The Raspberry Pi is an incredible little computer made up of a components and connectors on an unfeasibly small printed circuit board that is approximately the dimensions of a credit card. Depending upon your intended use, your Rasberry Pi may have a keyboard, monitor and mouse added. Regardless of your intended use, you are going to need an SD (Secure Digital) card on which to install an operating system.

This tutorial describes how to install an operating system onto an SD card for use in your Raspberry Pi.

What You Need to Do and Why

In order to get up and running with your Raspberry Pi, you will first need to flash an SD card. Whilst your Mac, or PC, uses a magnetic hard disc drive (HDD) or a Solid State Drive (SSD), your Raspberry Pi has no internal storage of its own.

Instead, the Raspberry Pi uses a Secure Digital (SD) card, such as is common as storage in many digital cameras.

This means that the Raspberry Pi will run from whatever operating system you install on an SD card. You can do from your main computer regardless of whether you are using Apple OS X, Linux or Microsoft Windows.

For the purposes of this tutorial I will be downloading Raspian, for Raspberry Pi.

The download will be compressed as a .zip file. You will need to extract to .img or .iso file before proceeding.

Tip: You can download a number of different operating systems, including RISC OS, Raspian, Raspbmc, Openelec and pidora, from the Raspberry Pi downloads site or you can download the NOOBS, New Out Of Box Software

Writing an image to the SD card

You will need to use an image writing tool to install the image you have downloaded on your SD card.

Etcher is a graphical SD card writing tool that works on Mac OS, Linux and Windows, and is the easiest option for most users. Etcher also supports writing images directly from the zip file, without any unzipping required. To write your image with Etcher:

  • Download Etcher and install it.
  • Connect an SD card reader with the SD card inside.
  • Open Etcher and select from your hard drive the Raspberry Pi .img or .zip file you wish to write to the SD card.
  • Select the SD card you wish to write your image to.
  • Review your selections and click ‘Flash!’ to begin writing data to the SD card.

Now it’s time to connect all the peripherals and boot our Raspberry Pi up.