How to Set Up a Raspberry Pi

1
Let's Get Your Pi Ready For Projects

Raspberry Pi and SD Cards
Setting up your Raspberry Pi shouldn't take more than 30 minutes. Richard Saville

You may have recently read my What Is A Raspberry Pi article and then my Which Raspberry Pi guide to assist your purchase as well.

You’ve made your order online, your shiny new Pi has been delivered and now you've got to set it up for the first time.

Setting up a Raspberry Pi is reasonably straightforward, with only a few steps that might catch you out if you haven’t done certain things before.

This guide will get you up and running with the generic Raspbian desktop setup, including peripherals and a monitor.

This article is based on setting up a Raspberry Pi with a Windows PC.

2
What You Need

Raspberry Pi and Accessories
Just some of what you'll need. Richard Saville

Hardware

Here are the physical 'things' you'll need to set up your Raspberry Pi for desktop usage:

  • A PC/laptop (I’m using a Windows 10 machine)
  • An SD card reader (built-in or external/USB)
  • A Raspberry Pi (We’re using a Model B+)
  • A HDMI monitor or TV
  • A HDMI cable
  • An SD card (Micro-SD if you’re using a Model B+ or later. Go for at least 8GB)
  • A micro-USB power supply (the official PSU is best)
  • An ethernet cable
  • A USB keyboard
  • A USB mouse

Software

You'll also need do download and install some software:

SD Formatter - to ensure your SD card is properly formatted

Win32DiskImager - to write the Raspbian image to your formatted SD card

3
Download The Operating System

Raspbian Download Page
The Raspberry Pi site will always have the latest version of Raspbian ready for download. Richard Saville

You won’t get anywhere without an operating system on your SD card, so let’s do that part first.

Raspbian

There are many different operating systems for the Raspberry Pi, however I would always suggest beginners to start with Raspbian.

It’s the officially supported operating system by the Raspberry Pi Foundation so you’ll find most resources on the internet use this in projects, examples and tutorials.

Download the Image

Head over to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s download page and grab the latest version of Raspbian. You’ll notice there is a ‘Lite’ version - ignore that for now.

Your download will be a zip file. Extract ("unzip") the contents to a folder of your choice by using the usual right-click context menu. You should be left with an 'image' (.img file), which needs to be written to your SD card.

Writing ‘images’ to SD cards might be a new concept to you, but we'll go through that here.

4
Wipe Your SD Card

Raspberry Pi SD Card
Make sure your SD card is formatted before writing the Raspbian image. Richard Saville

Software check

You’ll need the SD Formatter software to complete this step. If you followed the 'What You Need' step you should have this installed. If not, go back and do that now.

Wipe your card

I always wipe my SD cards before installing an operating system - even if they're new. It's a 'just in case' step and a good habit to get in to.

Open SD Formatter and check the drive letter displayed matches your SD card (especially if you have multiple devices attached to your PC).

The default settings work fine so leave them untouched. For reference these are 'quick format' and 'size adjustment off'.

Once the card is formatted move on to the next step.

5
Write The Raspbian Image To Your SD Card

Win32DiskImager
Win32DiskImager is a staple Raspberry Pi tool. Richard Saville

Software check

You’ll need the Win32DiskImager software to complete this step. If you followed the 'What You Need' step you should have this installed. If not, go back and do that now.

Write the image

Open Win32DiskImager. This program not only lets you write images to SD cards, it can also back up (read) existing images for you as well.

With your SD card already in your PC from the previous step, open Win32DiskImager and you’ll be presented with a small window. Hit the blue folder icon and select your extracted image file download. The full path of your image file should be displayed.

On the right of the window is the drive letter - this should match your SD card's drive letter. Make sure this is correct.

When you're ready, select 'Write' and wait for the process to finish. Once it's complete, safely remove your SD card and pop it into your Pi's SD slot.

6
Connect Cables

Raspberry Pi connected to cables
After connecting HDMI, USB and Ethernet cables - you're ready to plug in the power. Richard Saville

This part is pretty obvious seeing as you’ll have seen most of these connections on the other devices in your home such as your TV. However to remove any doubt, let's go through them:

  • Your HDMI cable plugs into the Pi and goes into your monitor/TV
  • Your Ethernet cable runs from your Pi to your router
  • Your keyboard and mouse plug into any of the USB ports

The only other cable to plug in is the micro-USB power. Make sure it’s switched off at the wall before you attach it.

Your SD card should already be installed from the last step.

7
First Run

Raspbian Desktop
The Raspbian Desktop. Richard Saville

Powering On

With everything connected, power on your monitor and then switch on your Raspberry Pi at the plug.

When you turn on a Raspberry Pi for the first time it can take a little longer to get going (boot) than usual. Watch the screen run through lines of text until it finally takes you into the Raspbian desktop environment.

Update

At this point you’re ready to go, but it’s always good to run an update first.

Select the little monitor icon in the Raspbian taskbar to open a new terminal window. Type in the following command (in lower case) and then press enter. This will download the latest list of packages:

sudo apt-get update

Now use the following command in the same way, again pressing enter afterwards. This will download any new packages and install them, ensuring you're up to date with any that you use:

sudo apt-get upgrade

We’ll cover updates in more detail in another post soon, including some additional commands that might come in handy.

Ready to go

That's it - your Raspberry Pi is set up, running and ready for your first project!