Installing OpenELEC on the Raspberry Pi

OpenELEC suggests building the OS yourself. I did not want to go through the hassle of doing that, so I tried some pre-compiled images and then upgraded to the latest build. Disclaimer: this is what I did to get it running (there might be a faster way, but this works for me).

First, I wrote this image made by a user named marshcroft to a 8GB SD-card (actually a micro-SD card in a adapter) using Win32 Disk Imager (warning: will format the target you select, use at own risk).

Win32 Disk Imager Image Writer (Installing OpenELEC on the Raspberry Pi)

Select the image using the folder icon, then select the device and press 'Write'

This build was made by someone (I cannot remember where I found the image, please leave a comment if you do so I can credit the original creator), but is not up-to-date. To update OpenELEC, you usually download the latest version from the site, copy-paste the KERNEL and SYSTEM files from the .zip to your device’s /update folder and hit reboot. However, this resulted in the Pi not booting anymore (error: Very incompatible VCHIQ library – cannot retrieve driver version”).

Updating to the latest OpenELEC build

I would first suggest you to update it the usual way. Do this by downloading the latest OpenELEC build, boot your Pi and copy the SYSTEM and KERNEL file (and the .md5s) to the /update folder over LAN. If you get the error message on boot about the VCHIQ library, read on to update it manually.

First download the latest build from http://sources.openelec.tv/tmp/image/openelec-rpi/ .

Put your SD-card in your card-reader (you might need to mount it manually before it appears. Delete the SYSTEM and kernel.img files from the SD-card. Now copy the SYSTEM and KERNEL files from the latest OpenELEC build to the card and rename “KERNEL” to “kernel.img”. I suggest you also update the Pi’s firmware (read below).

Now power on your Pi and it should boot right into the latest version of OpenELEC.

Updating to the latest Raspberry Pi firmware

First download the bootcode.binloader.bin and start.elf files from https://github.com/raspberrypi/firmware/tree/master/boot .

Overwrite the bootcode.binloader.bin and start.elf files on the SD-card with the latest from github and you’re done!

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  • DrFeelGod

    Hi! Nice article.

    I’ve tried the above, and the image works, but when I try to write something to the SD-card it either hangs or giving the VCHIQ-message. I’ve tried to update both ways, even updating the firmware.
    I don’t suspect the SD-card, it is a Kingston 8GB Class 4 and it works with Debian and with the image above,

    • http://www.jacobras.nl Jacob Ras

      I also happen to use a Kingston 8GB class 4 card, that should indeed not be the problem. What exactly do you mean by “write something to the SD-card”? Saving OpenELEC config or something? I only got the VCHIQ while booting, after that the screen would turn black until I powered it down.

      • DrFeelGod

        1. If I try to copy KERNEL and SYSTEM to the Update-folder and reboot the R-pi, it starts updating the System, reboots and gives the VCHIQ, and the screens turn black (ping, samba and ssh works) until I reflash the SD-card and reboots the R-pi. 
        2. If I insert the SD-card in my (Win7) laptop, and just copy the system and kernel.img-files, insert the card in the R-pi and power it up, it wouldn’t load anything (black, no ping)
        3. If I insert the SD-card in my (Win7) laptop, and just copy the R-pi firmware-files, insert the card in the R-pi and power it up, it wouldn’t load anything (black, no ping)

        • http://www.jacobras.nl Jacob Ras

          What you describe under 1 is exactly what I encountered with my Pi. Here’s what fixed it for me: first reflash the SD-card with the OpenELEC image. Now overwrite the Raspsberry Pi firmware files (bootcode.bin, loader.bin and start.elf). Now extract the latest RPi build from the OpenELEC sources site and rename “KERNEL” to “kernel.img”. Now overwrite the SYSTEM and kernel.img file on the SD-card (I had to delete the files first, before Windows allowed me to copy the files).

          After doing that, mine booted fine, let me know if it worked for you :)

          • DrFeelGod

            I tried to just update the firmware files, from linux this time, but with same result. The Pi doesn’t boot the SD-card after I alter the files.

          • http://www.jacobras.nl Jacob Ras

            Hm, I don’t know what might be the problem. If you find a solution to your problem, please let me know.

          • Guest

             I had similar problem, when I clicked files with right button and saved. All files have 30Kb. But if you click with lmb there is another page and there you click view raw (which saves the file to your computer).

          • bjornarM

            It worked for me! :-) But the whole thing seemed a bit unstable. Now I see that there is a new build at http://sources.openelec.tv/tmp/image/openelec-rpi/, so that might be worth a try?

          • http://www.jacobras.nl Jacob Ras

            For me it was also unstable, between testing some movies I had to reboot because the UI looked all weird.

            The builds at http://sources.openelec.tv/tmp/image/openelec-rpi/ are probably nightly builds, so there will be a new one every day (if build succeeded). They will provide you the newest features and fixes, but beware that some builds might introduce new bugs. I’ll be flashing the newest today to see what’s improved.

  • Ray C

    Thanks for the pre-compiled .img (I only have a windows box handy to create the SD card from).

    I couldn’t get the latest update working using the method described here though…

    Cheers, Ray

  • Stefan B

    Works perfectly… thanx!

  • 3lixy

    Thanks for this article. Easy to get going

  • ruidc

    when using the latest firmware, it only ran at 720p, reverting to the firmware on r11850 worked at 1080p.

  • denniz

    sorry… link to image is dead…