Updated: 2014-04-23

Before you can use your Pi, you need to load an operating system and apps on to your Pi, and you do this by copying (or 'flashing') an image to your SD card. You flash the SD card on your laptop or desktop computer, not on the Pi itself.

On each platform (Linux, Mac, Windows) there are two ways to flash a card - the easy way and the hard way. The hard way is to type in a sequence of commands in a command line environment (bash/terminal/cmd), checking each stage works properly as you go: this is worthy and educational, but after a few times it becomes tedious. Then there's the easy way, which is to use a utility which is simply a little app that wraps up all those individual commands in a single package. These instructions describe how to do it the easy way, with a utility, but we also provide links to useful websites where you can get the command line instructions. 

Once the card is flashed, slide it into the Pi and you're ready to run. 

Choose an SD Card

You will need an SDHC card of 2 GB or more. The size you will need depends on the OS and application you will be using, so consult your application  documentation to ensure you get one big enough. Of course size isn't everything. Even so, if in doubt, get a bigger one.

The class number of the SD card describes its speed, the higher the class number the faster the read/write speeds. With the Pi, the difference in speed can be significant, so if you are likely to write and read a lot of data with your app, or reboot the app frequently, then go for class 6 or better. 

Download the Image File (All Platforms)

  1. Identify the image file you need. Images for Pi are available on the Raspberry Pi Website and elsewhere. On this website we provide some links to relevant Squeezebox images in the Project pages.
  2. Follow the instructions on the source website to download it.
  3. The file you need is of type .img. If you've downloaded a zip file or other compressed format, unzip it to find the img file. 
  4. Move the file to a convenient folder. With some utilities you must place the file in a location that has no spaces in the folder name or in the path to the folder. 
  5. You're ready for the next step. Choose the instructions appropriate for the laptop or desktop computer you want to use.

Prepare and Flash an SD Card on Linux

http://elinux.org/RPi_Easy_SD_Card_Setup

Prepare and Flash an SD Card on Mac OS/X

If you have just bought a new SD card it should already be FAT32 formatted, so you can go straight to #6 below.

  1. Launch the Mac app Disk Utility. If you don't know where it is just type Disk Utility in the search field at the top right of your screen.
  2. With the Disk Utility window open, insert the SD card. You will see the card appear in the device list, and you can confirm it's the right one by its size. Select the drive itself, not one of its partitions. Make sure you select the correct drive because everything will be erased!
  3. Click the Erase tab. Accept the default Format type which should be MS-DOS (FAT). You can leave the name as it is or change it to a new one if you like (upper case, up to 11 characters, no spaces).
  4. Click the Erase button, then confirm again if asked.
  5. Your SD card is now formatted, ready to be flashed.
  6. Choose a flash utility. These instructions assume you are using RPI-sd card builder v1.2 on your Mac. Other utilities are available and work in much the same way, though there may be differences in detail. See the sidebar.
  7. Launch RPI-sd card builder. You'll immediately be presented with a navigation screen. Navigate to the location of the .img file to be loaded, and select it. (Remember: there should be no spaces in the file path/name.)
  8. If your SD card is not already in its slot, you will be asked to connect it. Slide it in.
  9. If your Mac is set up to require a root password for this action, you will be asked for your admin password.
  10. You will see a message instructing you not to remove the SD card. OK so don't remove it yet! But check that the card has been unmounted (disappeared from your Disk Utility) and then don't forget to click the Continue button or nothing else will happen.
  11. Wait patiently. You will see nothing happening for a while. Eventually a COMPLETE message will appear. You can just slide the SD card out (no need to eject it in Finder, as the app has already done that).
  12. Your new SD card is ready. Take it to your Pi, slide it in and power up.

Want to do it the long way? You can find detailed instructions for the step-by-step command line method here.

Prepare and Flash an SD Card on MS Windows

If you have just bought a new SD card it should already be FAT32 formatted, so you can go straight to #6 below.

  1. Insert the SD card. You will see the card appear in File Manager as a new storage device. Select the drive itself, not one of its partitions. Make sure you select the correct drive because everything will be erased!
  2. Right click on the drive in file manager and choose Format. Accept the default Format type which should be MS-DOS (FAT). You can leave the name as it is or change it to a new one if you like (upper case, up to 11 characters, no spaces).
  3. Confirm, and wait.
  4. Your SD card is now formatted, ready to be flashed.
  5. Choose a flash utility. These instructions assume you are using win32diskimager on your Windows machine. Other utilities are available and work in much the same way, though there may be differences in detail.
  6. Launch Win32diskimager. You'll be presented with a navigation screen. Navigate to the location of the .img file to be loaded, and select it. (Remember: there should be no spaces in the file path/name.)
  7. If your SD card is not already in its slot, you will be asked to connect it. Slide it in.
  8. Confirm, then wait till the image copy is complete. Eject it.
  9. Your new SD card is ready. Take it to your Pi, slide it in and power up.
 

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