Switching on your Pi for the first time

You have got your Raspberry Pi, chances are with some accessories like an SD card and various cables, but what do you with them?

First a quick check on what actually is needed.

What makes up a Raspberry Pi?RPF-RPI2B-1GB-5

The most obvious is the Raspberry Pi itself, the credit card sized computer.

Since its launch the Raspberry Pi design has changed a bit, but the functionality hasn’t changed. If your unsure on which version you have, check this page.

The Raspberry Pi (latest versions) features 4 USB ports, 10/100Mbps ethernet, HDMI out, combined composite and analogue audio, CSI camera port and DSI display output.

Everything listed is what you will see in a standard desktop PC, condensed down in to a board the size of a credit card! So how do we turn this little green board with silver connectors in to a full working computer?

How to connect up a Raspberry Pi

As mentioned, being a very condensed computer, it will work with everything you are already familiar with, such as USB keyboards, mice, WiFi dongles and computer monitors.

The first step is to make sure you have everything you need in a standard setup to get started (standard being a mouse, keyboard, monitor and ethernet cable for internet).

  • Raspberry Pi – Cased or uncased
  • SD Card – MicroSD for A+, B+ or Pi 2 and SD for A or B
  • Power Supply – A 5 volt micro USB cable rated 1 Amp or above
  • HDMI capable TV or monitor or a TV with composite input (yellow round plug)
  • USB mouse and keyboard
  • RJ45 Ethernet cable plugged in to a router or hub

First make sure the SD card has either NOOBs or Raspbian installed ready, if you have purchased an SD with NOOBs already pre-installed you can move on to the next step. If you are using a blank SD card or unsure, follow this page to install Raspbian.

Micro SD firmly inserted

Insert the SD card in to the Raspberry Pi. For the older Raspberry Pi’s, with a full sized SD card simply push the SD card in to the SD slot underneath the Pi with the label facing outwards. For the newer Raspberry Pi’s using micro SD cards, push the card in to the slot underneath with the label facing outwards until you hear a click and the card stays firmly in place, if not push it in again until it stays in.

HDMI Connector

Plug in the HDMI cable or composite cable in to the Raspberry Pi and then in to the TV or monitor, and choose the approriate source or input on the display in preparation for the big switch on.



USB Connector

Now plug in the USB mouse and keyboard in to any USB port on the Raspberry Pi. As they vary a lot between models and manufacturers in terms of wireless, wired, combined etc styles of mouse and keyboard, too many to list so if you are unsure check the user guide that comes with your keyboard and/or mouse.

Lastly, although it isn’t critical to using the Raspberry Pi it will make installing or updating software very difficult, plug in an ethernet cable from your router or hub to in the ethernet port of the Raspberry Pi. When it is firmly inserted it will click to let you know it has locked in to place.

Switching on for the first time

Plug in the micro USB cable

The last step is to add power. As the Raspberry Pi doesn’t contain a power button, it will start to boot itself up as soon as it is plugged in.

One thing that often gets overlooked is the power rating on the power supply, as they vary a great deal. If for any reason the Raspberry Pi cuts out to a blank screen during boot up, red light doesn’t stay on or items like the mouse and keyboard don’t work it is very likely that the power supply being used isn’t powerful enough.

Red Light indicates it is on
Red Light indicates it is on

To diagnose the power supply is as easy as reading the label, there are too many different types of power supply to give an instant look here and read, but they all display the same sort of detail. Look for the output, generally it says something like;  5.0v 2000mA

The 5.0v (or sometimes 5.2v and even 5.3v) is the voltage being supplied to the Raspberry Pi, 5 volts is the standard required. The next number is the current being offered by the power supply. Generally the higher the better, as most devices like the Pi will only take what it needs. 2 Amp (2000 milliamp or mA) is enough, but 1000mA may struggle to keep up when plugging lots of USB devices in to it.

Logging in to the Raspberry Pi

With the release of Jessie, the Raspberry Pi will automatically boot to the desktop. For all versions of Raspbian before this (known as Wheezy) the Pi will be ready to use after entering a username and password. By default the credentials are;Login1

Username: pi

Password: raspberry


If this is the first time the SD card has been used, raspi-config will be opened automatically.

Setting up raspi-config

raspi-configOn the older Raspbian versions (Wheezy), the raspi-config is blue and loads up straight away after logging in for the first time. If for anyreason it doesn’t, after logging in (above) type;

sudo raspi-config

raspi-configguiOn the newer Jessie release, the previous configuration still exists and is available via the terminal, but there is a Graphical version under Menu, Preferences and then Raspberry Pi Configuration.


The only options of interest to start with is first Expand Filesystem, click or press enter on this option – This will only take a few seconds. The reason for expanding the filesystem is to make all the available space on the SD card available to use, in an effort to keep Raspbian small enough to fit on different sized SD cards it is compressed to only use about 4GB, so if it is installed on an 8GB SD card, half of the card is unavailable to use unless told to do so.

DesktopOn the older version of Raspbian, it is possible to set it up to automatically boot to Desktop like the new Jessie release does, which saves logging in and typing startx everytime. Press down on the keyboard to get to 3 Enable Boot to Desktop/Scratch, press enter, then down to Desktop Log in as user ‘pi’ at the graphical desktop.

It is advisable to change the password to something less guessable than raspberry, but if you are only playing and learning how to use the Raspberry Pi it isn’t crucial. Other items such as the Raspberry Pi Camera Module can be enabled within raspi-config, if you are going to use the camera module, enabling is done by going down using the arrow keys on the keyboard to 5 Enable Camera then Enable on the older config, or click Interfaces on the newer interface then enable Camera.

Click OK on the new interface then yes to reboot now, or press Tab twice to select Finish, followed by Enter to reboot for the changes to take effect.

Keeping up to date

It is always best to keep the software up to date, allowing for bug fixes, security fixes and new features to be used. Performing the following once a week or so is best to keep your Pi in a good working condition. An Internet connection is required to download the updates.

lxterminalFirstly open Terminal, this can be found at the top, a little black screen. Click this once.

A black window will open, with pi@raspberrypi ~ $

This is the command prompt that the following commands will be typed in to.

apt-get update

sudo apt-get update

This command will update the repository information stored on the Raspberry Pi with the latest versions kept on the Raspbian servers, using this information the Pi will instantly know what software is available to upgrade to a newer version.

apt-get upgrade

sudo apt-get upgrade -y

Now to tell the Raspberry Pi to perform the update process, which can take from a few seconds to half hour depending on the number of updates available. The process is all automatic.

When it has finished the command will show the green pi@raspberrypi ~ $ text again. Normally it is best to reboot after updating. Click Menu, Shutdown and select Reboot.