Raspberry Pi 4 is a single-board computer that was released in June 2019, and it is a huge step up in power from the previous Raspberry Pi 3 model B+. The new model is even being touted as a possible desktop replacement – and with a 4GB of RAM option with dual monitor support, that is definitely a possibility. Imagine that – a $35.00 silent desktop PC (or really, the 4GB version is $55.00…but still…that’s amazing).
I myself am pretty addicted to Raspberry Pi’s – I love them for just playing around with different projects. You can make it do signage for a lobby, it can be a retro gaming console, it can run Pi-Hole, it is amazing for prototyping new ideas – the list goes on and on.
But – if you’re interested in the Raspberry Pi – where do you start? This guide will show you how to get a very basic operating system (Raspbian) up and running on the Raspberry Pi 4. Once the OS is installed, you will have a strong foundation with which to build upon. Let’s get started!
Download NOOBS and flash the microSD card
What you’ll need to get started (some links are Amazon affiliate):
(1) Raspberry Pi 4 – I recommend the 4GB version, but any Raspberry Pi 4 will work fine for this project. I would also strongly recommend getting a Raspberry Pi Starter Kit (my preferred kit is from CanaKit). The starter kit comes with the Pi 4, some heat sinks (needed because the CPU gets HOT), a USB type C power adapter, a case, an HDMI cable, and a SanDisk 32GB microSD card pre-installed with NOOBS (so that you can skip over the Download and Install portion of this tutorial).
(1) MicroSD card – Should be at least 16GB, and works best when you have a Class 10 card.
(1) Monitor/Keyboard/Mouse – Monitor should have an HDMI input, keyboard and mouse should be USB.
You will also need a separate computer (I’ll be using a Windows 10 PC) to format and flash the microSD card).
If you purchased a Raspberry Pi Started Kit that has NOOBS pre-installed on the microSD card, you can skip this part and move right onto the next step – Installing Raspbian.
Let’s start by formatting the microSD card. I like to use a free program called SD Card Formatter. Download and install SD Card Formatter. When you launch the program, select the drive that has your microSD card.
*** NOTE: Double and triple-check that you have the right drive selected. If you format the wrong drive (such as an external USB hard drive), you will LOSE all data on that drive.
Next let’s download NOOBS. NOOBS stands for New Out Of the Box Software. This is the place to start for beginners. Rather than installing the Raspbian OS directly, NOOBS is an easy operating system installer that can not only install Raspbian, but also a selection of alternative operating systems. It’s a really great way to get exposure to the various different OS installations available for Raspberry Pi.
Navigate to the NOOBS Download Page and download either the ZIP or Torrent for the full version of NOOBS (not the Lite version).
*** NOTE: You must download NOOBS v3.1.1 or newer – previous version are not compatible with Raspberry Pi 4.
Extract the downloaded file into its own folder, then copy the contents of that folder to the root of your microSD card.
Insert the microSD card into the Raspberry Pi 4 and hook up a monitor, network cable, keyboard, and mouse. If you have heat sinks for your Raspberry Pi, put them on before you power it up.
If you have a Raspberry Pi case, now would be the time to install the Raspberry Pi 4 into it – for my example below however, there is no case.
*** NOTE: If you don’t have Ethernet available, you will be given the opportunity to connect the Raspberry Pi 4 up to WiFi when NOOBS first boots up.
When you first boot up, you will see this screen. If you don’t have Ethernet plugged in, you may not see all of these same choices. You can connect the Raspberry Pi 4 to a wireless network by selecting ‘Wifi networks.’
Once you are connected via Ethernet or WiFi, check the box next to ‘Raspbian Full’ and then click ‘Install.’ You will be asked if you’re sure you want to do the selected OS…click ‘Yes.’ Raspbian will now install.
Once the installation has finished, click OK and your Raspberry Pi will reboot. Upon first booting up, you will receive a welcome screen and startup wizard. Note that your IP address will show on this screen. Click ‘Next’ to start the wizard.
The first step of the wizard requires you to enter your country and time zone. Fill out the appropriate info and click ‘Next.’
Next, we need to change our default password. Best to use something STRONG. Click ‘Next’ when finished.
If you would like to click to a wireless network, choose your network from the list, enter the password, and then click ‘Next.’ Otherwise, you can click ‘Skip’ if you don’t want to connect to a wireless network.
Now it’s time to update software. Click ‘Next.’ However, when I did this originally, I received an error…don’t worry about that, we’ll update manually next.
Now the setup wizard is complete. Click ‘Restart’ to restart the Raspberry Pi.
Once the Raspberry Pi reboots and comes back online, let’s update software.
Open up a terminal window (click the Terminal icon in the upper left-hand corner), or press CTRL+ALT+T as a keyboard shortcut.
In Terminal, run the following commands:
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade -y
When you run sudo apt-get update you may receive an error that looks similar to the error we received during the startup wizard (something about changing value from ‘testing’ to ‘stable.’ If that happens, just press Y to accept the error and move on.
This should take care of all updates.
Raspberry Pi Configuration and Remote Access
Next, we want to do a few maintenance items including enabling remote SSH and VNC connectivity. Click the Raspberry Pi icon in the upper right-hand corner and choose Preferences –> Raspberry Pi Configuration.
On the first tab, look over the options. Here we can choose to boot to CLI instead of the Desktop, we can set the system hostname, and we can disable auto-login to the Dekstop. For security, it is recommended to uncheck this setting. Now, when the system reboots, it will prompt for username and password to log in.
Click on the Interfaces tab and select ‘Enable next to SSH and VNC. SSH will allow us remote CLI access to the Raspberry Pi, and VNC will allow us to open a remote desktop using VNC Viewer. Click OK to finish.
You can now VNC and SSH to the server. Let’s test our connection with SSH. I’m going to use PuTTY from Windows to connect. Open PuTTY and enter in the IP address of your Raspberry Pi. Then click ‘Open’ to connect.
If you receive a security alert, simply click ‘Yes.’ Login as user ‘pi’ with whatever password you set during the startup wizard.
Now let’s log in with VNC. First download the VNC Viewer and install it. Run VNC Viewer and choose CTRL+N to create a new connection (or click File –> New Connection).
For VNC Server, enter the IP address of your Rasbperry Pi. For Name, enter in a friendly name for the connection. Finally, click OK.
Double-click your new VNC connection and you will be prompted for a password. Use ‘pi’ as the username and the password that you set in the setup wizard.
Congrats! You should now be connected to your Raspberry Pi desktop.