Always up to Date Guide to Setting up Your Raspberry Pi

So you’ve finally got your Raspberry Pi, and it’s sitting on your desk, waiting for you to do something cool with it. The good news is that setting it up these days is silly and easy, and in less than 30 minutes you’ll be hacking into your tiny $ 35 computer.

What is Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a small $ 35 computer that fits in the palm of your hand. It runs Linux as well as some other low power operating systems . It was created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to put computers in the hands of children around the world and teach them how to program. Since its first launch, it has become the most popular computer for DIYers looking to create their own electronics projects, from media centers to gaming systems . The Raspberry Pi also has its own official Raspbian operating system. There are other operating systems, but they are mostly designed for specific projects . Raspbian is the operating system that most people will want to start with, so we’ll cover how to install it in detail here.

The Raspberry Pi has gone through several iterations since its launch in 2012. The newest version is Raspberry Pi Model 3 . For $ 35, you get a caseless computer with HDMI output, up to four USB ports, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

The Raspberry Pi Model 3 isn’t the only version available right now. There’s also the Raspberry Pi Model A + , which is smaller at just $ 20 and only has one USB port. The Raspberry Pi Zero is only $ 5, is about the size of a battery, and has no regular USB port at all. Both of these boards are great for specific projects, but for most people, we recommend the full-sized Raspberry Pi Model 3, so we’ll stick with that for this guide.

What do you need

  • Raspberry Pi : Since we recommend Model 3, we’ll show you how to set it up below.
  • HDMI TV or Monitor : You’ll need to connect your Raspberry Pi to the display, which means you’ll need some sort of HDMI-enabled screen. There are many compact displays available if you don’t want to dedicate a full-blown monitor to the Pi. There are also ways to do without a monitor, which we’ll talk about at the end of this post.
  • USB keyboard and mouse : You will need a keyboard and mouse to control your Pi. Almost any USB keyboard and mouse will work at this stage.
  • 8GB microSD card and card reader : Instead of a hard drive, you install the Raspberry Pi operating system onto a microSD card. To do this, you will need at least an 8GB card. Samsung EVO + Class 10 cards like this one ($ 12.95) are the best . If your computer doesn’t have a card reader, a cheap one like this ($ 6.75) will do.
  • Power Supply : The Raspberry Pi is powered by micro USB, very similar to the one you probably used for your phone. Since the Pi 3 has four USB ports, it’s best to use a good PSU that can supply at least 2.5A of current. This one ($ 9.99) will do just that.

Once you’ve collected all of these accessories, it’s time to customize them.

Step one: install Raspbian to SD card using NOOB

First things first, you need to download Raspbian to your SD card. This means you need to download the operating system to another computer and transfer it to the SD card using an SD card reader. You have two ways to do this. You can install Raspbian manually , which requires knowledge of the command line or external software, or you can download and install NOOB , which stands for New Out of the Box Software. This is a much simpler process and will be used here.

  1. Insert your SD card into your computer or SD card reader.
  2. Download NOOBs . Select the “Standalone and Network Installation” option. This version includes Raspbian in the download itself.
  3. You may need to format your SD card as FAT. You can find instructions for Windows and Mac here .
  4. Unzip the zip file and copy the entire contents of the folder to your SD card. When finished, remove the SD card and insert it into your Raspberry Pi.

That’s all. You’ll do the rest of the work on the Raspberry Pi itself, which means it’s time to connect it to your monitor.

Step two: connect your Raspberry Pi

It’s easy to connect all of your devices to the Raspberry Pi, but you want to do it in a specific order so that it can recognize all of your devices on boot. First, connect the HDMI cable to the Raspberry Pi and the monitor, and then connect the USB devices. If you’re using an Ethernet cable to connect to your router, plug that in as well.

Finally, once everything is connected, plug in the power adapter. The Raspberry Pi does not have a power switch, so after plugging in the power adapter, it will turn on by itself.

Step three: configure Raspbian

The first time the NOOB boots up, it will take a few minutes to format the SD card and set up a few things, so let it do its thing. Eventually you will see a screen asking you to install the operating system. The process is very simple:

  1. At the bottom of the screen, select the language and keyboard layout for your region.
  2. Check the box next to Raspbian, then click Install.

Now let NOOB start the installation process, which can take 10 or 20 minutes. When finished, it will restart and send you straight to the Raspbian desktop where you can configure everything else.

Step four: set up your Raspberry Pi

Congratulations, your Raspberry Pi is almost ready to go. In Raspbian, you will see a start menu where you can select applications, open a file browser, and whatever else you would expect from an operating system. First, however, you’ll probably want to set up your Wi-Fi connection and any Bluetooth devices you want to use.

Connect to your Wi-Fi network

Connecting to your Wi-Fi network works in Raspbian just like it does on any modern operating system.

  1. Click the network (two computers) icon in the upper right corner.
  2. Choose your Wi-Fi network name and enter your password.

That’s it, you are now connected to Wi-Fi. This will work in both command line and GUI, so you only need to install it once. If you have an old Pi and are using a Wi-Fi adapter like this , the process is the same.

Connect Bluetooth devices

If you have Bluetooth devices, such as a mouse or keyboard, that you want to use with your Raspberry Pi, you’ll need to pair them with your Pi. It depends a little on your device, but it’s a fairly straightforward process:

  1. Click the Bluetooth icon in the upper right corner.
  2. Click Add Device.
  3. Find the device you want to pair, tap on it and follow the onscreen instructions to pair.

That’s it, you can now start experimenting with Raspbian. Go ahead, click and open whatever you want, in case something goes wrong and you screw something up, just follow the above process to reinstall Raspbian again.

Connect to Raspberry Pi remotely

While the Raspberry Pi can only cost $ 35, the additional requirements of an HDMI monitor, USB keyboard, and mouse add to the cost slightly. Luckily, you have ways to remotely connect to the Pi. This is especially useful if you only have a laptop at home or don’t have access to a monitor. Neither is required, but it is good to know about them if you need them.

  • Command line connection via SSH : You can connect to the command line interface of your Raspberry Pi using SSH from any computer. Although you won’t have a GUI, you can run any type of command from the Terminal app on another computer and it will execute on the Raspberry Pi. If you’re working on a project that doesn’t require a screen, this is a great way to connect to your Raspberry Pi without a monitor, keyboard, or mouse.
  • Use VNC to use your home computer as a remote screen : If you really need this GUI, you can use VNC (virtual network computing) to get it. You will see the Raspberry Pi desktop in a window on your desktop computer, and you can control it as if you were sitting in front of the Pi itself. If you only have a laptop or all-in-one, this is the way to use the Pi remotely. It’s not great for day-to-day use because it’s a little slow, but if you just need to tweak a few things and don’t want to buy additional accessories, VNC is the way to go.

Remotely connecting and controlling your Raspberry Pi is a pretty useful feature, so at some point you’ll want to familiarize yourself with both of these remote connection methods.

Move on with some of our favorite Raspberry Pi projects

Setting up and installing Raspbian is really just the first step with a Raspberry Pi. Once you’re done with it, it’s time to really start delving into it and create something new. Here are some of our favorite projects and tutorials:

We’ve featured countless other Raspberry Pi projects, so keep digging through the Raspberry Pi tags page if you’re looking for inspiration on what to use your Pi for.


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