You thought about it for a while and finally made the move: you bought a Raspberry Pi. But what can you use it for?
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Can this little device really act as a desktop PC? How is the server? How is the radio station? Yes, it can!
To get you started, we’ve put together a whole bunch of Raspberry Pi use cases with detailed guides from all over.
Let’s say you’re using a Raspberry Pi 4, but most of these projects will work on older models and even a Raspberry Pi Zero.
1. Replace your desktop PC with a Raspberry Pi.
The simplest use of the Raspberry Pi is as a desktop computer.
Along with the Pi itself, a microSD card, and a power supply, you’ll need an HDMI cable and a suitable display. As with a traditional computer, you will also need a USB keyboard and mouse.
Raspberry Pi 3 and later have built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If you are using an older model, you will need compatible USB dongles (check the Raspberry Pi Hub on elinux.org for compatibility). However, if you prefer to use Ethernet, all Raspberry Pi models (except Pi Zero) are equipped with Ethernet ports.
After installing your preferred operating system, you will find that LibreOffice comes pre-installed with the Chromium browser.
Everything you need to run your Raspberry Pi like a desktop computer. !
2. Print to Raspberry Pi
Do you have an old printer that you really love to use but can’t connect to wirelessly? You probably tend to dispose of it safely, but you really don’t have to. All you need is a Raspberry Pi connected to your home network and some print server software.
This is done by installing the Samba file sharing software and then CUPS. The Common Unix Printing System provides drivers for your printer and an administration console.
After that, set up the Pi so that all computers on your home network can access the printer. That’s all there is to it. Note that this really depends on your printer having a USB cable. If not, adapters are available.
3. Add AirPrint support to your Pi print server. AirPrint to your print server
The above project just takes things this far. It’s ideal for printing from a Windows, Mac or Linux computer, but what about tablets and phones? To do this, you will need Air Print support, which can be added with a single script.
While printing is available natively on iOS devices, a dedicated app is required for Android tablets and phones. Most new printers offer support for printing from mobile devices. With the Raspberry Pi, you can extend this functionality to older printers!
4. Cut the cord with Kodi: Raspberry Pi media center
Probably the main use of the Raspberry Pi is as a Kodi media center. Available as disk images, several builds of Kodi have been released, with OSMC and OpenElec being among the most popular.
If you’d rather have your Raspberry Pi available for other projects, Kodi can simply be installed on Raspbian. It can also be added to retro game systems (see below). However, installing Kodi comes with some caveats. Not all add-ons are available and many of them will be designed to stream pirated content.
Because of this, we recommend installing only reliable and legal add-ons from the official Kodi repositories. But it doesn’t end there. As with any device, the Raspberry Pi with Kodi is vulnerable to some security issues.
5. Set up the slot machine
One of the most popular uses for the Raspberry Pi is as the perfect device for retro gaming. After all, it’s compact and powerful enough to be used in several different ways. Equally important, it should be one of the lightest components of a full-size assault rifle. or as a Game Boy set !
There are two main options available for retro games: Recalbox and RetroPie. Others can be used, but all will need a suitable controller which will need some initial configuration. Many platforms can be emulated, from classic MS-DOS games to Commodore 64. Many popular 16-bit game consoles can also be restored to the Raspberry Pi.
6. Create a Minecraft game server
It doesn’t stop at retro games. You probably know that the default Raspberry Pi operating system, Raspbian, comes with a special version of Minecraft preinstalled. But did you know that your Pi can also be used as a game server?
Most effectively, your Pi makes a great game server for Minecraft, allowing you to play from anywhere on your home network. If you have multiple Raspberry Pis, having one of them as a dedicated server will give you a great gaming experience. This works especially well if you have a lot of Minecraft fans to play with.
However, in addition to Minecraft, other multiplayer online games can be set up on the Raspberry Pi. Open source ports of Quake, Civilization, Doom and Open TTD can be installed as game servers on Raspberry Pi game servers
7. Control the robot
There are so many Raspberry Pi robot controller projects out there that it’s hard to stop at just one example. For example, you can rely on a dedicated robotics package for your Pi, a battery-powered device that is used to communicate and control your robot.
Or you may prefer your own design built from components you already have. Either way, you need to make the right choice for your Raspberry Pi. While the Raspberry Pi 4 will give you more processing power, the Pi Zero W is more compact. This compact version of the Raspberry Pi has built-in wireless, making it ideal for lightweight robots.
Do you want inspiration? Our look at movie and TV robots that can be built with the Raspberry Pi should help. Otherwise, if you want to get started right now, robotic car kits can be bought online.
8. Create a Stop Motion Camera.
Everyone loves to stop the motion of the video. From Wallace and Gromit to director Terry Gilliam’s work at the start of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, he never ceases to amaze. But how do you stop? You can find out with a Raspberry Pi and a dedicated camera module.
Using the Python programming language, a suitable mount (Gilliam-esque crafting animation overhead, a standard clay or toy-based tripod), and a well-lit area is a time-consuming process. It takes some practice to get good results and you need to add a soundtrack.
You will also need a breadboard to set up the button (if you don’t already have a suitable plunger button that can be connected to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO) and a Python script to bind each image.
9. Make a slow motion video.
Combining the Raspberry Pi camera module with another scenario creates another use for your Pi: slow motion video capture. This is done by taking individual frames with a time delay.
How you then use your Raspberry Pi to take photos is up to you. You may need a portable battery solution and a tripod might come in handy again. This time, you may prefer a smartphone tripod (the clip should fit perfectly with your Pi’s body) to secure the device.
But what should you shoot? Flowers in the garden, fruit in a bowl, people walking by… perhaps clouds in the sky or changing weather? You are only limited by your own imagination and how far you are willing to travel to get a good video.
10. Broadcast pirate FM radio station.
Do you have a message you want to share? Need to communicate with a group or community of people who don’t have access to the Internet? The answer is radio: and the Raspberry Pi is capable of broadcasting on the FM band!
However, before you click on the link, it’s time for a word of caution: broadcasting via FM is prohibited without a license. Luckily, the Pi can only stream for a short distance, so you should stay out of trouble. Indeed, this is a confirmation of the concept of the project. While it may be useful in some remote part of the world, it is not suitable for urban use.
Portable battery solution and soldering skills required here. Any audio you wish to stream must first be downloaded to a microSD card and played in a loop.
11. Create a Raspberry Pi Web Server
Another fantastic use for the Raspberry Pi is to set it up as a web server. This basically means that it can be configured to host a website. For example, your blog can be placed there.
Several methods can be used. You will need to start by installing the right software: Apache and related libraries. Or you can install the full LAMP stack with PHP and MySQL along with Apache. This is useful if you have configured FTP as well.
After completing these steps, you can save your HTML files to the /www/ directory and your web server is ready. Or you can install some specific web software like WordPress.
To connect your website to the network, you will need a static IP address from your ISP. If it’s too expensive, try No-IP.com
12. Create a Twitter bot
Twitter is full of nonsense. This is largely due to bots, programs created for the purpose of posting messages. Some of them are useful; for example, it could be updates from your favorite sites. Many, however, are annoying or even unpleasant.
Most of these automated accounts are just targeted spam.
But there are some useful things you can do with a Twitter bot. Instead of using an online service to post these posts, you can use a Python app on your Raspberry Pi. If your Pi has a permanent internet connection, you can create a Twitter bot.
You need to register the Twitter app through the Twitter website. This provides access to the Twitter API and with some code (Python or Node.js) your bot will be ready. All you have to do is specify the content type for the tweet. It can be anything from CPU temperature to a randomly selected quote of the day or just a photo.
13. Building a Motion Capture security system. security systems
Who encroaches on your property? Who thinks they can sneak into your room and go through your things? And what do they do with your toothbrush?!
The only way to find the answer to these questions is through some kind of security system. With a connected Raspberry Pi camera module or a regular USB webcam, you can create a motion capture security system.
Please note that you will need a large capacity microSD card (or USB storage device) to store footage from the device.
This Raspberry Pi project combines motion control software with uvccapture, a tool for capturing footage from your webcam. The ffmpeg software is also used to control the bitrate and time spans. When everything is ready, you can expect the system to start recording when motion is detected. Email alerts can also be configured.
14. Inspirational digital photo frame
Ready-made digital photo frames are attractive, although somewhat limited in space, storage, and purpose. What if they could do more than just show you your favorite family photos?
Using this build, you can create a digital photo frame that delivers inspirational messages along with photos of beautiful scenes. The result is something that blinds your eyes, making you really think about the message. For this project, we used a Raspberry Pi touch display; Fits any compatible LCD display.
15. Take a photo of the night sky.
If stop motion, slow motion, and motion capture security aren’t enough for your Raspberry Pi’s camera module, why not try night photography? To do this, you will need the Raspberry Pi No-IR Camera module.
With the IR filter removed, the camera gives better results at night. You can take a photo of what’s happening above while you sleep below. This gives you the ability to capture stars, meteors, the moon, planets, even UFOs.
For example, you can use slow motion to track the path of the stars and moon overnight. Or use a slow shutter speed to get a tracing effect. Whatever your night photography plan, the Raspberry Pi should fit your requirements perfectly.
16. Create a network monitoring tool.
Interested in being able to control the devices on your network? Are you worried about not being able to connect or want to know quickly when your blog or website is down?
The answer is a network monitoring solution. Although several are available, the most popular is the open source Nagios tool, which is easy to install and configure. Once installed, you can keep track of the time, view devices on your network, and more.
It has traditionally been installed on Linux, but it’s really a waste of a full desktop PC or server. However, this is the perfect use for the Raspberry Pi!
All you have to do is download the Nagios disk image and flash it to your Pi’s SD card. For best results, use a Raspberry Pi 2 or later for this project as Nagios can be resource intensive.
17 Raspberry Pi Plex Server
We’ve already covered Kodi as a media center, but there are more TV entertainment projects you can do with your Raspberry Pi. In short, you can turn your standard, dumb TV into a smart TV. As if that wasn’t enough, you can even improve the features of your existing Smart TV!
For a TV to be «smart», it must be able to play media from a USB drive or flash drive, stream video from Netflix, view YouTube and similar sites, and offer remote control. This is often from a mobile device when it comes to Raspberry Pi projects. Smart TVs should also provide news and weather information, as well as PVR support, which the Raspberry Pi can control thanks to a USB stick.
Apart from (or in combination with) Kodi, the Raspberry Pi can be used as a Plex server. This means that you have a computer or server running Plex and are using a different device to view media. The second device could be a PC, Xbox One, or even another Pi with the RasPlex software installed. It should be easy to browse media files on the server so that you can enjoy all the movies, TV shows and music stored on it.
18. Homemade NAS box
Want to create your own local network drive? It’s a great idea to have network storage, at least for viewing from the media center. My personal favorite use is as a network drive where I can store family photos.
Personal NAS drives are small enough to be hidden in cabinets or on top of cabinets. The same applies to a Raspberry Pi NAS, a Pi connected to an external hard drive or USB drive. You can even use an SSD drive.
You can set this up manually using Samba. Soon your data will be saved on your home network drive, freeing up space on your PC. Just remember to back up your NAS drives regularly!
19. Home automation system with Arduino.
The Raspberry Pi creates the perfect brain and interface for a home automation system. Paired with an Arduino and a running Heimcontrol Node.js app, home automation is made possible with multiple radio controlled and remote controlled power adapters. Heimcontrol allows you to enable or disable any devices connected to the adapters via the Raspberry Pi with the signals transmitted by the Arduino.
This approach is best if you are looking for a way to get familiar with the basics of home automation. But what if you want a system that works more or less right away, with smart home automation tools and more? Perhaps you are using equipment that is already installed and working in your home?
In this scenario, pairing Raspberry Pi with OpenHAB should work great.
20. Built-in AirPlay receiver
The Raspberry Pi can handle more than just wireless printing. AirPlay is also an option to turn your Raspberry Pi into a smart speaker. Want to stream audio from your mobile device through a custom speaker?
By using a dedicated Pi Music Box disk image for Raspberry Pi and connecting the minicomputer to a suitable speaker, you can also stream audio directly from the Internet. Google Music, Spotify, SoundCloud and many other services are available.
In addition, Pi Music Box uses Spotify Connect, DLNA/OpenHome, BubbleUPnP, has USB audio support, and is compatible with the Raspberry Pi sound card.
21. Managing a model railway
Thanks to various ports (from USB to GPIO), Raspberry Pi can integrate and interact with many other devices. One of the most interesting options is the train model.
Wouldn’t it be great to control your railroad with a Raspberry Pi? Several designs have been developed that allow this. These are scalable projects that can do everything from monitoring the position of trains and adjusting speed, to point control, lighting, and even the atmosphere of an accompanying village model.
This video is from the Raspberry Pi Model Railway Automation project.
22. Live video streaming on YouTube
Another way to take advantage of the Raspberry Pi camera module is to stream live on YouTube.
This works with Raspberry Pi 3 or later. While a compatible USB camera can be used, best results are achieved on an official device.
To get started with this project, you will need your own YouTube channel ready to use and the libav-tools package installed. Refer to our detailed guide to streaming live YouTube video from Raspberry Pi for full instructions.
23. Learn how to code
When the Raspberry Pi was launched in 2012, one of its main goals was to get kids to code. But not only children can learn to program on the Raspberry Pi. Adults can also use the coding tools built into the platform.
Sounds difficult? This is not true. There are several programs available on Raspbian that help with basic programming, but the most important is Scratch.
Designed for all levels, Scratch is a block programming tool that avoids the hassle of typing lines of code. Instead, you simply drag and drop commands into place. You can see the impact of your commands in Code View and export the code as a program to run.
Scratch is simple enough to control lights connected to the Pi’s GPIO and complex enough to program basic games. Here’s what you need to know about learning to code with Raspberry Pi and Scratch.
24. Stream PC games to Raspberry Pi
Think Raspberry Pi is limited to emulating retro video games? Think again! With a Raspberry Pi 2 or later, you can emulate the streaming capabilities of Steam Link. This essentially means that you can stream video games from your computer to your TV via your Raspberry Pi.
As with Steam Link, you need to make sure your Raspberry Pi or PC (preferably both) is connected to your router via Ethernet. This is because the speed required for successful streaming is not possible with a wireless-only setup.
However, unlike Steam Link, you can stream games that are not on Steam. Our preferred method for streaming games to the Raspberry Pi uses the free tool Parsec. It offers 60fps video streaming, ultra-low latency, and is available for Windows 10, macOS, and Linux.
25. Build a Smart Mirror
Have you ever wanted to be up to date with the latest news, commercials, pop videos, traffic and weather information while shaving? The answer is a smart mirror, a Raspberry Pi-powered device.
In fact, this is a two-way mirror with a special display mounted behind the glass. Any type of mirror can be used for a smart mirror project; You should use the one that suits your purposes.
26. Play games on Raspberry Pi
You can emulate classic platforms on your Raspberry Pi or stream PC games.
But what about launching games natively?
Some great games can run on your Raspberry Pi without emulators. A great example is Doom. which is incredibly installable to run on a Raspberry Pi. Other examples include FreeCiv, Quake III, and even the open source SimCity clone, Micropolis.
If you’re not comfortable setting up streaming or emulators, there are plenty of games you can install on your Raspberry Pi.
What is your favorite Raspberry Pi project?
We’ve shown you a huge collection of Raspberry Pi use cases with all the links you need to get these projects started.
New to Raspberry Pi? Before you start, you need to know how to install an operating system on your Raspberry Pi We also reviewed the best Raspberry Pi 4 cases Raspberry Pi 4 cases