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How to Setup Kodi the Right Way: The Ultimate Guide 2019


Staff member
Jul 9, 2019
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If you’re starting from scratch, you can read this guide from start to finish and end up with a complete installation.
Keep in mind, though, that no matter what Kodi setup guide you read, you’re always going to have to tweak it a bit to your own needs.
Kodi works on lots of different hardware, and has so many options and settings to change, that there’s just no way to account for all of them. But, if you follow this guide along with me, you’ll be well on your way.
Oh…and don’t worry about making any mistakes along the way. You can always reset Kodi and start with a clean slate if you mess up.

Information you (may) want to know
I mentioned earlier that Kodi works on many different systems: Android, Linux, Windows, and Mac to name a few.

To make writing this Kodi setup guide easier, it was written using screenshots from my Windows 10 PC.

But don’t worry, the interface is almost identical from system to system, so if you’re familiar with Kodi on Windows, you’ll be able to use the Android or Linux versions just fine.
I’ve only covered (for now) information that is available in the stock version of Kodi. I don’t cover any tweaks that individual manufacturers have done to their Kodi\XBMC versions, nor do I look at installing add-ons from third party developers that aren’t in the Official Kodi Repository.
Articles about third-party addons could fill an entire library and I have to draw the line somewhere.
Finally, if you’re using XBMC, then you can still use much of this guide. Kodi is the new name for XBMC (see What is Kodi below). So if you’re looking for something to teach you how to use XBMC, you’re still in the right place.

What is Kodi?

Kodi, which used to be called XBMC, is an open source media center which grew from a amateur project to play content on the original Xbox. If you’re good with acronyms, you’ve probably already figured out that XBMC originally stood for XBox Media Center.
It is designed to be used from your living room couch, so you’ll often hear that Kodi has a “10 foot user interface.” It allows users to play almost any file format for video, music, podcasts and pictures on your TV, no matter where you store them.
If you’re wondering what’s in a name, Kodi versions have usually been named after popular sci-fi, comic book, or generally geeky references:
    • XBMC v8.10 Atlantis (2008) – (Stargate)
    • XBMC v9.04 Babylon (2009) – (Babylon 5)
    • XBMC v9.11 Camelot (2009) – (King Arthur mythos)
    • XBMC v10.0 Dharma (2010) – (Lost)
    • XBMC v11.0 Eden (2012) – (Garden of…)
    • XBMC v12.0 Frodo (2013) – (Lord of the Rings)
    • XBMC v13.0 Gotham (2014) – (Batman – and my personal favourite)
    • Kodi v14.0 Helix (2014) – (Helix TV show)
    • Kodi v15.0 Isengard (2015) – (Tolkien)
    • Kodi v16.0 Jarvis (2016) – (Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence)
    • Kodi v17.0 Krypton (2017) – (Superman’s home world)
    • Kodi v18.0 Leia (2018) – (Star Wars)
Download & setup Kodi
Depending on what device you’re using, you’ve got several different options on how to install Kodi. No matter what, you can always find all of the latest versions on the official Kodi download page at: https://kodi.tv/download/ (shown below).
Android users can install Kodi directly from the Google Play Store if it’s available on your device, or side-load the android app using the latest APK.
Download and install Kodi

For those of you that may not know what that is, sideloading an app is when the app is not available on an app store like Google Play Store, or the Amazon App Store. When that happens, you download the APK (Android Application PacKage) which will help you setup Kodi manually.

If you choose to go the manual route and sideload it, be sure that you’re using the correct version. Since Android can run on both ARM and Intel processors, there is a different version of Kodi for each CPU architecture.
Since Kodi is available in the Google Play Store now, you probably won’t have to sideload it on any Android device you have.

How to use Kodi \ XBMC
Since this is your first time setting up and installing Kodi, I’ll touch briefly on how to navigate around the Kodi user interface, or UI.
Remember when I said earlier that you’ll hear the words “10 foot user interface” quite a lot? Here’s what that means.
The older versions of Kodi had their main controls laid out in a ‘ribbon’ along the center of the screen, and were configurable to a certain extent. Kodi 17 introduced a new skin (or theme) that aligned everything along the left hand side of the screen to match Netflix and Plex.
The main menu includes these categories by default: Videos, Movies, TV Shows, Music, Music Videos, TV, Radio, Pictures, Add-ons and Weather. (whew. Try saying that in one breath)
Depending on the skin, you can sometimes add extra categories or hide unused ones.

Context menu.
The Context menu will provide extra functionality depending on what screen you’re on when you click it. For example, in the image on the left I brought up the contextual menu for a movie – Wonder Woman. Here, the context menu gives us the option play the video, mark it as watched or pull up additional information on the movie.
In other screens, the options you see may be different, depending on what makes sense for that media type.
To pull up the Context menu, it depends on what type of device you’re using Kodi on:
  • Android: Long Press
  • Mouse: right-click
  • Keyboard: ‘C’
  • Amazon Fire TV: Menu button
  • NVIDIA Shield controller: ‘X’ button
Kodi Setup Guide: Video library
One of the most important steps in setting up Kodi is creating your media library. Let’s start by adding videos to your library. If you haven’t ripped your movie collection to your hard drive, you’ll need to do that first. Check out my tutorial on DVD and Blu-ray ripping with MakeMKV.
Before you start just adding every file on your hard drive, there’s some work you need to do first.
Kodi expects the media files to follow a certain format, and that format is different if the file is a movie or a TV show. If the filename isn’t listed correctly, then Kodi may not be able to tell what it is.
Why does that matter? Well, Kodi uses a process called scraping to pull data from the file. If Kodi isn’t able to scrape correctly the file then it may do one of two things: It may ignore the file and skip over it when creating your library, or worse, it could mistake the file for a completely different movie.
You should probably put some thought into how your library is organized, but that is a longer topic than I have room for here. But if you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll make it easier for Kodi to figure out what’s in your library.
How to organize your media library
There are two common ways to organize your media folder:
  • One folder containing all of your media files
  • Each movie or TV series in it’s own folder
It’s your choice how you want to organize your media library. There are pros and cons to each method, and that’s a topic for another article. But I will offer this piece of advice. If you have a larger library, it will be easier to manage if each movie is in it’s own separate directory.
How to name Movies
If you choose to use subfolders, movie folder names should include only the title and\or the year. Tip: To improve the scraper’s performance, add the year within parenthesis to the end of the foldername, or filename.
\Movies\Avatar (2009)\somefilename.mkv
\Movies\The Usual Suspects (1995)\somefilename.avi

How to name TV Shows
If you’d prefer to have one folder for all of your media files, you would include the same information in the same order, but you would change the filename, rather than the folder name.

\TV Shows\Random\Season 1\Random.S01E01 – Storm Area 51 ;).mkv
\TV Shows\Random\Season 1\S01E01 AlienWarfare.avi

How to add movies to your library

Kodi uses the same general process to add Movies, Music or Pictures to your media library. There are differences, of course, but the three processes will all start out the same.
Just in case you’ve skipped to this section and plan on ignoring the Adding Music or Adding Pictures sections, you’ll see much of the same information repeated. It’s worth reading each topic, though, because there will be some specific information for each section that won’t be included in the other two.

Start by scrolling down to Movies on the menu. Once you’re there, click the button that says Enter Files Section. If you don’t have anything in your library, it will take you directly to the screen below.

If know the path of your media server, you can take a shortcut and enter it directly in the box here. I’m going to assume that you don’t have that memorized, or even written down someplace safe. In that case, you’ll need to Browse for it.
Depending on how your media server is set up you’ll have a couple of different options here.
Kodi doesn’t care if you’ve got your media files on your Windows PC that you’re networking to, a dedicated Network Accessible Storage (NAS) device, or simply an external hard drive that has one folder with hundreds of movies on it. Kodi will figure it out.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you’ve already set up your server how you like it. The most popular option for home servers is some sort of Windows Network (SMB), so that will be the one we discuss here. You’ll also have the option to add files from an external storage device, usually a flash drive or external hard drive. Another popular option us via UPnP (Universal Plug and Play). There are some inherent security risks with UPnP, so I don’t recommend it if at all possible.

My network devices are named after characters, places or things in movies. In this case, they’re characters from Big Hero 6. No judging, please.
Since I’ve already added some shares, you’ll see my external NAS listed here, along with some subfolders. If your storage device doesn’t populate, you can click “Add Network Location” at the bottom of the list.

In this case I’m adding the “Video Samples” folder which is inside the “Videos” shared folder.

The way my files are set up, this is as far down into the file structure as I want to go. Each sub-folder underneath here is a different video title. As you’ll see later, there are multiple versions of the videos in each folder, so there will be some duplication.
A good rule of thumb is to go as deep into your folder structure as you can, but not too far that you lose videos. Remember, Kodi can see in the current folder and any sub-folders below. It won’t look in the folders higher than whatever folder you’re in.
Once you’ve decided on your folder, click OK.

That will take you back to the Add Video Source window and add the file path to your media server in the box.
By default, Kodi will choose the folder name as the name for the share, but you can change the name of the share in the Enter a Name for the Media Source box.

Once you’ve chosen the folder, the next step is to tell Kodi what type of files are in the folder and to set some options for the Scraper.
This window is split into three parts. In the upper-left section, there’s a dropdown box titled This directory contains. The options here are:
  • Music Videos
  • Movies
  • TV Shows
  • None

Once you make a selection, you’ll have one or more options in the Choose a scraper section in the upper-right.
In this example, I’m adding a folder of movies so I’ve selected that from the drop-down box. Because of that choice, there are some Content Scanning Options in the bottom half of the window.
Remember when you set up your media library in the How to Name Moviessection? Here’s where that choice is going to come into play.
Under the Content Scanning Options header, the first option is whether or not Movies are in a separate folder that match the movie title. If your files are all in the same folder, leave this unchecked. If instead you have your movies in separate folders, make sure this option is checked.
The second option to Scan recursively is one I always check. This will force Kodi to look in any sub-folders for new files.

Depending on what scraper you use, there may be additional options listed under the Settings button at the bottom. These options determine whether or not Kodi will keep the original title, enable Fanart, trailers, or where to get ratings from. Click OK when you’ve made any changes.
The final step is for Kodi to start scanning your new folder share and adding the videos to the library.
Thankfully, Kodi will let you move on to do other things while the scanning process does it’s thing. The only status bar you’ll see is in the very upper right hand portion of the screen. Be warned: if you’ve got a rather large library, this process could take a long time. But, once it’s done….

Your individual titles will have a full-color background image, a poster-art and some basic information such as resolution for each video, depending on what options you’ve chosen and what skin you’re using.
And back on the main Kodi home window, you’ll see thumbnail views of the last five movies you’ve added to your library above the center menu ribbon. In theory, if you’re consistently adding videos to your library, these will be the files that you’ll want to watch first.
There are a lot more tweaks and settings to help you get the most out of your videos, but let’s look at adding some music to Kodi next.

How to setup Kodi: Music library

Adding music to your library is the second big part of your Kodi setup. As of Kodi 16 Jarvis, it now follows a similar process as adding videos above, but that wasn’t always the case.

New Music Library
Prior to Kodi 16, there was a definite difference between how you used the Music Library and the Video Library. For some odd reason, scanning files into your Music Library was a two-step process, unlike the automatic scanning available in the Video Library. You actually had to manually pull up the context menu and select Scan to Library.
Now the system will ask you if you want to scan all the files in the folder immediately after you add a new source – just like it does for the Video Library.
Advantages to the Music Library
Kodi first announced the new Music Library in December 2015 on a blog post on Kodi.tv. They listed quite a few enhancements which I’ve highlighted below.
  • A consistent looking library view just like for Movies and TV Shows
  • Searching your music files is now enabled
  • Library splits up the music in sections: Genres, Artists, Albums, Singles, All songs, Years, Top 100 (based on your playback), Recently added/played albums, Compilations
  • Ability to use Smart Playlists to further filter
  • Rate your music and filter based on that rating
  • Share music over you home-network provided that the clients support UPnP
  • Scan for additional information like artist biography or album review/synopsis using the Context menu in album or artist library
  • This can be enabled by default in Settings -> Music -> Library -> Fetch additional information during updates
Tagging Music in Kodi
In the Video section I mentioned that Kodi needed files to be in a very specific format in order for the scrapers to figure out what the files were. The same holds true for your Music Library.
Unlike Videos and TV shows, Kodi doesn’t look at the file names themselves, it looks at the ID tags embedded in the file.