Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Desktop PC


Introduction: Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Desktop PC

How to turn a credit card sized, $35 computer into a fully functional Desktop PC with surprising good performance.

Step 1: Installation

1. download NOOBS LITE from www.raspberrypi.org/downloads.

2. copy contents of zip folder onto root of SD card.

3. Connect Pi to monitor, keyboard, mouse, power and internet via ethernet.

4. select Arch Linux ARM then install.

Step 2: Updates and Software

5. when installed, login with user 'root' and password 'root'

6. type the command

pacman -Syu

without quotations. Note that the 'S' is capital and the 'y' and 'u' are lowercase. This will update the system.

7. select all default options if/when asked.

8. when installs complete, type command

pacman -S lxde xorg xorg-xinit abiword gnumeric netsurf udisks udiskie p7zip unzip unrar xarchiver apvlv 

This will install all necesary programs.

lxde - Desktop Manager

xorg - program for displaying images on screen

xorg-xinit - program for displaying images on screen

abiword - lightweight docx compatible word processor

gnumeric - lightweight spreadsheet program

netsurf - lightweight web browser

udisks - Disk utility

udiskie - Allows auto-mounting of USBs

p7zip - .7z file support

unzip - .zip file support

unrar - .rar file support

apvlv - lightweight PDF viewer

xarchiver - program for unzipping compressed folder/files

9. select all default options if/when asked.

Step 3: Settings

10. when install has completed, type command
echo "exec startlxde" >> ~/.xinitrc

this will allow you to start the desktop with startx

11. type command

nano /etc/profile

and type at the bottom of the document 'startx' press CTRL+X, Y then enter to save and exit. This will make the desktop start after logging in. (you may also type 'wifi-menu' above 'startx' if you a device which allows you to connect to wifi. This will make you choose a wifi network to connect to after logging in and before starting the desktop).

12. type the command


to reboot the Pi.

13. login with username 'root' and password 'root' as before.

14. the desktop should now start up.

TIP: Apvlv (the PDF viewer) is not automatically associated with PDF files (if you click on one, apvlv will not start up). To change this, right click on any PDF file - open with - custom command and type:

apvlv %f

into the space provided and chech the box saying 'Set selected application as default action for this file type' This will make sure that all PDF files will open automatically with apvlv.

ANOTHER TIP: scrolling in apvlv is controlled with the arrow keys rather than the scroll wheel on the mouse.

Step 4: Finished!

15. customise the desktop to your liking (Not covered in this tutorial).

16. Done! You now have a fully functional and relatively fast desktop computer running on a Raspberry Pi with essential programs installed!

17. Have fun!



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    16 Discussions

    i will be making this to use with our 57" flat screen monitors... to view videos and such...

    Hi I want to make this but there is one problem do you have to connect it with Ethernet or can you plug in a wifi receiver

    if you want to use raspberry pi 2 from your pc check this out:

    if you want to use raspberry pi 2 from your pc check this out:

    When I reboot it won't go to desktop it says waiting for x server to shutdown (EE) server terminated successfully (0). Closing log file

    1 reply

    This happens because either you spelt the command

    echo "exec startlxde" >> ~/.xinitrc

    Wrong. To fix it, login, wait until the errors finish then type

    nano ~/.xinitrc

    Make sure that the last line says

    exec startlxde

    If this is the only line in the file, it means that you typed > instead of >> which would cause the entire files contents to be replaced by that line rather than have the line added onto the end.

    I don't get the point of this, besides developing purposes. Right now, is it really practical having those abysmal specs? I mean, for a project like a computer small enough to be in a car or something this seems good, but what do you get out of using this as a desktop instead of a real desktop? (Other than saving money of course, but you still need an actual computer to set this up anyway)

    3 replies

    Something like this may have an application in a school or office environment where performance is not a priority and all it's needed for is just web browsing and word processing. As stated right at the start, the performance is quite good for it's specs and is just as powerful as early laptops which were pleanty powerful enough to do basic tasks. This setup may also be useful for the elderly or computer illiterate (providing someone with a bit more knowledge sets it up for them) as their expectations would alredy be set low to begin with (performance-wise). Other than that, It's just nice to make something this underpowered actually useful for something other than it just a component in a robot!

    Yeah like I said, it's definitely impressive to me in it's uses, such as being a perfect media player or something, but doesn't exactly seem practical as a desktop computer. You could buy a chromebook that would end up being cheaper than this since you won't have to buy a mouse, keyboard, screen, network adapter etc. and it would do the same with much better performance.

    While chromebook is on an arguably worse OS, you could really do all the things that an older person or computer illiterate person would need to do, and with more user friendly apps.

    Definitely a cool concept though, just not much application. Mostly a developers toy right now, don't see this being commonly used by anyone other than developers in its current stages.

    I totally agree about it not really being useful to the general public but, this setup can also be used for the desktop version (just got an actual PC from my grandpa, 2GB RAM, 2.33GHz processor. It ran Windows XP) I'm installing it right now!

    Gotta love the legendary Raspberry Pi. Nicely done, what OS is that? Looks similar to Raspbian.

    2 replies

    Thanks! I'm actually using this as my regular desktop at the moment and would be making another instructable on the pi (using the web browser on the pi not one about the Pi) if the web browser supported javascript. Ah well, what do youexpect from a $35 computer!