Install Raspberry Pi OS Bullseye on Raspberry Pi (Illustrated guide)


Raspberry Pi OS is the official operating system for a Raspberry Pi. Most kits include it by default, but when you need to reinstall it, you might be lost. In this article, I will show you how to easily install Raspberry Pi OS. To give you an overview of this tutorial, here are the required steps to install Raspberry Pi OS:

  • Download Raspberry Pi Imager on the website.
  • Install it on your computer.
  • Open Imager, and choose the Raspberry Pi OS version to install.
  • Insert your SD card and write it.
  • Start your Raspberry Pi with this card and complete the configuration.

I will give more details about what Raspberry Pi OS is, and explain each step in detail – for both the Lite and Desktop versions. You are welcome to go directly to the part you’re interested in.

If you need help getting started on Raspberry Pi, I have an entire course to guide you through your first steps. I’ll help you use the perfect hardware, plug everything in and install your first system. You’ll also do your first project with me, just to make sure you are ready for the next level. Get all the information on this page if you are interested.

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Raspberry Pi OS introduction

Download the Pi Glossary!
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 brief introduction to Raspberry Pi OS.

Presentation

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 with Desktop

Raspberry Pi OS follows the names of the Debian versions, so the latest version available is Raspberry Pi OS Bullseye (Debian 11). Raspberry Pi OS is optimized for Raspberry Pi and you can use this distribution for most projects.

Versions

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 (no interface, command line only).

As its name suggests, the first two offer a graphical environment (PiXeL), while the third comes 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 install these two versions of Raspberry Pi OS.
The installation of the Full or Desktop version is 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.

Prerequisites to Install Raspberry Pi OS

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 get a USB adapter like this one on Amazon.
  • A minimum 8 GB SD card.
    The best is this one, you can find a benchmark I did with the most popular SD cards here.
  • A micro-SD / SD adapter (often included 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).

Update: If you don’t have a computer except the Raspberry Pi, you can now use the new network boot feature to install your system. Check the link for more details about this.

Download Raspberry Pi OS

There are two main ways to install Raspberry Pi OS on your SD card:

  • Use Raspberry Pi Imager: The tool created by the manufacturer, that will do everything for you.
  • Use Balena Etcher: You’ll need to download the system image first, and flash it with Etcher.

Both techniques work well, but if you are reading this, you might be a beginner in this field, so I recommend going on with the first option.
You’ll find many articles on this website where I explain how to do this with Etcher, but for now, let’s use Imager.

Download Raspberry Pi Imager

Raspberry Pi Imager is available on the official website. They are pushing this solution, so it’ll be easy to find.
Here is the direct link.

Install Raspberry Pi Imager on your Computer

Once downloaded on your computer, install it like any other application.
For Windows users, double-click on the downloaded file and follow the instructions to install it. Keep the default values if you have a choice.

The tool will then be available in the main menu (or in your applications for other operating systems). Start it and you’ll be ready to move to the next step.

Flash Raspberry Pi OS on your SD card

Raspberry Pi Imager has an interface that is pretty easy to use. There are three main steps:

  • Choose the operating system you want to install.
  • Choose the SD card or USB device to use.
  • Start the writing process.

Follow these three steps to create your SD card:

  • Click on “Choose OS” and chose the version you want to install on your Raspberry Pi.
    The first option is the Desktop version, and you’ll find the alternatives by clicking on the second element in the list: Raspberry Pi (other).
  • Once done, you can choose the SD card (in general, you’ll have only one choice).
  • Click on Write to start the installation:

Download the Pi Glossary!
If you are lost in all these new words and abbreviations, request my free Raspberry Pi glossary here (PDF format)!

After a few minutes, your SD card will be ready.
If your operating system opens empty drives or format questions, you must ignore everything.
Imager will do everything. You have nothing else to do.
After the writing process, you can see on the picture, there will be a verifying process to ensure your SD card is not corrupted and that everything will work correctly.

Note: The first time (or if an update is available), Raspberry Pi Imager will download the latest image in the background, that’s why it might be slow depending on your Internet connection. But if you flash another SD card with the same OS, the image will be cached, and it won’t download it again.

First boot on Raspberry Pi OS

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 plugged.

Your device may reboot a few times, don’t panic, this is normal.

Desktop version

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 main settings:

Wait for the updates to finish and restart the Raspberry Pi.

Note: With the latest versions of Raspberry Pi OS, the welcome wizard is now showing up before opening the session. You need to create the first user and password before anything else:

The other steps are the same as explained previously.

Lite version

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 user:

  • 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.

Note: Same thing as with the desktop version, it’s now required to create the first username and password on your first boot.

Raspberry Pi OS configuration

Keyboard layout

The first thing you need to do is to choose the right layout for your keyboard (if not already set).

Desktop version

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 > Preferences.
  • Open “Raspberry Pi Configuration“.
  • Localisation tab.
  • Set Keyboard…
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The change should apply immediately, restart your apps if needed.

Lite version

On the lite version, use the raspi-config tool: Start the raspi-config tool
sudo raspi-config

  • 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.

Change the Default Password on Raspberry Pi OS

Raspberry Pi is always installed with the password given above.
It is therefore essential to change it to keep your device safe.

Desktop version

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“.

Lite version

On the lite version, you can follow these steps:

  • Enter the password command:
    passwd
  • Type the old password (raspberry).
  • Enter a new password.
  • Confirm the same new password.

It’s ok. You should get something like:

change password raspbian

Are you a bit lost in the Linux command line? Check this article first, for the most important commands to remember, and a free downloadable cheat sheet so you can have the commands at your fingertips.

Network configuration

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.

Desktop version

Ethernet

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:

Wi-Fi

If you haven’t 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 SSIDs will show up, select yours and enter your password.
If you need more details, you can read this article on how to configure the Wi-Fi on Raspberry Pi.

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.

Lite version

Ethernet

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 that 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
    ip_address=192.168.1.200/24
    static routers=192.168.1.1
    static domain_name_servers=192.168.1.1
  • Save the file and exit (CTRL+O, Enter, CTRL+X).
  • Reboot the Raspberry Pi for changes to take effect:
    sudo reboot

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:
    auto eth0
    iface eth0 inet static
    address 192.168.1.200
    netmask 255.255.255.0
    gateway 192.168.1.1
    dns-nameservers 8.8.8.8 8.8.4.4

    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:
    sudo reboot

You should get something like this:

ifconfig
Wi-Fi

To enable the Wi-Fi on the Lite version, you should first set your Wi-Fi country.
For this, use the raspi-config tool.

sudo raspi-config
  • Go to Localisation Options > Change Wi-Fi Country.
  • Select your Country in the list.
  • Exit.

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.
  • Finish.

Enable SSH

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.

Desktop version

Start once

To start SSH server follow these steps:

  • Open the Main menu.
  • Start Preferences > Raspberry Pi Configuration.
  • In the Interface tab, enable SSH.
Auto start

On the Desktop version, SSH server will auto-start at each boot until you disable it in this window.

Lite version

Start once

On the lite version, you can start the SSH server with this command:

sudo service ssh start
Auto-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

Connection

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 is available in Raspberry Pi OS repositories, let’s see how to do it in both environments.

Desktop version

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:

manage software raspbian buster

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.

Lite version

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:

apt cache search

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:

apt get install

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:

apt get remove

As you can see, apt-get will remove the package you ask for, but not its dependencies.
If you want to remove them, you have to use this command:

sudo apt-get autoremove

Video

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:

Related posts

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:

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Conclusion

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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 🙂

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Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of RaspberryTips.com. My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

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