Raspberry Pi Software Guide
So you've got a Raspberry Pi, and you've made sure you have all the physical equipment you need. Now what? It's time to get yourself an operating system and boot up your Raspberry Pi.
Getting an operating system
The recommended operating system for use with the Raspberry Pi is called Raspbian. Raspbian is a version of GNU/Linux, designed specifically to work well with the Raspberry Pi. You have several options when it comes to getting hold of a copy of Raspbian.
Buy a pre-installed SD card
Install Raspbian with NOOBS
NOOBS stands for New Out Of Box Software, and if you've never played around with GNU/Linux before, then it's the best place to start. To begin with, it's always a good idea to make sure you have formatted your SD card. You'll need to make sure your computer has a built-in SD card reader, or you can use a USB SD card reader.
- Visit the SD Association’s website and download SD Formatter 4.0 for either Windows or Mac.
- Follow the instructions to install the software.
- Insert your SD card into the computer or laptop’s SD card reader and make a note of the drive letter allocated to it, e.g.
In SD Formatter, select the drive letter for your SD card and format it.
Note: If your SD card has 64GB or more, it will automatically be formatted as exFAT, which is not compatible with NOOBS. Follow these instructions to force your SD card to format as FAT32 so that you can use NOOBS.
Download NOOBS files then drag and drop
Visit the official Raspberry Pi Downloads page.
Click on NOOBS.
Click on the Download ZIP button under ‘NOOBS (offline and network install)’, and select a folder to save it to.
- Extract the files from the zip.
- Once your SD card has been formatted, drag all the files in the extracted NOOBS folder and drop them onto the SD card drive.
- The necessary files will then be transferred to your SD card.
- When this process has finished, safely remove the SD card and insert it into your Raspberry Pi.
Download and image Raspbian directly
An alternative to using NOOBS to install Raspbian is to download and install the image directly. This is a faster process, and is great if you need to image multiple cards for a workshop or class.
Using a computer with an SD card reader, visit the official Raspberry Pi Downloads page.
Click on Raspbian.
Click on the Download ZIP button under ‘Raspbian Stretch with desktop’, and select a folder to save it to.
Extract the files from the zip.
- Visit etcher.io and download and install the Etcher SD card image utility.
- Run Etcher and select the Raspbian image you unzipped on your computer or laptop.
- Select the SD card drive. Note that the software may have already selected the right drive.
Finally, click Burn to transfer Raspbian to the SD card. You'll see a progress bar that tells you how much is left to do. Once complete, the utility will automatically eject/unmount the SD card so it's safe to remove it from the computer.
The first time you power on
Now that you have an operating system, you can slot your SD card into your Raspberry Pi and connect the power. Follow the hardware help section if you need assistance with this.
If you are using NOOBS and this is the first time your Raspberry Pi and SD card have been used, then you'll have to select an operating system and let it install.
- If you downloaded Raspbian and imaged it using Etcher rather than NOOBS, then you will boot directly to the desktop environment of Raspbian and won't need to wait.