YOUR INITIAL KODI SETUP GUIDE
It’s time to get down to the difficult part: installing and setting up the software
1 INSTALL WINDOWS You need a full version of Windows on this rig for more compatibility later down the line, and there’s a few important steps to take into consideration. Use the Windows Media Tool [ Image A] to create a bootable USB stick with Windows 10, plug it into a USB port on your HTPC machine, enter the BIOS, and direct the boot order at the USB stick. Point the Windows installer at your main SSD drive, and begin the installation process.
There’s one important thing you need to remember during this HTPC install, and that’s to only create a local account, and one without a password. Remember: This is meant to be a home theater PC, a switch-it-on-and-go machine, as opposed to something more secure that contains potentially confidential information.
2 DOWNLOAD KODI So, you’ve installed Windows, your chipset is in, your video drivers are installed, and your system’s running sweet as a nut. Next step is to get the correct version of Kodi.
Head to https://kodi.tv/download and hit the “Windows” logo midway down. You’re offered three different versions: the recommended build (Kodi v17.6 “Krypton”); the pre-release (Kodi v18 “Leia” Alpha 2); and the dev build (Kodi v18 “Leia” Nightly). We’re using the recommended v17.6 variant for our install [ Image B]. There are huge differences between 17.6 and 18 on a basic level, and many add-ons that operate on v17 don’t work correctly on v18.
3 KODI FIRST RUN Now you’ve got your download, click on the .exe, and install Kodi direct to your C: drive. There are no hidden toolbars or bloatware embedded here (we’ve checked), as Kodi’s an opensource program, and is run directly by donations from the public.
Once you’ve got it installed, you’ll want to open up the program itself, and have a look around. At first glance, Kodi seems somewhat bland—a very simple and unsophisticated way of storing and accessing any media held on your system, without much flair. But don’t worry, we’ll sort that out shortly.
It’s a good idea in these early stages to take a look at the settings in depth. There’s a ton of customization options here, and a whole plethora of add-ons to get to grips with later down the line, so having a basic understanding of how the standard skin and its menus work is of paramount importance.
4 CHOOSE A SKIN It’s time to make this look a little better. We’re talking a complete makeover via a custom skin. Now, there’s an absolute cornucopia of skins out there for you to choose from, and a lot more from third parties, but the best way to find one is through Kodi’s in-app Skin browser. To find this, hit the cog wheel at the top of the app to enter the Settings menu, then go to “Interface Settings” (not “Skin Settings”), select “Skin,” then “Estuary,” and hit the “Get More” button. This should reveal a drop-down menu with a bunch of skins you can download and try out, all for free [ Image C].
Each skin is written by a different author, and as such, each one has different layouts and menus from the others, so it can become a little confusing later on. If you do want to return to the default skin, or change skins to something else entirely, always remember that the option to do that is within the “Interface Settings” section of every skin you come across.
5 THE GRID SKIN There’s a ton more skins online; in fact, by Googling “Kodi Skins,” you’ll likely come up with an army of third-party variants. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that not all of these are Kodi-approved, so approach them with caution. There’s also a lot of websites out there trying to cash in on VPN affiliate links. If any of them tells you that you need a VPN for a skin, ignore it; stick with the VPNs you know and trust if you do want one.
For our tutorial, we’re going with the Grid skin. There’s a couple of reasons for this: Firstly, we can edit the main menu hub items, so we can add, say, a Steam app launch button, or any other program add-on, for that matter, and
we can reshuffle the rest of them into an order that works for us. It’s also one of the better-looking skins out there. Its crisp, modern design keeps the whole system looking fresh, with little to no issue when it comes to ease of use.
6 BACK TO BASICS So, you’ve had a look and downloaded a few skins, found one you like, and installed it. Now what? Well, the next step is to go back to the original skin. Yep, head back to the Estuary skin, by going to “Interface Settings,” and changing your skin back to the default version. The reason we’re doing this is specifically for this tutorial, and for some consistency between menu settings and our guide. You can do most if not all of what we’re about to do in the custom skins anyway, but it’s far easier to do it in the default skin, and to explain that, because it has easier access to the menus.
First thing we’re going to do is add any movies we’ve obtained legally to our movie collection. To do this, go to the “Movies” tab on the main menu, then click “Add Videos”—this opens a source folder. You can now add a path for the folder with all of your movie files in. Hit “Browse,” and navigate to your film folder on your PC. Once you’ve found it, select the “OK” button, hit “OK” again, and Kodi asks you a few basic questions about that directory, before scanning the entire directory. Here you can tell it to rescan the path on Kodi startup, and let it know it whether the films are kept in additional folders, and then categorize the path, too.
7 EVERYTHING ELSE You can now do the same for every other subsection in Kodi, from TV to Music, Pictures, and Videos, if you so desire. It’s a smart way to condense all of your media into a single userfriendly interface, and it’s great for showing family and friends your holiday photos quickly and on the fly. There are options to add support for streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix later on (unfortunately, non-officially supported by Kodi), but we’ll cover that a little later.
If you don’t have any media in a certain subcategory, you can choose to hide the entire subsection. However, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t translate across different skins.
8 SUNSHINE SETTINGS Right, it’s time to set up the weather forecast. This one’s fairly simple to do: Head to the “Weather” section of the Kodi interface, hit the button that says “Set Weather Provider,” then choose which weather station you want for your forecasts (Yahoo! Weather is our go-to). Hit the “Enter Location” button, then type the name of the nearest city you can find to you.
Once that’s done, it should bring up all the weather forecast details for your area [ Image D]. Admittedly, it’s not necessarily useful for everyone, but in some skins, it does provide you with weather information permanently fixed to the main display as a scrolling widget, so it’s worth having, even if it’s just to finish off the skin.
9 INSTALL STEAM To get Steam working in Kodi, you first need to head back to the Windows desktop, and download and install Steam. Head to https://store.steampowered.com, and select the green “Install Steam” button at the top-right. Download Steam, and point it at your C: drive, regardless of where your game libraries are.
Once it’s installed, enter your details, set Steam to “Remember Me,” and log in to your account. Then you’ll want to change where Steam automatically installs your games. Ideally, you want them going to a drive with plenty of storage space. Click the “Steam” tab in the top-left of the window, then select “Settings” from the drop-down, and click on the “Downloads” tab. Hit the “Steam Library Folders” button at the top of the main window, then “Add Library Folder,” and create a new folder where you want to install your games. Right-click that new path, and set it as your “Default Library Folder.”
Now you can download the games you want on your HTPC [ Image E]. Local co-op titles and games with controller support are your best bet.
10 INSTALL THIRD-PARTY ADD-ONS There’s always an element of danger when it comes to installing third-party add-ons from repositories or zip files; while the majority are fine, some inevitably have malware embedded in them. We
recommend you always run an antivirus or antimalware scan on any downloaded third-party zip file before adding it to Kodi, and only download them from a reputable source, such as Github.
For our Steam launcher, you’re going to want to go to Github here ( http://bit.ly/teeedubb), and download the “script.steam. launcher-3.2.2.zip” file.
Once you’re back in Kodi, go to the “Add-ons” main hub, then click the unpacked box in the top-left menu, and click “Install From Zip File.” It’ll throw up a security warning asking about trusting third-party add-ons, which you’ll have to enable in settings, then you can point the path at the zip, and install the add-on directly into Kodi. A notification pops up at the top-right upon completion.
11 BACK TO GRID Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to get Steam working as a launchable submenu. To do this, go back to your “Interface Settings,” and dive into your skin of choice once more, which in our case is Grid.
Once it’s activated, head to “Skin Settings,” then “Menus,” then select the “Customize Home Menu and Widgets” link on the right [ Image F]. Click the “Add Shortcut” button on the top-right. This should add a link on the left that says “<NONE>.” Hover over that with your mouse, and you’ll see a little crosshair icon on the righthand side. Click that, select “Add-on,” then “Program,” and then select “Steam.” This creates a link to Steam’s Big Picture Mode on the main menu of your Kodi install. Note that this may be different, depending on the skin you’re using, but if you do swap between skins, rest assured that all your settings and configuration will be saved for you as soon as you come back.
12 MENU MANAGEMENT While you’re in this menu, it’s a good opportunity to hide any main segments you don’t want, and re-order your grid [ Image G]. To do this, use the three dots menu indication to the right of the crosshair icon. This should pop up another menu, which enables you to move each category down, rename the label, change what action Kodi takes upon clicking it, or delete the category entirely.
13 VPNS? Let’s talk about the big elephant in the room, then. If you’ve reached this far in our guide, you’ll have likely browsed the Internet in search of all manner of Kodi add-ons and skins. And you’ve probably found a fair few websites advocating different VPNs to keep you safe while you browse online.
Now, there is definitely an argument to be had about using VPNs if you’re privacy conscious, especially if you’re using third-party add-ons from non-Kodi-approved sources. Fortunately, things such as Steam operate directly through the Steam app—you log in outside of Kodi, and what the launcher does is just that: It launches the Steam desktop app in Big Picture Mode from the desktop, not technically through Kodi.
If you are looking for a VPN, however, there are two we recommend: ExpressVPN [ Image H] and Tunnelbear. Both are easy to use, fairly inexpensive (especially if you’re using them across multiple rigs), and trustworthy, in our eyes. Don’t worry, we’re not throwing a referral link at you, or anything along those lines.
14 THE PERFECT STARTUP So, you’ve got Kodi set up how you like it, your basic add-ons are installed, and your media is all in one place—now it’s time to streamline the initial boot procedure. And by that we mean auto Kodi startup. There’s a few ways you can do this: You can dig up an add-on that does it, or you could just pop a Kodi.exe file into the startup folder in Windows (the far easier solution).
To do this, go to your Windows desktop, hit the Start menu, and type “Run.” Open the Run desktop app, type “shell:startup” and press “OK.” This opens your Startup folder. If you enter a program.exe file into this location, Windows starts the program automatically upon login. It’s simply a case of finding the kodi.exe file (installed in “C:\ProgramFiles(x86)\Kodi”), and copying and pasting it into the Startup folder.
You can streamline this process further by hiding all your desktop icons, and setting your taskbar to show on mouseover. For the desktop icons, right-click anywhere on your desktop, hover over the “View” option on the dropdown menu, and uncheck “Show Desktop Icons.” For your taskbar, right-click it, hit the “Taskbar Settings” option at the bottom, and check the “Automatically Hide the Taskbar in Desktop Mode” option, and that’s it. You now have a super-slick, clean Kodi install on your new HTPC.