Install NOOBS with any OS

Possibly the easiest way to get a new OS up and running on your Pi can be achieved using any operating system ­ as long as you know how!

NOOBS (New Out Of the Box Software) makes it easy to install Raspbian (or other OSes) on your Raspberry Pi. You an buy an SD card with NOOBS on it from many vendors, or we’ll show you how to do it yourself below.

With a correctly-prepared NOOBS SD card, the Pi can boot to a menu offering you a choice of OSes. Pick one and NOOBS installs the OS on the SD card, so it will load the next time the Pi is rebooted. Or you can hold down Shift as the Pi boots to use the NOOBS installer once again.

Preparing a NOOBS SD card with Raspbian on it requires at least a 4GB SD card ­ other OSes (in particular, Windows 10 IoT Core) will require 8GB. The simple process of installing NOOBS to an SD card is outlined below. Note that if you’ve bought an SD card with NOOBS already on it, you don’t need this section just plug in and turn on. Once your card is ready, reboot the Pi with power, mouse, keyboard and monitor all connected. You should see a list of OSes (tailored for your Pi model). The Raspbian entry should have a picture of an SD card on the right, indicating that it can be installed even if the Pi is not connected to the internet. Tick the box to its left, hit Install and, before long, you’ll be able to reboot straight into Raspbian.


1 Format the SD card

Before you can do anything, your SD card must be correctly formatted. Freshly purchased blank cards tend to already be formatted as FAT32, but if you’re recycling an old one, you need to do this yourself. First make sure there isn’t anything important on it. Formatting can be done directly from Windows Explorer or from Disk Utility in MacOS. In Explorer, right-click the SD card and choose Format; in Disk Utility, go to the Erase tab. In both cases, choose FAT32, not the NTFS or HFS+ filesystems. Linux users can format SD cards using Gparted, Gnome Disks or the command line with mkdosfs -F32 /dev/ sdX1 , for example. Note that NOOBS requires that only a single FAT32 partition exists on the card, so if there are others, these should be removed with appropriate partitioning tools.

2 Download NOOBS

NOOBS is available in two forms: the regular edition (weighing in at 1GB, zipped) and NOOBS Lite (a mere 27MB). The Lite edition does not include the Raspbian image ­ it has to be downloaded from within the NOOBS installer. The full-fat edition allows Raspbian to be installed without an internet connection, but other OSes have to be downloaded. Again, this is easily achieved from the comfort of the NOOBS installer. Both versions can be downloaded from, either directly or via BitTorrent. The latter is a little more considerate of bandwidth but requires a BitTorrent client. Many Linux distros include the Transmission BitTorrent client (also available for MacOS), and there are plenty to choose from on Windows (uTorrent, Deluge, Bitcomet…).

3 Unzip and copy

You should have a file named something like NOOBS-V-1-9-2.ZIP in your downloads folder. This must be decompressed and the contents put on the SD card. On Windows and Mac, you should be able to extract the files by just double clicking the ZIP file. The files extract to a folder named something like NOOBS-v1-9-2. Now they must be copied to the SD card. Be sure to transfer only the files inside the NOOBS folder, rather than the folder itself, otherwise it won’t work. Open the NOOBS-v1-9-2 folder and select all the files (click the first one, hold Shift, then click the last one). Drag them on to the SD card icon and wait for them to finish copying (the full version can take a while). Right-click and safely eject the SD card. You should now be able to use this card to boot your Pi, as we’ll explain later.

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