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The Raspberry Pi has so many strengths. It’s flexible, suitable for acting as a desktop computer Upgrade Raspberry Pi's Raspbian OS With the PIXEL Desktop Environment Upgrade Raspberry Pi's Raspbian OS With the PIXEL Desktop Environment Since its release in 2012, the Raspberry Pi's Raspbian operating system has had a few revisions, but the desktop environment had remained largely the same. Pixel changes that. Read More just as easily as it can capture stop motion video Make a Stop Motion Video Rig with a Raspberry Pi Make a Stop Motion Video Rig with a Raspberry Pi You don't need high end equipment to make your own movie: in this age of high resolution digital cameras or smartphones, anyone can have a go. Read More . The Pi’s versatility and portability transcends pretty much any small form computer, thanks to an imaginative user base, and great support from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

But it does have one weakness. Relying on the SD card means that the Pi is locked to a certain configuration. This can prove problematic if you’re working on, say, a camera project and want to switch to a Bluetooth speaker.

Usually, you have two options here: you can back up the OS Easily Clone Your SD Card For Trouble-free Raspberry Pi Computing Easily Clone Your SD Card For Trouble-free Raspberry Pi Computing Whether you have one SD card or several, one thing that you will need is the ability to back up your cards to avoid the problems that occur when your Raspberry Pi fails to boot. Read More , reformat the SD card, and write a fresh new version, or just buy a new SD card 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Your Next MicroSD Card 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Your Next MicroSD Card MicroSD cards seem simple, but there are a few critical mistakes that you must avoid when shopping for one. If you ignore these, you may regret your purchase. Read More . The problem here, of course, is keeping an index of what is on which card, not to mention the cost of buying new cards.

A third option is available, but it’s usually overlooked: installing multiple operating systems on your Pi. Let’s look at how that works.

1. Multiple Pi Operating Systems with NOOBS

Perhaps the most widely-used tool for anyone wanting to install more than one operating system on a Raspberry Pi, NOOBS is available free from the Raspberry Pi website.

Ostensibly an installation tool, NOOBS can be used to simply install one or more operating systems on your Raspberry Pi SD card. The official limit of the Raspberry Pi 3’s microSD card support is 32 GB, so there should be plenty of space here for multiple OSs to be installed and booted.

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3 Ways to Boot Multiple OSes on a Raspberry Pi muo rpi noobs sdformat noobsui

To use NOOBS, all you need to do is download the installer, unzip the contents, and copy them to your SD card. You can then insert the card in your Raspberry Pi, boot up, and use the NOOBS menu to select one or more operating systems to be installed. Several operating systems are available, from the standard Raspbian to media center options like OpenElec. You have a choice of two NOOBS versions: an online installer that download the OSs you choose, and an offline installer with all of the operating systems pre-loaded for you to select from.

Our guide to installing Raspberry Pi operating systems with NOOBS How NOOBS For Raspberry Pi Can Help First Time Users How NOOBS For Raspberry Pi Can Help First Time Users There is something about the Raspberry Pi that might just put people off: until now, setting it up has not been particularly user friendly. NOOBS aims to change that! Read More will illustrate this in more detail.

When you’re done, each time you boot the Pi you can choose which OS you want to run. It’s a really simple way to run multiple operating systems on your Raspberry Pi, and is the best place to start.

2. Multi-boot Your Raspberry Pi with BerryBoot

Before NOOBS there was BerryBoot. It’s a bootloader, as opposed to an installer. This slight difference means that it is optimized to run multiple operating systems.

3 Ways to Boot Multiple OSes on a Raspberry Pi muo rpi multios berryboot format

Like NOOBS, BerryBoot requires you to download a file, unzip, and copy the contents to a formatted SD card. Unlike NOOBS, however, BerryBoot has no offline installer. You’ll need to ensure your Raspberry Pi is connected to the internet to download your preferred operating systems.

From this point on, you’ll need to configure the BerryBoot installation. BerryBoot supports installation to SD card, USB devices, and even network drives. Our BerryBoot tutorial 3 Ways to Boot Multiple OSes on a Raspberry Pi 3 Ways to Boot Multiple OSes on a Raspberry Pi Running multiple projects on your Raspberry Pi usually requires a different operating system or configuration for each, best achieved with multiple SD cards. But is there a way to “dual-boot” the OS? Read More will guide you through the required steps.

Once you’re done, you’ll have a multiboot Raspberry Pi, restricted only by the size of your SD card.

3. Run Multiple Operating Systems on Your Pi with a HDD

We already know that the maximum microSD card storage space on a Pi is 32 GB. What if you need more space? Fortunately, there is no such limit for USB disks. Several such HDDs are available, but we’re particularly impressed by Western Digital’s PiDrive.

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Shipping with a 4 GB microSD card, the WDLabs PiDrive is compatible with a Raspberry Pi 2, 3, or even a Pi Zero Getting Started with Raspberry Pi Zero Getting Started with Raspberry Pi Zero Whether you bought a magazine with one glued to the front, or found a kit online, the chances are you're now the proud owner of a $5 computer: the Raspberry Pi Zero. Read More . Note that you’ll need a USB hub for additional devices on the Pi Zero. A dedicated cable is also included, designed to provide enough power to the Pi, the PiDrive, and any connected peripherals. You’ll need to provide your own mains adaptor and cable, however.

We’ve tried out the PiDrive, and the results are impressive. On the included microSD card you’ll find a customized version of NOOBS. You can use this to install your preferred OS, including the option to install various Raspbian Lite partitions.

3 Ways to Boot Multiple OSes on a Raspberry Pi muo diy raspberrypi pidrive setup

Using the PiDrive requires a display, keyboard and mouse for initial setup, but once this is done and you’ve got the PiDrive online, it makes a great solution. It’s purposely designed to let you to run multiple Pi operating systems, each for a different task or project. No more SD card formatting — simply boot an OS from the HDD!

Uses for this device might go beyond maintaining various Pi images. The vast 375 GB of storage make it ideal for retro video game emulation projects, photographic projects and anything else you can think of requiring such large data capacity.

Multiboot – the Future of Raspberry Pi Computing!

The days of having to repeatedly reformat your Raspberry Pi’s SD card to start a new project are now over. All you need is a multiple boot tool!

While NOOBS and BerryBoot are particularly useful and make good use out of your existing SD card, the Western Digital USB HDD solution is probably our favorite.

How many Raspberry Pi operating systems 7 Operating Systems You Can Run With Raspberry Pi 7 Operating Systems You Can Run With Raspberry Pi Who 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... Read More do you use concurrently? Do you prefer to multiboot or use multiple SD cards? Tell us in the comments.

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