NOOBS: operating systems for your Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been developing its project to launch new models of boards and also to improve the software, among its efforts are also the official operating systems that you can install on the SD card of your SBC. One of those efforts is reflected in the project known as NOOBS.

In June 2013 this NOOBS application hit the web, and that you are going to love it if you have one Raspberry Pi and you want to test multiple operating systems without the hassle of removing one to install another from your SD memory card. This project makes it easy for you to have them all and select the one you want to start with ...

About NOOBS

NOOBS logo

NOOBS stands for New Out of Box Software. It is a utility that facilitates the installation of several official operating systems compatible with the Raspberry Pi on the same SD card without complications for the user. Can be fully downloaded free in a ZIP on the official website.

By downloading the file and unzipping it, you can put it in your SD card intended for the Raspberry Pi, as long as it has at least 4GB or more. Once it is loaded and you put it on your Raspberry Pi, on the first boot it will show you a menu for you to select the operating system you want to install.

The installation can be done locally if you have some images already loaded in the free space of the SD card or downloading them from the internet at the moment if you have connection. In fact, the new versions of NOOBS have changed compared to the first, not only in the available operating systems, but also in their characteristics. They now include an integrated browser.

You can access its menu with Shift key keyboard during startup, and thus reinstall another operating system or choose another. You can also edit the configuration file called config.txt.

Variants of NOOBS

You can find two variants of NOOBS on the Raspberry Pi official website:

  • NOOBS: one of them is the basic one, which contains an installer for the Raspbian OS and LibreELEC operating system. It provides the ability to alternately select between one or another operating system, and download and install other different systems from the Internet. You already know that Raspbian is basically a Debian modified for Raspberry Pi, while LibreELEC is what you are looking for if you need a mediacenter.
  • NOOBS Lite: It is a light version of the previous one, without the operating systems included, so it is a lighter package to download. It provides the same selection menu to choose Raspbian or other images, but it must be downloaded and installed from scratch.

config.txt

NOOBS config.txt

The file of configuration config.txt NOOBS is one of its key elements. In it you can make different configurations to alter the normal operation of this utility.

To configure it, you can do it from the built-in editor that NOOBS includes or also from another OS with any text editor. Comee in plain text, and it is well commented, therefore, you will know what each option that you can change is for.

Usually nothing needs to be changed, but if you need an advanced configuration to adapt the options to your needs, such as the type of connection, on the screen, etc., you can take a look ...

NOOBS menu

As to graphic menu, NOOBS has a simple interface with the following options:

  • Install / Install: is the button to select the operating systems of your SD card and install them. You can select more or less from the list.
  • Edit configuration / Edit Config: allows to open the config.txt with the included text editor and to be able to alter the configuration of the systems.
  • Help / Help: Get online help.
  • Exit / Exit: is the option to be able to exit NOOBS and restart the Raspberry Pi.
  • Language / Language: is the menu to select your native language in which the interface is displayed.
  • Keyboard Language / Keyboard Layout: allows you to select the keyboard language, for example, Spanish (ES).
  • Display Mode / Display Mode: By default the HDMI port is used for the display, but you can change it to use composite video cables, PAL mode, NTSC, etc.

Install NOOBS:

Yes, install NOOBS on your SD card it's pretty straightforward. You just have to follow these steps on your PC:

  1. Have an SD memory card of more than 8GB and formatted correctly. It's nothing special, it just needs to be in FAT32 format.
  2. Insert the card into your computer's reader.
  3. Download the NOOBS ZIP from the official website.
  4. Unzip the ZIP.
  5. The extracted content must be copied to your SD.
  6. Now insert the SD in the slot of your Raspberry Pi and you can start it ...

Raspberry Pi Imager (alternative)

The Raspberry Pi Foundation promotes the use of the project Raspberry Pi Imager for beginners, since it allows you to install Raspbian and other operating systems on the SD card in a super fast and easy way.

You will find it in the official website for macOS, Windows and Linux. Of course, it is completely free.

Raspberry Pi 4 problems

Raspberry Pi 4 GPIO

If you have a Raspberry Pi 4 and you see that it does not start, the SPI EEPROM memory may be corrupted. This has an easy solution, if so, remove the SD card from your board, disconnect the SBC from power, and reconnect. If the green LED does not light up, then it is corrupt.

Yes, fix it follow these steps:

  1. Use an SD that is empty. Insert this into the card reader of your PC.
  2. Download Raspberry Pi Imager for your OS.
  3. Select "CHOOSE OS" and then "Misc utility images", then "Pi 4 EEPROM boot recovery".
  4. Now insert the SD card and click on the Imager «CHOOSE SD CARD» and select the card you just inserted. Then click on "WRITE".
  5. Once finished, remove the SD from your PC and insert it into the Raspberry Pi 4.
  6. Plug in the Pi to boot. When the process is finished, you will see the green LED blink rapidly.
  7. Disconnect the Pi from power, and remove the inserted SD.
  8. Now you can use the SD with the operating system you want and use it normally. It should have been repaired.

Another alternative option to fix the problem with the Pi 4 is to download the bootloader from GitHub, extract into an empty FAT formatted SD, insert it into the Pi, connect and wait for the green LED to blink rapidly ...

Buy cards with NOOBS already included

NOOBS SD

Another option, if you want more comfort or not use your SD card for that, is to buy an SD card with NOOBS already pre-installed, so you only have to connect it to your Raspberry Pi and run. In addition, by doing that you are contributing to the foundation, since these cards are official ...

You can find them in various online stores, for example on Amazon. They are also available in different capacities, for example:

Of course you can always buy the SD yourself with the capacity you need, and install manually with the steps I have described above.

With that and your badge Raspberry Pi, you will have everything you need to get started ...


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