NOOBS: operating systems for your Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been developing its project to launch new board models 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 embodied in the project known as NOOBS.

In June 2013 this NOOBS application arrived on the web, and you’re going to love it if you have a Raspberry Pi and want to try out several operating systems without the hassle of having to remove 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 boot with…


logo NOOBS

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. It can be downloaded for free in a ZIP file from the official website.

When you download the file and unzip it, you can put it on 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 in your Raspberry Pi, it will show you a menu on first boot 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 from the first ones, not only in the available operating systems, but also in their features. They now include a built-in browser.

You can access its menu by pressing the Shift key on the keyboard during the boot, and reinstall another operating system or choose another one. You can also edit the configuration file called config.txt.

NOOBS variations

You can find two variants of NOOBS on the official Raspberry Pi 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 select alternatively 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: is a lightweight version of the above, 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.


NOOBS config.txt

The NOOBS configuration config.txt file 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 own built-in editor that includes NOOBS or also from another OS with any text editor. Come in plain text, and it’s well commented, so you will know what each option you can change is for.

Usually you don’t need to change anything, but if you need an advanced configuration to adapt the options to your needs, like the type of connection, on the screen, etc., you can have a look at it…

NOOBS menu

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

  • 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 Config: allows you to open the config.txt with the text editor included and be able to alter the systems configuration.
  • Help: allows you to get online help.
  • Exit: is the option to exit NOOBS and restart Raspberry Pi.
  • Language: is the menu to select your native language in which the interface is displayed.
  • Keyboard Language / Keyboard Layout: allows you to select the language of the keyboard, for example, Spanish (ES).
  • 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:

To install NOOBS on your SD card is quite simple. Just follow these steps on your PC:

  1. Have a correctly formatted SD memory card over 8GB. It’s nothing special, it just has to be in FAT32 format.
  2. Insert the card in your computer’s reader.
  3. Download the NOOBS ZIP from the official website.
  4. Unzip the ZIP.
  5. You must copy the extracted content to your SD.
  6. Now insert the SD into the slot of your Raspberry Pi and you can start it…

Raspberry Pi Imager (alternative)

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

You can find it on the official website for MacOS, Windows and Linux. Of course, it is completely free.

Problems with Raspberry Pi 4

Raspberry Pi 4 GPIO

If you have a Raspberry Pi 4 and you see that it won’t start, it’s possible that the SPI EEPROM memory is corrupt. This has an easy solution, if so, remove the SD card from your board, disconnect the SBC from the power, and reconnect. If the green LED doesn’t light up, then it means it’s corrupted.

To solve it follow these steps:

  1. Use an empty SD. Insert it into your PC’s card reader.
  2. Download Raspberry Pi Imager for your OS.
  3. Select “CHOOSE OS” then “Misc utility images” then “Pi 4 EEPROM boot recovery”.
  4. Now insert the SD and press “CHOOSE SD CARD” in the Imager and select the card you just inserted. Then click on “WRITE”.
  5. Once you are done, remove the SD from your PC and insert it into the Raspberry Pi 4.
  6. Plug in the Pi to start it up. When the process is complete, you will see the green LED blinking rapidly.
  7. Disconnect the Pi from the 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 be repaired.

Another>strong> alternative option to fix the problem with the Pi 4 is to download yourself the bootloader from GitHub, extract it to an empty FAT formatted SD, insert it into the Pi, connect it and wait for the green LED to flash quickly…

Buy cards with NOOBS already included


Another option, if you want more comfort or not to 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. Besides, by doing that you are contributing to the foundation, since these cards are official…

You can find them in several online stores, such as Amazon. They are also available in different capacities, for example:

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

With that and your plate Raspberry Pi, you’ll have everything you need to get started…

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