5 months ago

Install Raspberry Pi Desktop x86

Regular readers will know that we first gave away a copy of The Raspberry Pi Desktop operating system with issue 53 of The MagPi. Well, we’re back with an update. The latest version of The Raspberry Pi Desktop x86 is included with the print edition of this month’s magazine.

You can still run the Raspberry Pi Desktop on a PC or Mac computer, but now you can also install the Raspberry Pi Desktop on your hard drive, replacing the previous operating system.

This DVD is an ideal tool for adapting an old computer into a useful coding and hacking machine. The Raspberry Pi Desktop x86 runs on most computers with an Intel x86 architecture. We’ve run it successfully on many old PC and Mac devices.

The full article can be found in The MagPi 60 and was written by Lucy Hattersley.

Let’s look at how to go about doing a basic installation of The Raspberry Pi Desktop x86 on an old PC or Mac computer.

Warning! This tutorial erases the operating system running on your computer.

You’ll need

  • Mac or PC with optical drive
  • The Raspberry Pi Desktop x86 DVD
  • The Raspberry Pi Desktop x86 ISO image file
  • USB thumb drive

How to: Use The Raspberry Pi Desktop x86

STEP-01 Boot from DVD on a PC

The free DVD bundled with the print edition of The MagPi #60 can be used to start up a PC or Mac computer with an optical DVD drive. Turn off your computer and insert the DVD. Most PC computers are set up to boot from the optical drive before the hard drive, and you should see the Debian GNU/Linux installer boot menu. If it does not boot from the DVD, you need to change the Boot Priority Order in your BIOS settings. On most PCs, you press F1 during boot to do this.

Apple Mac computers are designed to boot from the hard drive first, and not from an inserted DVD. Insert the DVD into your Mac and shut it down. Now power it up and hold down the C key. The menu should boot from the DVD. If this doesn’t work, hold down the Option key (marked ‘alt’) and choose the EFI Boot icon.

STEP-02 Boot menu

The new version of The Raspberry Pi Desktop features a boot menu. Here you’ll see seven options: Run with persistence, Run and reset persistence, Run without persistence, Install, Graphical install, and Advanced options.

STEP-03 Run Raspbian

Choose ‘Run without persistence’ to quickly boot into the Raspberry Pi Desktop x86 operating system. Here you can experiment and play around. Be warned that it won’t save any files. For this, you need to choose ‘Run with persistence’, and attach a USB pen drive to your computer. The persistence drive saves any files you create while using Raspbian (see The MagPi #53 for an in-depth explanation of persistence).

STEP-04 Install

Two options are available: Install and Graphical install. Both offer a similar experience. You’ll find additional settings under Advanced options. Select Install. Run through the Configuration options using the arrow keys and Enter. You’ll now see ‘Loading additional components’.

STEP-05 Partition disks

You have several options for partitioning disks. We’re going with ‘Guided – use entire disk’. Note that this wipes the original operating system! Choose the correct disk from the Partition Disks list and ‘All files in one partition’. Finally, select Finish partitioning, write changes to disk, and Yes.

STEP-06 Installing the system

Wait for the system to be installed on your hard drive. Choose Yes to Install the GRUB boot loader on a hard disk, and pick your device from the list (typically it will be /dev/sda on a single disk machine). When you see ‘Installation is complete’, click Continue. Your computer will reboot and start up in the Raspberry Pi Desktop.

Install Raspberry Pi Desktop on a Mac without a DVD drive using a thumb drive

We had some trouble installing the Raspberry Pi Desktop on an old Macbook. We think it might be because the Macbook drive was very old.

A few people asked us for help on this one. So, we also produced this bonus video which shows you how to take the Raspberry Pi Desktop file and turn it into a Mac thumb drive installer. This enables you to bypass the CD/DVD drive on a Mac and install straight form a USB thumb drive.

  • Brad Jackson

    I did this and it worked perfectly. I would also like to install a version of Kodi along with this. Is this possible?

  • Marc Barrière

    Hi, very fast and interesting. try it on an old DEll Inspiron.Just a problem: i dont know how to connect on my wifi. Somebody have an idea?

  • James Schuler

    Dell uses broadcom drivers for the wireless network card. You will need to use a wired connection and then install the broadcom drivers via the terminal.

  • Gil Kenny

    Is it possible to make a Raspberry PI, disk-on-key boot system?
    So that I can learn and practice with my computer?

  • Tyler Muranaka

    I did this with my dell latitude and it worked perfectly.

  • John Harmon

    I tried this on an twelve year old machine running with bios firmware. It has an nvidia graphics card, which is apparently incompatible with the drivers passed in the operating system. This is not a unique problem with Raspian, as other Linux recent OS’s have observed the same issue.

    My question is, Can I replace a driver in the image before startup, and if so, how?

  • reid

    Just did the install on a 2006 MacBook – nice smooth job, it recognized all 6GB RAM, picked up the wifi (though it complained on installation about the driver – since it had worked fine running from DVD I went ahead without loading additional drivers, and everything was fine), and runs just great. This same laptop had had a dual-boot El Capitan / Ubuntu MATE installation, which was working OK, but I like RPi better!
    Only fly in the ointment is that I haven’t figured out how to get the battery monitor running – it looks like one using ACPI is installed, but I haven’t worked out how to kick it into gear, so I have to watch my time on battery.
    This gives me another slant on the Pi and now I can let my grandson work on his programming on the new Apples & Raspberries fruit salad laptop. Thanks for the great work!

  • Saleha Siddiqui

    I tried doing this as dual boot alongside windows….It worked perfectly, recognised the wifi and battery and the rest. Thanks for the great work👍👍

  • marcdraco

    There is a closed source driver from nVidia in addition to the open source Nouveau one. Nouveau is pretty funky when it comes to support but even nVidia have different versions (304 for the fairly ancient cards, 340 for the less ancient ones… and then 370+ for newer) so it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

    Not that it’s any comfort but this affects all forms of BSD too.

    You can pass -nomodeset to the kernel which should allow you to boot into a VESA mode – perhaps 800×600 and then get the driver from nVidia direct.

    A better bet though would be to find a Debian (or descendant) release such as Ubuntu Mate (which is my preferred one) or something based on XFCE or LXDE – there’s plenty of choice. Ubuntu derivatives often give you the option of loading the driver automatically when you’re off and running rather than having to download a binary or worse, have to compile it from source… and that’s real drag on older hardware.

    Everything in Raspbian X86 should be easily available from the usual sources. 🙂

  • marcdraco

    Kodi is available pretty much everywhere (the .deb package should work) but for most practical purposes, you’re better off booting from a USB stick if your hardware supports it and using a customized “distro” such as LibreElec or OpenElec. They lack the OS overhead so are more efficient for your PC and if you’re installing addons from unreliable sources, they are less able to get access to your entire OS.

  • Joe Smith

    Can it be installed for dual booting?

  • SrinivasaRao Gurram

    I want to run the updated software version on USB and run directly from USB. I tried to start the iso file from virtual box and installed on USB. But some how the USB is failing to boot.
    can some one help me on this

  • doug holtz

    there is software called rufus that will take an iso file and write the o/s to a usb. you can boot the usb then

  • Saleha Siddiqui

    I tried it and it worked perfect. You’ll have to free up some space from your primary os hdd first

  • Duncan

    I tried 2 PCs, IBM R40e and SAMSUNG P30. But it does not boot to ISO image.
    Please help .

  • Christian Dandoy

    Is it possible to upgrade it toStretch ????

  • MightyMiggsZA

    Will you be able to install retropie?

  • Wartman James Jayson

    burn the iso image to a cd first then boot from the cd

  • Wartman James Jayson

    Mmm.. apple pi

  • Duncan

    Dear Sirs,

    I tried to burn it into DVD but it does not boot to raspberry pi.

    Please let me know the details.

    Yours faithfully,


  • donovan strawhacker

    well what software are you using I know unetbootin which is what I tried on the earlier image didn’t work. Might be the same here. It also might be that the disk or file is corrupted.

  • Saleha Siddiqui

    Try reinstalling the iso image…. It might have corrupted. Then burn it to a cd/dvd and try booting. If it still doesn’t work download this software called rufus. It can make a bootable usb thumb drive with the iso image…

  • Mika Gouzee

    Okay, I’ve an issue here.

    I’ve been trying to install Raspbian on an old Ubuntu laptop, and everytime I remove the CD , the machine fails : unable to open terminal, mostly, and on reboot, unable to detect any OS, eventho I followed every instructions of your tutorial.

    I’ve reinstalled this approximately ten times, and it’s starting to drive me mad. Any idea?

  • Wartman James Jayson


  • This should be perfect for an aged desktop PC. The latest Ubuntu 17.10 is no longer suitable for the same hardware the first couple of versions of Ubuntu ran on.

    Is Mathematica also bundled with the x86 version? That will make it a very useful proposition.

  • Bill

    I used Rufus to create a bootable USB drive from the .iso file. I have several Dell Lattitude D630 notebooks and I tried the drive on one of these that has no operating system on the hard drive. The machine will run the desktop from the USB drive, but will not boot from the hard drive. This machine has the Nvidia Quadro NVS 135 display and I suspect that this may be the problem. The NVS 135 is a display that I try to avoid because it often fails permanently. As Debian was installing, there was a message indicating that two drivers needed to be installed and gave the file names. It didn’t say what the drivers were for. I didn’t have the driver files, so I just ignored the message and went on with the installation. The installation completed, but won’t boot from the hard drive. I wasn’t too concerned with getting the driver files because I figured that I could re-install the OS later, but it appears that I will have to re-install it to get the file names, since I didn’t make a note of them. I should have another one of these D630s soon, this one with an Intel Crestline graphics controller, but no OS. I’ll try installing the R Pi Desktop when I get it and see if the Nvidia controller is the problem. The D630 is cheap and widely available without the OS, so I figured that one of them would make a good host for a Raspberry Pi system.

  • Stinky

    Yes, it is now (but evidently wasn’t when you wrote this).

    % sudo apt-get update
    % sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

  • Joseph Rashid

    Nice, how did you do that?

  • Joseph Rashid

    Finally, a good way to make a Mac useful and usable

  • Saleha Siddiqui

    I partitioned the HDD in windows and freed some 10 gb from my C: drive… Then i simply booted from the Dvd and installed it in that partition.
    Ps- I selected manual in the where to install menu

  • Saleha Siddiqui

    No, unfortunately mathematica along with minecraft pi and wolfram is a Rpi exclusive program… I was hoping they had included it though

  • Doug Marshall

    The Etcher utility will work with an ISO file, no need to convert to IMG as suggested in the video.

  • Kenneth Hansen

    I installed the raspberry pi desktop on My laptop. But for some reason the desktop menu is gone! Anyone know how to fix this? Also the wifi is not working (using a lenovo ideapad 300)

  • Edang Jeorlie

    Does jessie-lite works on x86? I want to run jessie-lite on my 256mb ram old pc.

  • Wesley Knapp

    I have installed the Desktop on an Acer notebook. I started with the disc that came with my MagPi but soon found it was updated and installed the latest. Problem is with both installs I have no trackpad nor sound. Where do I go from here?