Run a Kodi Operating System From Your USB Thumb Drive

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kodi thumbdrive

The average “fully loaded” Kodi box sells for about $150 USD.  But why buy from a dealer if you can make one yourself?  If you have a decent thumb drive, you already have all the equipment you need to convert any computer into a DIY Kodi box.

Kodi Based Operating Systems Are Super Fast

Mac OS, Windows and other heavy duty operating systems are notorious resource hogs.  The more you use your operating system, the more it tends to slow down and fill up with files you don’t need.

If you make a bootable USB stick using KodiBuntu or OpenElec, you’ll enjoy speedy, lag-free performance again.  All you need to do is plug in your thumb drive and restart your computer.   Best of all, you don’t even have to delete your main operating system.

Can I boot my Kodi live USB via my TV’s USB port?

No.  You might be able to see the files that you stored to your USB stick, but you won’t be able to boot directly into KodiBuntu or OpenElec using a smart TV.

So then, why bother?

As mentioned above, Kodi operating systems are super fast.  If you’re a performance fiend, it’s worth it to boot directly into a Kodi OS when you want to watch TV for free.  Plus, if you install directly to a Kodi live USB you can carry your Kodi entertainment system around with you wherever you go.

KodiBuntu vs. OpenElec

There are two main Kodi based operating systems: KodiBuntu and OpenElec.  Here are a few facts you should know about them.

  1.  They are both pretty much the same.  Both KodiBuntu and OpenElec are totally free and equally easy to set up.  Also, they are both based on linux– a free open source operating system.
  2. OpenElec is slightly faster.  Both KodiBuntu and OpenElec are quick.  However, the OpenElec operating system is built for speed from the ground up.  The creators of OpenElec specifically designed the operating system to consume the minimum amount of resources necessary to run Kodi.
  3. KodiBuntu is easier to modify and tweak.  OpenElec runs Kodi and Kodi addons… and that’s about it.  But with KodiBuntu, you can close Kodi and access a bare bones linux desktop.  From there you can open up the terminal and use the apt-get command to install additional linux programs if you want.

The Live USB option

A live USB stick is a USB flash drive that contains a complete operating system.  Both KodiBuntu and OpenElec are small enough to fit on an USB thumb drive.  If you install to USB, you can pop in your USB when you want to use your Kodi operating system and pop it out when you want to use Windows or Mac OS.

Modern USB 3.0 compatible thumb drives are super cheap and just as fast as hard drives.  But before you run out and buy a USB 3.0 compatible thumb drive, be sure that your computer has a USB 3.0 port.

Pros

  • You don’t have to configure dual booting or delete any files if you install to a USB.
  • Performance will be just as fast or even faster compared to a hard drive installation if you’ve got a USB 3.0 port and a USB 3.0 thumb drive.

Cons

  • If your computer doesn’t have a USB 3.0 port, performance will be very slow.

Download the ISO file

The first thing you need to do if you want to install Kodibuntu or OpenElec is download the most recent ISO file for whichever OS you want to install.

An ISO image is a digital copy of a DVD or CD.  If you have an ISO file and an ISO player, you can install an operating system without having to mess around with DVDs or CDs.

32 bit vs 64 bit operating systems

Both KodiBuntu and OpenElec come in 64 bit and 32 bit flavors.  The 64 bit versions run a bit faster, but you’ll need to have 64 bit compatible hardware to run them.  If your computer was built before 2010, it may or may not be 64 bit compatible.  But if your computer is less than 5 years old, get the 64 bit version.

Nothing bad will happen if you try to install a 64 bit Kodi OS on a 32 bit machine– you just won’t be able to complete the installation.   But to avoid wasting time, Google your computer’s model number to find out if it can handle 64 bit operating systems first before you proceed.

Click here to get the latest KodiBuntu ISO and here to get the newest edition of OpenElec.

How to create a KodiBuntu live USB stick

Windows

If you’ve got Windows, creating a bootable KodiBuntu USB stick is easy.  All you need to do is download the KodiBuntu ISO and Linux Live USB Creator.

The first few minutes of the excellent video below shows you what KodiBuntu looks like.  The second half (starting around 2:38) walks you through each step of the installation process.

Mac OS

The video below shows you how to use Mac Linux USB loader, which is the Mac OS version of Linux Live USB Creator.

How to create an OpenElec live USB stick

Windows

Check out the video below to find out how to use Win32 Disk Imager to create an OpenElec live USB stick.

Mac OS

Because OpenElec and KodiBuntu are both linux operating systems, the steps you need to follow to create a live USB stick on mac are virtually identical.  The best tool for the job is Mac Linux USB loader.

Direct-to-hard-drive installation

If you’ve got no particular reason to keep your operating system because all you plan to do with your computer is play media files, you might as well delete it and replace it with KodiBuntu or OpenElec.  The whole process only takes a few minutes if you’ve already made a live USB stick.  Just opt to install KodiBuntu or OpenElec instead of boot up the OS when you turn on your computer.

Remember to back up your files

Once you wipe out your main operating system, all the files on your computer will be gone.  If there’s nothing on your old computer that you need, then you don’t have anything to worry about.  But if it does contain files that you may use later, you may want to move them over to a spare USB hard drive first before you proceed.  Alternatively, you can use a cloud based file storage service like Google Drive to do a quick backup if the files you want don’t take up much space.

How to Make a Portable Kodi USB Drive

If you like the idea of taking Kodi with you wherever you go but you don’t want to be able to switch to an all-purpose OS, you can use Windows to make a portable Kodi installation.  Just open up the Kodi installer and change the installation drive to your thumb drive.

Once the Kodi shortcut appears on your desktop, open up the shortcut’s settings and enter “P:\Kodi\kodi.exe -p” in the target field.  The “-p” flag tells Kodi to install all addon files to your USB instead of elsewhere on your computer.

For more information on how to create a portable version of Kodi on Windows, check out the official instructions.