RasPi 001: Raspberry Pi Setup

This will help you:

Set up a computer smaller than your phone, for use in all kinds of art, robotics, games, and internet-of-things projects.

A Raspberry Pi, or RasPi, is a tiny, low-cost computer created to help people learn about computers and programming. It’s basically the brains of a computer, so by plugging in a screen, mouse and keyboard, you can use it just like a desktop. However, it’s better known for providing computing power to all kinds of hobby projects in a tiny package. In this activity, you’ll set up a Raspberry Pi, and install an operating system on the tiny computer.

Time: 1 hour / Level: A1

You should already:

  • Have used a command line to download and run programs before

  • Have an understanding of what an operating system is

You Will Need:

  • Raspberry Pi

  • MicroSD card with >= 8GB storage

  • Power supply (ideally 5.1V / 2.5A, 3.0A for RasPi 4)

  • USB mouse & keyboard

  • Computer or TV monitor and cable to connect to RasPi See here for a detailed description of what kind of cable you will need based on your setup.

Step 1: Download NOOBS

In order to do anything, your RasPi needs an operating system: a program that tells it what to do and when to do it. Windows, MacOS, Android, IOS and Ubuntu are all examples of operating systems.

A RasPi can run a lot of different operating systems, but Raspbian is a great option for general use. To start off, we're going to install NOOBS, or "new out of box software", copy it to a microSD card, and transfer it to the RasPi, where it will allow you to install an operating system on the RasPi.

Go to the Raspberry Pi downloads page, and click on the image for NOOBS near the top (to get here). Scroll down and click on the "Download ZIP" button under "NOOBS (Offline and network install)". Save the ZIP archive on your computer, and make sure to remember where it is saved so you can find it.

Step 2: Prepare your SD card

Insert your microSD card into your computer. Note that the card should have at least 8GB of storage, and the computer will have to have an SD card slot. If the computer only has a slot for a regular-sized SD card, you will need an adapter (it looks like a full-size SD card, with a pocket for the microSD).

Now, you need to make sure that your SD card is a completely blank slate, or "formatted" in computer terminology. To format it, go to the SD Association's website and download the SD card formatter. Scroll down to where it says "SD Memory Card Formatter Download for Windows/Mac", and choose your operating system. Follow the instructions to install the software, then insert your SD card and open the program.

You will need to select the card, which has been assigned a drive letter (like your computer's main drive is probably "C:/"). If you're not sure which one it is, try removing and inserting the card, and see which drive shows up and disappears. You might need to hit "refresh" to see these changes. Then, just click "Format" to wipe the card.

With that done, find the ZIP file containing NOOBS, extract it, and open the folder with the extracted files. Open another file explorer window and navigate to the SD card's storage. Select all the files in the extracted NOOBS folder, and drag them into the SD card's folder to copy them. Then, eject or remove your SD card.

Step 3: Connect your Raspberry Pi

It's best if you do these steps in order, so you don't risk damaging any components.

Insert the SD card with NOOBS into the microSD slot on your RasPi (it might be on the underside). Connect your USB mouse and keyboard to USB ports on the RasPi. It doesn't matter which one is plugged in where.

Plug your screen (computer or TV monitor) into a wall socket and turn it on (although it won't have anything to show). Use the appropriate cable and/or adapter based on your setup to connect the screen to the RasPi's HDMI port. If you have a RasPi 4, connect it to HDMI0 (HDMI1 is for an optional second screen).

Step 4: Boot up the Raspberry Pi

Finally, plug the power supply (ideally 5.1V / 2.5A, or 3.0A for RasPi 4) into a wall socket, and plug it into the power port of the RasPi. You should see a red LED light up on the RasPi, which indicates that it is powered. You should also see raspberries appear on the screen as the RasPi boots up (starts turning on).

Once it's done booting, a window will appear on the screen with a list of operating systems you can install. Check the box for Raspbian, and click "Install".

The operating system may take a while to install. Once it's done, a configuration menu will open. You can set the time zone and other options here. When you're done, click "Finish" or "Done".

Note: The default login for Raspbian is "pi" for the username and "raspberry" for the password. You won't see letters when you type the password; this is how Linux-type operating systems protect your password.

Whenever you boot up your RasPi, type startx and press Enter to load the graphical user interface.

You're all set to start using your RasPi as a tiny computer! There are so many things you could do next. Look online to get inspiration for projects you could try.