When you buy one of the versions of the Raspberry Pi board, one of the things you have to do is to prepare the SD memory card to have a bootable operating system compatible with this SBC board. For that to be possible there are many tools, although one of the most popular and that I recommend is Etcher or balenaEtcher. With it you will have everything you need to prepare your OS in the SD in a very intuitive and fast way.
You should know that there are a lot of operating systems that are already compatible with the Raspberry Pi board. Many GNU/Linux distributions already support ARM and can work well on the Pi. You also have other open source operating systems that are not based on the Linux kernel and are special to the Raspberry Pi, such as RISC OS, RaspBSD, etc. You can even find some for specific use like Windows IoT, OpenELEC for setting up a media center, RetroPi for retro games, etc.
Well, whatever operating system you choose, and even several on the same SD, the thing you have to do for your Raspberry Pi to run it is:
- Download your operating system. In the link I’ve left you the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s officers, but there are many more in other sources.
- Download balenaEtcher from the official website of the project.
- Install balenaEtcher on your system.
- Use Etcher to move your image from the operating system to the SD card so that it can boot from the Pi.
Of course, for that you need a PC with a card reader, the SD itself (in the case of the Raspberry Pi it will be a microSD) and the SBC board.
Balena has developed this software popularly known as Etcher. Although that is the name by which it is known, it must be said that it was called that way in the beginning. But it was renamed in 2018 when resin.io changed its name to balena.io.
It is an open source and free program under the Apache 2.0 license. It is used to write image files on storage media. Usually these are images of operating systems such as ISO or IMG and the media used are usually SD memory cards, although USB flash drives are also supported. This means that you can not only use it for SDs for your Raspi, but also to create a USB Live, prepare a Windows 10 installation media, etc.
Moreover, it is a multiplatform software, since it can work both in Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS and also GNU/Linux operating systems.
Among its most outstanding features are
- Automatically detects the media on which you mount the operating system image. You already know that they can be USB sticks or SD cards that you have inserted in your computer.
- Protects against hard disk selection. That is, you don’t have to worry like other programs about making a mistake and choosing your hard drive and having it loaded…
- It carries out the whole process automatically once it has been started, without you having to intervene. Also, if you want to make several copies in different media, for example for a class with several SBCs, once the first one is finished it allows you to do the same process quickly.
In the future, developers also want to add support for persistent storage support. That is, so that when you create a media with a GNU/Linux distro, you can save the changes made to the SD or USB. That generates a partition or space on the media where everything is saved. Usually, other programs that are already compatible with that allow to choose the size of that partition.
Steps to use balenaEtcher
Now that you know the details of this software, let’s see the steps to use it. You’ll see that it’s extremely simple:
- Download balenaEtcher in the edition you need:
- For Windows: you have two options, one is the .exe to install it on your system. The other one is a Portable that does not need to be installed, you download it, decompress it and you can run it directly.
- For MacOS: there is only one option, an Apple system executable that you can easily install.
- For Linux: like the previous one, there is also only one option. It is a universal package of type AppImage, so the installation will serve for any distribution and is done easily. Just run it and the process will start.
- Now is the time to install it. To do this, run the package you have chosen. Except for the Portable that does not need it, as I said. Once the installation is finished you can start.
- Run the balenaEtcher app looking for it among the available apps of your OS.
- Its graphical interface is very simple. It has no loss. You only have to do three steps:
- Select the image first. From the file browser you can go to where the image was downloaded from your chosen operating system: .iso or .img.
- The next step is to select the SD card or USB stick where you want it to be loaded.
- Then touch the flash, ie, copy and prepare the chosen media with the system you have used so that it can boot.
- Wait until the process is finished and then, if you are not going to copy more than one medium, you can exit.
- Download balenaEtcher in the edition you need:
After that you will have ready the means to test it on a computer or on your Raspberry Pi…