Headless Raspberry Pi Setup

Setting up a Raspberry Pi is easy. Setting up a headless Raspberry Pi should take no longer than 30 minutes. There is no requirement for a screen, keyboard or mouse, hence the use of the word headless. This option is perfect for setting up your Pi for something like a web server, Minecraft server, file server etc.

Equipment/Software List

Equipment:

  • Raspberry Pi 3B/3B+ recommended
  • Micro USB Power Supply
  • 8GB+ MicroSD Card/8GB+ USB Flash Drive (if you are using 3B+)
  • A computer with MicroSD slot/adapter (if you are using a MicroSD card)

SD Card Setup

You will also need to download the latest version of Raspbian. We strongly recommend the Stretch Lite version if you do not need a GUI. Raspbian Stretch Lite is lightweight and downloads pretty fast on a modern connection.

Once the image is downloaded and decompressed, you will have to install it on the SD card. Download and install Etcher Balena. It’s a free software that allows you to unpack and install the ISO on your SD Card. It’s available on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Once Etcher is installed, plug in your SD card or USB flash drive. Open Etcher. Click “Select Image” and choose the Raspbian ISO you downloaded. Next, click “Select Drive” and choose the SD card you just plugged in. Finally, press “Flash!”. This should take 5-10 minutes to complete. Take a short break, you deserve it.

Enabling Wifi & SSH

Once Etcher tells you the process is complete, close Etcher but keep the SD card plugged in. Navigate to the SD card and open it via This PC (for Windows) or Finder (for Mac). It’s usually labelled “BOOT”.

Create a blank file in the root directory of the SD card called “ssh”. This file must be empty and only have the letters “ssh” in the file name – no file extension. This will tell the Pi to enable SSH when you first boot the Pi.

Finally, we need to create a file called wpa_supplicant.conf in the root directory of the SD card, just like we did for the ssh file. Copy the below configuration and paste it into the wpa_supplicant.conf file. You must update the country code on the first line to your country. Use your countries ISO 3116 alpha-2 code. You can find a list of the codes here.

country=GB
update_config=1
ctrl_interface=/var/run/wpa_supplicant

network={
 scan_ssid=1
 ssid="MyNetworkSSID"
 psk="Pa55w0rd12345"
}

Once this is done, save the file. You may now eject the SD card safely and plug it into the Raspberry Pi. Power on the Pi. You should see a solid red LED and a flashing green activity LED on the Pi. Allow 2 minutes for the Pi to fully boot for the first time. Find the IP your Pi has taken from your router via DHCP. To do this, you can navigate to your router’s admin control panel and check the list of connected devices. Look for the IP next to the Raspberry Pi. Use this IP to connect via SSH. If you’re Windows, we recommend using PuTTY as your SSH terminal. On Mac/Linux, terminal is fine (ssh pi@IPADDRESS). The default username and password is “pi” and “raspberry”.