5 easy steps to getting started using Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi (Image credit: iMore)

March 14 is known as Pi Day because the date represents the first three numbers in the mathematical constant π (3.14). We're celebrating with our coverage of everything Raspberry Pi related. If you've never even thought of what HTML means, you can still create amazing gadgets using Raspberry Pi and a bit of imagination.

What you'll need to get started with Raspberry Pi

You'll also need a monitor or TV that accepts either HDMI or composite video input. HDMI works best, but composite video is workable. Many Raspberry Pi projects use an internet connection, so you'll also want a Wi-Fi dongle or ethernet cable.

How to reformat your microSD card

  1. Insert your microSD card into the USB card reader.

Micro SD card reader
  1. Connect the card reader to your computer.
  2. Download SD Formatter 5.0.1.

Download SDFormatter
  1. Double-click on Install SD Card Formatter 5.0.1.mpkg in your downloads folder in your Dock to install SD Formatter 5.0.

Open SDFormatter installer
  1. Follow the instructions in the installation window.
  2. Click the Launchpad icon in your Dock. It looks like a silver rocket ship.

  1. Find the SD Formatter 5.0.1 app.
  2. To move between Launchpad windows, click the Next Page icons at the bottom center of the screen, or swipe to the right or left with your trackpad or Magic Mouse.
  3. Click on the SD Formatter 5.0.1 app to open it. A formatting window will appear on your desktop.

Finding apps in Launchpad
  1. Under Select Card select your microSD card from the dropdown menu.
  2. Click Format in the bottom right corner.

Setting up SDFormatter

When the reformat is complete, you will get a notification window. Select OK to close the window. Your microSD card is now ready to install the operating system to the Raspberry Pi.

How to Download NOOBS onto the microSD card

  1. Download the ZIP file of NOOBS Version 3.3.1. It is a large file and will take a while to complete. You will want Raspbian, so do not download NOOBS Lite.

Download NOOBS
  1. Double-click on the NOOBS file from the Downloads folder in your Dock to open it.

Open NOOBS file
  1. Select the first file inside the NOOBS folder.
  2. Scroll down and Shift + left-click on the last file in the NOOBS folder.
  3. Drag and drop all selected NOOBS files into the SD card icon on your desktop. You don't have to open the SD card drive.

Dragging NOOBS files to SD card
  1. Right-click on the SD card icon.
  2. Select "Eject [SD Card Name]".

Ejecting SD card
  1. Remove the card reader from your computer.
  2. Remove the microSD card from the card reader.

Now that NOOBS is loaded onto your microSD card, you're ready to set up your Raspberry Pi.

Set up your Raspberry Pi

  1. Insert the microSD card into the card slot on the underside of the Raspberry Pi.

Inserting the micro SD card into Raspberry Pi
  1. Plug the USB keyboard into one of the USB ports.
  2. Plug the USB mouse into one of the USB portsAlternatively, connect the Bluetooth adapter into one of the USB ports.

Keyboard and mouse connected
  1. Turn on your monitor or TV set and make sure it is set to the proper input (e.g. HDMI 1 or Component)
  2. Plug the HDMI or video component cable into the monitor or TV set.
  3. Connect the other end of the cable into the Raspberry Pi.

Connecting the HDMI cable to Raspberry Pi
  1. Connect an ethernet cable to your router if you plan to connect to the Internet.
  2. Connect the other end of the cable to your Raspberry Pi.Alternately, connect the Wi-Fi adapter to the Raspberry Pi.

Connecting ethernet cable to Raspberry Pi
  1. Connect the power supply to the Raspberry Pi.
  2. Plug the power supply into the power outlet. This will turn on and boot up Raspberry Pi. A power indicator light will begin to glow, letting you know that you are connected.

Power indicator on Raspberry Pi

A start screen should appear on the monitor or TV you're using.

Download the Raspbian operating system on the Raspberry Pi

  1. Select Raspbian.
  2. Click Install.

Installing Raspbian
  1. When the warning window pops up. Click Yes to confirm. This is just letting you know that the microSD card will be overwritten with an uncompressed version of the Raspbian operating system.
  2. Wait for the installation process to complete.

Raspberry Pi warning

Once the installation process is finished, Raspbian will automatically begin to boot.

Configure your Raspberry Pi

  1. Click Menu in the upper left corner of the screen.

Selecting Menu
  1. Select Preferences in the dropdown menu.

Selecting Preferences
  1. Select Raspberry Pi Configuration under Preferences.

Selecting reconfig in Raspberry Pi

Selecting reconfig in Raspberry Pi
  1. When the configuration window appears, click on the Localisation tab.
  2. Click on Set Locale… to set your location.
  3. Click on Set timezone… to set your local time.
  4. Click on Set Keyboard… to set your keyboard language.

Setting Localization for Raspberry Pi

Setting Localization for Raspberry Pi
  1. Reconfiguring your Raspberry Pi will require a reboot. When the reboot window appears, click Yes to continue.

Rebooting Raspberry Pi

You are set up and ready to start using Raspberry Pi. The mini computing world is your oyster. The only question now is, what project will you build?

What you'll need to get started

Of course to get started with the Raspberry Pi, you'll need to pick from one of the various motherboards available.

The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is the most flexible iterations of the do-it-yourself computer. It includes ports four USB-A ports, an ethernet jack, a microSD card slot, micro-USB for power, HDMI out, as well as connections for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas.

Other things you'll need

While the Raspberry Pi is obviously the star of the show as far as equipment is concerned, you'll also need a microSD card and reader, a power supply, a keyboard, and a mouse.

SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSD card

SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSD card

SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSD card ($8 at Amazon)

You'll need a micrSD card onto which to install NOOBS, a crucial part of setting up your Pi.

SanDisk Mobile Mate microSD

SanDisk Mobile Mate microSD

SanDisk Mobile Mate microSD card reader ($13 at Amazon)

You'll need to use a microSD card reader to load NOOBS from your Mac onto your microSD card.

CanaKit Power Supply

CanaKit Power Supply

CanaKit 5V 2.5A Raspberry Pi Power Supply ($10 at Amazon)

This micro-USB power supply is just what you'll need to get your Raspberry Pi up and running.

Verbatim Slimline Keyboard

Verbatim Slimline Keyboard (Image credit: Verbatim)

Verbatim Slimline Keyboard ($10 at Amazon)

A basic wireless keyboard that you'll need when you start using your Raspberry Pi.

Amazonbasics Hdmi Cable

Amazonbasics Hdmi Cable (Image credit: Amazon)

AmazonBasics HDMI Cable ($7 at Amazon)

To connect your Rasberry Pi to a monitor. A USB-A cable would also work, depending on your monitor's port options.

Logitech B100

Logitech B100

Logitech B100 ($10 at Amazon)

A standard, cheap USB mouse for your pointing and clicking needs.

Amazonbasics Ethernet Cable

Amazonbasics Ethernet Cable (Image credit: Amazon)

AmazonBasics Ethernet Cable ($5 at Amazon)

If you want to connect to the internet using a hardwired link, a basic CAT-6 patch cable will do the trick.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).