If you’re as big a fan of streaming and on-demand movies, TV shows, and music as we are, you’ve probably done your fair share of research into specific types of media streaming and playback applications. There are a ton of great choices for watching content online, but one of our favorite clients is Kodi, formally known as XBMC, a completely free and open-source media player with a fantastic interface, a great theming engine complete with plenty of options and preferences, and the ability to add applications from multiple sources using software repositories. Kodi’s one of the most powerful media center applications available on the web, especially in a post-Windows Media Center world, and if you’re looking for something with plenty of power behind it, Kodi is the app for you. The ubiquity of the application goes a long way too—with official clients for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and even Raspberry Pi, there’s an application available for everyone out there looking to get some sort of use out of Kodi.
Well, almost everyone. The one major platform missing from our list above is Chrome OS, Google’s web-based operating system that functions as a low-cost entry to laptops, allowing users to spend minimal money for an excellent machine for basic browsing, media consumption, and word processing. Unfortunately, beyond web-based apps, developing fully-functioning media applications for Chrome is more or less impossible due to the restrictions of Chrome as an operating system. For this reason, Google’s slowly been adding Android app support to Chrome OS-based laptops, as a way to sidestep the app problem and add some additional functionality to the devices. Though the ability hasn’t rolled out to every Chromebook yet, Google is making advances in getting Android apps to run universally on their machines. Unfortunately, it’s going to take some additional time before this is a feature on every device, and until then, running Kodi on Chromebooks and other Chrome OS-based devices is difficult without the ability to use the Play Store to download Kodi’s Android application.
But it isn’t impossible. Running Kodi on any device with Chrome OS can happen if you’re willing to put in some effort and deal with a few bugs in the process. While running the app on your Chromebook might not replace the mobile or full desktop versions of the application, it’s also totally possible to run Kodi using some third-party web apps downloadable from the Chrome Web Store. So, grab your Chromebook, set some time aside to get Kodi up and running on your device, and join us as we dive into how to install Kodi on your Chrome OS device, using the Android version of the app and a Chrome utility called ARC Welder. Let’s get started.
Using the Google Play Store
If you’re one of the lucky Chromebook users who have had their devices upgraded to be able to run the Google Play Store on your Chrome OS device, you’re in luck. The process of installing Kodi on your device is surprisingly easy, as you won’t have to deal with any difficult methods of installation or buggy processes to get the app up and running on your device. Instead, with the Google Play Store, you can quickly install an official version from Google and Kodi the same way you’d install an app on Android. Here’s how.
First things first: you’ll have to make sure your computer has the Play Store installed. If you’re curious which laptops are and aren’t running the Google Play Store yet, here’s a full list from Google. Some laptops are still waiting to get their full upgrade to Google Play, while other devices have already received the upgrade. Also, most new laptops, including the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro lineup, are shipping with the Google Play Store already installed and operating. While this is by no means an official or full list (which you can view here), here are some notable Chromebooks currently running the Play Store in their stable, standard builds of Chrome.
- Acer Chromebook R11
- Acer Chromebook Spin 11
- AOpen Chromebook Mini
- AOpen Chromebase Mini
- ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA
- ASUS Chromebook Flip C213
- Google Chromebook Pixel (2015)
- Samsung Chromebook Plus
- Samsung Chromebook Pro
A full list of beta-active Chromebooks and Chromebooks announced to be receiving the upgrade to the Play Store in 2017 can be found on Google’s website here.
If your laptop fits the bill, you can take the easy way out of installing Kodi. Rather than following the steps we’ll provide below for users who can’t use the Google Play Store on their devices, all we have to do is head into the Google Play Store through the launcher on your device. To do this, tap the Search button on the left side of your keyboard (or tap the small circle icon in the lower-left hand corner of your display) and find the Play Store in your list of applications. Once you’ve launched the Play Store, use the search function to find the Kodi Android app and install it to your Chromebook. Once the app is installed, launched your program and you’ll be actively using Kodi! You can then use Kodi exactly as you would on a desktop PC or an Android device. You can add your standard repositories, tweak the appearance of the app as you’d like, and do anything else to change how the app works on your end!
Installing Kodi without the Play Store
Of course, if you aren’t lucky enough to be using a Chromebook that supports the Play Store on the stable channel of the device (and you aren’t willing to switch to unstable Beta or Developer channels on your Chromebook, an understandable concern for most users), you do have the option of using some of those tools earlier to get your device up and running on your Chrome OS device. This isn’t the easiest solution—and as we mentioned earlier, it can occasionally cause errors and other bugs to pop up, and even crash during media playback. We’ve also heard reports about some network problems when using this method. Still, it’s the only way to get Kodi up and running on Chrome OS without relying on the Play Store, so with all that said, here’s how to get Kodi installed on your Chromebook.
Make Sure Chrome OS is Updated
Let’s start out with a basic tip. For all of this to work, we’ll want to make sure we’re running the current stable version of Chrome OS. Stable versions roll out updates every six weeks, which are automatically downloaded by Chrome OS whenever an update is shipped to your machine. Once you have the upgrade, all you have to do to install the new version of your operating system is use the Restart option, typically hidden in the system tray in the lower-right hand corner of your screen. If an upgrade has been shipped out to your device, you’ll typically see a Download icon in the notification tray, signalling that you can restart your machine to finish the upgrade.
To check for an upgrade (if the Download icon isn’t there), open a Chrome window, use your mouse to select the triple-dotted menu button in the top-right corner of the screen, and select Settings. Once you’ve opened the Chrome settings menu, tap the triple-lined menu icon in the top left, and select “About Chrome OS.” Then, tap “Check for Updates.” If there is an update, it will begin downloading in the background of your operating system. If not, you’re ready to proceed.
Once you’ve ensured you’re running the newest version of Chrome OS, you’re ready to move into the actual process of installing Kodi—and by association, installing ARC Welder, too.
Install ARC Welder
If you’ve never heard of ARC Welder before, you probably aren’t alone. Though we’ve covered the program a few times on this website, it’s really only useful as a utility for those looking to install Android applications for testing and repackaging. ARC, or App Runtime for Chrome, is an in-beta development tool assisting developers in repackaging and testing their apps within Chrome and Chrome OS. While this might seem like an odd application to use if you aren’t a developer, it’s really the only way to reliably install Android apps onto your Chrome OS device without using the Play Store.
So, we’ll have to start by installing ARC Welder onto your Chromebook. Start by heading to this Chrome Web Store link to download ARC Welder straight from Google. There are some other instances of the ARC Welder on the Web Store (easily found by searching Google for the app instead of simply following from the link in this paragraph), but we want to make sure we have the most up-to-date instance of the app running on our machines. For that, we’ll need to make sure you’re using the official version. On the Web Store, it was officially uploaded by “arc-eng.” The app installs like any other Chrome app will install, with a shortcut loaded into your Chrome launcher (accessible either via the Search button on your keyboard or by using the launcher icon in the bottom-left corner of your screen).
Use ARC Welder to Install Kodi
Once you’ve installed ARC Welder, we’ll also need to grab an instance of Kodi to install on your Chromebook. Since we can’t use the Play Store downloads, we’ll have to turn to using an .APK file from a trustworthy and reputable source. There are a ton of shady and malicious third party sources for .APK files (the format Android apps use for installations) online, so for our purposes, we’ll be turning to the best source for .APK files online, APKMirror. APKMirror is the sister-site of well-known Android news site Android Police, and is trusted by both users and developers, including notable development site XDA-Developers. The site doesn’t allow the posting of any paid, modded, or pirated content on their servers, and they’re known for being used by official devs for pushing updates and any content that can’t be posted on the Play Store for various reasons. You can download the newest update for Kodi from APKMirror here (select the newest version; as of writing, it’s version 17.3).
If, for whatever reason, you can’t use or access APKMirror, APKPure is another trusted source, and you can download Kodi from their site here. We don’t recommend using any other outside sources for APKs, for security and safety reasons.
Once you’ve downloaded the APK to your Chromebook’s Downloads folder, it’s time to use ARC Welder to install and “test” Kodi on your Chrome OS device. Start by opening ARC Welder if you haven’t already, by using the launcher on your Chrome OS device. Once ARC is open on your Chromebook, click on the Plus sign (contained within an orange circle) that reads “Add your APK.” This will open your Chromebook’s file explorer, typically launching on the Downloads folder. Find the APK you downloaded from APKMirror and hit the blue “Open” button in the bottom-right corner of the display of your computer.
ARC Welder will begin to load your APK, with the Kodi app being compiled within ARC Welder to run on your device. Once the application has completely loaded, you’ll be presented with some options for how to run the application on your device. You’ll want to make sure your orientation is set to Landscape and your form factor is set to Tablet for the app to work best on your device. Alternatively, for form factor, you can also use Maximized. Once the application and preferences are ready to go, hit the Test button in the lower-right hand corner of ARC Welder. Kodi will begin to load and prepare for its initial run. Things may take a while to finish loading while the application prepares to be run on your device, so give it some time and have some patience with this part of the process. Once the app has finished preparing itself for launch, you’ll see the app launch on your Chromebook. This isn’t always a perfect solution, so if the app crashes or fails to load, try reloading the app within ARC Welder.
Making Kodi a Chrome Extension
ARC Welder only allows for one Android app at a time to be tested within Chrome OS, so we’ll have to save an instance of Kodi running on your Chromebook as an extension within Chrome to make it easier to launch at any given time. This involves adding the .APK as a link to the right of your URL bar within Chrome.
Start by opening a new Chrome browser page by either clicking the Chrome icon in your shelf or by hitting Ctrl+N, the shortcut within Chrome for opening a new page. Click on the triple-dotted menu icon in the top-right corner of your browser, then scroll down to “More tools.” Arrow over the menu and select extensions from the drop down menu. At the top of this page, you’ll need to ensure that “Developer mode” has been checked at the top of the page. When you check this option, you allow for Chrome to support development-based extensions and applications, which is needed in order to make Kodi an extension-based shortcut.
With Developer mode checked, locate the “Load Unpacked Extensions” button at the top left of the page, underneath where the page says “Extensions.” Click this button to activate the option to begin supporting your extensions. You’ll have a prompt open with your file browser. Navigate to your Downloads folder within the file browser for Chrome and find the KODI.apk_export file ARC Welder created when we setup the app in earlier steps. Select the “Open” button at the bottom of the file explorer, and you’ll see an extension added to Chrome OS. A pink warning box will appear speaking about the extension, alerting you about the status of development extensions and the possible problems and security concerns that come from doing just that. This box can be safely ignored, and you’ll have a Kodi extension within Chrome allowing you to quickly add and launch the app right from within your browser.
Kodi on a Chromebook isn’t a perfect solution unless you’re using one of the dozen-or-so Chromebooks that support the Play Store out of the box. While we wait for that capability to roll out to further models throughout the second half of 2017, it’s worth noting that using ARC Welder for Kodi isn’t the most stable solution to using Kodi on the platform. It is, unfortunately, the only true option we have at the moment without Play Store support, but network problems and other connection and stability issues have been known to plague the platform, preventing the software from working as it really should. Still, network issues aside, ARC Welder is a great tool for getting Kodi up and running on your Chromebook, so for now, the only way to use the media center on your device is to accept the quirks and flaws that come with running an Android app on unsupported hardware.