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How to Overclock OpenELEC on the Raspberry Pi

Overclock OpenELECThe Pi 2 is probably fast enough anyway...but why not try to get a bit more out of it?

I recently spent some time trying to work out how to overclock OpenELEC on my step-father’s Raspberry Pi.

Whilst OpenELEC is seen as a more basic/simple alternative to other options such as OSMC (if you don’t want or need the handy features OSMC offers), for me it appears to miss one vital element – overclocking control.

Initially we were put off by a long and technical method that looked a bit tricky, but then we found a really handy add-on made by Lee Smith that gives you on-screen overclocking control, so I’m writing my findings here as usual.

Let me show you how you can do it too, the really slow step-by-step Average Man way!

Isn’t the Pi 2 fast enough anyway?

Overclocking forces your Pi’s processor to work a little harder, sometimes including upping the voltage that is sent to the chip.

Most computers sold to consumers have their processors clocked at a very safe level, ensuring that no matter how or where they are used, they’re unlikely to a) overheat & crash and b) die earlier than expected. This helps reduce unwanted support calls, returns and early warranty claims. Clever huh?

In reality most processors can push a little harder without too much to worry about, although you’ll likely risk voiding your warranty and reducing the life of the chip. You’ve been warned, and I won’t be held accountable for any fried Pis!

The Pi 2 is much faster than its predecessors anyway, but it’s worth pushing a bit more grunt out of it as it’s such a great little overclocker. It doesn’t get hot enough to really worry too much about, which makes it reasonably safe to play with.

Raspberry Pi heatsink

Do you NEED a heatsink? Let’s not get into that old debate…

What do I need?

This is purely a software change, so no hardware is required. You’ll just need to download and install the OpenELEC RPi Config add-on which I’ll come to in a moment.

You’ll also need to have FileZilla installed (this example uses Windows) to move the downloaded file to your Raspberry Pi. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how!

Last obvious point – you’ll already need a Raspberry Pi set up with OpenELEC, connected to your network and turned on.

Download the add-on repository

On your Windows PC (sorry Linux fanboys) head over to the plugin’s website and download the repository file. At the time of writing this was in step 1 and called ‘xbmc.repo.leopold.zip’.

A repository (‘repo’) is a bit like a folder that contains a bunch of add-ons. Whilst you can install add-ons on their own without the need to install a repo, using a repo comes with the added benefit of automatic updates to any add-ons you install from that repo.

The OpenELEC RPi Config page

The OpenELEC RPi Config page

Find your Pi’s IP address

Every device connected to your network (your router) has a unique IP address which normally look something like ‘192.168.1.5’. When your Raspberry Pi is connected to your network it will have an IP address too.

I always use my Android phone or tablet to view a list of my network’s IP addresses, using the extremely easy to use Fing app. There may be similar apps for different platforms.

Fing IP address

‘Fing’ is really handy for finding IP addresses

You can also manually log in to your router to find this information, which is usually achieved by typing ‘192.168.1.1’ in your browser’s address bar. As the process will differ depending on what router you have, I’ll leave you to check your manuals for that part!

Router log in page

Every router will have a different log in page, but it shouldn’t be hard to work out

Open FileZilla

FileZilla is dead easy to use, so don’t run off if this part looks a bit complicated. It’s an FTP application, which stands for File Transfer Protocol. All you need to know is that it can move files from your PC to your Pi using your home internet network.

First, open FileZilla. I’ve added a screenshot below of how it should look when you first open it. Let’s break down the page a bit.

  • The top section shows information on the connection
  • The bottom section will show information of any file transfers that you undertake
  • The middle left section is your PC’s file system
  • The middle right section is the target device’s file system – this will be your Raspberry Pi
FileZIlla main window

FileZilla – one of my ‘must have’ Raspberry Pi tools

Connect to your Pi

Let’s go ahead and connect to your Pi so that its file system shows on the right-hand side. Using the Quickconnect bar at the top of the FileZilla interface, enter the following details:

  • In the ‘Host’ box, enter your Pi’s IP address
  • Next to that is the ‘Username’ box, for OpenELEC this is ‘root’
  • The default password for OpenELEC is ‘openelec’. Add that to the ‘Password’ box
  • Lastly, use port 22 in the ‘Port’ box

When you select the ‘Quickconnect’ button it’ll probably show you a warning box asking if you trust the host. Select yes and you should connect within a few seconds, showing you the Pi’s file system on the right.

Here’s a screenshot to help with any confusion:

FilaZilla Quickconnect bar

Your Quickconnect bar should look similar to this

Transfer the repository file

Now that we’re connected, let’s move that repository file over to our Pi. This won’t install it – we will do that bit later on.

Using the directory tree on the left of FileZilla, find the ‘xbmc.repo.leopold.zip’ file that you downloaded earlier, then just check that your Pi’s directory tree (on the right) is in the ‘storage’ folder (it should take you here when you connect anyway).

Now simply double-click the repo file, or drag it across, and it will start the transfer. It should only take a few seconds and will also show you progress in the lower information panel.

Install the repository

Now that the file is transferred, let’s go to the Pi and install the repository.

In OpenELEC, go to Settings > Add-Ons > Install from Zip > Home Folder. In this folder you should find the ‘xbmc.repo.leopold.zip’ file.

Select the file and wait a minute for it to install. Depending on the skin you’re using, you should see something pop up on screen when it’s completed.

OpenELEC Repo file

You’ll find the transferred repo file in your home folder

Install the OpenELEC RPi Config add-on

Now that the repository is installed, we have a new place to go looking for add-ons.

To install the config add-on, just follow these simple steps:

  • Go to Settings > Add-Ons > Get Add-Ons
  • There should be a new option for ‘Leopold’s Add-Ons’. Select this
  • In the repo there are a number of add-on types. Select ‘Services’
  • Inside ‘Services’ you will find the ‘OpenELEC RPi Config’ add-on. Select this
  • Information about the add-on will show. Select ‘Install’
  • After a minute or so you should see a message letting you know the add-on installed
Leopold Repository

You will find the OpenELEC RPi Config plug in within the Leopold repository

Open the add-on

Before we get into the overclocking, I’ll show you how to get to the add-on from the OpenELEC home screen first, as you may want to find it again. If you’re new to KODI and add-ons, this can be tricky.

  • Go to Settings > Add-Ons > Enabled Add-Ons > Services
  • Select ‘OpenELEC RPi Config’
  • When the add-on information page shows, select ‘Settings’

We’re now in the right place, so let’s move on to the fun stuff…

Overclocking

Once you’ve got to this point, the process of overclocking is really easy.

In the ‘Overclocking’ tab you’ll find a number of presets to choose, from ‘Modest’ through to ‘Turbo’. Personally I go for the Turbo option as the Pi only cost me £30. If this was a £200 processor in my PC I’d be a bit more careful.

OpenELEC Overclocking Screen

Once installed, overclocking is dead easy

You can also adjust the preset to your liking as well. Now I’ve found the presets to be stable even as high as Turbo, so tinkering might gain you a bit of performance but it’s all at your own risk.

To apply the overclock you’ll need to reboot the system.

Summary

Did I find OpenELEC much faster after going for a Turbo overclock? No, not really!

It may be ever so slightly more snappy when running through menus, but it’s hard to be sure. If you have an older Raspberry Pi then you may get more mileage from overclocking, however the Pi 2 just seems fast enough to me anyway.

After all, when you’re about to waste 2+ hours watching a film, what difference is 0.10 milliseconds going to make?

Either way, this is a nice and simple way to achieve an overclock, that saves you time messing about that you could use watching your perfectly legal film collection…

Until next time…

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