How to install the Raspbian OS on a Raspberry Pi

What you need

As well as a Raspberry Pi Model B Revision 2 board (which includes an ethernet port and more RAM than the Model A), you will also need an SD card (minimum of 4Gb) and a power supply with corresponding Micro USB power cable. Don’t skimp on the power supply, stability problems with a Raspberry Pi can more often than not be attributed to a poor supply. 700mAh is the minimum you should be looking at, but 1A is the realistic minimum. If you intend to communicate with your Raspberry Pi over WiFi, you will need a USB dongle. Alternatively, for a cheaper option, you can communicate directly with your router or network hub via an ethernet cable. A USB keyboard and HDMI monitor will be required for the initial setup, but can be removed afterward, as we will be running the Raspberry Pi “headless”.

Getting the Operating System for the Raspberry Pi onto an SD card

  1. Download Win32DiskImager from
  2. Download Raspbian from
  3. Extract the Raspbian image file from the downloaded .zip file, so you now have a file called something like “2014-01-07-wheezy-raspbian.img” (the version you download may be later than this one).
  4. Insert an SD card (at least 4Gb, but this will only leave around 500Mb for your data) into the SD card reader on your PC and check which drive letter it was assigned (for example G:).
  5. Extract the Win32DiskImager executable from the zip file and run the Win32DiskImager utility; you may need to run the utility as Administrator (right-click on the file, and select “Run as Administrator”).
  6. Select the Raspbian image file you extracted above.
  7. Select the drive letter of the SD card in the “Device” box. Be careful to select the correct drive; if you get the wrong one you may destroy the data on your computer’s hard disk!
  8. Click “Write” and wait patiently for the write to complete – it will take several minutes.
  9. Exit Win32DiskImager and eject the SD card.
  10. You can now insert the SD card into the SD card slot on your Raspberry Pi.

Connecting the Raspberry Pi

  1. With the SD card inserted in the Raspberry Pi, connect it to your TV input using an HDMI cable.
  2. Plug in a USB keyboard (and mouse, if you have one handy).
  3. Turn on your TV and select the appropriate source input.
  4. Connect the Raspberry Pi to your power source (there is no “on/off” switch on the Raspberry Pi).

First time boot

When the first-time boot menu appears (also accessible later with the command sudo raspi-config), set the following options:

  • Expand the file system (so that we can make full use of the space on the SD card).
  • For the sake of security, change the default password for user “pi”, and make sure you can remember it.
  • Select the correct internationalization options (locale “en_GB.UTF8”, and timezone “London” in my case)
  • Select “Advanced Options” and set the following:
    • Memory Split = 16 (The Raspberry Pi Type B only has 512Mb of RAM, which is shared between the CPU and the GPU. We will not be running the desktop, so we can reduce the memory allocation for graphics and leave it free for the system to make use of).
    • Hostname = pi-rsync (or whatever you want to call it).
    • SSH = Enable (otherwise we will not be able to run the Raspberry Pi “headless”.
    • Update = Update this tool to the latest version
  • Select “Overclock” and set it to “Turbo” mode (more information is available at – make sure you read it first so that you know the implications).
  • Select Finish
  • Reboot the Raspberry Pi

Configure wi-fi and ethernet

  • When the Raspberry Pi has rebooted, shut it down again, safely, with the following command:

    sudo shutdown -h now

  • Power down completely by disconnecting the power source
  • Insert your USB WiFi dongle in a spare USB port on your Raspberry Pi (you may need to unplug your mouse to do do this).
  • Power up the Raspberry Pi.
  • Log in as user “pi” and supply the new password you created earlier.
  • To make a backup of the default network interfaces configuration file, issue the command:

    sudo cp -p /etc/network/interfaces /etc/network/interfaces.eth0

  • Edit the network interfaces configuration file by issuing the command

    sudo vi /etc/network/interfaces

  • …and replace the entire content of the file with the following. You will need to replace the <SSID> and <password> with the correct information for your wireless base station.

    auto lo
    iface lo inet loopback
    iface eth0 inet dhcp
    allow-hotplug wlan0
    auto wlan0
    iface wlan0 inet dhcp
    wpa-ssid "<SSID>"
    wpa-psk "<password>"

  • Save the changes you made and exit the vi editor.
  • Back up the file you just edited by issuing the command

    sudo cp -p /etc/network/interfaces /etc/network/interfaces.wlan0

  • Do you want to communicate with the Raspberry Pi via ethernet or WiFi? For the former, enter the command:

    sudo cp -p /etc/network/interfaces.eth0 /etc/network/interfaces…and for the latter, enter:

    sudo cp -p /etc/network/interfaces.wlan0 /etc/network/interfaces

  • shutdown the Raspberry Pi with the command:

    sudo shutdown -h now

  • Power down completely by disconnecting the power source
  • If you chose to communicate via ethernet, remove the WiFi dongle, and connect a network cable between the Raspberry Pi and your router.
  • Power up your Raspberry Pi, and log in again as user “pi”
  • You will need to know your IP address. Find this out by entering the command:

    Look for the IP address displayed alongside “inet address:”, which may be in the “eth0” or “wlan0” section, depending on how you are connecting. In my case, the IP address is “”.

Tighten up the security on OpenSSH

  • Connect to your Raspberry Pi using Putty from your PC, and log in as user “pi”.
  • Issue the following commands:

    sudo cp /etc/ssh/sshd_config ~
    sudo vi /etc/ssh/sshd_config

  • Change the “PermitRootLogin” directive to read:

    PermitRootLogin no

  • To restrict SSH access to user “pi”, add this directive to the end of the file:

    AllowUsers pi

    If you also want to allow www-data to access via SSH, use the following directive instead:

    AllowUsers pi www-data

  • Restart ssh by running the command:

    sudo service ssh restart

  • At this point, you may want to configure ssh key access, fail2ban, and iptables for added security, but they are not absolutely necessary.

Update the OS packages

  • Issue the following command as user “pi”:

    sudo apt-get update ; sudo apt-get upgrade

The upgrade part of the command could take a long time, the first time it is run. You should repeat this process every so often to stay up-to-date.

Install ramlog to prolong the life of your SD card

Update: Note that, the usual location for downloading the ramlog package, no longer exists so the link in the “wget” command below takes you to a copy saved on Dropbox.

SD cards typically have a lifetime of up to 100,000 writes, so we want to minimise the number of times we write to the card. In the following instructions we use a piece of software called ramlog. Instead of being written directly to the card, log data is written to ramlog, and transferred to the card, every so often, en masse.

  • Issue the following commands as user “pi”:

    sudo apt-get install lsof
    cd ~ ; wget
    sudo dpkg -i ramlog_2.0.0_all.deb
    sudo vi /etc/default/ramlog

  • Change the maximum memory size setting as follows:


  • Reboot the Raspberry Pi with the following command:

    sudo reboot

  • The Raspberry Pi will reboot, and you will need to restart your Putty session. You can check the status of ramlog with the following command:

    sudo /etc/init.d/ramlog status

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