Versatile, powerful and controversial, Kodi is one of the most popular streaming apps out there. It’s got warts and all, but its mighty load of perks and a zero dollars price tag make it a preferred app for binge-watchers all over the world. If you’re undecided as to whether Kodi is the right choice for you, let me lay out its best and worst features, so that you know if your expectations of Kodi are realistic.
What is Kodi?
Kodi is free open-source media center designed for organizing and playing all sorts of multimedia content, as well as live streaming and recording online content.
Initially designed in 2003 for Xbox, it was first called the Xbox Media Center. By now, it has become a universal app that lets you view and manage your pictures, stream videos and music, record and store it, and watch it across pretty much all of your devices around the home – laptops, desktops, smart TVs, phones, tablets, you name it.
Kodi has been managed by a non-profit XBMC Foundation ever since its inception. But because it’s open-source, anyone can alter it and distribute its custom builds, derivatives, and forks, some of which have grown to become closed-source commercial software.
Compatible OS and Devices
In a nutshell, you can install Kodi on Windows, OSX, Linux, jailbroken iOS, and Android, as well as Raspberry Pi, CEC-compatible TVs, set-top boxes and streaming devices, such as TVs and Xbox One.
You can also configure it to work with a remote control or a game controller since it’s meant to be your living room media hub. In fact, Kodi works with hundreds of remote controls, including those coming as mobile apps.
How Kodi works
Kodi works in two ways – it’s either a central media hub for all your home media or a gateway to accessing online content. Or both.
In the first case, you need to store your content locally or in the cloud. That way, you can access it with Kodi from anywhere in your house or, if it’s in the cloud, from anywhere in the world.
If it’s streaming online content that you’re after, you would need to upgrade it with addons and plugins, which allow you to tap into a limitless pool of live streams and on-demand videos provided by various services and websites.
What you can do with Kodi
Kodi comes with an intuitive – and pretty loaded – user interface, and works with local and network storage services. Do note that Kodi doesn’t bundle content out-of-the-box, but when it comes to entertainment, it’s a powerful tool:
- Kodi recognizes a gazillion of music files formats, including OGG, MP3, and AAC.
- For mega-playlist music buffs, Kodi offers tags and smart playlists to organize your library.
- When it comes to video file formats, Kodi reads what other media players don’t, including H.264, ISO, and 3D.
- Kodi can stream online content – YouTube, Vevo, Dailymotion, you name it.
- Kodi lets you import media files, add posters, trailers, fan art, video extras, comments, and a wealth of other information and tags you might want to add to each item.
- Kodi enables you to record your favorite TV shows, complete with tags, descriptions, actors, and all that paraphernalia.
- With a little bit of tweaking, you can stream and record live TV and podcasts, follow your social media feed, track weather, and more.
Benefits of using Kodi
Whether you want to manage your local or cloud-stored media files, stream live content, or record live TV to watch your favorite shows and programs later, Kodi has you covered:
- All-in-one – instead of accumulating and multitasking across a dozen of media managing and streaming apps, Kodi has it all wrapped in one comprehensive app.
- Compatibility – it’s compatible with most, if not all, of your devices. And it supports virtually all audio and video formats.
- In-sync – once configured, your Kodi enables you to access all of your files on all your connected devices.
- Upgradability – the base build of Kodi allows it to be expanded and upgraded through third-party addons and plugins, most of which are free.
- Ideal as a living room entertainment hub – Kodi works with remote controls and game controllers. Its 10-foot UI can be read from up to 10ft away on large screens.
- Customizable UI – Kodi puts content front and center, with an interface ideal for home theaters and dedicated media playback devices. It also comes with a wealth of personalization and customization options from skins and widgets to custom builds.
- Usability – Kodi has a hefty wiki for just about any setup and feature you might need, and it’s not rocket science. Its basic UI and features are intuitive enough for anyone to get the hang of, while its advanced features require a little mingling.
Did I say it was free?
One of Kodi’s strongest points is it can be expanded almost to the infinity and beyond thanks to add-ons. From screensavers and skins to weather widgets, podcast streams, Twitter feeds, lyrics to go with each song, and whatnot – Kodi add-ons galore.
But beware, the add-ons are designed by independent developers, not the XBMC Foundation. Third-party add-ons can be awesome, or they can be of dubious quality or downright malicious. Some of them add great functionality, but open security holes in your network, or are so resource-hungry they may cause your device to lag.
Your best bet to vet Kodi addons would be through Kodi forums, Reddit, and other tech communities just to make sure you’re installing legitimate software.
Kodi for cord-cutters
On the one hand, Kodi enables you to stream and record live TV. On the other hand, it has no on-demand content per se. You would have to set up a specific configuration. This setup is not for the beginners since it requires that you connect the PVR to a backend TV server with streaming and recording capabilities. But the good news is Kodi wiki is a treasure trove of step-by-step guides. With a little bit of patience, you can set up your Kodi with all your coveted bells and whistles.
However, if you have a subscription with one of the mainstream services such as Netflix, Spotify, HBO, or Amazon, Kodi doesn’t integrate with those.
Is Kodi legal?
Yep, Kodi is perfectly legal. In fact, streaming with Kodi is legal, too, if we’re talking about streaming YouTube, Vevo, and other free-to-stream services.
But some addons – mainly streaming ones that serve as gateways to repositories of copyrighted content – are illegal. These addons cause Kodi’s name to pop up in all the wrong places, such as lawsuits and anti-piracy regulations.
The popularity of Kodi streaming addons has urged copyright holders to go on a massive vendetta against the most popular of them, such as TVAddons and Phoenix, which had to shut down due to legal pressure. Set TV is one of the recent Kodi-compatible services that has been sued by Disney, NBC, Amazon, Paramount, and Netflix, among other streaming giants claiming $150,000 for each pirated work. I wouldn’t be surprised if Set TV decided to shut down just like TVAddons and Phoenix.
Not helping Kodi’s reputation are tech wizards loading dedicated Kodi boxes with software doctored for streaming pirated content. Some individuals selling them openly on Amazon and eBay have been arrested. So the trend to crack down on illegal streaming through Kodi has already shaped, and we may hear more bad news coming down binge watchers’ lane in the upcoming years.
For the time being, Kodi as a project maintains a neutral policy – no policing, use it any way you want, but know your risks. This turning-a-blind-eye approach has angered some big fish. As stricter anti-piracy laws are cropping up, we might see Kodi targeted directly one day. Until then, it’s free and legal.
Benefits of using a VPN for Kodi
Kodi comes jam-packed with official and unofficial addon repositories to help you build your entertainment hub on steroids. But a Virtual Private Network is an absolute must for Kodi if you want to protect your data and keep your online activities private. Without much ado, here are my top reasons why most Kodi users need a VPN.
Encrypt and anonymize your online activity
Encryption. Ever since Edward Snowden revealed some details of international mass surveillance programs, encryption has become the buzzword in the tech community. And its popularity keeps growing by the day because encryption works. If corporations and SMBs are encrypting their traffic, why shouldn’t you? Except for corporations are spending thousands on encrypting their communications, while you can do it for roughly $100 a year, or less.
A VPN, if done right, encrypts your data with robust, military-grade encryption. This means no entity can decipher it unless they have a key. And a VPN done right doesn’t share its keys and maintains a zero-logs policy.
With a VPN encryption, you get an additional layer of protection for everything you do online, not just when using Kodi (provided you use a system-wide VPN).
Stay safe online
Encryption not only hides your identity and sensitive data from ad trackers, web beacons, Facebook, Google, and data brokers but from hackers.
Malware is all over your favorite Starbucks WiFi hotspots, airport and hotel networks, public parks and restaurants offering free WiFi. Honeypots and Man-in-the-Middle attacks are causing massive headache to thousands of users just because WiFi security comes as an afterthought.
Check this out – 30% of attendees at 2018 RSA Conference on cybersecurity connected to and used the WiFi honeypot set up by researchers. If 30% of cybersec folks get into honeypot traps, regular users are more likely never to question the security of public hotspots.
A honeypot obtains your MAC address, device make and model, and IP address. A MITM attack gets the contents of all of your traffic. So unless you want to get hacked, you are strongly advised to consider encrypting your data with a VPN.
Keep your nosy ISP off of your data
Do I need to tell you how much your Internet Service Provider knows about you? The short answer is – everything you do online. Your search history, visited websites, streamed movies, as well as your identity and exact address. That’s a bit too much of sensitive information for a for-profit entity to hold if you ask me.
In some countries, ISPs are authorized to engage in targeted surveillance without a warrant (I’m looking at you, France and Australia). In the US, the legislation allows ISPs to sell your browsing history, while the Snoopers’ Charter Act makes England a jolly place for anyone but people who value their privacy.
If you use Kodi addons to stream online content for free, multiply the all-seeing eye of your omnipresent ISP by DMCA notices and copyright infringement lawsuits that may land you a hefty fine.
With VPN encryption, your ISP is unable to track what you’re streaming and from where, or if you’re streaming at all.
Have you ever noticed how your usually speedy Internet connection comes down to a crawl when you stream movies or play online games? That’s your ISP throttling your bandwidth.
With a VPN, your ISP is unable to identify if you’re streaming or battling it out online, so throttling never kicks in.
A VPN makes your ISP blind to your online activities – we got that sorted out. But the servers from which you download, and the websites you visit are also unable to tell where you’re coming from or who you really are (unless you submit your personally identifiable information to them, duh).
The servers you’re downloading from can’t tell your real IP address and location if you stream through a VPN. Instead, they see a VPN server-enabled IP address. This may not be the Bond-style anonymity, but it’s enough to keep your streaming safe and private.
Access blocked Kodi add-ons
Kodi offers a wealth of awesome streaming addons, but many of them are geo-restricted to select areas. With a VPN, you can spoof into just about any region – simply connect to a VPN server in the country of your choice. When you browse through a VPN server in a country where your coveted addon, or repository, is available, you get served its content without restrictions.
Spoofing is gold for binge-watchers and sports aficionados because many regional streaming services offer free content that’s premium in other countries. Some European, Indian and Chinese streaming sites, for instance, stream major sports championships and TV shows for free. So with a VPN, you can tap into a limitless pool of wallet-friendly Kodi streaming opportunities.
Bypass internet censorship
Internet censorship is yet another geo-block, only that it works to contain you within government-set limits. The same is true for many companies and schools setting up firewalls on their premises. But while your employer wants you to focus on work, your government wants to control what you think by limiting your access to information.
Kodi users are a freedom-loving lot, so trying to contain them within censored limits is just provoking them to push back harder. If censorship is causing you distress, get yourself a VPN.
When a VPN is beefed up by firewall-evasion features (port forwarding, obfuscation, double VPN, etc.) you can easily bypass censorship and office firewalls, and use your Kodi anywhere, even in China.
Get early access to new releases
Do you ever feel aggravated at how Japan, the US, or Canada get exclusive access to betas and new releases of games and shows? If yes, you know what I mean. Sometimes, a game remains in early access for weeks or even months on end. Likewise, many TV shows take ages to be released for international markets.
With a VPN, you can connect to the region that is the first to access early releases and get your hands on new games and movies when they launch instead of when they finally make it to your market.
Risks of using Kodi without a VPN
If you’re undecided as to whether you should use a VPN for Kodi or not, ask yourself if you need to lock your front door when you leave the house. Not everyone is looking to steal the contents of your Kodi library or hack your network through it, but why would you even take chances?
Kodi without a VPN is like that proverbial front door without a lock. And a VPN is that extra step that secures your data when you use Kodi. For a refresher on what a VPN is and what it can and cannot do, check out my VPN Guide for Beginners.
Your Kodi is hackable
When it comes to Kodi security, there is one thing you should know – you are the only person responsible here. Not the XBMC Foundation, or the addons developers and the repositories you access. It’s just you.
Kodi is an open-source project maintained by volunteers. So you can’t ask them to police every third-party addon or repository hackers might use to steal your credit card details or your Netflix password.
For better or worse, Kodi has taken a hands-off approach to security, meaning it requires for its users to assume complete responsibility for their use of Kodi.
Boasting over 40 million monthly users and a gazillion of third-party addons, Kodi is riddled with security holes. To be fair, most of the flaws aren’t even Kodi developers’ fault. The core application is pretty secure. It’s the addons, especially the unofficial ones, that are the weak point in many Kodi installations.
Illegal addons pulling streams from pirate sites are very much riddled with Man-in-the-Middle and keylogger attacks. Do I need to remind you that, once a repo is installed, it can access your whole system? It might not be a big of an issue if you have a standalone box, but if you run Kodi on your laptop or desktop, that’s bad news.
Not helping is the fact that many seemingly harmless addons could be vulnerable. Such was the case with a Krypton vulnerability that allowed hackers to tamper with subtitle files and gain full access to users’ devices. That’s fixed by now, but how many more are still in the wild?
Exodus, Covenant, Phoenix, SALTS and other unofficial Kodi addons are great, but when you use them, you put your trust in the hands of their developers. Unfortunately, developers of unofficial Kodi addons have already misused their users’ trust.
Last year, for instance, news broke out that the developer of Exodus had injected malicious code into his addon to turn its users into Botnets and launch a DDoS attack. The said developer then apologized, reversed the changes and stepped down as Exodus developer. The case is telling – there may be more malicious activity going on with popular Kodi addons than we know.
If you run Kodi on a standalone box, you can turn it into a sandboxed container protected by a VPN tunnel and encryption. That way, if a MITM attack does happen, the VPN encryption tunnel prevents any malware from spreading to the entirety of your home network.
If you run Kodi on your computer, your risks are higher, but a VPN still secures your Internet connection and reduces the chances of MITM, malware, and honeypot attacks.
Your Kodi is not anonymous
Kodi is not anonymous. I’d go as far as saying that VPNs aren’t about anonymity, either. VPNs are about keeping your private stuff to yourself. And when your Kodi spells too many beans about you to just about anyone from your ISP to the sites you visit, numerous trackers and hackers, it’s a security flaw.
Have you ever entered a password for Netflix, or other streaming services, into Kodi to enable an addon? Have you ever used your real name or identifiable username in Kodi to run a particular service? Without encryption, that information is up for grabs.
You are also displaying your real IP address, ISP, location, and potentially your identity, when you use Kodi without a VPN. Copyright trolls, law enforcement, or a skilled criminal can intercept that data and use it to identify you, and link your identity to your online activities.
A VPN nails the problem in the bud by routing your traffic through its server and assigning you a different IP address that can’t be traced back to you, or your activities.
U.S. and EU anti-piracy laws and what they mean for streaming with Kodi
Streaming Kodi without a VPN is no longer safe as authorities across the globe are targeting Kodi users with hefty fines and even jail time for copyright infringement. Both the US and UK have laws on books that threaten 10 years in jail for copyright infringement, including accessing pirated Kodi channels and streams. Several Kodi addons have closed doors as a result (Navi X, Goliath, Schism, to name a few).
Copyright trolling is a growing industry whereby lawyers (trolls) threaten you and demand you pay up or face legal action. The scary part is your ISP will gladly provide them with all your browsing history to corroborate their accusation.
In fact, some Kodi users in North Wales have already received letters from their ISPs (Sky, BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, among others) saying they had been detected streaming pirated content.
The same is happening across the US, Australia, France, Canada, and Germany. If you don’t want your detailed activity logs stored on your ISP’s servers, consider using a VPN when streaming with Kodi.
Streaming the Premier League with Kodi is illegal
Kodi users are now facing a tangible legal ban if they want to stream the Premier League via Kodi. If you access illegal Premier League streams via Kodi addons, you could be in for a copyright infringement notice in the UK.
The latest ruling targets UK ISPs that fail to block these illegal streams, in which case they could face a fine of up to €1.5 million. So you can bet your ISP would rather sell you out than face the fine.
Last year, the Premier League was granted a High Court order allowing them to stop illegal streams of its matches. The League was able to block more than 5,000 IP addresses of illegal streams. Moreover, many fans attempting to watch the games live were locked out within minutes of the matches going live.
Kieron Sharp, FACT Chief Executive, said end users could “get swept up in one of our operations and become part of a criminal investigation,” potentially leading to prosecution alongside pirated streaming providers.
Adding more fuel to the fire is the recent ruling by the European Union court, placing Kodi streaming in the same illegal zone as downloading pirated content.
But here’s the really scary part for you to consider – several Kodi box sellers have been arrested in the UK recently. What do you think happens to their customer records? Will it be long until people on those lists get monitored for pirating content?
The crackdown on unofficial Kodi add-ons and what it means for you
Unofficial Kodi add-ons are those that haven’t been officially endorsed by Kodi. Many of them enable you to stream pirated content. Obviously, you won’t find them in Kodi add-ons libraries. They are distributed by third-party repositories indirectly. What these repos provide is links to downloads, not the files themselves. And as of late, there is a lot of flurry action surrounding these add-ons. Unfortunately, the repositories are also targeted, despite the flimsy evidence of illegal actions on their part.
The crackdown on unofficial Kodi addons is ongoing, so we can’t say it happened, we lived through it, everything is back to normal. In fact, the major streaming providers are actively lobbying for stringent anti-piracy laws that would cover Kodi in its entirety, not just its unofficial addons.
Last year, some of Kodi’s most popular unofficial addon repositories, such as Ares Wizard, Colossus Repo (known for offering Covenant, Bennu, and URLResolver), Mucky Duck, Pulse Build, and Smash had to take down or severely limit their repositories in response to legal pressure from big corporations. The majority of these repos are run by Kodi enthusiasts, so they don’t have the resources to fight lengthy legal battles.
Following the crackdown, several key developers announced that they would no longer be developing for Kodi.
What this crackdown means for a regular Kodi user:
- It’s now harder to find some of the most popular Kodi addons like Covenant.
- Finding new unofficial addons is a pain.
- You need to vet carefully unfamiliar Kodi addons repositories.
- Most affected addons will continue to work, so there’s no urge to uninstall them.
- URLResolver’s links will no longer be updated. The addons relying on it, such as Covenant and Bennu, will continue to work, but will become less reliable over time unless their devs find a workaround.
There is one security concern you should consider – dropped repositories could pose a security threat to your system. If a repository you added to Kodi is shut down, it stops working. But if someone buys the URL where the repository was located, they could doctor the code of the repository to spread malware, which you could then install inadvertently.
Making matters worse, copyright holders and trolls could buy these domains to set up honeypots and collect information about users and harass them legally.
To be on the safe side, you might want to consider uninstalling discontinued repositories from your Kodi system and using a VPN to protect your identity.
Ways to use a VPN with Kodi
Just like there is a multitude of ways you can set up Kodi, there’s a variety of ways you can use a VPN with it. It all boils down to your usage preferences and tech skills. If anything, I would recommend that you thoroughly vet any VPN for compatibility with Kodi box or any OS that you use to host your Kodi before subscribing. Also, check if the provider offers detailed setup and usage guides or live assistance in case you need help.
I have a detailed Kodi VPN Setup Guide for different devices here. But in this section, I’ll try to lay out various Kodi VPN setup options and their pros and cons to help you choose the method that suits you best.
Standalone VPN client
If you run Kodi on a laptop or computer, it makes the most sense to install a VPN separately rather than as a Kodi addon. That way, you can protect all your online activities on this device rather than just Kodi streaming.
This option is also one of the easiest in terms of installation and setup. There is no need to mingle with Kodi, while most VPNs provide custom apps for the majority of operating systems. As a result, your VPN setup takes no more than five minutes, and you can enable your VPN client whenever you like – when streaming with Kodi only or at system boot to protect the entirety of your traffic.
This setup also provides the most security against DNS leaks. Most native VPN applications tend to come with a kill switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, NAT firewall, various levels of encryption and protocols, and other fine-grained tweaks.
As far as OS compatibility is concerned, well-rounded VPNs are likely to support even more platforms than Kodi does, so you should have no problem finding the right provider.
There may be one nag about this setup, though. If you have Kodi running on multiple devices, you would need to set up your VPN on all of them if you want to do it right. And here comes the catch – each device counts as a standalone VPN connection. If you tend to stream simultaneously from various devices, you need to look closely at the number of allowed simultaneous connections per VPN license. Some providers offer two, others six, or even more concurrent connections per account.
VPN add-on for Kodi
Using a VPN as a Kodi add-on is not as popular as the previous method. For one, the setup is only available for a limited number of platforms, such as Mac OS, Raspberry Pi 3, and OpenELEC and LibreELEC platforms used by Linux buffs.
From the security standpoint, using a VPN as a Kodi addon is less secure than running an OS-wide VPN client because:
- You’re only securing your Kodi traffic
- A standalone VPN client has stronger privacy and security bells and whistles than VPN addons for Kodi
- This setup is anything but simple, so it’s apt for advanced users
- Troubleshooting with this configuration may get tricky, too
I particularly like this option because it covers the entirety of your home network and all your connected devices, including your Kodi box, Smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, you get the point.
With a VPN router, you can use any Kodi box and any other device running Kodi without needing to set up your VPN on each standalone device.
Some VPN companies sell pre-configured VPN routers. Moreover, the majority of established VPNs offer detailed guides on how to set your VPN router using your existing hardware. Not every router make and model is supported, but most mainstream routers are well-covered.
This setup is not for novice users since a VPN router does require a little more tweaking to get it set up than a regular VPN client. If you’re only getting started with VPNs, I’d suggest sticking to the most user-friendly option – a standalone plug-and-play VPN client for each device.
VPN for Kodi Android Box
Android Kodi boxes are the most popular among Kodi TV boxes because they offer the best mix of quality, performance, ease of use, and affordability. Amazon Fire Stick, Amazon Fire TV, and NVIDIA Shield TV Pro are the most popular boxes that work just fine with Android VPN apps.
The advantage is installing a VPN on your Kodi box should not take too long. All you need is a VPN that provides a dedicated Android app. From there, configuring it to work with your Kodi box is rather hassle-free – most providers offer step-by-step guides.
The only – but significant – drawback of this setup is you are only protecting your Kodi traffic, missing out on key VPN benefits like privacy and security for the rest of your devices. So if you want to take full advantage of your VPN subscription, consider installing the VPN on all of your computers and mobile phones.
Kodi VPN client setup
The following is a generic outline of how to set up your VPN client to work with Kodi. Namely, the steps that should come first, irrespective of the operating system you use with Kodi. Here’s the gist of it – install and enable a VPN, and then stream with Kodi keeping your VPN enabled. Pretty simple, right?
Subscribe to a VPN
I always recommend testing a VPN before subscribing to any plan that’s longer than a month, irrespective of a provider’s reputation. So, pick a reputable provider and subscribe to a short-term plan. Some VPNs have a free trial or short-term paid trials that vary from several hours to a few days.
Once you’ve subscribed and received your VPN login and password credentials, proceed to step two.
Install your VPN client
Download and install the VPN client (program) on your device. In most cases, the download is readily available from the provider’s website or your customer area. Choose your operating system and its version and download the installer.
If you lack technical skills to install OpenVPN GUI and add configuration files manually, simply go with a VPN that offers a native client with straightforward installation and dead-simple UI. Fortunately, there is a good choice of plug-and-play VPNs out there.
Connect to a server
Once your VPN is installed, launch it and log in using your VPN credentials. In some cases, your VPN combo differs from the login and pass you use to access your customer dashboard, where you manage your subscription. It might be a good idea to keep your VPN information and emails in an orderly manner to avoid confusion.
In your VPN client, find the list of servers. Pick the country of your choice and connect.
Tip: check your VPN settings for toggles that enable a DNS leak protection, a kill switch, or a NAT Firewall. Also, see if OpenVPN is set as your default protocol since it provides the most privacy and security.
Launch Kodi and stream
With your VPN connection enabled, you can spoof into pretty much any location and stream with Kodi bypassing geo-blocks. Everything you do via the VPN is encrypted, so your ISP is unable to detect what you’re up to online. Likewise, the sites you visit can’t see your real location.
That’s it. I told you using a VPN is not rocket science. If you’ve mastered Kodi streaming, you will get the hang of VPNs, trust me.
Kodi VPN FAQs
You can’t be too meticulous when it comes to security. With Kodi VPN, little things matter, so take your time going through this section because it covers some of the frequently overlooked aspects of Kodi VPN novice users may not realize are important.
Is the use of a VPN with Kodi legal?
Yes, unless you are in Iran, China, Russia, or Syria. There is only a handful of countries that have enabled a draconian ban on VPNs. If you happen to be in one of them, your best bet would be to use a VPN that bypasses VPN detection through obfuscation and anti-DPI techniques that make your encrypted traffic look normal to your ISP.
Other than that, VPNs are perfectly legal, and using a VPN with Kodi is not incriminating you in any way.
How to choose a VPN for Kodi?
Choosing a VPN can be more time-consuming and brain-numbing than configuring it for the first time. It’s because the VPN market is saturated with wallet-friendly offers. But how do you at least zero in on a couple of VPNs to test?
Rest easy because there are specific criteria that always indicate if a VPN might be good for a particular purpose, or not. Below is my roundup of key VPN features you need to scrutinize when shopping for a Kodi VPN:
- Server coverage – your VPN for Kodi should have ample server coverage in the regions of your choice. This allows you to unlock your coveted streaming sites. If you have a broad range of interests, pick a VPN with the most extensive server network.
- Protocols – a robust VPN should offer a selection of tunneling protocols (OpenVPN, SSTP, PPTP, IPSec, IKEv2). Shoot for a provider supporting OpenVPN, which is the most secure protocol at the moment. Some robust VPNs rely on the OpenVPN GUI, which is harder to configure than a plug-and-play native VPN app. If you are new to VPNs, choose a provider with a native VPN client. Also, keep in mind that although PPTP may offer better speeds than OpenVPN, it is not secure. IKEv2 is a decent option for Kodi since it provides better speeds than OpenVPN and works with four ciphering standards (AES 128, AES 192, AES 256, and 3DES).
- Apps – if you use Kodi on multiple devices, you want to have a VPN running on all of them. Alternatively, you could set up your VPN on your router and protect all your devices. So check if your VPN provides native clients for all devices you want to protect. If you would have to mingle with manual set up, check if your provider offers comprehensive installation guides, or a live chat support.
- Speed – there is no way you can know if a provider’s claims of top-tier speeds are true until you try it yourself. So grab a free trial, or buy a short-term plan and test your VPN servers for speeds, performance and stability, especially during peak hours.
- Reviews – beware of paid shills. Many VPN reviews are funded by affiliate money, so their credibility is dubious. This is not to say you should disregard reviews altogether but never rely on reviews alone to make your decision. Always do your research and test your VPN before committing
Should I use a Kodi Proxy vs. a Kodi VPN?
The short answer is – definitely VPN, not proxy. Yes, a proxy is faster, but it only lets you spoof into a location, providing zero protection whatsoever.
A Kodi VPN, on the other hand, combines spoofing with robust security. It hides your real IP address, location, and identity, unlocks geo-restricted sites, and protects you from DNS leaks (and copyright trolls).
The only scenario that makes using a proxy with Kodi viable is when you want to access some geo-restricted content that won’t land you in trouble with your local authorities. It certainly doesn’t include sports and TV shows streaming.
However, if you use unofficial Kodi addons, use Kodi VPN to be on the safe side.
Should I enable the VPN before launching Kodi?
No. You can open Kodi before launching your VPN. But you need to launch your VPN before you start streaming with Kodi, especially if you’re up to something that falls in the gray zone of legality.
You should also enable the VPN before streaming with Kodi if you need to bypass geo-restrictions.
How do I know if my Kodi VPN is working?
Check your IP address before enabling your VPN. Make a mental note of it.
Once you’ve connected your VPN, recheck your IP address. If your VPN works as intended, you should have a different IP address pertinent to the country you chose when connecting to a VPN server.
It might be a good idea to run a DNS leak test, too. In fact, running a DNS leak test also checks for your IP. That way, you know if your IP address is masked and if your VPN is leaking your real location.
Which Kodi VPNs should I avoid?
If you use unofficial Kodi addons to stream, there are some substantial risks you want to avoid. That’s why using a reliable VPN that doesn’t leak or sell your data is so important.
Below is my blacklist of VPNs to avoid at all costs, be it for Kodi streaming or your regular online activities:
- EarthVPN is a bad joke. Its features might sound top-notch, but the VPN doesn’t work, and there is no one to reply to your queries. Tickets get closed without a response, but rest assured you will be spammed with invoices.
- ExaptSurfer is a downright scam. It charges you $10.26/mo without ever providing the service. Avoid at all costs.
- Betternet is free, but it’s also malware, with Virus Total AV rating its VPN client 13 (1 is virus-free). They also share your data with third parties, copyright trolls, and law enforcement.
- Cryptostorm is super-shady. Although it’s a pretty competent VPN, there are serious concerns it could be an FBI honeypot. I wouldn’t take that risk when streaming with Kodi.
- Faceless.me is dysfunctional, so don’t bother downloading it from Google Play.
- Liberty VPN unlocks many streaming sites, which might hook you in, but its ToS and refund policy are obnoxious, while its VPN client is convoluted and extremely limiting. The provider also filters and censors your traffic.
- Onavo Protect is a Facebook product, which should be enough to avoid it like the plague. It’s a mobile VPN that grants itself unprecedented permissions, routing and sifting through all your traffic through its UK servers.
My Worst VPNs and Scams 2018 roundup has a mighty long list of other VPNs I blacklisted until the end of times. I strongly suggest that you check it out before buying a VPN.
Kodi VPN pro tips
Sometimes, a good VPN is the only thing that stands between you and a copyright troll. Check out the following pro tips to avoid making the same mistakes other users have made before you, and unlock your freedom and online privacy.
Use a reliable provider
I know too well the mindset of many open-source software aficionados (being one myself). We tend to think there is a free alternative to every paid program out there. It’s fine and fair, except for it doesn’t work like that with VPNs.
One particular thing about VPNs is they route your traffic through their servers, meaning a corrupt provider acts as a honeypot gathering and selling your data. This is the case with the majority of free VPNs. The rule of thumb is – if a free VPN sounds too good to be true, it is.
In the saturated niche of VPNs, you get what you pay for, and when you don’t pay with money, you end up paying with your privacy and security. And as is the case with Kodi streaming, you could end up paying a hefty fine for copyright infringement if your VPN sells you out or leaks your data.
Test your VPN
Never commit to a long-term plan without testing your VPN. Period. More often than not, minor usability details can make or break your experience.
You might want to test the ins and outs of the VPN client on all your devices. Do check the number of simultaneous connections allowed per license because it varies significantly with different providers.
Also, make sure to check your speeds when connecting to the VPN servers in locations of interest. Don’t run one speed test, but check if the speeds vary during the day (or at night). Some VPNs provide great speeds during work hours but slow down to a crawl during peak hours when most users tend to stream or play online.
Finally, run several DNS and IPv6 leak tests and check if your VPN does unlock the streaming sites you target.
How to choose a server for better speeds
The logic here is simple – pick the nearest server. That way, you will minimize the possible speed loss and improve your connection stability and performance. If the streams you wish to unlock are available in a nearby country, pick a server there.
When it comes to sports streaming, many premium tournaments are available as free streams in somewhat unexpected locations, such as Eastern Europe, India or China. Check out my sports streaming guides to see where you can find legitimate free streams of popular championships.
Using VPN for streaming vs. using VPN at all times
I preach an all-in approach to using a VPN because I like my data encrypted even when I check my weather forecast. And if you’ve been streaming with Kodi using unofficial addons, especially in the UK, Australia, and the US, chances are your ISP might be scrutinizing your traffic to collect solid proof of your wrongdoings. In which case, your best bet would be to route all your traffic through the VPN.
Ultimately, it depends on the extent of privacy you need for your online life.
Choosing a VPN protocol
Most well-rounded VPNs support a wealth of protocols, with OpenVPN offering the best security. But strong encryption inevitably chips away from your speed. You can mitigate that by connecting to the nearest server possible.
PPTP, on the other hand, is not even close to being secure, but it’s fast. To stay below the radar of copyright trolls, however, go with the most secure configuration.
Vetting Kodi add-ons
With many well-established repositories of unofficial Kodi addons being down or significantly trimmed, finding Kodi addons for streaming is a hassle. As new repos crop up, you need to pay due diligence and research both the repo and the addon you intend to install. Malware in unofficial Kodi addons is a substantial threat you should factor in – remember the Exodus precedent?
Also, copyright trolls could be setting up an ambush on users downloading unofficial Kodi addons just like they monitor popular torrenting sites. If it’s not happening already, it will when they see money in it. So to be on the safe side:
- Research any new repo
- Research any addon before installing
- Use your VPN to do the research and download any unofficial Kodi add on