Creating an SD card for NOOBS Raspbian distribution

in #raspberrypi5 years ago


I had ordered a Pi Zero W couple of weeks back. I intend to use it for some astro photography. Since the skies are getting clear in this part of the world, I thought it's time to tinker with it.

I already have a Raspberry Pi 3 and the NOIR camera, so I am familiar with the system. But the Pi3 had come with a SD card with Raspbian pre-installed on it.

For the Pi Zero, I decided to start with a fresh SD card and install the latest Raspbian on it. The Raspbian website provides a NOOBs distribution which is intended to be a quicker solution than the raw image.

However, I struggled for quite a while to get the Pi Zero to bootup and show its output on an HDMI screen, because the information on the official site is, I believe, not presented well. I will try to describe it in simple terms below.

The process for installing NOOBS

  • Acquire an SD card which is atleast 8GB
  • Erase all existing partitions on the card, and create a single new partition. More on this below.
  • Extract the file to the newly created partition. Unmount the card safely.
  • Insert card into Pi Zero and power it

Creating a partition

The created partition should be formatted as FAT32 and the partition type should be set to Win95. Note that both points are important for a successful boot.

I used the "gnome-disks" utility on my desktop, which comes with Ubuntu 16.04, to create the FAT32 partition. In my first attempt, I didn't notice that the partition type (as recorded in the partition table) is set by default to Linux. Only after setting the parition type to Win95 did the Pi Zero boot up and presented the NOOBS installer to me.

Powering the Pi Zero

The Pi Zero has two USB ports on it. If you observe closely, they have labels around them. The one labelled "PWR" is meant for, you guessed it, powering the board.

The Pi Zero draws very little power. So you can power it from any USB port, such as a laptop USB port or a USB power bank.

Unlike the Pi3, there are no LEDs that indicate power status. The only way to know it has powered up is to connect a display through the HDMI interface.

Installing Raspbian

I haven't really got to installing raspbian yet, because I need a USB hub to connect my keyboard / mouse to the Pi Zero. But I don't expect major hiccups there.

More on Pi Zero and my astro photography experiments with it in the coming weeks.

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