We have covered such tools in the past. Today it’s going to be slightly different. Instead of creating new digital content, let’s talk about consuming it.
You have probably heard of media servers? Basically these software (and sometimes gadgets) allow you to view your local or cloud media (music, videos etc) in an intuitive interface. You can even use it to stream the content to other devices on your network. Sort of your personal Netflix.
In this article, we will talk about the best media software available for Linux that you can use as a media player or as a media server software – as per 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 mentioned Linux media server software are in no particular order of ranking.
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 for that.
A couple of software in this list are not open source. If that’s the case, I have highlighted it appropriately.
Kod is one of the most popular media server software and player. Recently, Kodi 18.0 dropped in with a bunch of improvements that includes the support for Digital Rights Management (DRM) decryption, game emulators, ROMs, voice control, and more.
It is a completely free and open source software. An active community for discussions and support exists as well. The user interface for Kodi is beautiful. I haven’t had the chance to use it in its early days – but I was amazed to see such a good UI for a Linux application.
It has got great playback support – so you can add any supported 3rd party media service for the content or manually add the ripped video files to watch.
How to install Kodi
Type in the following commands in the terminal to install the latest version of Kodi via its official PPA.
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 yet another impressive media player or could be used as a media server software. It is a great alternative to Kodi for the users who mostly utilize it to create an offline network of their media collection to sync and watch across multiple devices.
Unlike Kodi, Plex is not entirely open source. It does offer a free account in order to use it. In addition, it offers premium pricing plans to unlock more features and have a greater control over your media while also being able to get a detailed insight on who/what/how Plex is being used.
If you are an audiophile, you would love the integration of Plex with TIDAL music streaming service. You can also set up Live TV by adding it to your tuner.
How to install Plex
You can simply download the .deb file available on their official webpage and install it directly (or using GDebi)
3. Emby Media Server
Emby is an interesting media server software. It is most commonly used for NAS devices as it supports a lot of them. You can expect it to work with Netgear and other similar devices with the best compatibility.
Similar to Plex, it offers a premiere plan to unlock the ability of cloud sync, offline media downloads, backup/restore options and more. However, do note that it is not an open source program – but does offer a free plan with limited features. In addition, it also supports Live TV.
You should not expect the best user interface but it is easy to use.
How to install Emby
Similar to the previous one, you just have to visit the download page and follow the instructions for your operating system.
If you wanted a compact program to compliment Kodi that you can use on Raspberry Pi builds, you got this. Also, it is an open source solution. In addition, it also supports digital setup box platforms like WeTek Play builds.
Even though it is tailored to use on platforms like Raspberry, you can extend its functionality with certain add-ons. If you didn’t know about this, you should definitely explore it – even if you don’t need to use it.
How to install OpenELEC
OpenELEC is tailored to run on Raspberry Pi builds, so we insist that you take a look at their official installation guide for help.
5. OpenFLIXR Media Server
Want something similar that compliments Plex media server but also compatible with VirtualBox or VMWare? You got it!
OpenFLIXR is an automated media server software which integrates with Plex to provide all the 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 Plex media software.
You can also automate your home theater with this installed. In case you do not want to run it on a physical instance, it supports VMware, VirtualBox and Hyper-V as well. The best part is – it is an open source solution and based on Ubuntu Server.
How to install OpenFLIXR
The best way to do it is by installing VirtualBox – it will be easier. After you do that, just download it from the official website and import it.
MediaPortal is just another open source simple media server software with a decent user interface. It all depends on your personal preference – event though I would recommend Kodi over this.
You can play DVDs, stream videos on your local network, and listen to music as well. It does not offer a fancy set of features but the ones you will mostly need.
It gives you the option to choose from two different versions (one that is stable and the second which tries to incorporate new features – could be unstable).
How to install MediaPotal
Depending on what you want to setup (A TV-server only or a complete server setup), follow the official setup guide to install it properly.
A simple implementation for a media server to be able to stream using your local network. It does support transcoding which will convert the media in the format your device supports.
If you have been following the options for media server form a very long time, then you might identify this as the rebranded (and improved) version of MediaTomb. Even though it is not a popular choice among the Linux users – it is still something usable when all fails or for someone who prefers a straightforward and a basic media server.
How to install Gerbera
Type in the following commands in 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)
It is an elegant-looking media server software originally based on Kodi media center. I was quite impressed with the user interface. It is simple and robust, being a free and open source solution. In a nutshell, all the essential features you would expect in a media server software.
You can also opt in to purchase OSMC’s flagship device. It will play just about anything up to 4K standards with HD audio. In addition, it supports Raspberry Pi builds and 1st-gen Apple TV.
How to install OSMC
If your device is compatible, you can just select your operating system and 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, PS 3, and just about any other DLNA-capable devices.
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 live streaming solutions – no matter if it is for entertainment or just video conferencing.
They also offer paid licensing options for mobiles and high scalability.
How to install Red5
Even though it is not the quickest installation method, follow the installation guide on GitHub to get started with the server without needing to tinker around.
Every media server software listed here has its own advantages – you should pick one up and try the one which suits your requirement.
Did we miss any of your favorite media server software? Let us know about it in the comments below!