Introduction: Can the Pi-top RaspberryPi Laptop Act Like a RaspberryPi?

About: Jack passed away May 20, 2018 after a long battle with cancer. His Instructables site will be kept active and questions will be answered by our son-in-law, Terry Pilling. Most of Jack's instructables are tuto…

The Pi-top is a RaspberryPi laptop that comes as a kit you build yourself. The quality is very good and I was able to complete the build in less that an hour. I particularly liked the slide out panel that makes it easy to get inside, and the trackpad is on the right of the keyboard instead of below it. Once the machine was up and running I started finding problems with the operation right away. Their website is almost worthless and this instructable is my attempt at explaining how I made the Pi-top act like a normal RaspberryPi. None of this information is available on their web site. (

The first thing you will notice is that two of the USB ports are covered by the case. They are used by the keyboard and the Wi-Fi dongle. The ethernet port is also covered.

The next step is logging in, that is covered in the next step

Step 1: Login

The first photo is the first login screen.

The little icon in the upper right doesn't do anything.

The little icon on the lower right brings up options to create an account and retrieve a forgotten password.

The icon on the bottom left you will recognize as a shutdown button.

When you log in for the first time you need to create an account at if you don't already have one. If you don't have it will create one for you. If you already have one this is the login you must use. I already had an account at so I used that username and password. I was surprised that it accepted a username that contained upper case letters, Linux should not do that.

This brings up the Pi-top desktop, sort of. You need to click on the desktop icon to get the desktop. I won't be talking about the other choices because the purpose of this instructable is about making the Pi-top act like the RaspberryPi you are familiar with.

I opened a terminal and typed in the whoami command. My user name is pi.

Once you are at the desktop clicking on the menu and selecting shutdown brings up a menu with the expected choices. Shutdown and Reboot work as expected. Logout brings you to another login menu shown in the second picture.

Here you can choose to use:

  • The default X session (The standard Pi-top desktop)
  • LXDE (The standard RaspberryPi desktop)
  • Openbox (A minimal desktop, my personal choice, which I described in another instructable here.)

At this menu you must use the username pi and the password pi-top. Changing the session here will use the new session until you change it again.

This is also the username and password you must use if you want to SSH into the Pi-top or use sudo.

If there is a way to close the X server and use it as a text based system I have not been able to find it.

Step 2: The SD Card Image

An eight gig SD card is supplied with the Pi-top.

If you happen to corrupt the card they have an image online, but no link to it on their web page.

Find it here:

Step 3: Unblocking Access to the GPIO

There is a cable that connects the power board to the RaspberryPi through the GPIO effectively blocking access to the GPIO. That is a big problem, the GPIO is the unique feature of the RaspberryPi, and the feature that I use the most.

To use the GPIO it is necessary to disconnect this cable.

When the cable is disconnected some of the special pi-topOS function keys (screen brightness etc.) don't function, a small price to pay to have access to the GPIO.

If the cable is disconnected shutdown becomes a two step process. When you shutdown the Wi-Fi dongle blinks a few times then goes out. Next the green LED on the RaspberryPi blinks a few times then goes out. The screen is blank but still illuminated. Once this is finished you need to hold down the on/off switch button for a couple of seconds until the unit powers down. Then everything will be off.

Step 4: Finishing Up

So in order to make a Pi-top act like a RaspberryPi all you need to do is disconnect the cable to the GPIO and follow the shutdown instructions in the last step.

If you want to take it all the way you can completely replace the Pi-topOS with a standard Raspbian image.

This was tested with the current (5/5/15) version of Raspbian Wheezy.

(Edit 3/28/16)

After using the Pi-top for a few months and installing the latest software update you no longer have the option to run the standard RaspberryPi LDXE desktop or the bare bones Openbox. I can not recommend this product. The battery does not charge at all. The keys are starting to stick. I changed it to boot to a command line and added a user with my regular user name. I have to log in as pi to use the GUI. If I log in as myself and type startx it crashes. Do not purchase a Pi-top.

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