After buying a Raspberry Pi, the first step in setting it up is to install an operating system on the device. After all, it can’t do anything without an operating system. The developers of Raspberry Pi maintain a Linux distribution aptly called Raspberry Pi OS (formerly known as Raspbian). This is really just a slightly tweaked version of Debian Linux that comes with the tools and drivers to fully support a Raspberry Pi device out of the box and can run on ARM architecture.
To get started with installing an operating system on your Raspberry Pi, the first steps will actually take place on a separate PC. The developers of Raspberry Pi have published a tool which can install the OS image directly to a micro SD card, and allow us to configure typical settings (username, password, hostname, etc.) from the tool itself. So, ironically, installing an operating system on your Raspberry Pi will actually involve a separate PC. Let’s see how to do it.
In this tutorial you will learn:
- How to download Raspberry Pi imager tool
- How to configure Raspberry Pi OS settings
- How to install the Raspberry Pi OS to a micro SD card
|Category||Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used|
|Other||Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the
# – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user
Install Raspberry Pi OS step by step instructions
You can use the Raspberry Pi imaging tool from any operating system. If you are running Windows, MacOS, or Linux, you do not need to worry about compatibility because the imaging tool works on all of them.
For the steps below, make sure you have your micro SD card (the hard drive that your Raspberry Pi is going to use) inserted into your computer and ready to be formatted (all data will be lost).
- Let’s get startd by navigating to the Raspberry Pi’s website by going to the Raspberry Pi OS download page. On this page, we need to download the Raspberry Pi imaging tool. Be sure to select the one that corresponds to your current operating system – either Linux, Windows, or MacOS.
- Open up Raspberry Pi imager and click on ‘Choose OS’ to the left. This will allow us to choose which operating system we want to install to our micro SD card and subsequently run on the Raspberry Pi.
- Now it is time to choose the operating system we want to install. Most likely, you will want to stick with Raspberry Pi OS, unless you have an edge case. Click on Raspberry Pi OS, and the OS image will download for us in the background.
- Next, click on the cog wheel in the bottom right corner of the imaging tool. This allows us to configure essential settings for our installation. During installation, we will not go through traditional prompts as is usual on Linux installs, but rather we preconfigure all the settings in the imaging tool.
- In this menu, we have many settings that we can preconfigure so that the operating system is already setup with our desired settings when we boot into it the first time. We have the option to set a hostname for the Raspberry Pi, enable SSH and configure SSH keys, set a username and password for the system, input wireless LAN settings so the Raspberry Pi connects to a Wifi network, and set the time zone. Configure as many or as few settings as you would like.
- Our operating system has been selected, and our settings have been configured. The next step is to click on ‘Choose Storage’ and select the micro SD card that we want to write the operating system to. Afterwards, just click on ‘Write’ to start the process, and the Raspberry Pi imaging tool will do the rest of the work.
After the writing completes, you can safely eject your micro SD card from your PC, insert it into the Raspberry Pi, and boot up your device. You should load right into Raspberry Pi OS (no installation menus will appear), and the settings you configured earlier will already be applied (the username, password, Wifi settings, etc.).
In this tutorial, we saw how to install an operating system on a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi imager tool makes this process straightforward and easy, even for users that are not tech savvy or experts in using Linux. By using the settings menu of the tool, we can get all of our configurations applied to the operating system before even booting into the Raspberry Pi device for the first time.