im very new to all this, and i want to know if its possibly to have my raspberry pi play movies and such that i have stored on a WD My passport 500GB External Hard Drive. ive mounted the hard drive i think, and i still need to set it up to automount, but after that im lost, all the tutorials that i have found are all about setting it up as XBMC server that is linked to a main pc that has all the files on it. I want to have my raspberry pi as the small computer it is and still be able to have it be a self contained media centre. is that possible?


Ok, after doing some more work i was able to get my hard drive to auto mount. which is surprising because its running off a usb port directly on the pi and not a powered usb hub. after mounting, im able to access the files on the drive via file manager. and currently im downloading VLC player via apt-get install vlc which means i will be able to play my media files just like i would on my regular pc. it appears that i don't need raspbmc or XBMC to accomplish what i wanted. thanks for the suggestions though.


after booting up my pi and then plugging in my external hard drive, i notice that /dev takes much longer to load. and that my hard drive begins to make an audible "clicking" noise, which i found out that it means that isn't getting enough power. i have a powered usb hub coming soon to fix that problem. also when i go to play a video i notice that my cpu spikes and the video won't play.


So my powered USB hub arrived and im able to now plug in my external hard drive without hearing the clicking noise, solving that problem. I can also now navigate into my drive to find my movies. But how would i go about playing them via omxplayer? i've tried omxplayer -o hdmi /home/pi/movietitle.mp4 but to no avail. it runs the command then just prints "Have a nice day ;)" and returns me to the command line. any more help would be great.

  • i did a bit more research and found out that i can install VLC player on my pi, so that means i won't need XBMC or to set up a server to my main pc i think. but i still can't get my hard drive to show up in the file finder window after using the "Startx" command.
    – mobious
    Jan 2, 2013 at 2:20
  • Are you having a problem installing XBMC? Or can you just not find the HDD in XMBC?
    – Vincent P
    Jan 2, 2013 at 6:28
  • i havent yet tried to install XBMC, but upon reading Vincent P's answer it appears i should install it.
    – mobious
    Jan 2, 2013 at 21:47
  • A note on VLC. Currently VLC does not support the GPU video decode in the RPi. Meaning it will play certain videos back super slowly. It's best not to use VLC for the time being.
    – Vincent P
    Jan 4, 2013 at 6:07
  • This question is now very strange. There are multiple questions, some of which seems to be answered in edits, and it is impossible to know which of the answers below answers which of the questions among the multiple edits. Is it even possible to reorganize this to something that would be beneficial more generically?
    – Bex
    Sep 14, 2014 at 10:23

3 Answers 3


There is a simple but functional media player called omxplayer specially developed for the Raspberry Pi. It uses the GPU for video decoding, something VLC might not (yet?) do. Omxplayer should be available through the package manager, apt-get in this case. It works on the command line, just say omxplayer filename It does not even need to have X running.

XBMC is of course an option, but installing it is quite involved unless you install one of the special distributions for it. For a media center, you probably want a full XBMC in the end, for the user interface. But for just trying things out omxplayer should be fine. In fact, omxplayer is the video player used in XBMC.

  • after doing some research on XBMC, i found that i would have to use raspbmc. which, by my understanding, render the pi to just a media centre, i want to use my pi as the computer it shipped as and have it play media files like my regualr laptop. so ill give omxplayer a try once my powered usb hub arrives
    – mobious
    Jan 3, 2013 at 22:56
  • Which distribution do you currently have? It is possible to install XBMC on raspbian for example. The problem is that there is no package for it in the official repository, but there are unofficial packages available. See here and here, I haven't tried.
    – Frepa
    Jan 3, 2013 at 23:05
  • 1
    Omxplayer comes with Raspbian by default. There should be no need to install it.
    – Vincent P
    Jan 4, 2013 at 5:57
  • I have Raspbian as my current OS, and if its loaded by default, how would i go about installing it, assuming that it isn't installed by default?
    – mobious
    Jan 4, 2013 at 21:57
  • @mobious, omxplayer you probably already have as Vincent P says, try saying "omxplayer" on the command line. Otherwise, "sudo apt-get install omxplayer" should install it for you. About installing XBMC I don't know anything more than the links in my earlier comment. I would try to find a good precompiled package somewhere. Can anyone recommend one?
    – Frepa
    Jan 5, 2013 at 11:18

Once you have XBMC installed on your Raspberry Pi. It should be a simple matter of using XBMC to navigate to your external HDD and playing the files.

To answer your question though. Yes it is possible and quite a popular use for the Raspberry Pi.

The easiest way to install XBMC is to use one of the modified distro's. Raspbmc is a popular option and so is OpenELEC. Raspbmc is easier to install (my honest opinion)


i also use the standard raspbian for just what you're doing. tried xbmc but found no way to really internet, although it's very slick especially with the remote control through a wifi phone etc, so went back to raspbian.

still working on getting "puppi raspi" to work on wifi with a mini wifi dongle.

looks like you 'could' put xbmc on raspbian, from your references, but omxplayer on raspbian is really very good, you'll need to start it using an

lxterminal -e omxplayer -o hdmi %f  #command if you're in 'x'
# the -o hdmi if you're using the hdmi for sound...

if you want to keep the left and right arrow, and q [plus other maybe] keys to rewind, fast-forward, and quit.

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