Introduction: How to Install RASPBERRY PI OS on MicroSD Card Using Raspberry Pi Imager
I receive at least one message every week on my social media accounts where someone is asking for help with their Raspberry Pi project, and the majority of those questions are usually about how to install the Raspberry Pi OS onto an SD Card. I always reply with a link to a tutorial video that I made several years ago that details that process step by step. That video has done well, but it was made quickly, and I was never really happy with how it turned out.
Last year the Raspberry Pi foundation announced Raspberry Pi Imager, a utility designed to simplify the process of installing operating systems onto SD cards for use in Raspberry Pi’s. Raspberry Pi Imager allows users to select the specific operating system they would like to install and then the program downloads the latest version of that operating system in the background before the install begins.
After getting back into Raspberry Pi projects recently and realizing how much better this new utility is over the old method, I had to make an updated video for 2021. I decided to share the written tutorial here at Instructables too in hopes to help some new makers who might have got their first Raspberry Pi recently.
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You need a computer running Windows 10, MAC, Ubuntu, or another working Raspberry Pi with a monitor to install Raspberry Pi OS. You also need a Class 10 UHS-1 MicroSD Card at least 8GB in capacity, but I recommend 16GB or more. Finally, you will need a card reader. If your computer has one built-in, you're good to go. If not, you will need to use an external card reader.
I've listed the hardware I recommend for this tutorial below. Note that these are affiliate links, and The Makers Workbench will receive a small commission on any revenue they generate. This is how we pay the bills, and can continue to create helpful and educational content like this.
Step 1: Download and Install Raspberry Pi Imager
Download Raspberry Pi Imager from RaspberryPi.org/software. There are versions for Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, and Raspberry Pi OS itself. Chose the one that works for you, and install it just like you would any other program.
Step 2: Run Raspberry Pi Imager and Format the SD Card
- With the target SD Card inserted into your computer or external card reader, open Raspberry Pi Imager.
- When you run Raspberry Pi Imager you are presented with two options: Choose OS and Choose SD Card.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the list and click on the Erase option.
- Now click the "Choose SD Card" Option and select the target SD Card. Note that any data still on this SD card will be erased forever, and you should ensure that you have a backup of any files you would like to keep.
- With the SD Card Selected the "Write" option becomes available. Click Write and wait for the process to complete. Once the process is complete, a notification window will open letting you know that it's now ok to remove the SD card from the reader. Remove the SD Card and reinsert it into the reader to make it available again.
Step 3: Burn the Raspberry Pi OS Image to the SD Card
- With a freshly formatted SD card, we can now move on to installing the operating system.
- Click the "Choose OS" button, and select one of the available operating systems. For the purpose of this tutorial we will be using the top option, Raspberry Pi OS (32-Bit)
- Now select the SD card we just formatted in the previous step.
- The "Write" option will become available. Click "Write" to begin burning the image to the SD card.
- It can take anywhere from a few minutes to upwards of half an hour for the process to complete depending on the quality and speed of the SD card, card reader, and computer.
- Note: Be patient and wait for this process to complete. If you remove the SD card, unplug the card reader, or shut down the computer at any point during this process, the card will become bricked and unusable.
- Once Raspberry Pi Imager has finished writing the files to the SD card, it will verify that the image on the SD card is identical to the image file used to burn the image. This usually takes less than a minute but could take longer.
- When the verification process is complete, a notification window will open letting you know that the write was successful and that it's now safe to remove the SD card.
- If you're going to run this install with a monitor, you are good to go.
- If you plan on running headless, there are a few more steps that you need to take. I cover them in another instructable that can be found here.
Step 4: Watch the Video Version of This Tutorial and Consider Supporting the Makers Workbench
Official Documentation & Sources
RaspberryPi.org Headless Documentation: Visit RaspberryPi.org/Documentation
Download Raspberry Pi Imager: Visit RaspberryPi.org/software
Read More About Raspberry Pi Imager: Visit RaspberryPi.org/blog
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