I’ve been living with the Raspberry Pi for several months now, and have found this astonishing little computer to be even more amazing than expected. Despite its diminutive dimensions, the Raspberry Pi is as fruity and satisfying as its name suggests.
You’ve probably seen the various Raspberry Pi articles on MakeUseOf explaining how to turn the Pi into a media centre, (remembering to choose the right equipment) or you might have had a look at our recent Raspberry Pi user guide.
However, there are users out there who have had less than successful experiences with the Raspberry Pi. There might well be varying reasons for this, but it’s safe to say that one of the main causes of dissatisfaction is an impression that the little computer that can, well, can’t…
What’s Wrong With My Raspberry Pi?
Let’s get to the nub of the issue. The only thing wrong with your Raspberry Pi is you. Unless you have been extremely unlucky and been sent a dud, the issues you’re experiencing are more than likely due to power supply, problems with the SD card or incorrect cabling.
I’ve come across all of these problems myself, and while it is tempting to make shortcuts on a cheap computer it really isn’t wise if you’re expecting good results.
The following common issues can be resolved very easily by simply reseating, replacing or starting over. It might seem surprising that they can cause such problems, but given the size of the Raspberry Pi and its requirement for peripherals, it really shouldn’t be unexpected.
Avoiding a Corrupted SD Card
Arguably the most common problem for anyone using a Raspberry Pi is the effect of a corrupted SD card. Now, this shouldn’t be an issue if you have used an SD card that is designed to be written to regularly, but older SD Cards can become corrupted quite easily, leading to the operating system being unable to boot.
For a Raspberry Pi, you should be using a high-rated SDHC card, at least 2 GB. The Raspberry Pi uses the storage much like a high-end tablet PC or ultrabook (such as the MacBook Air) uses an SSD, and the SDHC format is particularly resilient.
However, regardless of which SD card format you choose, there are others way in which you can easily end up with corrupted data. The first is to remove the SD card while the Raspberry Pi is running. As with USB storage devices on a Windows PC, this should only be done if the storage device can be safely removed – when the Raspberry Pi is switched off.
Similarly, switching off the Raspberry Pi in the incorrect manner often corrupts the operating system. To shutdown safely you should open a command line and enter the following command:
sudo shutdown -h now
Alternatively, use the shutdown option from the desktop GUI.
Rely Only On The Mains Power
The fact that the Raspberry Pi uses a USB mains adaptor for power can lead you into a false sense of security when it comes to sending power to the device.
After all, USB ports can be found on PCs and some desktop monitors, so why not use one of these connectors to power the mini-computer?
Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as that. While the Raspberry Pi might receive enough power from a USB 2.0 port to boot up and run, running processor-intensive tasks or powering a keyboard, mouse, USB storage or USB network connection will probably prove too much. If the Pi shuts down straight after booting, you can be sure that the computer has insufficient power.
As a result, you should only power your Raspberry Pi using a suitable mains power adaptor.
Check Your Cables!
Keeping an eye on your cabling is important with the Raspberry Pi, particularly if you are using one of the many custom cases that are available. Manufacturing problems with cases and cables alike can lead to incorrect seating of power, Ethernet and HDMI cables, and these can all lead to problems.
Similarly, be aware that various adapters that are cheaply available from eBay and other online retailers can lead to issues. HDMI to VGA adapters for instance, might claim to be usable but faults can easily arise, putting both your Raspberry Pi and your monitor or HDTV at risk.
Also be aware that USB cables designed for charging smartphones may not be suitable for powering the Raspberry Pi, even if a mains adapter is connected.
Conclusion: Make Sure Everything Is Connected and Setup Correctly!
If you’re using a Raspberry Pi, you should be certain that as with a typical desktop computer, everything is connected correctly. Before booting for the first time, even, you should confirm that you have the necessary cables, peripherals and storage media to hand.
Being aware of how to correctly shutdown the Raspberry Pi is absolutely crucial, and can save a lot of time re-imaging your SD card in the event of data corruption.
For more information about setting up the Raspberry Pi and its many uses, see our Unofficial Raspberry Pi Manual.