Headless Installation of Raspbian OS on Raspberry Pi 3

Introduction: Headless Installation of Raspbian OS on Raspberry Pi 3

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Welcome to the tutorial on how to do a headless Raspberry Pi setup.

The adventurous journey starts when a person buys a Raspberry Pi and hopes to make exciting projects in the coming days. Sounds good, but, the excitement diminishes when one gets to know of the installation procedure of the entire Operating System in the tiny, but powerful machine.

Enough of the tale now. Let’s get started to headless Raspberry Pi setup.

Step 1: Download the OS

Download the operating system from the Raspbian official download page.

The downloadable image size varies in size from 1.5 to 2.0 GB depending upon what is the latest version being offered.

It will show you 3 model

  1. Raspbian Buster with desktop and recommended software
  2. Raspbian Buster with desktop
  3. Raspbian Buster Lite

you can download any of the above...

Step 2: Install the Image to SD Card

check this page for SD card requirements

Download and install the Win32 Disk Imager utility (it’s free) from here. Plug in the micro SD card into your PC and open the utility to select the device as your micro SD card drive. Browse the image file to your recently downloaded .img file and click on the Write button.

For Linux: download SD Flasher https://www.balena.io/etcher/

Now, after writing the raspbian image to the micro SD card, you will be having two partitions created in the card. Open one of the partitions, i.e., boot partition and create an empty text file. Name the file as ‘ssh’ with no extension such as .txt, etc. This will enable us to communicate with Pi over ssh. Then, safely remove the memory card from the PC.

You will be performing headless Raspberry Pi setup over ssh.

Step 3: Connecting the Pi to Laptop...

Now, plug in the card in to your fantastic Raspberry Pi and power it on. Don’t forget to connect it with the router using Ethernet cable. Wait for 2 minutes for Raspbian OS to boot up.

If you don't have the router please connect the Pi to the laptop through Ethernet cable

Download and install the Advanced IP scanner from the link. You may use any other application which helps us know the locally connected devices to the router. Scan for the devices and note the IP address allotted to Pi.

For Linux user: if you connect pi through an ethernet cable to your laptop go to setting network as shown in the figure above. You will find the IP there.

Step 4: Connecting Through Putty

Download and install Putty from here. Quickly create a new configuration by going to Session.

Type in the IP address of Raspberry Pi, such as (in my case), into Host Name and Port as 22, Connection Type is SSH.

Go to Connection>> SSH>>Auth>> X11 and check in Enable X11 Forwarding. Click again at the Session tab and save the session by typing in name as “RPi” and clicking the Save button.

Step 5: Connecting...

Now, load the RPi3 session. A warning dialog will display to you. Trust the new key by hitting Yes button. Now, the terminal will be asking for username. Type in username as "pi" and hit Enter. Then, type in password as raspberry and hit Enter.

Note that the password won’t be displayed on terminal when you type it. This will log you into the raspberry pi.

Step 6: Some Blah Blah....

Now, issue the following commands one by one to update and upgrade raspberry pi.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Also, update the raspberry pi firmware.

sudo rpi-update

Go to the Raspberry Pi configuration tool using command

sudo raspi-config

Go to Advanced Options>> Expand File System and press OK. Finish and Reboot. Wait again for a minute for Pi to boot up. The current ssh connection will be broken. You need to re-establish over Putty client.

After logging in again to Pi using ssh, issue the following command to install remote desktop on Pi.

sudo apt-get install xrdp

This will enable the Pi to be accessed via Remote Desktop Connection. Reboot the Pi once the installation is complete.


Step 7: Connecting to Remote Desktop (VNC)

Download VNC player from here

Now, open up the Remote Desktop application. Type in the IP address of Pi and click Connect.
As shown in fig

Step 8: The Final Step.... We Done

You will see a prompt for Pi’s username and password. Type in the credentials and log in to the world of wonderful possibilities, your tiny but powerful machine – the Raspberry Pi.

If you have any query or error.... droop a comment. I will do my best to answer you

until then good luck and keep tinkering...


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    Tip 3 years ago

    Good tutorial!
    For an even more better headless access to the pi, I would recommend to set a static IP in the cmdline.txt on the boot partition. With this method you don't have to search for the ip of the Pi.

    Simply open the cmdline.txt on the SD Card with raspbian on it and add the following to the end of the line:


    In this particular example you set the ip with the subnet mask on the interface eth0 (ethernet) and dhcp off.