It’s time to get down to the dif­fi­cult part: in­stalling and set­ting up the soft­ware

Maximum PC - - HOME THEATER -

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 to­load 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.steam­pow­, 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 (­dubb), and down­load the “script.steam.” 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.

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