How To Watch Netflix On Ubuntu with the Netflix Desktop App

By Chris Hoffman on December 3rd, 2012

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We previously covered watching Netflix on Linux and concluded that using a virtual machine was your best bet. There’s now an even better solution – a “Netflix Desktop” app that allows you to watch Netflix on Linux.

This app is actually a package containing a patched version of Wine, the Windows build of Firefox, Microsoft Silverlight, and some tweaks to make it all work together. Previously, Silverlight would not run properly in Wine.

Note: While this worked pretty well for us, it’s an unofficial solution that relies on Wine. Netflix doesn’t officially support it.

Installing Netflix Desktop

Not only have the developers done the work of tweaking all this software and putting it into an easy-to-use package, they’ve also provided a PPA that allows you to easily install the Netflix Desktop package on Ubuntu.

To install it, open a Terminal window (search for Terminal in the dash and press Enter) and run the following commands:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ehoover/compholio

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install netflix-desktop

After it’s installed, you’ll find the Netflix Desktop package in your dash. Search for Netflix to find the app.

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When you first launch the application, it will prompt you to download the other software it requires.

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Using Netflix Desktop

The app launches in full-screen mode. To close it, use the Alt+F4 keyboard shortcut. To leave full-screen mode, press F11. While it’s in full-screen mode, you can still use Alt+Tab and other keyboard shortcuts to switch windows.

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Log into Netflix with your account credentials and attempt to watch a video. You’ll see a Silverlight DRM prompt. After you agree to it, your video will start playing. Remember, use F11 to toggle between full-screen and windowed modes.

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Performance

Performance may be spotty depending on your hardware. Different people have reported a variety of different results. The good news is that the package has been updated recently and several people reported performance increases after these updates. This solution will hopefully continue to be updated and become better over time.


Thanks to developer Erich Hoover and blogger David Andrews for bringing us this solution! It may be a dirty hack involving Wine, but it’s certainly better than running Netflix in a virtual machine. There’s also more room for performance optimizations in the future.

Unfortunately, Netflix continues to say they have no plans to officially support Linux, so this may be the best solution we’ll have for some time. Netflix runs on Android and Chrome OS – both versions of Linux – but not the standard Linux desktop.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 12/3/12
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