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raspberry pi operating systemWho can argue with a $40 computer? Especially one that also forms a good base for electronics projects Getting Started With GPIO On a Raspberry Pi Getting Started With GPIO On a Raspberry Pi If you though the Arduino was cool, just wait till you get your hands on a Raspberry Pi - these things are amazing. As well as being a fully functional computer, they also have a... Read More ! I certainly can’t. But the hardware alone is only one side of the story: you still need to run an operating system. Join me today as I explore 7 different OSes you can install on your Raspberry Pi, right now. Disclaimer: some are significantly more useful than others. 

Raspberry Pi 2 Model B Desktop (Quad Core CPU 900 MHz, 1 GB RAM, Linux) Raspberry Pi 2 Model B Desktop (Quad Core CPU 900 MHz, 1 GB RAM, Linux) Quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU 0.9 GHz Buy Now At Amazon $38.49


Three different flavours of Linux are available officially: Pidora (based on Fedora); Archlinux (a DIY OS); and Raspian (Debian).

Raspian is the recommended OS for everyone new to the Raspberry Pi, but if you fancy trying out some of the others too, a new tool from the creators of Raspberry Pi has been released which allows you to choose from a selection of images during boot-up (including some of the others on this list).

raspberry pi operating system

OpenElec & XBMC

OpenElec is a slimmed down and optimized OS specifically made for running XBox Media Centre. Unlike Raspbmc, OpenElec doesn’t contain anything other than the bare minimum, so it’s more difficult to install other packages, for instance. Consequently, the selection of add-ons available is much smaller (no emulators, gasp!) – but it does offer better performance.

It’s my current choice of media center having functionally replaced my Windows 8 PC in the living room.


raspberry pi opterating system list

Considering how easy it is to swap out an SD card for making a Pi multipurpose, OpenElec is definitely a great way to enjoy the core XBMC experience. Download a ready-made image here which includes a good selection of streaming plugins like IceFilms, and some metadata pre-downloaded for the most popular shows. You can also speed up the system by running from a USB stick after the initial SD boot.

We also a have a nice tutorial here on the hardware you’ll need for your own Pi Media Center The Hardware You Will Need To Build A Raspberry Pi Media Center The Hardware You Will Need To Build A Raspberry Pi Media Center With so many ways of using it, you shouldn't be surprised to find that the Raspberry Pi has sold over 1 million units. Although designed for one key purpose (programming) this small credit card-sized computer... Read More .


RetroPie is a universal emulator, which means it can pretty much play any ROM you throw at it, although Playstation games don’t work so well (that is kind of pushing the Pi, don’t you think?). Technically built on Raspian, but this comes as a prebuilt OS image you can download.

Christian has written a full guide to getting RetroPi up and running How to Install Game Emulators on the Raspberry Pi How to Install Game Emulators on the Raspberry Pi Desktop computer, media center, an integral part of a budget space program - is there no end to the versatility of the Raspberry Pi? Seemingly not – because it also does games. Read More , so head over there for emulation heaven.


A nice 1080p GUI awaits you in this retro environment specifically built for the ARM , by the team who designed the original ARM processor. Though it might seem unfamiliar to you, RISC was actually commonplace in British schools in the early 90s.

Here’s a good intro to RISC, and here’s a list of recommended software.

raspberry pi opterating system list

Head to this page for full install instructions for your OS and to download the SD image, or download the NOOBS tool mentioned above which includes RISC.

Some basic apps are included, but for a small fee you can even upgrade to a full Office suite.

Firefox OS

Not quite the sleek new phone UI you’ve been seeing, but a combination of Firefox and PTXdist-built Linux. It’s very much a work in progress, and doesn’t actually support any input devices yet – so purely used as a public information terminal. Check out this page for a ready made image if you dare.

raspberry pi opterating system list

Plan 9

Do you like being tortured? Then you’ll love Plan 9 from Bell Labs, a barebones open-source unix-like OS with primitive GUI that fully supports UTF8 filenames (I know, exciting stuff). It was designed by the same people who created the original UNIX, so that must mean it’s good. Download an SD image here, and strap yourself in for literally minutes of hardcore fun (and don’t forget this newbie guide).

Why would you actually want to run Plan 9? I’m sorry, I don’t have a clue.


Broadcom was working on an official build of Android 4.0 which would be video accelerated, but work on the project has seemingly died with no news in a year .

raspberry pi os

You can however download an older Android 2.3 build which, while technically accomplished, is also too slow to be useable.

Bonus: Pipboy

Wearable computing is all the rage, and I know the first thing I’ll be doing to prepare for the coming apocalypse is making a functional Pipboy, which is precisely what this ingenious cosplayer managed.

raspberry pi operating system

Ok, it’s not actually an operating system as such, but it is a bit of Python code that makes it look like you have a Pipboy. Which is pretty awesome, really.

Did I miss any – what are your favourite OSes for a Pi? Let us know in the comments, while I grab some ROMs and settle down for some retro fun. If you need a little juice from your PC, you can always try overclocking it Not Enough Juice? Squeeze Your Raspberry Pi By Overclocking Not Enough Juice? Squeeze Your Raspberry Pi By Overclocking If there’s any hardware released in 2012 that you’re likely to fall in love with, it’s the sweet-as-sugar Raspberry Pi, a mini computer designed and built in the UK that has shipped all around the... Read More .

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  1. Matthew
    December 21, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Android things. I know Its quite new, but its quite good imo.

  2. Wyatt
    July 17, 2016 at 3:06 am

    you can install kali linux if really wanted to..........

  3. ss
    May 14, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    You seemed to have missed FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD.....

  4. aka
    January 28, 2016 at 7:10 am

    It's possible to work with Windows on Pi 2, using Raspberry as thin client. Free project:

  5. Anonymous
    August 15, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Windows 10 core pls?

  6. Anonymous
    June 11, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    I run Ubuntu MATE on my Pi 2. Just note that the raspberry pi 2 Windows 10 IOT version is just a command line currently but I am hoping that they will make a GUI.

    • Anonymous
      September 15, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Windows 10 is no more a command line, You can build, run, UI apps on it, graphic applications works on it. and if you are planing to develop Apps for Win10 you can have UI controls and also control GUI (MS has built frame work for the same).

  7. abhijit
    May 21, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    I am trying to install android os on raspb 2 - but its not working

    Can somebody please provide me the steps


  8. Jeremy
    January 11, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    "or download the NOOBS tool mentioned above which includes RISC."

    This is the first time on this page that NOOBS is mentioned... So what "mention above" are you referring to here?

  9. Phillip Toone
    November 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    No mention of piCore? It is a great platform to start from to build your own custom system.

  10. Tyler
    November 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Will the raspberry pi be able to run Commodore OS Visions? It's a variation of Linux I believe and was intended for the revival of the Commodore 64 (the Commodore 64x) which the company has gone out of business. You can still get the OS, Commodore Visions, online and I don't know if it would work on a raspberry pi. I would greatly appreciate it if someone knows. Thanks!

    • James B
      November 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      Not that I can find any trace of, I'm afraid.

  11. cedric
    September 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    there's pidora too
    I've setup 2 for a simple openvpn bridge

  12. JACKYX
    September 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
    Arch Linux ARM
    Debian Squeeze
    Firefox OS
    Gentoo Linux[2]
    Google Chrome OS
    Kali Linux [3]
    Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix
    Open webOS[5]
    Plan 9[6]
    Slackware ARM
    OpenSUSE ARM [8]

  13. Chuck P
    August 28, 2013 at 3:00 am

    Bruce, I will give you credit for the ones you have listed, you forgot one. openSUSE, we have arm as well.

    The one thing I would do after you have install the image to a SD Cards instead of install yast2 yast... run the following command

    zypper in patterns-openSUSE-yast2_basic patterns-openSUSE-x11_yast

    This will get you the base yast tools as if you install it from a disc.

    The image comes with ice wm, but install LXDE or XFCE.

  14. Sime
    August 16, 2013 at 2:53 pm
  15. Daniel Escasa
    June 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    What I'd like to see on the Pi is Chrome OS

    • Don Gateley
      June 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      I second that. Sorta surprised it doesn't seem to be an active port already. But then again I don't think anyone outside of Google is savvy with it and might be capable of porting it. Hexxeh, a Google employee, just builds it from (open) Google source and makes it available as image files (or at least he used to) and I can't tell what AndroidTheBats skills are beyond the same kind of standard build.

      And that, unfortunately, about sums up the sources for Chrome OS bootables.

      OTOH, it is just Linux, after all, with a GUI from Google and just a few device interfaces so it shouldn't be a staggering effort for someone sufficiently Linux savvy.

  16. Max
    June 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Cool! Didn't know you could run Firefox OS or Android on pi!

  17. Onaje Asheber
    June 21, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Some fun things to do over the summer...

  18. Richard Borkovec
    June 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    I'm definitely going to have to give OpenELEC a try, since I want to set mine up as an XBMC. Thanks for this!

    • Dave
      June 23, 2013 at 11:12 am

      XBian is also worth giving a spin :)