Introduction: Setup Raspberry Pi With AdaFruit's PiTFT Display

NOTE: Because it is out-of-date, this instructable should not be used. Please use AdaFruit's Easy Install.

Setup Raspberry Pi to work with Adafruit's PiTFT display.

This instructable uses a MacBook Pro and specialized USB cable instead of a monitor, keyboard and mouse to set up a Raspberry Pi.

I am very excited by the PiTFT display and want to add it to many of my home automation projects. The first step is to get it running so I can add it to other projects.

Project Goals:

  • Set up Adafruit's PiTFT display to run on the Raspberry Pi


  • text enclosed in spades, like this ♣replace-this♣ should be replaced with an actual value
  • I’ve attempted to credit every source used. My apologies for any omissions.
  • $ indicates a command executed in a terminal window on the MacBook and usually is being executed on the Raspberry Pi
  • I tried unsuccessfully to get PiTFT to run on Diet-Pi

Step 1: Gather Parts

I have found the parts below perform best in my applications. These parts are more expensive than contained in the usual starter kit.

Get parts and tools (prices in USD):

  • MacBook Pro (a PC can be used)
  • Ethernet cable, router, wireless access point and internet connection
  • Raspberry Pi 2 Model B Element14 $35
  • Panda 300n WiFi Adapter Amazon $16.99
  • 5.2V 2.1A USB Power Adapter from Amazon $5.99
  • Micro USB to USB cable 3ft from Amazon $4.69
  • FTDI TTL-232R-RPI Serial to USB cable from Mouser $15
  • SanDisk Ultra 16 GB microSDHC Class 10 with Adapter (SDSQUAN-016G-G4A) from Amazon $8.99
  • PiTFT - Assembled 320x240 2.8" TFT+Touchscreen for Raspberry Pi Adafruit $34.95

Step 2: Download Adafruit's Version of Raspbian With PiTFT Support

Download Adafruit's Raspian with PiTFT support:

  • Download latest version of Adafruit's raspbian with PiTFT into your MacBook's download directory
  • When this instructable was written the latest version was: 24 September, 2015 jessie
  • Move image 2015-09-24-raspbian-jessie-pitft28r.img from downloads to a directory where you store images:

For example, I use:

$ cd "/Users/♣my_macbook_name♣/Desktop/wifiEnabledHome/Raspberry Pi setup/raspbian images"

Source: Adafruit PiTFT setup instructions

Step 3: Burn Raspbian Image to Micro SD Card

IMPORTANT: make sure you type in the correct disk number – if you enter the wrong disk number, you will wipe out your hard disk!

Insert a micro SD card into SD Adapter, and then insert the SD adapter into MacBook.

On MacBook use these instructions from Raspberry Pi. Summarized here:

  • Open MacBook terminal window
  • Change to directory containing raspbian image
$ cd ♣your-macbook-image-directory♣
  • Identify the disk (not partition) of your SD card
  • In this case, disk2 (not disk2s1) or disk# = 2
  • To identify your micro SD card, run the command:
$ diskutil list
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *160.0 GB   disk0
   1:                        EFI EFI                     209.7 MB   disk0s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS ♣my_macbook♣            159.2 GB   disk0s2
   3:                 Apple_Boot Recovery HD             650.0 MB   disk0s3
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:     Apple_partition_scheme                        *2.5 GB     disk1
   1:        Apple_partition_map                         1.5 KB     disk1s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS ♣my_dvd♣                2.5 GB     disk1s2 
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:     FDisk_partition_scheme                        *15.5 GB    disk2
   1:             Windows_FAT_32 NO NAME                 15.5 GB    disk2s1

  • From the above, my SD micro card is disk# 2
  • Unmount your SD card by using:
$ diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk♣micro-SD-card-disk#♣
  • Copy the image to your SD card. Ensure the image name and disk # are correct.
$ sudo dd bs=4m if=2015-09-24-raspbian-jessie-pitft28r.img of=/dev/rdisk
  • CTRL-t to see the status of the copying.
  • If there are errors, try different values for bs option, such as, 1m, 4m, or 1M. Larger Block Sizes (bs) are required for larger drives. Lowercase m seems to be preferred by MacBook.
  • When complete, unmount the SD Card:
$ diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk♣micro-SD-card-disk#♣
  • Remove SD adapter from MacBook and remove micro SD card from adapter
  • Insert micro SD Card in Raspberry Pi

Step 4: Raspberry Pi Connections

Insert these into Raspberry Pi

  • Micro SD card
  • Ethernet cable
  • Wi-Fi dongle
  • USB serial I/O cable (see images above)
    • Ground = Black wire, pin 06 on RPi
    • Tx = Yellow wire, pin 08
    • Rx = Red wire, pin10

Once the above are complete:

  • Insert power cable

Insert USB/Serial cable into MacBook USB port

Step 5: Determine USB Port

Determine USB Port being used by USB-Serial adapter. My MacBook uses a chip from FTDI.

Open terminal window

There are a lot of devices in /dev. Use this command to identify the device:

$ ls /dev/tty.*

Here is an alternate way to discover:

$ ls /dev | grep FT | grep tty

If neither of the above work, then try this:

Insert USB cable into MacBook, and run:

$ ls /dev | grep tty

Unplug USB cable, wait a few seconds and run:

$ ls /dev | grep tty

Identify the differences

Step 6: Open Terminal Window and Connect to Raspberry Pi

Connect MacBook to Raspberry Pi using USB serial cable.

Open terminal window. See the image above and set up the terminal window preferences.

  • Terminal, select Preferences, click Advanced tab
  • xterm and vt100 work, but ansi works better when using nano
  • Set Western ASCII instead of unicode (UTF-8))

In a terminal window enter:

$ screen /dev/tty.usbserial-FT9314WH 115200

Using terminal window on MacBook, login in to RPi: username = pi password = raspberry

Note: the USB-serial cable can drop characters. If characters are dropped you may not get a prompt, press Return or enter username and press Enter.

If recovery mode appears, then micro SD card is not set up correctly. Start over.

  • The prompt for recovery mode is #
  • Raspbian's normal prompt is $.
  • NOOBS recovery login and password is: root and raspberry

Step 7: Setup Raspberry Pi

Setup raspbian using raspi-config

$ sudo raspi-config
  • Expand Filesystem
  • And reboot (tab to Finish and hit Enter) and reboot
$ sudo raspi-config

Change user password to ♣your_new_password♣

Internalisation Options (I live in Central US time zone - change to suit your requirements)

  • * indicates selected
  • Use spacebar to toggle *
  • For the US, change locale unclick GB (using space bar) and click US English UTF 8 (en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8)
  • Click OK, select UTF and click OK
$ sudo reboot

When the MacBook terminal window gets messed up:

  • Close the terminal window (close all terminal windows and exit terminal app)
  • Unplug the USB cable from MacBook
  • Wait a few seconds and plug the USB cable back in
  • Start a new terminal window and login
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade
$ sudo apt-get auto remove
$ sudo reboot

Continue to setup raspbian

$ sudo raspi-config

Internalisation Options

  • Change time zone US and Central
  • Tab to Finish and reboot
$ sudo reboot
$ sudo raspi-config

Advanced Options

  • Change hostname to ♣your_hostname♣
  • Enable SSH
  • Finish
  • Reboot

Step 8: Setup Raspberry Pi WiFi

Run the command:

$ sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces

and edit to contain only :

auto wlan0
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wpa-ssid "♣your-ssid♣"
wpa-psk "♣your-pass-phrase<♣"

CTRL-o to write file

ENTER to confirm write

CTRL-x to exit nano editor

Run the command:

$ sudo reboot

Step 9: Setup Gmail

Mail is very useful for receiving notifications and alerts about issues on the Raspberry Pi.

Ensure repositories are up-to-date. Run the command:

$ sudo apt-get update

Install SSMTP and mail utilities:

$ sudo apt-get install ssmtp
$ sudo apt-get install mailutils

Edit the SSMTP configuration file:

$ sudo nano /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf

as follows:


Edit the SSMTP aliases file:

$ sudo nano /etc/ssmtp/revaliases

Create one line for each user in your system that will be able to send emails. For example:


Set the permissions of the SSMTP configuration file:

$ sudo chmod 664 /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf

Step 10: Connect PiTFT Display to Raspberry Pi

Run the command

$ sudo shutdown -h 0

Remove ethernet cable

Remove USB cable connectors from Raspberry Pi and from MacBook

Remove power supply

Attach PiTFT display to Raspberry Pi

Restore power supply

When the Raspberry Pi reboots, the display should work. You can stop now.

Step 11: Backup the Micro SD Card

When Raspberry Pi is setup, then back up the image. Use this image to create the next project.

Also, backup the project when it is complete. If anything goes wrong with the SD card, then it is easy to restore it.

Shutdown the Raspberry Pi

$ sudo shutdown –h 0

Wait until the card has shutdown, and then remove the power supply, and then remove micro SD Card

Insert micro SD card into SD Adapter, and then insert the SD adapter into MacBook

On MacBook use these instructions from The Pi Hut with modifications as follows:

Open terminal window

Change to directory containing raspbian image

$ cd ♣your-macbook-image-directory♣

Identify the disk (not partition) of your SD card e.g. disk4 (not disk4s1). From diskutil output, = 4

$ diskutil list

IMPORTANT: make sure you use the correct – if you enter the wrong , you will end up wiping out your hard disk!

Copy the image from your SD card. Ensure the image name and are correct:

$ sudo dd if=/dev/disk♣micro-SD-card-disk#♣ of=♣your-macbook-image-directory♣/SDCardBackup♣description♣.dmg

CTRL-t to see the status of the copying.

When complete, unmount the SD Card:

$ diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk♣micro-SD-card-disk#♣

Remove SD adapter from MacBook and remove micro SD card from adapter

Insert micro SD Card in Raspberry Pi

On the next project, use this image and skip many the steps in this instructable.

And you are done!