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This content is taken from the Raspberry Pi Foundation & National Centre for Computing Education's online course, Teaching Physical Computing with Raspberry Pi and Python. Join the course to learn more.

Setting up the software

So you’ve got a Raspberry Pi, and you’ve made sure you have all the physical equipment you need. Now what? It’s time to get yourself an operating system and boot up your Raspberry Pi.

The recommended operating system for use with the Raspberry Pi is called Raspbian. Raspbian is a version of GNU/Linux, designed specifically to work well with the Raspberry Pi.

You have a couple of options when it comes to getting hold of a copy of Raspbian:

  • You can purchase your Raspberry Pi together with an SD card pre-loaded with Raspbian, which should simply work out of the box.
  • You can download the operating system for free from the Raspberry Pi website and put it onto a blank SD card.

Even if you purchase a pre-installed card, it’s worth knowing how to create your own.

Install Raspbian using Etcher

In order to set up an SD card so that it runs Raspbian, there are two steps to follow. First you will need to download a copy of the Raspbian image. Then you’ll need to write or ‘flash’ the image to the SD card.

  1. First you should download the latest Raspbian image from the Raspberry Pi website.
  2. In order to flash the image we recommend you download a tool called Etcher which makes this process really straightforward.
  3. Once you have downloaded the OS image and Etcher, insert your SD card (8GB+) into the computer or laptop’s SD card reader and make a note of the drive letter or name allocated to it, e.g. F:/.
  4. Load Etcher and click Select Image. You’ll then need to browse and select the OS image file you just downloaded (no need to decompress it).
  5. Click Select Drive an choose the drive that matches your SD card.
  6. Click Flash! and wait. In around 10 minutes you’ll have a Raspbian SD card ready to boot.


If you encounter problems or have questions please use the comments below to share them and get help.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Physical Computing with Raspberry Pi and Python

Raspberry Pi Foundation