This question is the basic one that everyone will ask when he wants to reinstall a Raspberry Pi.
This post will also serve as a reference for my other articles, to avoid explaining each time how to install Raspberry Pi OS (ex Raspbian).
How to install Raspberry Pi OS on a Raspberry Pi?
- Download the image on the official website
- Flash the SD card using Etcher
- Insert the SD card into the Raspberry Pi
- Boot the Raspberry Pi
- Configure the system (network, language, ssh)
I will introduce what is Raspberry Pi OS, and explain each step in details, for the Lite version and the Desktop version.
If you already master some parts, do not hesitate to use the table of content below to go directly to the part you are interested in.
Raspberry Pi OS introduction
If you are lost in all these new words and abbreviations, request my free Raspberry Pi glossary here (PDF format)!
If you are new to Raspberry Pi, I’ll start with a small introduction to Raspberry Pi OS.
Raspberry Pi OS is a Linux distribution based on Debian.
It’s the official distribution for Raspberry Pi.
Formerly named “Raspbian”, it was renamed “Raspberry Pi OS” in 2020.
Raspberry Pi OS is following the Debian versions names, so the latest version available is Raspberry Pi OS Buster (Debian 10).
Raspberry Pi OS is optimized for Raspberry Pi and most of the time you can use this distribution for your projects.
Raspberry Pi OS is offered in three “versions”:
- Full: Raspberry Pi OS with desktop and recommended software
- Desktop: Raspberry Pi OS with desktop
- Lite: Minimal image for Raspberry Pi OS
As its name suggests, the two firsts offer a graphical environment (LXDE), while the last comes basically without (but it will still be possible to add it later).
If you are new to Linux, I recommend starting with the desktop or full version, so that you can familiarize yourself with the commands.
Throughout this article, I will explain how to do for these two main versions of Raspberry Pi OS.
The installation of the Full or Desktop version is absolutely the same process, I will call it “Desktop” only but it’s for both.
Whatever your choice, you will know how to do all the steps described.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation is pushing a tool called “NOOBS” to help beginners to install Raspberry Pi OS.
You can choose this if you want, and refer to the explanations concerning the Desktop version, it will be similar.
The installation of Raspberry Pi OS is relatively simple by following this article, and I don’t think that going through NOOBS is essential nor helpful.
To follow this article you will need:
- An Internet connection
- A computer to download and flash Raspberry Pi OS
- An SD card reader (USB or built-in computer)
If you don’t have one on your computer, you can find a good choice in my recommended products page
- A minimum 8 GB SD card (see my recommendations)
- Micro-SD / SD adapter (often provided with the SD card)
- A complete Raspberry Pi setup, with screen and keyboard to install it in the best possible conditions.
I’m using a Bluetooth keyboard all the time and I’m loving it (check it on Amazon).
Download the Raspberry Pi OS image
Whatever your choice of version, the download is done on the same page.
Go to this page of the official website to download Raspberry Pi OS:
Click on the “Download” button to get the file.
If the direct download is too slow, you can try with the Download Torrent button.
Then open the .torrent file in your favorite Torrent client.
Now you need to extract the image from the ZIP file.
If you use my recommended software to flash the SD card in the next step, you don’t need to unzip the file.
- Go to your Downloads folder
- Right-click on the ZIP file
- Choose “Uncompress” or “Extract here” depending on your operating system and software
- You should see a .img file in the destination folder
Create your SD card
To create my SD cards, I always use Etcher.
It is free software, available for any operating system.
If it does not suit you, there are plenty of others, but Etcher does exactly what you need.
By the way, Etcher is not available on Raspberry Pi OS (as explained in the linked article), but you can install Raspberry Pi Imager on it if you don’t have a computer. I explain how to install it in the same tutorial.
Start by downloading Etcher:
- Go to the website
- Download the installation file (the version corresponding to your OS is proposed automatically)
- Install Etcher like any other software
- Windows: double-click on the .exe file and follow the wizard
- Linux: extract the zip file and run the Appimage file
- macOS: double-click on the .img file and install it to /Applications
Then the app should be available in your “Applications” menu.
The Etcher interface is simple to use.
It is presented in 3 steps:
- Image selection
- SD Card choice
Follow these three steps to create your SD card:
- Browse the files to find the location of the downloaded image just before
- Select the SD Card to use (mostly the default one)
- Click on Flash
After a few minutes, your SD card is ready.
If your operating system opens you empty drives or format questions, you must ignore everything.
Etcher will do everything. You have nothing else to do.
Insert the SD card
Get your SD card and insert it into your Raspberry Pi.
Then start the Raspberry Pi, with a screen and a keyboard.
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When you start on the desktop version for the first time, there is nothing to do.
The system automatically logs in and introduces you to a welcome wizard:
Follow the wizard to configure the basic options:
- Select your country and change the default language
- Change the password
- Connect to the Wi-Fi network if needed
- Start system updates
Wait for the updates to finish and restart the Raspberry Pi.
On the Lite version, you have nothing to do at first boot.
The system will start alone until the login screen.
Log on with the default access:
- Login: pi
- Password: raspberry
The keyboard is in QWERTY (en-us) by default.
If you have a keyboard with another layout, you have to reverse the letters (rqspberry in AZERTY for example).
We will see later how to adjust this.
Raspberry Pi OS configuration
The first thing you need to do is to choose the right layout for your keyboard (if not already set).
Generally if you used the Welcome Wizard, your keyboard must already be configured appropriately.
However, if you need to change it. You can do it in:
- Main menu
- Raspberry Pi Configuration
- Localisation tab
- Set keyboard…
The change should apply immediately, restart your apps if needed.
On the lite version, use the raspi-config tool:
- Start the raspi-config tool
- Go to Localisation Options
- Then Keyboard Layout
- Select the model of your keyboard (leave default if not found)
- Then select the layout of your keyboard (or other to have the choice of other countries, and then the specific layout of your country)
- After that, you will have other options for special keys (alt gr, compose key, etc…).
It’s not the most important because with a Raspberry Pi OS Lite you will use SSH most of the time (from another computer well configured)
You can keep default values if you are not sure
After saving your changes, verify that your keyboard is typing what you want and continue.
Raspi-config is a great tool you can use from your Raspberry Pi directly, but also when connected by SSH.
It allows you to configure many system options with a simple interface.
All Raspberry Pi are installed with the password given above.
It is therefore essential to change it to keep your device safe.
Also, the welcome wizard has already allowed you to do it.
If you need to change it again, you can do it this way:
- Go to the main menu
- Go to Preferences
- Launch Raspberry Pi Configuration
- In the System tab, click on “Change Password“
On the lite version, you can follow these steps:
- Enter the password command :
- Type the old password (raspberry)
- Enter a new password
- Confirm the same new password
It’s ok. You should get something like that:
If you can connect your Raspberry Pi to a network cable with DHCP, the setting will be instantaneous, and you have nothing else to do.
In other cases, let’s see what you need to do.
If you need to change your IP address, you can right-click on the network icon in the top bar.
Then choose “Wireless & Wired Network Settings”.
On the new window select your interface (eth0 or wlan0) and fill the form with your network settings.
It should be something like this:
If you don’t have already chosen your Wi-Fi SSID in the welcome wizard, you can connect to it by clicking on the network icon in the top bar.
A list of all detected SSID will display, select yours and enter your password.
If you need to set a static IP address, you can do it the same way as for the Ethernet.
Choose wlan0 in the Network Preferences window.
I will give you two methods.
The first one is the one recommended, but in my case, it didn’t work.
The second is the one which finally allowed me to have a static IP.
The official way to set a static IP:
If you need (or want) to set a static IP address on your network, follow these steps:
- Edit this configuration file
sudo nano /etc/dhcpcd.conf
- Add these lines at the end of the file (don’t forget to replace this with your network settings)
interface eth0 static
- Save the file and exit (CTRL+O, Enter, CTRL+X)
- Reboot the Raspberry Pi for changes to take effect
After the reboot, your IP should be fixed. Check it with the command ifconfig.
Another way to do the same thing:
Follow these steps:
- Uninstall dhcpcd
sudo apt-get remove dhcpcd5
- Edit the /etc/network/interfaces file
sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces
- Paste these lines into
iface eth0 inet static
dns-nameservers 126.96.36.199 188.8.131.52
Don’t forget to edit the values with your network settings (gateway is the router IP, and you can keep these IPs as DNS servers)
- Save the file and exit (CTRL+O, Enter, CTRL+X)
- Reboot the Raspberry Pi
You should get something like this:
To enable the Wi-Fi on the Lite version, you should first set your Wi-Fi country.
For this, use the raspi-config tool.
- Go to Localisation Options > Change Wi-Fi Country
- Select your Country in the list
Once you set the country, you can start raspi-config again to set up your Wi-Fi connection:
- Go to Network Options
- Choose Wi-Fi
- Enter your network SSID
- Enter your passphrase
SSH is a protocol that will allow you to connect to your Raspberry Pi from another computer to be able to launch commands and scripts.
To start SSH server follow these steps:
- Open the Main menu
- Start Preferences > Raspberry Pi Configuration
- In the Interface tab, enable SSH
On the Desktop version, SSH server will auto-start at each boot until you disable it in this window.
On the lite version, you can start the SSH server with this command:
sudo service ssh start
Unfortunately, this command starts the service only once, and at the next reboot it will not start automatically.
If you want to start it automatically you have to use these commands:
sudo update-rc.d ssh defaults sudo update-rc.d ssh enable
Once the SSH server is enabled, you can connect from any computer on the local network.
You can even open a port in your firewall/box to access it from the Internet.
If you don’t know how to use SSH, you will find the information in the first paragraph of this article.
Install new packages
The base of your Raspberry Pi OS system is now in place.
You must then install all the software you need.
The most basic software are available in Raspberry Pi OS repositories, let’s see how to do it in both environments.
With the Desktop version, a graphical tool allows you to manage packages:
- Open the main menu
- Go to Preferences
- Click on Add / Remove Software
A window opens:
This tool allows you to view all packages available for Raspberry Pi OS, sorted by category.
A search engine is also available.
To install a new package, simply check the corresponding box.
Then confirm by clicking OK on the bottom right.
When a package is selected, a short description appears in the bottom frame.
To remove a package, uncheck the box corresponding to the package you want to uninstall.
Don’t know what to install? Here are my favorites applications for Raspberry Pi OS.
In the Lite version, there is no interface, so you will have to learn some commands.
The apt-get and apt-cache commands allow you to manage package installation.
Find the exact name of a package:
apt-cache search [TEXT]
Here is an example:
There are many optional parameters you can use, for example -n will search only in package names (so no adminer in the results)
Install a package:
Once you get the exact name for the package you want to install, use apt-get to install it:
sudo apt-get install [PACKAGE-NAME]
Here is an example:
Hit enter to install the package and its dependencies.
Delete a package:
If you want to uninstall a package, use this command:
sudo apt-get remove [PACKAGE-NAME]
Here is an example:
As you can see, apt-get will remove the package you ask, but not its dependencies.
If you want to remove them, you have to use this command:
sudo apt-get autoremove
If you want to see a summary of all the first steps to install Raspberry Pi OS (Raspbian) on your Raspberry Pi, you can watch this video:
And you can subscribe here to receive the new videos about Raspberry Pi:
Grab your free PDF file with all the commands you need to know on Raspberry Pi!
Before finishing this article, here are some articles that may interest you.
These are pretty simple things to set up, and that you may need after installation is complete:
- Find the current IP of your Raspberry Pi
- Change desktop appearance
- SSH tutorial for Raspberry Pi
- Remote desktop on Raspberry Pi
If you have any comment, suggestion or just want to chat with us about this tutorial,
you can post your messages in the community on Patreon. See you there!
You now know how to install or reinstall Raspberry Pi OS on a Raspberry Pi, and the first things to do once the installation is complete.
Raspberry Pi OS is the basis of most projects, now you have to choose one project and set it up 🙂