Installing XBMC Live on an USB Pen drive

13 01 2011

I recently bought an Home Theater PC (HTPC). It is not a state-of-the-art machine but I am hoping it will ‘do the trick’. In a series of posts on this blog I will explain how to setup a HTPC with XBMC. My HTPC exists of the following components:

Casing Fujitsu-Siemens Scaleo E
Motherboard FIC Triton i915G
Processor Intel Pentium 4 651 3.4Ghz x64 (Cedar Mill)
Processor cooler Passive Socket775
Memory 4x 512 MB DDR SDRAM PC3200
Graphics Club3D HD5450 512MB DDR3 LowProfile Silent
Hard Disk Samsung EcoGreen F4EG, 2TB 5400rpm
Optical Drive DVD Brander Lite-ON IDE
USB Pen Drive Transcent 8GB JetFlash 300 USB2.0

I am a Microsoft Windows user and have virtually no experience with Linux based systems. So off course I could take the easy way and install Microsoft Windows 7 and the Windows version of XMBC on it. However, I am not going to take the easy way.

You will need a USB pen drive with of least 2 GB, but a pen drive of 8 GB (or more) is recommended.  

Enough chatter; let’s get started!

  1. Download the XBMC Live CD from The current release is the Dharma version 10.0. It is about 413 MB large
  2. We are going to prepare the USB disk on another machine (told you I am a Windows fan). Download and install Oracle Virtual Box from Virtual Box lets us create a virtual machine. If you are new to virtualization, don’t worry. I will guide you through it.
  3. Open Virtual Box and create a new virtual machine using the New-button.
  4. Choose a suitable name for the Virtual Machine and select the Operating System Unix and Version Ubuntu.
  5. In the next wizard step we can choose how much memory to assign to the virtual machine. The recommended value is 512 MB, which is already the default value in my case.  
  6. We downloaded a Live version of XBMC, so we don’t need a hard disk. Uncheck the Boot Hard Disk checkbox. Virtual Box will ask for a confirmation to ask whether we are sure we don’t want to add a hard disk. Just press continue
  7. Virtual Box will present a summary of the choices. It should look something like this. Press Finish to create the virtual machine.
  8. After the virtual machine is created, Virtual Box will present the starting screen with the new virtual machine.
  9. Select the newly created virtual machine and press Settings. Navigate to the Storage tab and select the CD/DVD-Rom icon. Choose for the option to add a Virtual CD/DVD Disk and select the downloaded XCMB image.007.OracleVirtualBox_AddImage
  10. Plug in your USB pen drive (if you didn’t do it already) and navigate to the USB tab. Check the checkbox to enable USB 2.0  and add your USB device.007.OracleVirtualBox_AddUSB
  11. Now is it time to boot the virtual machine. Return to the Virtual Box main screen, select the virtual machine and press the Start-button. If you configured everything correct the new virtual machine will show the XBMC boot screen. Select the option Install XBMCLive.
  12. Select the XBMC default language and your country. I will install XBMC in Dutch because I live in the Netherlands.
  13. The XBMC installer will automatically detect your hardware, network settings, etc. The next screen will present some choices where you can choose how to partition your USB pen drive. Mine USB pen drive is empty and I do not plan to use it for any other purpose other than running XBMC. Therefor I chose the option Guided – Use Entire Disk. This option will create an ext4 partition for XBMC and a separate swap partition.
  14. Confirm the USB pen drive by selecting the corresponding disk.012.XBMCInstall_PartitionsUSB
  15. Warning! The next step will delete any data on the USB pen drive! Select Finish partitioning and write changes to disk.
  16. The XBMC installer will now partition the USB pen drive and copy the necessary files to USB pen drive. This can take a while so I suggest getting a cup of coffee.
  17. Supply the XBMC installer with your name, username and password to further personalize your XBMC environment. The installer will continue to make some more adjustments and reboot. Congratulations! XMBC is now installed on a USB pen drive.

Now you can unplug your USB pen drive and use it any machine able to boot from USB. Settings (dand other data) will be saved directly to the USB pen drive. In the next post I will explain how to connect to the internet. 




4 responses

26 07 2011

Awesome 🙂

23 10 2011

Thanks for making a step by step guide, installing XMBC can be daunting otherwise

6 01 2012

Hey, this is a truly brilliant way of doing this. Using the virtual machine to boot was tops and thanks very much for documenting the process.

1 11 2013

Great article! Just a comment, you need to install the VirtualBox 4.3 Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack to get the USB driver (at least for me on XP).

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