie, music, or photo library.|
|Open the panel by pressing the left key to view options.|
|Click “View” to change the view to thumbnail, poster, fanart, and many other ways your media will be presented.|
|You can also change the way media is sorted by changing the “Sort by” option.|
Create Custom Playlists and Filters
Smart playlists are a little-known and used feature. The smart playlist allows you to filter, for example movies based on certain criteria. This can be used to create a custom playlist and menu for children’s movies or filter only HD movies from your media library.
As an example, let’s create a smart playlist for kids movies.
|Select videos and go back to root folder by clicking the “..”.|
|Select “New smart playlist…”|
|Select the type of the media, for example movie, and enter a title for the smart playlist, such as, “Kids Videos”.|
|Click “New rule…” and set the criteria for the filter. For example, I selected all movies where genre is equal to animation.|
|Select “OK” to save your new smart playlist.|
|Now you can see your new playlist in the file browser.|
|Here is an example of how my Kids Videos playlist looks like.|
Alternatively, you can use the Advanced Library Filtering which allows you to filter movies by title, genre, and much more. You can find the Filter option by pressing the left -key in the movie library and then selecting “Filter”.
Show movies as collections
If you have a collection of movies, such as a trilogy of movies, you can also show them as collection.
|Go to System > Settings > Video > Library. Enable “Group movies in sets”.|
|Go back to your movie library, and you will find that all sequels have been grouped as collections.|
Watch videos with YouTube
In order to get the most out of your HTPC, there are many apps that will add more functionality to the Kodi. In this list, you will find the top 10 most useful add-ons that will allow you to bring YouTube, Spotify, and many other online services to your media center.
You can install official add-ons such as YouTube by following these steps:
|Go to “System > Add-ons.|
|Go to “Install from repository > Kodi Add-on repository > Video Add-ons” to, for example, add YouTube add-ons.|
|Click on the add-on and select install to download it.|
|You can go back to videos menu, and you will find the new YouTube add-on under the Video Add-ons folder.|
There are also many other apps that are not available in the official Kodi repository.
Access all music with Spotify
You can install Spotimc add-on (download from here) for streaming online music from the Spotify by following these steps:
|Go to “System > Add-ons.|
|Select “Install from zip file”.|
|Browse the folder where you have stored the downloaded file. Select the zip file, and Kodi will automatically install Spotimc.|
|You can go back to music menu, and you will find the new Spotimc add-on under the Music Add-ons folder.|
Enjoy HiFi music with Tidal
If you prefer high fidelity music (even lossless format is available) and music videos, then I would suggest using Tidal instead of Spotify or other online music streaming services.
You can install Tidal from the official Kodi add-on repository.
|Go to “System” > “Add-ons” > “Install from repository” > “Kodi Add-on repository” > “Music Add-ons” > Select “Tidal”.|
|Select “Install” and Kodi will download and install this add-on. Now, you can go to “Music” > “Music Add-ons” > “Tidal”. Press “C-key” to access the context menu and select “Add-on settings”. Select the quality and then input your Tidal username and password.|
Now, you are ready to enjoy high fidelity music streaming with Tidal add-on.
Turn your media library as an EPG with PseudoTV Live
PseudoTV Live is a fantastic add-on that gives you the ability to define your own TV channels and watch all of your movies and TV shows just as you would watch normal cable. You can use the electronic program guide (EPG) to get inspired on what to watch next.
For example, you can use PlayLater to record TV shows and movies of Amazon and Netflix, and add them to your library and make channels on Kodi using PseudoTV Live.
According to my tests, the latest version of the Pseudo TV Live works fine with Kodi Helix edition. You can download here the PseudoTV Live add-on for Kodi.
|Go to “System > Add-ons and select “Install from zip file”. Browse the folder where you have stored the downloaded script.pseudotv.live-master.zip file. Select the zip file, and Kodi will automatically install PseudoTV.|
|Go back to Programs menu and launch the PseudoTV.|
|PseudoTV for to first time will prepopulate the EPG based on your media library. Press the ENTER-key to access the EPG.|
|Press the ESC-key to exit the PseudoTV. Customize the settings and categories by pressing the C-key on in the Programs menu and selecting Add-on settings. Select “Open Channel Configuration” to configure channel categories.|
Improve your TV viewing experience with LazyTV add-on
LazyTV is a great way to randomly discover what to watch next after finishing watching an episode of your favorite TV show.
Here are the steps to install and configure LazyTV add-on:
|Go to “System” > “Add-ons” > “Install from repository” > “Kodi Add-on repository” > “Program Add-ons” > Select “LazyTV”. Select “Install” and Kodi will download and install this add-on.|
|Now, you can go to “Programs” > “LazyTV”. Press “C-key” to access the context menu and select “Add-on settings”.|
|In the settings screen, you can set, for example, whether LazyTV will automatically produce a list of next episodes for each TV Series, or it will create and launch a randomized playlist.|
|Now, you can launch the LazyTV add-on and start watching proposed TV shows. Once a TV show is finished, the LazyTV will suggest the next episode for you to watch.|
View photos with an Apple TV like screensaver
I would recommend to check out a Multi Slideshow Screensaver add-on that allows you to view your family photos while listening to music. This add-on can be found from the official Kodi add-on repository.
|Go to System > Appearance > Screensaver and select Screensaver mode. Select “Get more…” and install Multi Slideshow Screensaver from the list.|
|Go back to System > Appearance > Screensaver and select Screensaver mode. Enable Multi Slideshow Screensaver from the list.|
|Below the Screensaver mode, select “Settings”. In the mode tab, change the screensaver to AppleTVLike. I would recommend to change the Image Concurrency to 4 or 5. Next, go to Image Source tab and set the source as Folder and locate the folder where you have stored the photos. Select “OK” to save settings.|
|Now, you can test the screensaver by selecting the Preview.|
Install PVR back-end software
There are many alternative ways to install a back-end PVR software. In addition to the back-end software, you will need a USB TV tuner or network attached TV tuner such as HDHomeRun.
I would recommend reading my advanced DVR guide for the ultimate TV experience which will show you in detail how to setup a back-end PVR hardware and software system.
There are several PVR back-end software, but here are the ones I have tested successfully with my reference HTPCs.
Enable PVR support (watch live TV on Kodi)
After you have built and configured the back-end server, it is time to configure the front-end server.
In general, the steps to set up different PVR clients are quite the same, so these steps should be applicable to most of the PVR clients.
|In Kodi, go to “Settings” > “Kodi” > “TV” > “Enable” the PVR features. Next, select your preferred software from the PVR client list. Click “Enable” start Argus TV client. You can also configure your TV server’s IP address if you use remote computer.
|Now, Kodi should start importing the EPG from clients. Go back to the main menu and choose live TV to start watching the video stream.
Use HDHomeRun LiveTV add-on
If you do not want to use a back-end server and you just want to stream live TV to your Kodi system, I would suggest using an HDHomeRun network-attached TV tuner.
You can install HDHomeRun app as follows.
|Go to “Settings” > “Add-ons” > “Install from repository” > “Kodi Add-on repository” > “Video Add-ons” > “HDHomeRun Live TV”.
|Select “Install” and Kodi will download and install this add-on. Now, you can go to “Videos” > “Video Add-ons” > “HDHomeRun Live TV” to watch TV streams.
|In order to add live TV to the home menu, go to “Settings” > “Appearance” > “Skin – Settings” > “Home – Customize Home Menu”. Scroll down to the “Live TV” and “Choose shortcut”. Select “Add-on” > “Video Add-on” > “HDHomeRun Live TV”. Select OK to save settings.
|Now, you can launch the Live TV shortcut to watch TV.|
Install a new skin (theme)
While the default Confluence skin has developed well in the past years, there are many beautiful Kodi (XBMC) skins, such as Arctic: Zephyr, Amber, Aeon Nox, Eminence and Mimic that will improve the overall look of your user interface.
I have listed the top 5 Kodi skins that you should try to find out which one fits to your preferences.
In this guide, I am using a skin called Mimic as an example that works very well on all different platforms, including Raspberry Pi.
Let’s go through the steps to install Mimic skin.
|Go to System > Appearance.|
|In the Skin tab, click “Skin” which shows Confluence.|
|Click “Get More…” to show the list of all available skins.|
|Select “Mimic” skin from the list.|
|Select “Install” to start downloading the skin.|
|Click “Yes” to change to the new skin once prompted.|
Customize your main menu
Are you watching YouTube videos or playing Spotify all the time? Why not to set up your favorite add-ons and folders into the main menu for quicker access.
In this example, I will show you how to add Spotify add-on to main menu using the Mimic skin.
|First, let’s add Spotimc add-on as a favourite. Go to Music > Music Add-ons and press the C-key to show the context menu. Select “Add to favourites”.|
|Go to System > Appearance > Skin – Settings > Setup the main menu and select the “Custom1” menu item.|
|Select “Default selection action” and choose “Spotimc” add-on from the favourite section. You can then edit the label e.g. to Spotify if you want.|
|Next, let’s modify the background for the Spotify menu item. Select “Set item background” and then “Set single image background”.|
|Now, locate the preferred image from your computer.|
|Go back to main menu, and the new Spotify menu item has been added with a custom background.|
Integrate with Plex Media Server
If you want to have an easy way to consume media files around your home, I would recommend to use Plex Media Server as a back-end. If you don’t have the Plex Media Server already running, you can follow this guide to set it up.
|Go to Settings > Kodi > Add-ons.|
|Select “Install from zip file” and locate the file
|Now, select “Install from repository” > “Plexbmc add-ons for Kodi” > Video Add-ons > Plexbmc.|
|Select “Install” to download and install Plexbmc.|
|To change the Plexbmc settings, go to Settings > Kodi > Plexbmc settings. You can change the settings such as selecting server or changing playback quality settings. Remember to add the myplex user name and password.|
|Now, you can go to Plex from the main menu under the Settings.|
Integrate with Emby (was MediaBrowser) Server
Emby Media Server is another great alternative to centrally manage all of your media files.
Emby organizes your media files so that it never takes more than a few clicks to find the latest movie or TV show. In addition, you can setup customized views of your library for each member of your family with the ability to pause and resume from different devices.
Emby has an add-on for Kodi (download it here) that brings you a super easy way to view your content.
I would suggest using Arctic: Zephyr skin with Emby add-on as it will look great and integrate media nicely into the media library.
|Go to “System > Add-ons and select “Install from zip file”. Browse the folder where you have stored the downloaded repository.emby.kodi-1.0.0.zip to install repository. Then, go to “Add-ons” > “Install from repository” > “Kodi Emby Addons” > “Program add-ons” > select “Emby”. Click install.|
|Once the installation is complete, you can go to add-on settings to change your media server’s IP address if needed. Now, all media content from Emby will be integrated with Kodi’s media library.|
Integrate Steam Big Picture with Kodi
If you want to play games on Windows-based HTPC, you can integrate Steam Big Picture with the Kodi main menu using a Steam Launcher add-on. I have written a complete guide to build your gaming HTPC, but here is the summary of the main steps.
You will need to download the following software:
After downloading and installing Steam, let’s continue to download and install the Steam Launcher add-on.
|In Kodi, go to System > Add-ons > Install from ZIP file and install script.steam.launcher-3.1.1.zip|
|Go back to home menu and select the Programs (Apps in Mimic skin) menu. Press the C-key over Steam to enter add-on settings in the context menu.|
|Set the Kodi and Steam location under Windows. Save Steam Launcher settings.|
|Now, you are ready to launch Steam for the first time.|
Modify playback settings for better picture quality
If you are using a custom HTPC running, for example, a dual-core Intel Core i3 processor, you can use software acceleration and enable video post processing to improve picture quality.
|Go to “System” and set the “Settings level” to “Advanced” or “Expert”. Then, continue to “Video” > “Acceleration” and set the “Render method” as “Software”. Then, uncheck the “Allow hardware acceleration”.
|Next, play a video file and press “Enter” key to open the on-screen menu. Then, open the “Video Settings” menu (a film reel icon). Scroll down and enable “Post-processing”. Finally, continue scrolling and select “Set as default for all videos” to save the settings.
If you want to maximize picture quality, you should use Kodi with DSPlayer, which is a DirectShow-based media player for Kodi. You will need to download a separate DSPlayer Kodi release, which has full integration with MadVR video render and which is also compatible with custom DirectShow filters such as LAV Filters, Xy-SubFilter, and Haali Media Splitter.
Here, you can learn more about how to setup Kodi DSPlayer with LAV Filters, MadVR, and other advanced stuff.
I have always found MadVR and other codes quite complicated to set up, so I would recommend taking DSPlayer route only if you are ready for more advanced tinkering.
Dim your lights with the ambilight add-on
You can also control your lights with Kodi. I’m using Philips Hue lights to create my own Ambilight TV with Kodi.
The add-on is called XBMC Hue Ambilight that allows you to dim lights when a movie starts and put lights back on when the movie stops, or you press the pause button. Furthermore, you can use the Ambilight add-on to find average colours on the movie and use lights behind your TV.
According to my tests, Philips Hue works very nicely with the XBMC Hue Ambilight add-on. When I press play button, it will automatically dim other lights in my living room and start the ambilight behind the TV.
What you’ll need:
- Philips Hue Starter Pack (buy from Amazon.com).
- XBMC add-on script.module.requests (download from Github)
- XBMC Hue Ambilight add-on (download from Github)
Installing Philips Hue is very simple. First, screw in your hue bulbs and turn on your light switches. Then, plug in the hue bridge and connect to your Wi-Fi router.
Now, let’s continue configuring Kodi with the Hue Ambilight add-on.
|Download the XBMC add-on script.module.requests add-on. In Kodi, go to System > Add-ons > Install from zip file. Select the script.module.requests-master.zip file.|
|Download XBMC Hue Ambilight add-on. Go to System > Add-ons > Install from zip file. Select the script.xbmc.hue.ambilight-master.zip file.|
|Restart Kodi and go to System > Add-ons > Enabled add-ons -> Services -> XBMC Philips Hue.|
|Select “Click me for automatic configuration”. Save configuration by selecting the OK button.|
Add user profiles to tailor settings
Do you want to keep your kids’ programs separate or does your partner prefer different view settings?
You can easily create new Kodi profiles so that you can tailor settings and user interfaces according to each user’s needs.
Here’s how to do it:
|Go to “Profiles” sub-menu under the “System” home menu.|
|Enable “Login screen” under the Login tab.|
|Go to “Profiles” and select “Add profile..”. Next, you can type a new profile name and choose a profile picture. Click OK and then choose whether you want to copy default settings and sources or start fresh.|
|Next time you start up Kodi, you will be prompted by the login screen to select your Kodi user profile to login and continue.|
Copy your Kodi settings to other devices
Now that you have spent quite a bit of time configuring Kodi, I will show you how to backup your settings and restore them on another Kodi device.
|Go to “System” > “Add-ons” > “Install from repository” > “Kodi Add-on repository” > “Program add-ons” > select “Backup”. Click install.|
|Next, go to “Programs” and launch “Backup” add-on. Choose “Open Settings”.|
|In the “General” settings, type the remote path where Kodi settings will be copied. Then in the “File Selection” choose what data you wish to be copied.|
|Finally, launch Backup add-on again and choose “Backup” to copy settings to the remote path.|
In order to restore your settings to a new Kodi device, simply install Backup add-on to the new device. Then, copy files to be restored to the new device and select “Restore” in the Backup app.
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope you have found this comprehensive Kodi guide useful and that you learned some new tricks.
Now, it’s time to put these customization tips into practice to delight and amaze your family and friends.
The first step?
Don’t have a HTPC yet, but would be interested in trying out the Kodi 15 Isengard?
You should check out my tested and proven reference HTPC builds to learn how to build your own.