Installing OS On Raspberry Pi

I bought my first Raspberry Pi about a year ago and since then I have used them for a variety of different tasks.  However, before the Raspberry Pi is good for anything at all, it must have a operating system installed on the SD card. When I did this for the first time, the instructions were a bit sketchy and the installers were much harder to use. The good news is it is a lot easier now.

Choosing The Installer Or Image

The first step in this process is to download the installer or the operating system image. These are the two options that you have and either of them are will work, however the NOOBS installer will almost always be easier.

The NOOBS installer is useful for almost everything. It allows you to select from a list of operating systems. There are two types of the NOOBS installers. One has all the operating systems pre downloaded so that they can be installed without a network connection. The other is a light version that will download the operating systems using a network connection. Once selected, your operating systems will be installed. if you have chosen the light version, it will have to download your operating systems before they can be installed. In my opinion, this is the best option.

The second option is to image the SD card yourself. For this you will need to download the disk image and an imaging program. This should only be used if you are trying to install an operating system that the NOOBS installer does not offer.

Operating Systems

There are countless operating systems for the Raspberry Pi. (A quick google search will reveal many) I have only ever needed to use two of the operating systems in any depth and therefore those are the only ones I can comment on.

Rasbian – The default operating system. This is what most Raspberry Pi projects are based around. It is best thought of as a lightweight debian operating system for the Raspberry Pi. It offers a normal linux command line and a very debian like looking desktop environment. This operating systems can also take advantage of the vast debian package library which can be accessed through the apt-get command.

OpenElec – Essentially XBMC for the Raspberry Pi. This is just a lightweight linux operating system that boots straight to XBMC. Once XBMC is running it also provides a graphical interface for configuring a network connection and any other features that would usually be configured by the operating system running XBMC on a regular computer.

Downloading NOOBS or OS Image

The NOOBS installer and the main operating system images (along with some good documentation) can be downloaded from the Raspberry Pi website. If possible, it is helpful to use the torrent downloads for the images because this will reduce the network traffic across the Raspberry Pi foundation servers. Simply click on the download link for whatever you want to download. Everything will come as a .zip. When the NOOBS installer is unzipped it will create a folder called NOOVS_lite_v1_3_4. Inside that folder will be the necessary files. When the operating system images are unzipped it will just leave behind the image.

Screenshot of raspberry pi downloads page
Screenshot of raspberry pi downloads page
ScreenShot Of The Downloaded NOOBS installer.zip
ScreenShot Of The Downloaded NOOBS installer.zip
Screenshot Of NOOBS installer folder after unzipping
Screenshot Of NOOBS installer folder after unzipping
Contents Of The NOOBS Folder
Contents Of The NOOBS Folder

Flashing The SD Card

The next step after everything has been downloaded is actually putting the NOOBS installer or the image on the SD card. First the NOOBS installer.

  1. Insert the SD card into your computer
  2. Format the SD card to ensure that there is nothing else on the card. This can be done using disk utility on a mac and windows explorer on a PC.
    Formatting SD Card On Mac
    Formatting SD Card On Mac

     

  3. Simply drag and drop the files and folders from the NOOBS folder onto the SD card
  4. Plug the SD card into raspberry pi and your done. (It really is that simple.)
  5. Note: These steps are the same for both windows and Mac

Now for the operating system image For this step you are going to need some sort of disk imaging tool. I’m a Mac user however for this step I recommend using a windows machine because I have found no reliable way of doing this on a Mac. For windows I used Win 32 Disk Imager. Open Win 32 Disk Imager The computer will ask you to click yes as it has to run as administrator

Win 32 Disk imager asking for permission to run as administrator
Win 32 Disk imager asking for permission to run as administrator

Using the small select folder button select the disk image that you want to flash to the SD card.

Win 32 Disk Imager with folder button circled
The button to press is circled

Now select your SD card from the device drop down menu. Note: Make sure that it is the right device as everything on it is going to be deleted.

Win 32 Disk Imager with devices circled
The devices section is circled

After these two are selected you are ready to hit write. Check one more time that the destination is correct. You don’t want to erase your a different device.

Win 32 Disk Imager with write circled
Click Write

The disk imager will now “burn” the image file to the SD card Once this has finished you can eject the SD card and you are ready to put it into your raspberry pi and turn it on.

Installing On Raspberry Pi

Once the Raspberry Pi has been turned on you should see a multi coloured screen and then a screen with a raspberry in the middle of it similar to the following two pictures.

Raspberry Pi Rainbow Screen
Raspberry Pi Rainbow Screen
Raspberry Pi Installer Screen
Raspberry Pi Installer Screen

You will now be presented with a screen like the following. The picture of the SD card next to each operating systems means that it has already been downloaded and can be installed without a network connection. If you downloaded the lite NOOBS installer then there will be a different symbol next to the operating systems that the pi will have to download the operating systems installers once the installer is started.

List of operating systems for raspberry pi
List of operating systems for raspberry pi

You can now go through and select one or more operating systems to be installed by selecting the checkboxes on the left hand side of the operating system. For this example I am going to select Raspbian, OpenElec and Pidora. Click install when you have your operating systems selected.

NOOBS installer with raspbian, OpenElec and Pidora selected
NOOBS installer with raspbian, OpenElec and Pidora selected

You will be notified that any data on this SD card will be erased. Click yes.

NOOBS installer asking for permission to continue
NOOBS installer asking for permission to continue

You will now be presented with a series of screens starting with the following that will tell you a small about the operating systems you have selected.  It will also tell you about the progress of your installation.

Operating systems being installed
Operating systems being installed

You will then be presented with a dialogue box that tells you that the Os(es) have been successfully installed.

Raspberry Pi OS(s) successfully installed
Raspberry Pi OS(s) successfully installed

After you click Ok you will be presented with a screen listing the operating systems installed on your SD card. Simply click on the one that you want to boot. You have now successfully installed an operating system on the SD card.

Raspberry Pi boot options
Raspberry Pi boot options after installation

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