This document offers a step-by-step guide to setting up a Raspberry Pi computer with the latest operating system, which as of November 2021 is based on Debian Bullseye. [More] This document assumes you have already purchased a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi 4 with 8GB RAM will provide a fast user experience. [View or Buy]

TASK #1 — Image the SD Card

Go to the Raspberry Pi OS software download page to obtain the imaging utility. [Get Imager] This program will allow you to create a fresh installation of the Raspberry Pi OS on a Micro SD card. During the imaging process, you will be asked to choose an operating system. If you choose the recommended default version of the Raspberry Pi OS, the file will be about 1GB and contain only the basic software. This is not an ideal choice. Select one of the following instead.

  • BASIC — It is better to instead click on Raspberry Pi OS (other) and choose Raspberry Pi OS Full (32-bit) which includes all recommended applications. The file size is about 3GB in size. This option will give you the basic Raspberry Pi experience. Benefits of using the Raspberry Pi OS include:
    • Faster operation.
    • The operating system will be optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware.
    • Related support materials will be specific to the Raspberry Pi hardware.
    • Use of the Raspberry Pi OS will help broaden the user base.
  • ENHANCED — Alternatively, from the OS selection menu, you can go to Other general purpose OS and choose the Ubuntu Desktop 21.10 (RPi 4/400) 64-bit desktop OS for Pi 4 models with 4Gb+. Because Ubuntu is a full-featured complex operating system designed for more powerful computers it may take longer to startup and run programs. Benefits of Ubuntu 64-bit include:
    • The ability to install 64-bit software that is becoming more prevalent.
    • The Ubuntu installation will provide a full-featured Linux experience and include much of the software and compatibility needed for best operation. Printer drivers and other software may be available specifically for Ubuntu.
    • Ubuntu is a widely used and widely adopted operating system that can be installed on Windows computer hardware. Broader use means there should be more support available.

You may need a card reader or adapter for your existing computer to accomplish the image process. [View/Buy] Make sure the SD Card reader / adapter you purchase has the ability to read Micro SD cards.

Your Raspberry Pi may come as a kit with an included SD card. However, purchasing a high speed (Class 10 or U3) card is recommended at a cost of about $10 to $20 for 64GB to 128GB. It should be capable of 100 megabytes per second (MB/s) or higher. [View/Buy]

TASK #2 — Startup Your Raspberry Pi

Follow these steps for the initial startup and configuration of your Raspberry Pi.

  1. INSERT CARD — Insert the Micro SD card into your Raspberry Pi. As you look at the bottom of the Raspberry Pi, you will see the label side of your Micro SD card facing you. The metal contacts will be on the side facing the Raspberry Pi. Gently insert the Micro SD card until it is snug.
  2. HDMI DISPLAY — Connect an HDMI compatible computer display or television. You may need a Micro HDMI to standard HDMI cable. [View/Buy] A good high-quality low-power portable display is the Lepow for about $220. [View/Buy] For the Lepow display and perhaps others like it you would need a Micro HDMI to Mini HDMI cable. [View/Buy]
  3. KEYBOARD — Using a standard wired USB keyboard works fine. Some wireless keyboard / mouse combination sets come with a USB transceiver and would also work well. At least for the initial setup, using a wired keyboard will be helpful. Then later you can configure a bluetooth keyboard.
  4. MOUSE — For the initial setup, use a wired USB mouse. Then later configure a bluetooth mouse if desired.
  5. ETHERNET — It is helpful to have an Ethernet connection to the Internet during setup of your Raspberry Pi. This will allow the date and time to be automatically configured. Otherwise, the default date may show as 30 Oct 2021, since that is the release date of the operating system. If you want you can set the date and time manually, or connect to a WiFi network when the system is turned on.
  6. POWER ON — If your Raspberry Pi was purchased as a kit, it may have come with a power cord that included an in-line power switch. If you don’t have a power switch, the the Raspberry Pi will turn on as soon as a USB C power cord is connected. Note that the Raspberry Pi 4 with 8GB RAM and the Lepow portable display mentioned above will use about 11 watts of power during operation. This makes them a good combination for extended use with a battery power pack.

TASK #3 — Raspberry Pi OS Setup

These steps are specifically for the Raspberry Pi OS. If you selected Ubuntu in Task #1, then go to Task #4 below and skip this section.

  1. WELCOME — You will see a welcome message and dialog box that allows you to walk through the setup steps.
  2. SCREENSHOTS — If you want to capture a picture of the screen at any time, you can press the PrtScn (Print Screen) button on your keyboard and an image of the screen will be saved to Pi user account home folder with the date and time as the file name. Saving screenshots can be helpful for anyone wanting to document this process or other content that shows up on their screen.
  3. SCREEN READER — You may hear a voice through your speakers stating, “To install the screen reader, press control+alt+space.” You can ignore this message if you don’t need the screen reader.
  4. COUNTRY — From the Welcome page mentioned above, when you click the Next button you will be at the country, language, and timezone selection page. Provide the Country, Language, and Timezone. The defaults will be United Kingdom, British English, and Belfast as the timezone. When done, click the Next button.
  5. PASSWORD — On the password page you will be informed that the default user account has a password of ‘raspberry’ and should be changed. Do this and be sure to make a note of the password you choose. Then click the Next button.
  6. TASKBAR — A taskbar / menu bar should appear across the top of the screen. If it doesn’t you will be given an opportunity to request a video adjustment that will take effect the next time the system is started. Click the Next button.
  7. SELECT WIFI — You will be given an option to select a WiFi network. You may see a longer list of available networks than usual. This is because the Raspberry Pi has exceptional signal reception. Choose your WiFi network from the list and click the Next button. Then enter your WiFi network password.
  8. UPDATE SOFTWARE — You will be given an opportunity to update the Raspberry Pi software. To begin this process, click the Next button. Although you configured your Micro SD card with the latest version, additional updates will be available, so it is important to install these for improved stability and security. When complete, a message will indicate, “System is up to date.” Click the OK button.
  9. SETUP COMPLETE — You should now see a message stating the initial setup is complete. Click the Done button.
  10. REBOOT — It is a good idea to restart the computer after setup to confirm that everything is working okay. To restart, click on the Raspberry Pi menu in the upper left corner, and select Shutdown. Choose Reboot to restart the computer. The initial restart time is usually about 30 seconds. If you shutdown the computer, you will need to wait for about 7 seconds for the system to fully shut down. The drive activity light will blink during this time. Then you can press the in-line power button or in some other way turn off the power source. The startup time from a completely powered-off state is also about 30 seconds.

TASK #4 – Ubuntu OS Setup Instructions

These steps are specifically for the Ubuntu operating system. If you selected the Raspberry Pi OS in Task #1 at the top of this page, then go to Task #3 above for the specific steps needed.

  1. SCREENSHOTS — If you want to capture a picture of the screen at any time, you can press the PrtScn (Print Screen) button on your keyboard and an image of the screen will be saved to your user account home folder in the Pictures folder with the date and time as the file name. Saving screenshots can be helpful for anyone wanting to document this process or other content that shows up on their screen.
  2. LANGUAGE — On the first Welcome screen, select the language you wish to use. Then click the Continue button.
  3. KEYBOARD — Select your language and keyboard layout preferences. Then click the Continue button.
  4. TIMEZONE — Select your timezone. Then click the Continue button.
  5. USER — Enter your user account information and password. Then click the Continue button.
  6. INSTALLING — The Ubuntu installation process will continue.
  7. ACCOUNTS — An accounts page will let you connect to popular accounts like Google and Microsoft. Skip this step if you would rather do this later.
  8. IMPROVE — You can improve Ubuntu by having your system information shared, or choose to not share your system info. Then click the Next button in the top right of the window.
  9. LOCATION — Allow location services if you would like your device location shared with programs and websites. This is helpful for services like maps and weather. Then click the Next button in the top right of the window.
  10. READY — On the final setup screen you will see a message stating, “You’re ready to go!” Click the Done button in the top right of the window.
  11. UPDATE — During the above steps, the Software Updater window probably showed up. Click on the Install Now button to update your Ubuntu system.

Further Reading

Additional information can be found on the Raspberry Pi User Guides and Resources page. [View]