How to set up your first Raspberry Pi
I love my Raspberry Pi computers and use them whenever and wherever I can. But I can remember that first time I unpackaged a Raspberry Pi board and had to set it up. It was a bit daunting.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Also: These are my 3 must-have Raspberry Pi accessories
Here’s everything you need to know to set up your first Raspberry Pi
1. Here’s what you need
You don’t need much. Of course, you need a Raspberry Pi (and keyboard/mouse/display), a microSD card, the operating system you’re going to run on the Raspberry Pi, and software to prepare the microSD card and copy the software over to it.
Oh, and if your computer doesn’t have a slot for an SD/microSD card, you’ll need an adapter.
2. Say hello to the Raspberry Pi Imager
The software we’re going to use to get the microSD card ready for use is the Raspberry Pi Imager.
Why? Because it takes the stress out of everything.
You don’t even have to download the operating system you’re going to run on your Raspberry Pi — it’ll do that for you!
Also: How I solved one of my biggest Raspberry Pi headaches
You can download the Raspberry Pi Imager here. There are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Download and install the Raspberry Pi Imager on the computer you want to use to prepare the microSD card.
3. Pick your Raspberry Pi operating system (OS)
Right, you now have everything you need. Connect the microSD card to your computer and fire up the Raspberry Pi Imager.
Now click on Choose OS.
The default is Raspberry Pi OS (32-bit) which is a good choice, but if you have a Raspberry Pi 3, 4, or 400, you can go find the 64-bit version. To do this, click on Raspberry Pi OS (other) and then scroll down to find Raspberry Pi OS (64-bit) and click on this to select it.
4. Get ready to install!
Next, click Choose Storage and click on your microSD card.
5. Make life easier for yourself later by setting the Wi-Fi password now
I’m a big believer in making things as easy as possible for myself. One way to do this is to use the Raspberry Pi Imager to set the Wi-Fi SSDI (the name of the Wi-Fi network you want it to connect to) and password for me in the Raspberry Pi operating system.
Also: Raspberry Pi: Where to buy the hard-to-find latest model and its alternatives
To do this, click on the cog in the bottom-right of the imager to access the Advanced Options.
Here you’ll find a bunch of options.
Scroll down to Configure wireless LAN, check the box, fill in the details, and click Save.
6. Write to the microSD card.
You’re now ready to write to the microSD card. Click Write to kick off the process.
You’ll be asked if you want to erase everything on the microSD card. Click Yes if you’re sure this is the right card.
Let the writing process commence!
The software will tell you when it’s done. Click Continue to finish.
7. Put the microSD card into the Raspberry Pi
Remove the microSD card from your computer and install it into the Raspberry Pi.
The microSD card fits into the microSD card slot on the underside of the Raspberry Pi. The image below shows the way the card fits into the slot.
Slide the card as far into the slot as it will go. There isn’t a click or anything to tell you when it’s all the way unlike most microSD card slots found on smartphones and drones.
8. Connect a display and power
Finally, you need to connect a display and power.
If you’re going to be connecting your Raspberry Pi to a TV of computer monitor, then you can use HDMI.
There are two micro HDMI ports built into the Raspberry Pi 4.
Since most computer monitors and TVs have a full-sized HDMI port, the best solution here is to get yourself a micro HDMI to HDMI cable.
The micro end connects to one of the micro HDMI ports on the Raspberry Pi, the other end to your TV or monitor.
Alternatively, you might want to use a touchscreen display on your Raspberry Pi. This is a bit more involved, but it’s a fun project that I’ve detailed here.
Finally, connect your Raspberry Pi to power to boot it up, and you’re ready to start your adventure!
You need a USB-C cable to supply power, and you can use a power supply or a power bank to power your Raspberry Pi. I recommend using the official USB-C power supply because they are cheap, well made, and super reliable.
Power connects to the USB-C port marked POWER IN, which is next to the HDMI ports.
There’s no on button, so as soon as you connect power to the Raspberry Pi, it’ll switch on and start booting up.
Once booted up, the Raspberry Pi will guide you through connecting your keyboard and mouse (it usually involves pressing the pairing button in your keyboard or mouse and waiting a few seconds).
You’re done! Enjoy your Raspberry Pi!