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How To Create a Bootable LibreELEC Installation using Mac OS

June 28, 2021

Recently I wanted to watch a video on a Raspberry Pi 3 model B running a very old version of OpenELEC. But halfway the video the player crashed. I am hoping that a more recent version of the software would solve this issue. And as I am also curious how well LibreELEC compares I decided to give this operating system a try.

The software can be installed using the LibreELEC USB-SD Creator" app which based on the screenshot looks very easy to use. But as I have created bootable SD cards via the command line before and consider it easier I decided to take that route.

Downloading LibreELEC

On the website I browsed to the direct downloads section and selected Raspberry Pi 3 / 3+. There were two options. I picked the one with the widevine fix included: LibreELEC-RPi2.arm-9.2.7.img.gz (widevine fix included).

Writing the Image to the SD card

After I had downloaded the compressed image I first uncompressed the image as follows:

gzip -d LibreELEC-RPi2.arm-9.2.7.img.gz

After this I used diskutil list to obtain the disk number of the 16GB SD card I had inserted into my Mac mini. The output for this card was as follows:

/dev/disk3 (internal, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:     FDisk_partition_scheme                        *15.9 GB    disk3
   1:             Windows_FAT_32 NO NAME                 536.9 MB   disk3s1
   2:                      Linux                         15.4 GB    disk3s2

To be on the safe side I had unplugged all external disks (Time Machine). Because the Mac mini has a fusion drive the first 3 disk numbers (0..2) are used up and hence in my case the SD card is given the number 3.

Make very sure that in the following commands you use the correct disk number for your situation.

I unmounted the SD card as follows:

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk3

Which reported:

Unmount of all volumes on disk3 was successful

And wrote the image to the 16GB SD card using:

sudo dd bs=1m if=LibreELEC-RPi2.arm-9.2.7.img of=/dev/rdisk3 conv=sync

Note that I use /dev/rdisk3 not /dev/disk3. And once again if you repeat this step, be very sure that the number you use is the disk number of the SD card.

After less than a minute the above command reported the following:

549+0 records in
549+0 records out
575668224 bytes transferred in 56.230202 secs (10237705 bytes/sec)

Besides the SD card was now mounted as LIBREELEC. I ejected the SD card via Finder and removed it from the Mac mini.

I inserted the SD card into the Raspberry Pi and booted into LibreELEC. Configuring with a wireless mouse worked flawlessly. But I still couldn't play the video without the player crashing. So I have to look into a different solution for that.