The Raspberry Pi computer is the latest in a line of compact, feature-packed devices that come as a base package so end users can use the hardware for just about any computing project that comes to mind. For example, a device originally designed to help students learn coding skills is ideal for media streaming or as a key element of a MAME gaming device.

However, getting started with the Raspberry Pi can be a little intimidating, partly due to the lack of things to plug into it and the fact that as soon as you open the box, the device is there like daylight, with no clothes on. What’s more, it comes without an OS. This case-insensitive device shouldn’t scare anyone, however. Setting up your new Raspberry Pi is easy!

What is Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi is a small handheld computer available for less than 30 which is powered by a micro USB connector (very similar to a mobile phone charger) and is equipped with an HDMI port, two USB ports, an Ethernet jack, composite RCA, a 3.5mm audio jack, and two pin-based connectors.

getting started raspberry pi

With 256MB — shared with the device’s GPU — the Raspberry Pi uses a Broadcom BCM2835 system on a processor chip. The way the memory is allocated means it’s possible to decode 1080p video along with plain 3D, though it struggles with both at the same time.

To install an operating system on your Raspberry Pi, you’ll need to use an SD/MMC slot that effectively acts as the device’s drive.

Basically, this is a computer for hobbyists, but it was designed to be easy to use and accessible to beginners.

Your Raspberry Pi Starter Kit

To get your Raspberry Pi set up you will need the following:

  • Raspberry Pi (of course!)
  • Micro USB power connector
  • USB keyboard
  • USB mouse
  • HDMI cable
  • 2 GB + SD card
  • LAN / RJ45 cable

You’ll also need an HDMI display to connect to, as well as a card reader to create a bootable SD card.

raspberry pi start

But most importantly, at this stage, you need to store your Raspberry Pi somewhere. Previously, we considered options but the quickest options are to build something out of Lego or create a «punnet» map using this PDF template.

Once your Raspberry Pi is secure in its new home, you can switch to the operating system.

Installing the OS on Your Raspberry Pi

Supplied without a pre-installed operating system. Once your Raspberry Pi is fully equipped, you will need to find the correct version of Linux and install it on your SD card. The Raspberry Pi uses the SD card much like a solid state hard drive, with any free space used for additional applications.

While a 2 GB card will suffice to install the operating system, a larger device will allow you to use additional applications.

To install the operating system, you first need to go to the Raspberry Pi Downloads site. Wheezy Raspbian is the latest version configured for the device and has a helpful configuration screen on first boot.

If you are using Windows, download the operating system and save it to your PC. The .IMG file must be unzipped before it can be saved to the SD card. To make it bootable, you need to use Win32 Disk Imager, a free application available here. Linux and Mac users should head here for more details).

raspberry pi start

After downloading the utility, unzip and then run the file win32diskimager.exe (some errors may be displayed — ignore them). Once the utility is running, insert the SD card into the reader and make sure the correct drive letter is selected. Then click the folder icon to find the unzipped .IMG file.

Click the button Record», to complete the process and wait for the operating system to be added to the SD card and become bootable.

Booting Raspberry Pi for the first time

Since there is no on/off switch on the Raspberry Pi, you will need to boot it up by plugging it in.

raspberry pi start

After a few seconds, you will see the configuration screen as above, offering a number of options for configuring your computer. However, in most cases, you may want to skip them, so click » tab» on your keyboard and select (using the left/right arrows) » Ready» .

where to start with raspberry pi

At this point, the menu (about which you can find more information here) will close and the GUI of the operating system will start. XStart has various Windows-style styles, making this aspect of the Raspberry Pi computer very familiar to beginners. Then you will be on the threshold of a journey!

What’s next for my Raspberry Pi?

getting started raspberry pi

There are various ways to use a freshly configured Raspberry Pi. It is equipped with programming tools and a browser, and additional software can be downloaded. Access to the Linux command line is also provided.

You may also be interested in various projects, such as using a device to stream media or to control a NAS box. We have already published 5 great Raspberry Pi projects to consider, so this should be your next stop. In addition, there are several other operating system distributions that you can install from the links above.

This fun and compact device can be used for anything from driving a model railroad to serving as a portable miniature server (with extra storage, of course!), so you’ll never run out of Raspberry Pi projects.

Let us know in the comments what you are using your Raspberry Pi for.

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