7 Awesome Media Center Linux Distros For Your HTPC

By | May 5, 2022

Since Microsoft left Windows Media Center Edition, home theater PC (HTPC) builders have turned to Linux. While proprietary options are available, the best solution is to rely on Linux for your media center OS.

Looking for a Linux media center, or an alternative to the abandoned Kodubuntu? Try this open source HTPC operating system.

7 Linux Media Center Kodubuntu Alternatives

The Linux scene is an ever-changing, evolving environment with new development teams releasing new distros every week, while others are shutting down. For example, Kodibuntu is a big name in the Linux media center arena, but it’s a dying project.

It’s time for you to move on to something new.

We’re not just talking about desktop and server operating systems. A Linux-based media center distribution, with media playback and library management tools, is also launched, updated.

We have compiled the following list of Linux media center distros:

  • GeeXboX
  • OpenELEC
  • LibreELEC
  • Recalbox
  • LinuxMCE
  • HES Line
  • DIY with Kodi

Let’s look at each in turn.

GeeXboX is a complete Linux media center operating system, a lightweight distro available for desktops and embedded devices. With a small footprint, you can run it directly from a flash drive or install it the traditional way.

The latest version, 3.1, only ISO 160 MB. As a result, GeeXboX makes the perfect distro for booting from a USB drive or installing on older hardware. GeeXboX is based on Kodi, so you will see a familiar user interface.

Originally built to run XBMC, OpenELEC (Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) has been around for a few years now, and has evolved to run Kodi. All you need to do is install the downloaded file on an empty hard disk partition. Once done, your Linux HTPC system will be running Kodi.

With access to the complete library of Kodi add-ons, you can configure your Linux media center exactly how you want it. Need to stream videos from a Netflix account? Install the add-on and you can. Want access to your favorite podcasts via TV? They are available through Kodi, either as individual add-ons or via a podcast player.

Kodi even has live TV and DVR, giving you a full media center experience.

Like OpenELEC, LibreELEC is a Linux operating system designed to run Kodi as the main user interface. With versions for both 32-bit and 64-bit PCs, the benefit of this option is that it is easier to install.

Instead of downloading disk images, LibreELEC comes with a USB/SD card writing tool. It guides the creation of installation media on a USB or SD card, resulting in an easy installation.

Once installed, you will find the Kodi media center software ready to use. All the usual Kodi add-ons can be included to customize your experience.

LibreELEC and OpenELEC are also available for the Raspberry Pi.

Want to combine retro gaming with your Linux HTPC? Recalbox, a combination of EmulationStation and Kodi frontends, is the perfect choice. Originally created for the Raspberry Pi, it is a Linux-based operating system that can also be installed on both 32-bit and 64-bit PCs.

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By default, Recalbox boots into EmulationStation, but it can be set to boot first into Kodi.

Combining Kodi and retro games on the same platform is a smart move. Connect a retro game controller to your computer for the best gaming and media experience.

LinuxMCE is a Linux media center hub with a touch of automation. In addition to the organization of media metadata (found in other releases such as Kodi), there is a responsibility for streaming and automation. You can listen and view content in multiple rooms, control audio and video equipment, and play retro games.

Want to have a smart home, not just a media hub? LinuxMCE monitors sensors and security cameras, connects to lighting and climate control, and more. It can even function as a VoIP and network management hub.

Therefore, this added smart home feature positions LinuxMCE as a great alternative to pricier proprietary devices with home automation.

If any of that sounds more than you need, don’t worry — you can easily ignore these functions. Instead, kick back and watch some movies, or even play some retro games! LinuxMCE includes the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) for classic arcade games, and the Multiple Emulator Super System (MESS) for home video systems.

LinHES stands for Linux Home Entertainment System and offers a 20-minute HTPC setup. Highlights include full DVR, DVD playback, music jukebox, and metadata support. You’ll also enjoy full video information, fan art, games, and access to your image library.

Like the upgraded Mythbuntu, LinHES is an upgraded HTPC. Since LinHES is centered on MythTV’s DVR capabilities, it’s a bit more suitable for non-DVR users.

On the downside, LinHES has a flashy blue user interface by default, which might turn some users off. Dig deep, and you’ll find a capable Linux media center.

Your Own Linux HTPC With Kodi

If you already have the Linux operating system installed on your intended HTPC, you probably don’t need to do much more. Instead of undoing your hard work so far, you might choose to just install Kodi.

Available from kodi.tv/download, you can install a popular media center environment in minutes. With a variety of legal Kodi addons available, you can install YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, even Plex on your Linux HTPC.

The best operating system for Kodi is Ubuntu for complete driver support and media playback. However, you may find the Linux media center OS of choice differently, dictated by personal preference and hardware.

With these seven powerful distro options for the media center, it makes sense to find a Linux distro that fits your needs. Whether it’s an HTPC, media center, or live Kodi distro, you’ll find your solution in this list.

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