The Raspberry Pi is a pretty cool little computer – however unlike normal personal computers it does not come preloaded with an operating system (OS). This means that in order to use the Raspberry Pi computer you must install a OS of your choice onto a SD card and use that to boot the computer.
This article will demonstrate how to install a operating system, flash it to a SD card and boot your Raspberry Pi for the first time.
If you want to follow the article at home you must have:
- A Raspberry Pi – Model B
- A SD Card (min. 2 GB)
- A computer with an internet connection and a SD card reader
- A USB keyboard
- A HDMI monitor
Selecting a Operating System (OS)
A Raspberry Pi does not run standard operating system such as Windows 8 or OS X. This is because the Raspberry Pi is powered by a so-called ARM processor, this type of computer processor cannot execute the same programs as your computer. Instead it must run one of the operating systems that have been optimized and ported to the Raspbery Pi ARM hardware architecture.
Luckily there are quite a few different operating systems available. It is important to note that most of them are based on the linux kernel.
Soft-float Debian “wheezy”
The soft-float debian operating system is used primarily if you are running intensive java based applications on your Raspberry Pi (We wont be doing that for now).
Arch Linux ARM
This operating system is not for beginners so we wont talk more about it just now. However you should take a closer look at this if you are already an experienced Linux user.
The Raspbian “Wheezy” operating system is the most popular operating system to run on the Raspberry Pi. It has very good integration with the hardware and comes pre-loaded with a graphical user interface and development tools. This will come in very handy if you are not too experienced in a linux environment.
For the purpose of this article we will use the Raspbian operating system since it is easy to get started with. First step is download the latest version of the Raspbian “Wheezy” operating system image. It is freely available here (scroll down to “Raw Images”).
Once you have downloaded and move the file to an appropriate folder right click and select “Extract All… ” – this will extract the image file from the downloaded zip file.
In addition to the operating system we are also going to need a program that can transfer the operating system to our SD card in such a way that the Raspberry Pi can use it to boot from. This program is called Win32DiskImager and is available here for free.
Once you have downloaded the Win32DiskImager file – move it to an appropriate folder, right-click and select “Extract All… ” follow the guide to extract the program.
The program does not need to be installed – you can start it now by double clicking the file “Win32DiskImager”. Before starting plug the empty SD card into your computer.
Once started you will have to select the Rasbian “Wheezy” image file, next select the drive letter of your SD card.
NOTE: Its important that you are 100% sure that the drive letter selected is your SD card.
Now press “Write” and sit back and relax while the program installs the operating system onto your SD card. While waiting you can connect the Raspberry Pi to a USB Keyboard & Mouse and a HDMI monitor or TV.
Once we have programmed the SD Card – plug it into the Raspberry Pi. At this point everything but the power supply should be plugged into the Raspberry Pi.
First Boot Configuration
Connect power and you should see the boot sequence on your TV (if not check if you selected correct HDMI input on TV). After first boot the Raspberry Pi boots up in setup mode. If it does not boot into setup mode you can type the following command to get there:
When in setup mode we want to:
- Re-size to file-system to use the entire SD card in my case (4GB) (First option in setup menu)
- Change the locale to match your location (This is found under “Internationalization Options”)
- Change the timezone to match your location (This is found under “Internationalization Options”)
We can now reboot the raspberry and when it boots again it will come up with our new configuration! To log in use the following credentials:
Your Raspberry is now setup, configured and ready for you to use for any purpose you want.