The Raspberry Pi is aimed at educating and getting people interested in learning how computers work by promoting simple programming and being creative with electronics. Some people using a Raspberry Pi for the first time may have never of used a Linux operating system and struggle to install the OS onto a SD memory card to get a Raspberry Pi set-up and running for the first time. For some people this will be a challenge they will want to overcome but other people my find this slightly too difficult to do and give up and that’s not good for the new user, the Raspberry Pi community or computing in general. So to make the first steps a bit easier NOOBS was developed by a small team of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts.
NOOBS , stands for New Out Of the Box Software, is a utility that comes in a downloadable zip file that can be extracted on to at least a 4GB SD memory card using a Windows, Apple Mac or Linux based computer.
Once the SD memory card is ready it can be inserted in the Raspberry Pi and started up. NOOBS will display a list of operating systems that can be installed by simply selecting it from the menu. Once the installation is complete you are ready to go. Next time you start up the Raspberry Pi it will load straight into your chosen Operating System. The NOOBS utility will be hidden unless you press shift next time you start up the RPi.
This process is simpler than the standard method as it does not require any extra software to create the SD memory card image and no internet connection is needed for the installation. If you do have a problem with installing your chosen operating system NOOBS has features to help you out including a web browser so you can go online and search for a solutions in the RaspberryPi.org user forums.
As the Raspberry PI can connect to a display by a HDMI cable or a composite cable some users may experience a problem getting anything to display especially with a composite display as the NOOBS expects to be used on a HDMI display. If nothing is being displayed when you first load NOOBS then selecting 1,2,3 or 4 on the keyboard will select different HDMI and Composite modes one of which should get the display working for you.
NOOBS Operating Systems
The Operating systems that are available with NOOBS v1.3 are:
- Raspbian - The recommended operating system for the Raspberry Pi based on Debian Linux.
- Raspbian boot to Scratch - Raspbian as the option above that loads straight into Scratch.
- Pidora - A version of Fedora Linux that has been optimised to be used with a Raspberry Pi.
- Arch Linux Arm - for competent Linux users who want to configure a system from the base up to their requirements.
- Risc OS - An early operating system developed by ARM which includes BBC Basic widely used in schools to teach programming during the 80s.
- OpenELEC - A XBMC multimedia center to turn your TV into a Smart TV for music, video, demand TV and online content.
- RaspBMC - An alternative XBMC multimedia center based on Raspbian so other software can be used as well as XBMC.
Data Partition - Add a 512mb data partition for data that will be kept safe during a re-instalation of an operating system.
From version 1.3 you can install more than one Operating System to the SD memory card at a time. You can then choose which one you want to use at boot time. Operating systems can also be installed from the internet so they no longer need to be available on the SD card before they are installed.
To install NOOBS you will need at least a 4gb good quality SD memory card and use of a desktop computer or laptop.
Download a SD memory card formatting tool from here SD Formatter available for Windows and Mac computers. Though both the Windows and Mac operating systems can format an SD card to the required FAT32 format, they do not use the full feature of a SD card. So using the SD Associations SD formatter utility will correctly format the memory card. Linux users can use gparted.
Then use the utility to format you SD card.
Insert your SD memory card in to the computer and select refresh. In this image it has been found in drive I.
Then select Format. Select OK to the Warning about a quick format.
Once the SD card has been formatted you are ready to install NOOBS.
The NOOBS file is in a zip archive file that can be extracted straight to the SD memory card. Once complete insert the memory card into your Raspberry Pi and switch it on. NOOBS will load for you to select your desired operating system.
NOOBS can be downloaded from the Raspberry Pi foundation website here where you can find more information and a full guide on how to install and use NOOBS.
NOOBS Recovery System
NOOBS can also be used as a recovery system as it keeps the original copy of the operating systems hidden away, if you do need to re-install an operating system then you can just reselect it from the NOOBS menu and it will be installed again, removing all trace of the previous installation. This is a good option if you are developing software and need to have frequent clean installs or you are a teacher and need to reset your Raspberry Pi's before you start a new course.
Adding a customised OS image to NOOBS
It is possible to add a customised OS image to NOOBS v1.2 which is useful for schools as it allows for images to have additional software and set-ups installed as standard.
In simple terms modify an OS to your required setup. Create a disk image and convert it to a compatable partition set-up and then compress the image to use minimal space. Next copy the disk file to the image folder on NOOBS and your custom OS will be available for use.
mr-minifig on github has created a script to convert a disk image and also a step by step guide to manually prepare a disk image to be compatable with NOOBS and install it. github.com/mr-minifig/Pi-Noobs-Converter
Version 1.3 of Noobs uses compressed tarball archives of the disk image which is a different method to 1.2.
Instructions are available at github.com/raspberrypi/noobs/blob/master/README.md near the bottom of the page.