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Build a killer home media center with a $35 Raspberry Pi

turn your raspberry pi into a media streamer aenter and streaming box
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends

If you’ve got a lot of movies saved on your computer, or you like to stream from Netflix or Amazon Prime, you probably know that watching on a full sized TV is better than your laptop screen. There are lots of ways to set up media streaming, but one of the easiest and cheapest is the Raspberry Pi, although it requires more work to set up. In the end you’ll have a highly configurable system for streaming your network content or accessing your favorite streaming services.

Choosing the right software

While Kodi is a popular option for DIY media streamers, support has fallen off for Raspberry Pi versions of the software as better hardware allows the Linux-based OpenElec to run better.

Before you get started with installation you’ll want to make sure you have everything else ready to go. In addition to a Rasperry Pi and power cable, you’ll need a Micro SD card, and while extra space is great, it only needs to be 1GB. You’ll also need to connect your Pi to the network, which you can do by attaching a compatible USB Wi-Fi adapter, but we prefer Ethernet for its ease of setup and more stable connection speed. It’s easier to use HDMI because it automatically carries audio with it, but you can also use an analog cable and a 3.5mm output. You don’t need it, but a wired USB keyboard will help the process go smoothly, especially if you have issues with network connectivity.

Make sure to back up any data you have stored on the SD card, as the process of installing OpenElec will wipe the card clean. The process varies a little based on your Operating System, but downloading and unpacking the image is the same.

We’re going to have to secure a copy of the OpenElec image. Very advanced users get some unique levels of control by building their own image, but the process is complicated and requires the user to be at least familiar with a Unix terminal environment. Instead, we can use the official site to download the latest version of OpenElec that’s been configured for Pi already.

RaspBiOpenElecImages

If you’re using an older model Raspberry Pi, download the stable Diskimage for the ARM11, if you’re using the new Raspberry Pi 2, use the ARMv7 stable Diskimage download. After you’ve downloaded the .zip file, make sure you put the extracted image into a easily accessible place, like the root of your hard drive.

For the remaining instructions continue to the next page for Windows or the following page for Mac OS X.

Next page: Windows Instructions

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