Getting Started with the Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless

Contributors: M-Short
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Installing the OS

When it comes to crating an image on an SD card for your Pi Zero W, there are two options.

Option 1: NOOBS

The Raspberry Pi foundation has created NOOBS (New Out Of the Box Software) which is easy to use and get you started. Most generic kits such as the Pi3 Starter Kit will come with a NOOBS uSD card. Unfortunately as of the release of the Pi Zero Basic Kit the NOOBS image will need to be updated to work on the Pi Zero boards. If you don't have a current NOOBS image or just want to start again from scratch installing NOOBS is easy, you don't need any special software to install it on a card. Just download the image, unzip, drag and drop the files to your card, and you are good to go. Once you have NOOBS on your card, insert it in your board, apply power, and you should see action on your screen. Follow the prompts and install Raspbian (you may also want to select a differernt region for your keyboard and language). You can also go into the Wifi screen and setup Wifi. If you do you will get a lot more options for images to install.

NOOBS install screen from

You will not see most of these options unless you are connected to the internet

Option 2: .img File

If you want something other than the basic Raspbian install or other options found on NOOBS, you will need to install your own image on the uSD card. This method is slightly more involved because you need a special *.img file that not only puts your files on the card, but also sets up things like making the card bootable. The Raspberry Pi foundation has a handful of images like Ubuntu, OSMC (Open Source Media Center), and even Windows 10 IOT Core. A google search will find many more including specialized images for certain tasks. If you've never worked with Raspberry PI before, we recommend Raspian. You can download the latest version using the link below.

Heads up! When installing Raspbian, you do not need to worry about which model Raspberry Pi you are using. However, other Raspberry Pi image files, such as OSMC or RetroPi, have images that are designed for different models, often distinguishing between the Pi 2 or 3 and older models. Because those Pis use a slightly different processor than the Zero, these images won't work. The good news is that the Zero line uses the same chip as the older Raspbery Pi A/A+/B/B+ models, so there are still a lot of images out there for it. Visit this link for a breakdown of each Pi model.

To install your own image on your card, we recommend software called Etcher. These guys have taken all the different steps needed and put them all in one piece of software to take care of everything. Download your image, then run the program, select your image, select your uSD card drive, and then hit flash. Once it is done, remove your card and you are good to go. Once the image is installed, insert the card into the board and apply power.

Etcher Install

For Mac users, the ApplePi Baker Software is a great way to upload a new image to an SD card. It will ask for an admin password upon startup. Select the SD card on the left plane, then upload your image iundet the Pi Ingrediants: IMG Recipe section. Click Restore Backup, wait for the progress bar to finish, and you're done. The program even ejects the card you, so can yank it right out and insert it into your Pi.

applepi baker

For the rest of this tutorial, we'll assume you've installed Raspbian either by installing the image directly or with Noobs. The tutorial should also work fine for most Linux based systems with a Graphical User Interface, but things might be in slightly different locations