How to set up a Raspberry Pi

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What you’ll need

You need a few basics to get your Raspberry Pi computer up and running. The essentials are:

Some of these items vary depending on the model of Raspberry Pi you have. Read on to find out what you need for your type of Raspberry Pi.

For the initial setup of your microSD card, you’ll also need:

Another computer connected to the internet. We’ll refer to this as “your usual computer”, to distinguish it from the Raspberry Pi computer that you are setting up. Unless your usual computer has a dedicated microSD card slot, you’ll need an SD card adapter to allow you to connect your card to it; these are inexpensive and easy to buy online.

Alternatively, you can buy a pre-loaded microSD card from many of our Approved Resellers. These come ready to use and don’t need any setup.

Choosing the right power supply

Close up of a hand plugging a USB-C power supply into the USB-C port of a Raspberry Pi 4 computer

If you’re setting up our latest model, Raspberry Pi 4, you’ll need a USB-C power supply. We recommend our official 15W USB-C power supply, available in a variety of regional formats. Raspberry Pi Zero models, along with older models of Raspberry Pi, need a micro USB power supply. Our official 12.5W Micro USB Power Supply is a high-quality, reliable choice.

USB-C and micro USB adapters for mobile phones and hand-held games consoles may not provide sufficient or reliable power.

Choosing the right SD card

Close up of a hand inserting a microSD card into the microSD card slot of a Raspberry Pi 4 computer

Your Raspberry Pi uses a microSD card as its memory, in the same way that a conventional desktop or laptop computer uses a hard drive. The microSD card contains the operating system for your Raspberry Pi, and it also stores all your files.

The greater the capacity of your microSD card, the more data you can store. We recommend using a card with at least 16GB storage, and it’s worth buying a good-quality one from a reputable manufacturer.

Setting up your microSD card is straightforward, but for an even easier alternative, many of our Approved Resellers offer pre-loaded microSD cards that are ready to use.

Choosing an HDMI monitor or television and cable

Close up of a hand plugging a micro-HDMI to HDMI lead into the micro-HDMI port of a Raspberry Pi 4 computer

Your Raspberry Pi connects to any HDMI monitor or television. If you’re using a Raspberry Pi 4, you’ll need a micro HDMI to HDMI lead, and you can connect up to two monitors to your Raspberry Pi. For older models, you can use a standard HDMI to HDMI cable, and for Raspberry Pi Zero, you’ll need a mini HDMI to HDMI cable. All of these cables can be easily obtained online, or from your local computer retail store.

Choosing a USB or Bluetooth mouse and keyboard

Your Raspberry Pi has a number of USB ports, so you can connect a variety of devices, including a mouse and keyboard. You can use any USB mouse and keyboard (naturally, we think that our own official mouse and keyboard are among the best). You can also use a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard with a USB Bluetooth adapter.

Optional audio output

Close up of a hand inserting the headphone lead into the audio jack of a Raspberry Pi 4 computer

Most Raspberry Pi models come with an audio port, perfect for plugging in a pair of headphones. You can also use a USB or Bluetooth speaker if your monitor doesn’t have its own speaker.

Options for connecting to the internet

Close up of a hand plugging an ethernet cable into the ethernet port of a Raspberry Pi 4 computer

Raspberry Pi 4, 3B+, 3, and Raspberry Pi Zero W and Zero 2 W come with Wi‑Fi® and Bluetooth connectivity. If you’re using one of these models, you’ll be able to connect your Raspberry Pi to your local wireless network during initial setup. To connect an older model, or if you’d like a faster and more secure connection, you can connect your Raspberry Pi using an Ethernet cable. Raspberry Pi Zero models will require an Ethernet-to-micro USB adapter.

Installing an operating system

Our official recommended operating system, Raspberry Pi OS, is available for free. Our dedicated free software, Raspberry Pi Imager, will help you download and install Raspberry Pi OS to your microSD card in a matter of minutes.

Raspberry Pi Imager is available for Windows, macOS, Ubuntu for x86, and Raspberry Pi OS. Download it to your usual computer here.

Once you’ve downloaded Imager, open it and connect your microSD card to your usual computer, using an SD card adapter if required.

CHOOSE OS: the latest recommended version of Raspberry Pi OS will be at the top of the list. Select it.

CHOOSE STORAGE: select your microSD card. If you have more than one mountable storage option connected to your computer, make sure you choose the right one — selecting the wrong option will result in data being lost.

If you’re not sure which option is the right one, be on the safe side and unplug any other SD cards, USB storage drives, and so on before you continue. Once everything else is disconnected, you can be sure that the remaining option is your microSD card.

WRITE: select WRITE to install Raspberry Pi OS to your microSD card. You may be asked to confirm admin credentials by your computer. Don’t worry, this is expected, so it’s OK to do this as prompted.

Once your Raspberry Pi OS installation is complete, insert your microSD card into your Raspberry Pi. Next, connect your monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Always make sure that the last thing you connect to your Raspberry Pi is the power supply.

Close up of a hand plugging a USB-C power adapter into the USB-C port of a Raspberry Pi 4 computer. A micro-HDMI cable, USB mouse, and USB keyboard are also connected to the Raspberry Pi 4.

Powering up your Raspberry Pi and finishing setup

Now you can power up your Raspberry Pi! There’s no on/off button; your Raspberry Pi computer will simply turn on when it’s connected to power. The first time it powers up, you’ll be presented with the Raspberry Pi OS Setup Wizard. This helps you finish setting up your Raspberry Pi: connecting it to your Wi-Fi®️ network, choosing the correct region and language settings, and so on (you can change all these settings later, too). The Wizard also installs any bug and performance updates that have become available since the full release of Raspberry Pi OS that Raspberry Pi Imager installed to your microSD card.

If, once you start using your Raspberry Pi, you notice a lightning bolt in the top right corner of your screen, it means your Raspberry Pi isn’t getting enough power. It’s caused by using a power supply that’s inadequate for the job, and it’s one of the most common hiccups people encounter. Our official power supplies will provide sufficient and reliable power to your Raspberry Pi.

Installing recommended software

Raspberry Pi OS comes with many essential applications pre-installed, so you can start using them straight away. If you’d like to take advantage of other applications we think our users will find useful, click the raspberry icon in the top left corner of the screen and select Preferences then Recommended Software from the drop-down menu to install them for free.

If you plan to use your Raspberry Pi as a home computer, you might find LibreOffice useful for writing and editing documents and spreadsheets. If you want to use accessibility apps such as a screen magnifier and Orca screen reader, select Universal Access.

Do more with your Raspberry Pi

Your Raspberry Pi is now up and running, ready for you to use as a desktop computer at home, in the office, or in the classroom. But this isn’t all your new Raspberry Pi is capable of.

During setup, you’ll probably have noticed the 40 pins along the side of the device, and the additional ports for camera and display. Your new computer is equipped with a variety of features that can help you learn to code, control external devices, and build fun and exciting projects, such as those featured on our tutorials page. Why not give them a go?

Get more help

For support with official Raspberry Pi products, please visit the Raspberry Pi forums.