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3/20/2018 | By Maker.io Staff

How to Get Started With Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a fantastic single-board computer that can be used in countless projects. In this how-to, you will learn how to get the Raspberry Pi up and running!

Things You Will Need

  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • HDMI monitor
  • USB keyboard
  • USB mouse
  • USB power supply
  • Micro SD card reader
  • Raspbian OS
  • Win32DiskImager

So What IS the Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer based around an ARM processor. It contains multiple I/O ports, including HDMI, USB, SD card, and GPIO. While the Pi can be used as a desktop computer for basic tasks, such as writing documents and checking email, the Pi is so much more; it has unbound capabilities as a microcontroller. Using languages such as Python and C++, the Raspberry Pi can control external circuits while interacting with the internet simultaneously.

So, when your Pi arrives, what do you need to do to get it up and running?

Choosing and Installing an OS

First, you need an OS. The Raspberry Pi does not come with an OS because it doesn’t contain an onboard hard drive of flash memory for storage. The OS and user files are all stored on a micro SD card that is inserted into the board itself. So, let's go get a Raspberry Pi operating system!

While there are different versions of Linux that work on the Pi, we will go for the most common version (arguably one of the better ones), which is called Raspbian. To download this operating system, visit the Raspberry Pi download page or get the direct ZIP file.

Once the file has downloaded, you will need to extract the .img file and get Win32DiskImager. When Win32DiskImager has downloaded, run the executable to install the program. Ensure that all the default options are left as is. After the installation, launch the program. You should be presented with a window similar to the one shown below.

How to Get Started With Raspberry Pi

First, load the image file into the program by using the file dialog box that appears when you click the blue folder icon. Then, you will need to choose the device drive (make sure you get this right!). Once that’s done, click “Write” and wait for the magic to happen!

How to Get Started With Raspberry Pi

How to Get Started With Raspberry Pi

Once the image has been written to the micro SD card, you need to plug it into the Raspberry Pi. Plug in an HDMI monitor, keyboard, mouse, and a micro USB cable for power as well. Once powered, the Pi should boot off the SD card. One of the loveliest features of the Raspbian OS is that there is no need for installation!

A Quick Look at the Pi

Once Raspbian has booted, you should be presented with the desktop, which includes a menu bar at the top. The first icon, the Raspberry, contains your main programs and system options, such as preferences, etc. While Raspbian includes office programs, such as LibreOffice and an internet browser, it also comes with many programming environments for Python, C, C++, and Java (which is one of the reasons why I stick with Raspbian).

The first icon brings up basic options

The first icon brings up basic options

The next icon (a globe) is a web browser and can be used for accessing websites, etc.

Image of The web browser icon

The web browser icon

The third icon (the folder icon) brings up the File Manager, which is used to navigate the files on the SD card.

Image of The file manager icon

The file manager icon

The last icon of interest is the Terminal prompt icon, which brings up a terminal window that is useful for command-related operations. Such commands may include the installation of software via the “sudo apt-get install” instruction or taking delayed screenshots using Scrot.

Image of The terminal icon

The terminal icon

Conclusion

So, at this point, we now have a Raspberry Pi with an operating system that can be programmed to do just about anything you can imagine. From here, you could turn your Raspberry Pi into a portable office or maybe create a smart IoT device that could control your house from your phone. Whatever you do, you will not be disappointed with the power that is Raspberry Pi!