HOW-TO:Autostart Kodi for Linux

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How to automatically start up in Kodi using various Linux distributions.

This how-to has flaws: Never Ever start Kodi without a window manager! (FernetMenta: the author of Kodi's X11 windowing system)

The main goal of most of these methods is to start an Xserver only for Kodi. Most of these methods will not work if you have a window manager installed (however, it should not be hard to modify the scripts to suit your needs). The lightdm method might work if you need to use a window manager.

Choose only one method from sections 2 and on based on which distribution and init system you're using.


1 Create a user to run Kodi

For security reasons, it is recommended (but optional) to use a dedicated user to run Kodi. The user needs access to audio and video devices as well as access the internet if you're going to use any features that require internet access. Most methods present here allow to specify which user will start / own the Kodi process.

Notice the groups might vary from one distro to another. The groups used below are for Debian-based distributions. To create the user (named kodi here) and give it the necessary permissions, run

# adduser kodi

Another option is to add a loginless and passwordless user. You can do so by running

# adduser --disabled-password --disabled-login --gecos "" kodi

Then, assign it to the following groups in order to give it the permissions it needs.

# usermod -a -G cdrom,audio,video,plugdev,users,dialout,dip,input kodi

To give it access to the internet, add the group netdev as well.

2 Upstart init script

Works on Ubuntu up to version 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn). Stating with version 15.04 (Vivid Vervet), Ubuntu has switched to systemd and adding a systemd script might be prefereable. Create a /etc/init/kodi.conf with following contents.

# kodi-upstart
# starts Kodi on startup by using xinit.
# by default runs as kodi, to change edit below.
env USER=kodi
description     "Kodi-barebones-upstart-script"
author          "Matt Filetto"
start on (filesystem and stopped udevtrigger)
stop on runlevel [016]
# tell upstart to respawn the process if abnormal exit
  exec su -c "xinit /usr/bin/kodi-standalone -- -nocursor :0" $USER
end script

Note: -- -nocursor option kills all X cursor on Kodi startup and does not interfere with mouse use/operation

You may have to edit /etc/X11/Xwrapper.config and replace the last line that says:




Kodi will now auto-start on boot and restart/respawn if killed or crashed.

3 Modify the inittab

This was tested on Arch Linux.

To automatically start xbmc on your system, do the following:

First you need to make some changes to /etc/inittab. Comment out (add a #) to this line:




and uncomment


Then add this line to the bottom:

x:5:wait:login -f <YOUR_XBMC_USERNAME> </dev/tty7 &>/dev/tty7

Using wait instead of respawn means that you can exit out of xbmc into the console.

  • NOTE*: This is a security hole as it autologins a dedicated xbmc user without asking for a password!

Now that we have the user logged in we need it to auto start XBMC. In ~/.xinitrc add the following to the end of the file (after removing/commenting any other exec lines that start a windowmanager):

exec ck-launch-session xbmc

Add this line to your ~/.bash_profile

[[ $(tty) = "/dev/tty7" ]] && exec startx </dev/null &>/dev/null

And create a hushlogin file to suppress login messages.

touch ~/.hushlogin

Lastly, for the magic sauce that makes this work, add dbus to your daemons in /etc/rc.conf.

DAEMONS=(... dbus ...)

You're finished. Next time you reboot you should be greeted with XBMC.

4 Add a new init script

This method works well under Debian up to version 7 (Wheezy). As of version 8 (Jessie), Debian has switched to systemd and adding a systemd init script might be preferable. The current configuration is a HTPC running Debian Squeeze, with no window manager installed.

  • Create a new script under /etc/init.d/. Call it kodi
  • Change the rights, in order to allow it to be executable.
# chmod a+x /etc/init.d/kodi
  • copy the code under in the file. Modify the variables to suit your configuration:
#! /bin/sh

# Provides:          kodi
# Required-Start:    $all
# Required-Stop:     $all
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:      0 1 6
# Short-Description: starts instance of Kodi
# Description:       starts instance of Kodi using start-stop-daemon and xinit

############### EDIT ME ##################

# path to xinit exec

# startup args
DAEMON_OPTS=" /usr/local/bin/kodi-standalone -- :0"

# script name

# app name

# user

# Path of the PID file

############### END EDIT ME ##################

test -x $DAEMON || exit 0

set -e

case "$1" in
        echo "Starting $DESC"
        start-stop-daemon --start -c $RUN_AS --background --pidfile $PID_FILE  --make-pidfile --exec $DAEMON -- $DAEMON_OPTS
        echo "Stopping $DESC"
        start-stop-daemon --stop --pidfile $PID_FILE

        echo "Restarting $DESC"
        start-stop-daemon --stop --pidfile $PID_FILE
        sleep 5
        start-stop-daemon --start -c $RUN_AS --background --pidfile $PID_FILE  --make-pidfile --exec $DAEMON -- $DAEMON_OPTS
        echo "Usage: $N {start|stop|restart|force-reload}" >&2
        exit 1

exit 0
  • Test the script by trying to start / stop Kodi with it.
# /etc/init.d/kodi start
# /etc/init.d/kodi stop
  • If all is ok, you can add the script to your configuration, by issuing a "update-rc.d"
# update-rc.d kodi defaults
  • If Kodi does not start, you may need to allow X to start from non-consoles. Under Debian/Ubuntu, run:
# dpkg-reconfigure x11-common

and choose "Anyone".

  • You can now reboot the server, Kodi should be started just after the boot sequence.

5 Add a new systemd script

This method is for systems that use systemd as init system such as current versions of Debian (since version 8, Jessie) and Ubuntu (since version 15.04, Vivid Vervet).

  • create a new service file under /etc/systemd/system, call it kodi.service and copy the following code into the file:
Description = Kodi Media Center

# if you don't need the MySQL DB backend, this should be sufficient
After = systemd-user-sessions.service

# if you need the MySQL DB backend, use this block instead of the previous
# After = systemd-user-sessions.service mysql.service
# Wants = mysql.service

User = kodi
Group = kodi
Type = simple
#PAMName = login # you might want to try this one, did not work on all systems
ExecStart = /usr/bin/xinit /usr/bin/dbus-launch --exit-with-session /usr/bin/kodi-standalone -- :0 -nolisten tcp vt7
Restart = on-abort
RestartSec = 5

WantedBy =
  • modify the variables (user, group, paths...) to match your configuration. Save the file.
  • try to start (and stop) Kodi to make sure the script is working properly
# systemctl start kodi
# systemctl stop kodi
  • If Kodi does not start, you may need to allow X to start from non-consoles. Under Debian/Ubuntu, run:
# dpkg-reconfigure x11-common

and choose "Anyone".

  • As of Ubuntu 16.04 (Xenial Xerus), you need to install and reconfigure the package xserver-xorg-legacy instead:
# apt-get install xserver-xorg-legacy
# dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg-legacy

and choose "Anyone". You'll also need edit the file /etc/X11/Xwrapper.config and add the following to a new line at the end of the file:

  • if you are using a minimalistic system like Ubuntu Server make sure that xinit and dbus-launch are installed
# sudo apt-get install xorg dbus-x11
  • if you do not experience any issues, make Kodi start automatically
# systemctl enable kodi
  • reboot and you're done

6 Use autologin feature of lightdm

This works if you have a window manager as well.

  • Install lightdm
sudo apt-get install lightdm
  • Modify /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf and set the following settings under section [Seat:*]:
  • Reboot and you're done
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