What is OpenELEC?

OpenELEC is an embedded operating system built around XBMC, the open source entertainment media hub. Home Theatre PCs are known to be hard to install and configure and can take a massive amount of time to keep running. OpenELEC, on the other hand, is designed to be as lightweight as possible in terms of size and complexity meaning your HTPC becomes no harder to configure than your satellite box or DVD player. With it's small footprint, OpenELEC is also ideal for small systems based on Atom or Fusion platforms so you won't need a whole computer in your living room!

What hardware does OpenELEC run on?

As it's designed to be lightweight, OpenELEC won't put a strain on your systems resources like its processor or memory - meaning you'll need less of them. With support for NVIDIA's ION platform, AMD's Fusion platform and Broadcom's Crystal HD chip, OpenELEC can support high definition content on machines with low-powered processors by offloading video content to supported graphics cards and decoders. This means you can build (or buy) small, silent machines to be effectively used as a media center.

OpenELEC has many builds available, including a 'catch-all' build that will run on almost any x86 Pentium 4 or later, but also has optimized builds for certain platforms including:

  • NVIDIA ION and ION2
  • Intel GMA HD chipsets
  • AMD Fusion
  • Apple TV 1 (using Broadcom Crystal HD)
  • Raspberry Pi

If you don't have any suitable hardware or you'd just like to buy a pre-built system, look no further. We have a list of online shops who sell prebuilt systems and suitable hardware to run OpenELEC - just head over to the Buy A System page.

What makes OpenELEC different?

Good question! You could install Windows or your favourite Linux distribution on your computer and then XBMC on top - and it would work - but it wouldn't be as fast or as easy as OpenELEC. OpenELEC is built from the ground up specifically for one task, to run XBMC. Other operating systems are designed to be multi-purpose, so they include all kinds of software to run services and programs that won't be used. OpenELEC, however, only includes software required to run XBMC. Because of that it is tiny (100MB) and installs in seconds - literally - and boots extremely quickly (about 20 seconds normally)

Unlike other XBMC solutions, OpenELEC is not based on Ubuntu. In fact, it's not based on any Linux distribution; OpenELEC has been built from scratch specifically to act as a media center. That means it doesn't include drivers for things that just won't be used like 3G cards and graphics tablets, for example.

In addition, OpenELEC is designed to be managed as an appliance: it can automatically update itself and can be managed entirely from within the graphical interface. Even though it runs on Linux, you will never need to see a management console, command terminal or have Linux knowledge to use it.

Sound too good to be true? It's not!

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