Why is my Raspberry Pi not Booting? (13 tips)

raspberry pi not booting

Everyone may have this issue, especially when we start to use a Raspberry Pi
I have had many cases like this at the beginning, and it still happens occasionally when I try something new (new system or hardware for example)
I will start here a list of the most common reasons why the Raspberry Pi won’t boot sometimes, and I hope that you can complete it in the comments section!

Why is my Raspberry Pi not Booting?
Many reasons are possible, but we can sort these issues in a few categories:
– Cabling issues
– Hardware problem (power supply or SD card in general)
– Incompatible operating system
– Corrupted files on your SD card

In the following, I will list all the most common cases I know, and give you a few tips to find a solution

Incompatible operating system

As it’s the most common reason for a Raspberry Pi that won’t boot, I will start with the operating system issue

ARM architecture

Raspberry Pi runs with a specific processor, so you need to use operating systems compatible with this architecture, ARM, check the Wikipedia page to learn more about this
i386 and x64 systems are not compatible with your Raspberry Pi

You can generally find this information on the download page
If you are not on a page specific to Raspberry Pi, you’ll probably get a 64bits version (as almost any desktop computer can run this now)
So, find the Raspberry Pi page for this system first. If you can’t find it, this OS is probably not available for Pi

For example, Ubuntu offers one version per Raspberry Pi model
And for the latest ones, you have the choice between 32 bits (armhf) and 64 bits (arm64)

You can also check this post with a list of 15 operating systems compatible with Raspberry Pi to be sure to download a good one

Raspberry Pi 4

Raspberry Pi 4 is still new in the Raspberry Pi world
Some operating systems are not available on Raspberry Pi 4

For example, during writing, Retropie and OSMC doesn’t offer any version for your Raspberry Pi 4
You can’t install the latest version on it, it’s only for Raspberry Pi 3 and older models

You also often need the latest version of your operating system to make it work
For example, if you have everything installed on a Raspberry Pi 3B+ and want to move your system to a Raspberry Pi 4, you need to update the system first. Raspbian Stretch and older versions are not working on Pi 4

Rainbow screen

If you are stuck on the rainbow screen, it could also tell you that your system is not compatible with your Raspberry Pi model

This screen normally flash quickly on boot, and then the operating system starts to boot
If there is an issue with the SD card compatibility, it will stay on this rainbow screen

Almost this πŸ™‚

If you are in the situation, check that your system is compatible with your model
If you have an older Raspberry Pi available, you can try to boot on it.
If it works, you can upgrade the system to the latest version, and try again on your recent Pi

Cabling issues

Another common explanation is an issue with your cables, let’s check if everything is fine about this

Power supply

Raspberry Pi needs enough power to boot. Even if it’s not so much, it’s mandatory to work
Stability is also an important factor

So, if you don’t use the official power supply for your Raspberry Pi model, it could be the issue
Also, avoid plugging it with a USB cable to your computer or with an old USB charger.

You can find cheap power supply on Amazon. Here are the links for the Raspberry Pi 4 and the Raspberry Pi 3
CanaKit is a serious brand I love, mostly for kits but also for any accessories

If you prefer to use your own power supply, make sure it delivers enough power to meet the requirements of your model
You can find this information on the official website

Display

If you think that everything I told you previously is correct, but you don’t see anything on the screen, it could also be a “fake” boot issue
If the green LED lights up during the boot, it’s probably only a video issue

It could be the screen, but it’s often only a cable problem
Do you use adapters in your installation? Are they working with Raspbian?
On Raspberry Pi 4, have you check with the other port?

For example, I use an HDMI/VGA adapter with my laptop, but it’s not working with my Raspberry Pi 3
Some adapter will work, but the best solution I found is to use only one direct cable
For example, HDMI/HDMI on Raspberry Pi 3 (Amazon basics is enough) or Micro HDMI/HDMI with a Raspberry Pi 4 (I have this one)

Bonus

You can also check the last paragraph of this post, for another way to detect where does the problem come from

Corrupted files

I never had this issue, but I’m probably lucky πŸ™‚
It’s also a common reason for a non booting Raspberry Pi

Improper shutdown

We are here in a case where your system has already worked in the past, but does not boot anymore
Most of the time, this is because you didn’t halt the system correctly
With no luck, you can be unable to boot or at least get some corrupted files

The Raspberry Pi Foundation recommends stopping your device with one of these commands:
sudo halt
sudo shutdown

This is the only way to avoid this
Note: there is no difference between using the power button and unplugging the power supply πŸ™‚

Personally, I never do that and I never have had issues with this
But most of my setup are temporary with only a few services running
If you are using the same SD card for a long time, with many services or several users acceding the data, it’s probably a good idea to consider this point

I also recommend a complete SD card backup regularly to be safe
Even if you are cautious on how to stop your Raspberry Pi, you can’t completely avoid power outages
And try to not use cheap SD cards for this kind of critical setup (check my recommended products page for up-to-date advices)

Recover your files

If you are in this situation where the Raspberry Pi won’t boot because of a file corruption, don’t format your SD card right away!
You may still read it on a Linux computer

This way you can copy all readable files to your computer
Then install your operating system (on a new SD card if possible) and install all the services you need
Once done, you can transfer your configuration files and data to the Raspberry Pi as before

It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing πŸ™‚

Corrupted image

Another bonus explanation here, that is quickly solved as you are just started with this system

You are downloading operating systems on the Internet
Even if all image files are generally tested by the editor, it’s possible to get a corrupted image if there is an issue during the download or writing

Some operating system gives you a MD5 hash that you can use to check if you are in this case (md5 <filename> on Linux)
But the quickest way is probably to try downloading the image again
If you get stuck twice, there is definitely another issue with your Pi

Hardware issues

The last category I want to address here, is an issue with your hardware
If you are using something new (the Pi or other accessories), it’s a possible reason

Poorly connected accessory

Maybe I should have started with this one, but the other reason in this category are the least likely to happen
There are a few obvious reasons to check (your screen is off, your power supply is not correctly plugged, etc.)
Yes you may smile, but it can happen to anyone if you try to go fast

So take a few seconds to check everything
On my Raspberry Pi 3 for example, I have some issues with my SD cards. If I insert it without looking, it sometimes happens that the SD card goes between the SD port and the plastic case
If you do the same, there is no chance your Pi will boot πŸ™‚

You can also check the latest suggestion in this post to avoid any issue due to a not essential part (USB accessories, HAT, etc.)

Incompatible hardware

I don’t really have any example about this to give you, but I know that it may happen with a desktop computer
Let’s say you add a new GPU into your computer, it may seem to not boot because the operating system doesn’t know how to handle this new hardware (incompatible or not configured)

So make sure, you don’t try to use something that is not made for Raspberry Pi, or not with your specific version
The best way to identify the problem is to read the end of this post

Defective part

All new Raspberry Pi are tested when they leave the factory, so there is almost no chance that the reason for not booting comes from a defective component (if new at least)
A Raspberry Pi can be broken (power issue or drop for example), but in this case you know what you have to do …

Most probably, if you have a defective part is probably not the motherboard, but the SD card, the power supply or any other hardware you try to use
In this case, you can try the next idea to identify the exact cause

Remove almost everything

Ok, here is the last thing you can try if you suspect a hardware issue:

  • Unplug everything (power, video, USB, SD card, HAT, etc.)
  • Insert a SD card (if possible a different one just flashed with Raspbian to exclude any SD card problem)
  • Plug the video cable and the power supply

If everything works correctly, the issue comes from something you didn’t plug right now
Try to plug each equipment, one at a time, and try again each time
If at one point it doesn’t work, you have identified the issue and can check this part or search for help about this

projects ideas for raspberry pi zero

Now, if it doesn’t work, even with only the mandatory equipment, there is an issue with the power supply, the SD card or the motherboard
If you already read everything here, a motherboard issue is possible

Check the Raspberry Pi LED to get more information:

  • The red LED lights up as soon as you plug the power supply
  • The green LED blinks when acceding the SD card

Take note of this, an ask you question in the comments below and/or in the Raspberry Pi official forums

Conclusion

That’s it, you already have a better idea to what you can check if your Raspberry Pi is not booting

I hope that this post was useful for you and that you have found a solution.
However, I know that there are many reasons for a Raspberry Pi that won’t boot, and it’s difficult to be exhaustive and to organize this in a blog post
That’s why I suggest using the comments below to share other ideas and ask your questions

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