7 Operating Systems You Can Run With Raspberry Pi

Ads by Google

raspberry pi operating systemWho can argue with a $40 computer? Especially one that also forms a good base for electronics projects! 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 that others. 


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.

Ads by Google

We also a have a nice tutorial here on the hardware you’ll need for your own Pi Media Center.


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, 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.

Ads by Google

16 Comments - Write a Comment


Richard Borkovec

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


XBian is also worth giving a spin :)


Onaje Asheber

Some fun things to do over the summer…



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


Daniel Escasa

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

Don Gateley

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.




Chuck P

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.



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]



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



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

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


Phillip Toone

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



“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?



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

Can somebody please provide me the steps


Your comment