Confused about how to install OpenELEC on your streaming device? If so, don’t blame yourself. OpenELEC is awesome, but it’s hard to find good information about it on the web.

If you’ve already been to the official OpenELEC site, you may already seen this somewhat confusing note regarding OpenELEC compatibility. Official OpenELEC documentation is frustrating because it often isn’t very specific. There are many out-of-date articles and guides about OpenELEC floating around, as well.

To help close the knowledge gap, we’ve put together this handy OpenELEC resource. Read on for:

  • Detailed OpenELEC compatibility information
  • A simplified version of the official OpenELEC installation procedure
  • Advice about various OpenELEC-capable devices
  • Links for downloading the files needed to complete an OpenELEC installation

Before we Proceed

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What Is a Chipset?

According to the OpenELEC installation guide, OpenELEC is compatible with several different chipsets.

A device’s chipset is the system of instructions it uses to determine how information flows to and from the Central Processing Unit (CPU). Not all operating systems are compatible with all chipsets, so it’s important to know which type of chipset your device has before you attempt to install OpenELEC.

Identifying your streaming device’s chipset

If you already have a streaming device and you want to find out if it’s compatible with OpenELEC, there are 3 ways to find out what kind of chipset it has.

  1. Check the body of your device to see if you can find a model number. Once you’ve got that, you should be able to look up its chipset on the manufacturer’s website or via Google.
  2. You may also be able to find clues about your device’s hardware by looking through its settings menus.
  3. If you still have your device’s manual laying around, you should be able to find information about its chipset there as well.

OpenELEC compatible computers

The latest version of OpenELEC (OpenELEC 8) is compatible with 3 main types of devices:

  • “Generic” Intel/AMD computers
  • Raspberry Pi 1, 2 & 3
  • Freescale iMX6 devices

For beginners

When combined with the palm-sized streaming box known as Cubox, the iMX6 edition of OpenELEC provides a quick-and-easy OpenELEC solution for beginners. Cubox comes with OpenELEC pre-installed, plus it ships with an application that allows you to quickly switch to Android if you get bored of OpenELEC.

For geeks

The main downside of iMX6 is that it is only compatible with a very limited range of software. If you get an iMX6 machine, you’ll be limited to Android apps (if you switch from OpenELEC to Android) and media files. If you want more functionality you might want to consider getting a Raspberry Pi instead. With a Raspberry Pi, you can do all kinds of geeky stuff like build a robot, create a musical instrument, construct a time-lapse camera and more. Additionally, Raspberry Pi is a bit less expensive compared to Cubox.

For computer recyclers

With the generic Intel/AMD version of OpenELEC, you can turn your old computer into a streaming device. Even if your aging laptop or and PCs lacks the power needed to run the latest version of Windows, it likely still has enough muscle to play videos via OpenELEC. However, extra hardware (like an USB-to-HDMI adapter, for example) may be needed to connect your computer to your TV.

Cubox: The Best OpenELEC Box for Beginners

Even though the iMX6 chipset is a bit old (iMX8 is out now) there are several Freescale iMX6 compatible streaming boxes on the market. The most notable iMX6 box maker is Solidrun. Solidrun’s Cubox line of streaming boxes provides OpenELEC newbies with a great way to experience OpenELEC with a minimum of hassle.

Cubox

Solidrun’s Cubox-i and CuboxTV are popular among OpenELEC fans. Both devices are extremely small and can fit in the palm of your hand. Additionally, both Cubox-i and CuboxTV are compatible with Ignition – Solidrun’s operating system installer. Ignition allows you to easily download other operating systems in case you want to switch to Android or Linux.

CuboxTV is newer than Cubox-i and it comes with better features. With CuboxTV you get an improved processor, plus optional WiFi support. The premium version of CuboxTV can hold as much as 4GB of RAM and comes with memory card that contains a pre-installed version of OpenELEC.

Check out the video embedded below for more information about Cubox.

Raspberry Pi: The Best OpenELEC Hardware for Geeks

Even though Raspberry Pi is tailor-made to meet the needs of hobbyists and students, it is not complicated or hard to figure out. To get started, all you need to do is load OpenELEC onto an SD card (instructions provided below) then connect to a monitor, a power source and an input device – and you’re good to go.

The best Raspberry Pi for OpenELEC

Raspberry Pi 3 is by far the best Raspberry Pi for OpenELEC because it’s extremely inexpensive (it’s only $35) and has better specs compared to other Raspberry Pi models.

raspberry pi 3
Raspberry Pi 3 is cheap, yet powerful. Source: Amazon

With Raspberry Pi 3, you get a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, 802.11n wireless LAN, Bluetooth 4.1, microSD storage and a whopping 1GB of LPDDR2 RAM.

Raspberry Pi 2 is pretty much the same price, but its processor is slower and it doesn’t have as many extra features.

  • Note: Raspberry Pi Zero is good for certain projects because it’s small and consumes less energy compared to beefier Pi 3 and Pi 2, but it’s not ideal for running OpenELEC.

Installing OpenELEC on Raspberry Pi

A SDHC card. Source: SanDisk

It’s fairly easy to install OpenELEC to a Raspberry Pi device. Here’s how it’s done.

  • Note: The memory card has to be SDHC, because if it’s a different type of card you won’t be to format it properly.

Step 1: Format the card

Pop the card into your Mac or PC and format it using the FAT32 format.

Step 2: Transfer the OpenELEC image onto the card

Download the OpenELEC for Raspberry Pi image to your computer. Then, use some type of imaging tool to write the OpenELEC operating system to your SDHC card.

Step 3: Turn on your Raspberry Pi

Once you power up, you’ll boot into OpenELEC.

Related: Install Kodi on Raspberry Pi – Setup Kodi on Raspberry Pi

How to Turn Your Old PC Into a Streaming Device

The generic flavor of OpenELEC provides a way to get some extra usage out of that old computer that’s been sitting in your closet for several years. Even if your computer is out-of-date, it likely has better specifications than most modern streaming devices.

To see if your old computer is OpenELEC compatible, your best shot is to run OpenELEC from a live USB stick and see what happens. Live USB sticks give you a temporary way of testing out an operating system. If something goes wrong, just shut your computer down and restart it. Next time you turn it on, everything will be back to normal.

Step 1: Download the appropriate OpenELEC image

Go to the official OpenELEC website and download the generic build. If your computer can’t handle 64 bit programs, download the last compatible version (5.0.8) from the OpenELEC archive.

64 vs 32 bit

Some chipsets can process data in 64 bit “chunks,” but others can only handle 32 bits of information at one time. If your device can only run 32 bit operating systems, you’ll have to install an old version of OpenELEC – OpenELEC 5. The latest version (OpenELEC 8) only runs on 64 bit systems.

Step 2: Install OpenELEC to your USB stick

If you drag and drop the OpenELEC image file to your USB stick, you won’t be able to boot into OpenELEC. You need a special live USB stick creation tool to write the files to the USB drive.

  • Windows: Use this free USB imaging tool to create a bootable OpenELEC USB stick in Windows.
  • Mac: If you’re on macOS, we recommend that you use the Mac Linux USB Loader Tool from SevenBits. It costs $4.99, but it’s very simple and easy to use.

Step 3: Turn on your computer

You computer should detect your live USB stick and boot directly into OpenELEC.

If nothing happens, there could be a compatibility issue. If you tried to install the 64 bit version of OpenELEC, delete your live USB stick and build it again using the 32 bit version (OpenELEC 5.0.8).

Step 4: Connect your computer to your living room HDTV

Once you’ve got OpenELEC up and running, you’ll need to use a USB-to-HDMI adapter to connect it to your TV. There are many USB-to-HDMI adapters brands on the market, but they’re all pretty much the same.

Amazon Basics makes a nice quality, super inexpensive USB-to-HDMI adapter. It’s cheap compared to other USB-to-HDTV adapters because it only works in one direction (computer to TV) but that’s all the functionality you really need.

hdmi adapter
Source: Amazon

Once you’ve got a USB-to-HDMI adapter, just hook it up to your OpenELEC computer and attach the other end to your HDTV using a HDMI cable. Then, sit back and enjoy 1080p shows and movies on your living room TV set.

Related: Run a Kodi Operating System From Your USB Thumb Drive

Installing OpenELEC on AppleTV

If you’re an Apple fan, the fact that AppleTV is included on OpenELEC’s official hardware compatibility list may grab your interest.

It is technically possible to install OpenELEC on AppleTV. However, there are many caveats. One problem is that OpenELEC will only work if you have AppleTV 1 – the very first generation of AppleTV that came out way back in 2007.

Even if you do manage to get your hands on a vintage AppleTV via eBay, your attic or some other source, you’ll have to deal with this major issue: the latest official version of OpenELEC does not support first gen AppleTV’s ancient video card. 

Discontinued BCHD support means you’ll have to use modified, unofficial drivers if you install OpenELEC on AppleTV. Source: Kodi.wiki

Even if you have an old AppleTV sitting around, you’d actually be much better off installing OpenELEC to a different system. The original AppleTV’s Pentium M processor was already out-of-date back in 2007. Today, the first AppleTV’s hardware specs pale in comparison to the cheapest Android boxes available today.

How to install OpenELEC on AppleTV

In order to run OpenELEC on AppleTV, you’ll first need to download a special version of OpenELEC that was made especially for Apple 1 owners. The next step involves writing the image to the USB stick. Once you’ve got the live USB stick ready, you’ll need to tweak a few settings on your AppleTV before booting into OpenELEC.

Step 1: Download the image file

The two image files listed below are custom-made to work with AppleTV, but they aren’t official releases. Because fewer people are working on the AppleTV version of OpenELEC it isn’t updated as often. As a result, it may be buggier and have less features compared to the real thing.

We recommend that you choose the install to USB version of OpenELEC (OpenELEC-ATV.i386-6.0.1-usb.img.gz) and try out OpenELEC first before you install it permanently.

Step 2: Create your OpenELEC live USB stick

Step 3: Plug in your boot stick and load OpenELEC

After you have your live USB boot stick, the OpenELEC boot process works the same way as it does when running OpenELEC on a desktop or laptop PC. Just plug in the USB live stick and fire up your AppleTV to use OpenELEC instead of the default AppleTV operating system.

  • Note: The official OpenELEC installation guide recommends that you reset the AppleTV’s HDMI connection to “RGB High” or “RGB Low” before booting into OpenELEC. This option can be found in AppleTV’s Audio & Video settings sub-menu.
Adjusting AppleTV’s settings prior to booting OpenELEC. Source: wiki.openelec.tv

Also, be sure that your AppleTV is plugged into your home network before you turn it on. Once you’re ready to go, AppleTV will detect that a boot disk is attached to the USB slot and boot right into OpenELEC.

openelec appletv
Once you have your OpenELEC boot stick you can use it to run OpenELEC on AppleTV. Source: YouTube