RPi-02: Exploring your RPi

The command prompt

Now that you’ve logged in you’ll see a command prompt with:

pi@raspberrypi ~ $

What does it mean?

  1. The pi section is your username followed by @.
  2. The raspberrypi (the default hostname), the ~ is your current working directory.
  3. The ~ symbol is short hand for your home directory. When you log into your Raspberry Pi, you first land in your home directory.
  4. The tailing $ is your shell prompt, anything you type to the right of it gets executed as commands.

Poking around the home directory

When you first login, you’re in the home directory. The home directory is represented as ~ on the command prompt. The ~ character can be used as a shortcut to jump into your home directory.

To see what’s inside your home directory use the ls command.

Other Directories

Your home directory has the following path /home/pi. There are other folders/directories above your home directory.

Don’t believe me? We can ask Linux to tell us what our current directory is by running:


you should see the following output:


pwd stands for print working directory.

Changing directory

To change directory use the cd command. What did you think cd stands for?

Moving up a directory

To move up a directory from pi’s home directory to the /home directory use the following command:

cd ..

Now when you print the current working directory, you should see.


To go back to your home directory you would use the command:

cd pi however the following commands could also do the trick:

  • cd /home/pi (specifying the full path)
  • cd ~ (using the ~ shorthand)
  • cd (even typing just cd takes you back to your home directory, the maker of cd sure hates to type extra characters)
  • cd - (the - argument takes us to the directory we were immediately previously in, so this command would also work)

Other directories

Of course there’s more to your Pi than the /home directory. Let’s have an explore.

The folder structure on your Raspberry Pi looks something like this (with your home directory highlighted).’


Directory Description
/ The upper most of your hard disk (or SD Card)
/bin Programs and commands that all users can run
/boot All the files needed for booting your Raspberry Pi
/dev Files that represent devices on your Raspberry Pi
/etc Configuration files
/etc/init.d Scripts to start, stop and otherwise command services
/etc/X11 X11 Configuration Files
/home All the user home directories (except for root’s)
/home/pi The Pi user’s home directory
/lib This is where the Kernel modules / drivers live.
/media There is where hard disks, SD Cards and other removable media are mounted
/proc Virtual directory that provides details of running processes
/sbin Programs primarily used for systems maintenance
/sys Another special folder that represents hardware devices
/tmp A space for temporary files
/usr Programs and data usable by every user
/usr/bin Most programs you’ll run live in here
/usr/lib Libraries to support programs and programming languages
/usr/local By convention software specific to a machine goes here.
/usr/sbin More system software
/usr/share Supporting files that aren’t specific to chip architecture
/usr/src Source code!
/var System logs
/var/backups Typically compressed copies of system logs
/var/cache apt-get and other programs keep their data here
/var/log/ All the system and service logs
/var/mail This is where your mail goes (if you’ve set it up)
/var/spool Data that is waiting to be processed or dealt with lives here (e.g. mail or print jobs)

Ok, enough exploring let’s see what other commands we can do on the Pi!

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