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Install Raspberry PI OS Lite in your Raspberry Pi

Raspberry pi os lite headless featured image
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Despite its price and size, Raspberry PI is a computer. For this reason, the most important part resides in its operating system. People looking for a fast, lightweight and headless basis usually prefer Raspberry PI OS Lite for their board because it is performing, fully compatible and supported by Raspberry PI Foundation.

In this tutorial I will show you how to install Raspberry PI OS Lite edition, the official Raspberry PI Foundation free Operating System without graphical user interface.

Using Raspberry PI for a number of home applications is something fantastic. But Raspberry comes with a low performance hardware, so many times you could need to use as resources as possible dedicated to your applications, instead wasting them for apps that you don’t need (for example desktop environment). For this reason Raspberry PI Foundation released 3 different OS versions (you can also compare them in Raspberry PI OS Desktop vs Lite article), all based on same linux distribution (Debian).

Usually Raspberry PI kits come with NOOBS pre-installed inside SD card, but you can also choose to install directly a minimal core and use it from your external PC by SSH with only command line.

This guide uses the 32-bit lite edition of Raspberry PI OS. A 64-bit version is available at, but this is still a beta version and works only on 64-bit Raspberry PI boards (Pi3 and PI4). Also for 64-bit version, installation procedure will be the same.

If you are interested in previous version (Raspbian Buster Lite), please refer to install Raspbian Buster Lite.

If you are interested in Raspberry PI OS Desktop, please refer to install Raspberry PI OS Desktop guide, which will guide you to install a complete desktop computer.

What do you need


As usual, I suggest adding from now to your favourite e-commerce shopping cart all needed hardware, so that at the end you will be able to evaluate overall costs and decide if continuing with the project or removing them from the shopping cart. So, hardware will be only:

I strongly suggest to evaluate to buy a case with cooling system (fans) if you are thinking to use your Raspberry PI for resources intensive applications (for example cryptocurrency mining).
You also need a PC (notebook or desktop) with an SD card reader

Check hardware prices with following links:

Amazon raspberry pi boards box
Amazon Micro SD box
Amazon Raspberry PI Power Supply box


Step-by-step guide

Following infographic summarizes main steps:

Install Raspbian Buster Lite Infographic

Install Raspberry PI OS Lite

Download and install Etcher in your PC (if not already available).

Download Raspberry PI OS Lite disk image (ZIP version) in a local folder and extract the .img file.

Insert your SD card in your PC/SD card reader.

Run Etcher in you PC.


Click Select Image and select Raspberry PI OS disk image previously downloaded. Etcher should also have already recognised your SD card. Otherwise, click change and select correct SD card.

Install Raspberry PI OS Buster Etcher

Click on “Flash! button and wait for operation to be completed.


Pre-Configure WiFi and SSH Server

In my case, I don’t want to use an HDMI connection to my TV in order to finalize system setup (my Raspberry will be connected only via Wi-Fi). So, before using it and after having flashed its SD, let’s configure Wi-Fi and SSH connection directly modifying files inside SD card.

Extract SD card and re-insert it in your PC. From your file explorer, in “This Computer” we can see 1 SD partition:

raspberry PI OS partitions on setup

We will create a connection configuration file under boot partition.
Open your notepad and paste following lines:

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev

Replace «your_ISO-3166-1_two-letter_country_code» with your ISO Country Code (such as US for United States), «your_SSID» with your wireless access point name and «your_PSK» with your wi-fi password.
Save this file under boot partition, naming it as “wpa_supplicant.conf”.

In addition, we will create a new file named “ssh” (without extension) under boot partition also to enable SSH in our raspberry. It is not important what is contained in this file: when Pi boots, it looks for the “ssh” file and if it is found, SSH is enabled and then the file is deleted.
So, let’s open a new Notepad window:


Go to : File -> Save as


Select boot partition from SD card in left column.

Insert in “File name” field value “ssh” and click “Save”. Be aware that notepad sometimes saves files adding “.txt” extension. So, control saved file and be sure that its extension is NOT included.

Extract SD card from your SD reader and insert it in your raspberry.

Final Operations

Power the Raspberry PI on, wait a few minutes for first boot, check its IP address in your router and connect to it from Putty (or whatever connection program you are using for ssh) using default ssh port (22).

Default user: pi
Default password: raspberry

Make the Operating System up-to-date. From command line:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Next Steps: Advanced Configurations

After finished Operating System installation, you may need following setup:

Enjoy your Raspberry PI OS Lite edition!

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