We have covered some of these tools in the past. Today it’s going to be slightly different. Instead of talking about creating new digital content, let’s talk about consuming it.
You have probably heard of media servers? Basically, this software allows you to view your local or cloud media (music, videos, etc.) through an intuitive interface – sometimes involving dedicated gadgets. You can even use a media server to stream your content to other devices on your network. Sort of like your personal Netflix.
In fact, setting up a media server is one of the most common DIY Raspberry Pi projects.
In this article, we will talk about the best software available for Linux that you can use as a media player or media server – according to your requirements.
Some of these applications can also be used with Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Firestick.
Best Media Server Software for Linux
The Linux media server software mentioned
I have tried to provide installation instructions for Ubuntu- and Debian-based distributions. It’s not possible to list installation steps for all Linux distributions for all the media servers mentioned here. Please take no offence at that.
Kodi is one of the most popular programs in the category of media servers and players. Recently, Kodi 18.0 was dropped with a bunch of improvements including support for Digital Rights Management (DRM) decryption, game emulators, ROMs, voice control, and more.
It has great playback support – so you can add content from any supported 3rd party media service or manually add ripped video files to watch.
How to install Kodi
sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install kodi
To know more about installing a development build or upgrading Kodi, refer to the official installation guide.
Plex is another impressive media player that can be used as media server software. It’s a great alternative to Kodi and is mostly used to create an offline media collection that can be synced and watched across multiple devices.
Unlike Kodi, Plex is not entirely open-source. It does offer a free account for its users. But it also offers premium pricing plans that allow you to unlock more features and
If you’re an audiophile, you’ll love how Plex integrates with the TIDAL music streaming service. You can also set up Live TV by adding it to your tuner.
How to install Plex
Yet another open source media server software with a bunch of features.
You can run it on a browser or use Chromecast – however, you’ll have to wait if you want an Android app or if you want it to support several devices.
How to install Jellyfin
Jellyfin provides detailed documentation on how to install it from the binary packages and images available for Linux, Docker, and more.
You will also find it easy to install it from their repository via the command line for Debian-based distributions. Check out their installation guide for more information.
LibreELEC is an interesting piece of media server software based on Kodi v18.0. They have recently released a new version (9.0.0) with a complete overhaul of core OS support, hardware compatibility and the user experience.
Of course, being based on Kodi, it also has DRM support so you can play protected contents.
How to install LibreELEC
5. OpenFLIXR Media Server
Want something similar that complements the Plex media server but is also compatible with VirtualBox or VMware? You got it!
OpenFLIXR is an automated media server that integrates with Plex to provide all the same features along with the ability to auto-download TV shows and movies from torrents. It even fetches the subtitles automatically, giving you a seamless experience when coupled with the Plex media software.
You can also automate your home theater with this installed. If you don’t want to run it on a physical instance, it supports VMware, VirtualBox and Hyper-V as well. The best part is – it’s an open-source solution based on Ubuntu Server.
How to install OpenFLIXR
The best way to do it is by installing VirtualBox – that will make it easier. After doing that, just download OpenFLIXR from the official website and import it.
This is a simple implementation that allows a media server to stream using your local network. It supports transcoding, enabling it to convert media into the format your device supports.
If you’ve been keeping up with the different media server options for a very long time, then you may recognize this as a rebranded (and improved) version of MediaTomb. Even though it’s not a popular choice among Linux users, it can still be used when others fail or if you prefer a straightforward and a basic media server.
How to install Gerbera
Type the following command into the terminal to install it on any Ubuntu-based distro:
sudo apt install gerbera
For other Linux distributions, refer to the documentation.
8. OSMC (Open Source Media Center)
This is an elegant-looking media server tool originally based on the Kodi media center. I was quite impressed with the user interface. It’s simple and robust, and is a free and open-source solution. In a nutshell, it has all the essential features you would expect in a media server.
You can also opt in to purchase OSMC’s flagship device, Vero 4K+. It will play just about anything up to 4K standards with HD audio. In addition, OSMC supports Raspberry Pi builds and the 1st-gen Apple TV.
How to install OSMC
If your device is compatible, you can just select your operating system, download the device installer from the official download page and create a bootable image to install.
9. Universal Media Server
Yet another simple addition to this list. Universal Media Server does not offer any fancy features but just helps you transcode/stream video and audio without needing much configuration.
It supports Xbox 360, PS3, and just about any other DLNA-capable device.
How to install Universal Media Center
10. Red5 Media Server
A free and open-source media server tailored for enterprise usage. You can use it for livestreaming solutions, whether for entertainment or just video conferencing.
They also offer paid licensing options for mobiles and high scalability.
How to install Red5
Although it’s not the quickest installation method, follow the installation guide on GitHub to get started with the server without needing to tinker around.
Each media server program listed here has its own advantages – you should pick some up and see which one suits your requirements.
Did we miss one of your favorite media server tools? Let us know about it in the comments below!