Raspbian vs Raspbmc

Raspberry 3D Media Player
Raspberry 3D Media Player

I found this question in several web pages but it is not correct speaking about Raspbian vs Raspbmc because:

…ain’t the same ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same sport.

In fact Raspbmc runs actually on top of Raspbian. The main difference is between their GUI (graphical user interface). In fact while Raspbian comes with a lightweight desktop environment , Raspbmc does not. Raspbmc has one Graphical Interface (the one from XBMC) which cannot be used for the usual desktop operations like copying/moving files and folders, edit texts and so.
On Raspbmc you cannot install programs like a web browser, even if a web browser for raspbmc capable of playing flv movies would be definitely great!
Another main difference of Raspbian vs Raspbmc is that Raspbmc is built stripping down functionality from Rapbian and consequently it is faster, having to take care just about the few programs it consists of.


If you want a very small, portable, HD video capable media center then you should go with Raspbmc. If instead, you need a web browser, a development environment, an email client or a word processor, then you definitely need Raspbian.

Install both on the same sd card.

Anyway, since Raspbmc has been built on a stripped Raspbian, you can install XBMC on Raspbian (article in italian).

Consider using 2 sd cards

I love to discover way to use the Raspberry-pi (even flying it on a quadcopter sending telemetry data via wifi to my macbook), that’s why once i find a useful things wich can be done with one or another sd image, i use to keep them, and with at least 2 cards you can use onesd card to watch downloaded movies keeping the wife happy, while at night time you can do you evil things with your raspberry using the evil sdcard. ^^

Tell me what do you think with a comment.


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Author: Giuseppe Urso

Giuseppe lives in Haarlem now with his shiny dog, Filippa In 1982 received his first home computer, a Commodore 64, followed by Datasette and a 1541 Floppy Disk Drive. In 1999 he installed his first Linux distro (LRH6). In 2006 he switched to Debian as favourite OS. Giuseppe Urso actively sustains the Free Software Fundation and his founder Richard Mattew Stallman, he speaks to people trying to convince them to join the fight now, and about how important is to use Free Software only. He has a job as Infra Specialist at Hippo Enterprise Java Cms an Open Source Enterprise class Content Management System, one of the coolest company ever, in Amsterdam. He's always ready to install Debian on other people computers for free.

4 thoughts on “Raspbian vs Raspbmc”

  1. Your comments on rasbmc versus raspian capabilities are well explained and 2 cards is the best choice for most people. It is surprising how many people think the xmbc stuff comes on top of the full raspian. In my case raspmbc will simply be used to add 4od and itv player to a not very smart, smart tv just with iplayer – this is easier than plugging a laptop into the tv each time. Running raspbmc headless.

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