If you’ve just purchased a Raspberry Pi computer the first thing you’ll probably want to do is load an operating system so you can begin experimenting with the hardware.

Loading a Linux image directly to a an SD card is the quickest way to get the Raspberry Pi to a usable state.  While you can do this process from Linux it’s easiest to do it using Windows.  The entire process only takes a few minutes to complete.

The alternative option of using the network installer tool to load the OS can take a lot longer than directly imaging the disk.

Raspberry Pi

Required Items

Here is what you’ll need to get started.

SD Card Selection

The SD card is essentially the hard drive for the Raspberry Pi so I would recommend using a quality brand name card.

It is possible to load some images using a 2GB card but 4GB is the generally recommended size to use.   Depending on what you intend to use the Pi for you may want to have even more space available.  If you don’t want to worry about space contstraints it wouldn’t be a bad idea to purchase a 16GB or even 32GB card since the costs are relatively cheap.

The speed or class of the SD card can also make a huge impact on the overall performance of the Pi.  Using a fast class 10 card will make the system much more responsive then a slower class 4 card.

Model Class Capacity Cost
SAMSUNG Secure Digital High-Capacity Flash Card Model MB-SS4GA/US
4 4GB $4.49
Transcend Secure Digital  SDHC Model TS8GSDHC6 6 8GB $7.99
Samsung Pro SDHC Model MB-SGAGB/AM
10 16GB $15.95

Linux Images for the Pi

There are lots of different Linux images available for the Pi that are customized for different uses.  Raspbian is the recommended image for beginners.  Some of the more advanced images offer more options for customization.  Experienced developers may want to start with a minimal image containing only the base operating system without any extra packages.

Here are a few interesting images I plan to experiment with.

Writing the Image to the SD Card

To write the image to the card open up Win32 Disk Imager and click the blue folder icon.  Browse to the location of the Linux image and click open.  If the image you downloaded was a zip file or another compressed archive you will need to extract the image before writing it to the card.

Click the device drop down box and select the drive letter for the SD card then click the write button.  Make sure you have selected the proper drive letter otherwise you might identically corrupt one of your drives.

It usually takes a couple of minutes to write the image to the disk depending on the speed of the SD card and the reader.

win32diskimager
 

If the image is successfully applied you’ll see the message below.

win32diskimager-sucess
 
 

At this point you can put the SD card into the Pi and boot up the system.  You should see Linux start booting shortly after applying power.

If you used the Raspbian image you can log on using the username pi, and password raspberry.  To launch the GUI interface run ‘startx’ from the command line.

2013-03-23-210856_1920x1200_scrot
 
 

If you haven’t experimented with the Raspberry Pi yet I would highly recommend getting your hands on one.  For $35 you get a fully functional Linux computer that can be used for loads of different things.

 

 

Sam graduated from the University of Missouri – Kansas City with a bachelors degree in Information Technology. Currently he works as a network analyst for an algorithmic trading firm. Sam enjoys the challenge of troubleshooting complex problems and is constantly experimenting with new technologies.

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