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


Everyone may have this issue, especially when beginning to use Raspberry Pi.
In the beginning, I had many issues booting my Raspberry Pi, and it still happens occasionally when I try something new (like a new system or hardware).
I will start with a list of the most common reasons why the Raspberry Pi won’t boot.

In general, a Raspberry Pi that doesn’t boot has one of this problem:
– Bad cabling
– Hardware problem (power supply or SD card for example)
– Incompatible operating system
– Corrupted files on the SD card

In this article, I will list all the most common reasons I know, and give you a few tips on finding a solution.

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Incompatible operating system

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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 that you download a good one.

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Raspberry Pi 4

Raspberry Pi 4 and 400 are still new in the Raspberry Pi world.
Some operating systems are not available on Raspberry Pi 4 / 400.

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 have to update the system first. Raspbian Stretch and older versions do not work 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 flashes 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 🙂

If you are in this situation, check that your system is compatible with your model.
If you have an older Raspberry Pi available, you can try to boot 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 to see if your cables are set up properly.

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 your issue.
Also, avoid plugging it with a USB cable to your computer or with an old USB charger.

You can find a 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 checked everything I previously mentioned, but don’t see anything on the screen, it could be a “fake” boot issue.
If the green LED lights up during the boot, it’s probably only a video issue (more details here about the LEDs meaning on Raspberry Pi).

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

For example, I use an HDMI/VGA adapter with my laptop, but it isn’t working with my Raspberry Pi 3.
Some adapters will work, but the best solution I found is to use only one direct cable.
For example, HDMI/HDMI on Raspberry Pi 3 (this one is perfect, but anyone at your local store will be ok) or Micro HDMI/HDMI with a Raspberry Pi 4 (I have this one, for example, excellent merchant by the way).

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Bonus

You can also check the last paragraph of this post for another way to detect where the problem comes from.

Corrupted files

I never had this issue, but I’m probably lucky :).
It’s also a common reason for a non-booting Raspberry Pi.

Improper shutdown

If your system worked previously but doesn’t boot anymore, this might be your issue.
Most of the time, this is because you didn’t halt the system correctly.
With no luck, you might 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 :).

Personally, I never do that and I’ve never had issues with this.
But most of my setup is temporary with only a few services running.
If you have been 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 of how you 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 advice).

Recover your files

If your Raspberry Pi won’t boot because of a corrupt file, 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 :).

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 an 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

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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), this could be a possible reason.

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Poorly connected accessory

Maybe I should have started with this one, but the other reasons 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, the SD card sometimes goes between the SD port and the plastic case.
If you do the same, there is no chance your Pi will boot :).

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 of 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.

Usually, 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 an SD card (if possible a different one just flashed with Raspberry Pi OS 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 plugin right now.
Try to plug each piece of 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.

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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 tried 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.

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Conclusion

That’s it, you should have a better idea of 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 organize this in a blog post.


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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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