Headless Raspberry Pi Setup

Contributors: Shawn Hymel
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Flashing the OS

The Raspberry Pi has several options available for operating systems. It's often recommended that beginners start with NOOBS, as that walks the user through the necessary steps of installing an operating system. However, it usually requires a monitor to see the selection process, so we'll be creating an image of Raspbian manually. Additionally, we'll be using Raspbian Lite, which saves us space and time by not including the desktop (i.e. the graphical interface). Because we're creating a headless image, we'll be doing everything through the command line!

To start, download the latest version of Raspbian Lite.

Note: This tutorial was created with Raspbian Stretch Lite (version: March 2018). Using a different version may require performing different steps than what's shown in this tutorial. If you would like to download the March 2018 version of Raspbian Lite, it can be found below.

Raspbian Stretch (version: March 2018) Download (ZIP)

Unzip the .zip file using your program of choice. You should have a 2018-03-13-raspbian-stretch-lite.img file in a new folder.

To flash the image to your SD card, we recommend the program Etcher. Download and install it. Plug your SD card into your computer (using a microSD USB Reader if necessary), and run Etcher. It will walk you through selecting the OS image file, selecting your SD card reader, and then flashing it.

Using Etcher to flash an SD card

Once that's done, you will need to make a choice: how do you want to interact with your Raspberry Pi? Without a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, you have a few choices: