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Your Raspberry Pi is awesome, so it would be wrong to not give it the chance it deserves to change your life. Whether this is through the convenience of a compact desktop computer, or low-cost media center, or perhaps some more outlandish project, is up to you.

But if you get it wrong, you’ll miss out on the Raspberry Pi experience. That tiny computer will fail to set your world alight with possibilities, with the magic of a low-cost, flexible device.

There are several ways that people misuse their Raspberry Pi and fail to embrace its potential. If you’re new to the Raspberry Pi, or considering buying one, make sure you don’t make these Raspberry Pi beginner mistakes.

Buying Low-Quality Cables and Cards

A brand new Raspberry Pi costs around $35, and a Raspberry Pi Zero far less. But if you’re buying just the device, you’ll also need to splash out on cables and a microSD card. This can prove a stumbling block for many Raspberry Pi beginners.

In short, low-grade microSD cards 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 are a waste of time. Cheap microSD cards are often buggy, prone to corruption, and rarely offer the capacity for storage that they claim. In short, they’re a disaster as a medium for installing a reliable operating system.

Similarly, low-quality HDMI cables Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable To get the best out of your HD equipment, be it a nice widescreen television, a Blu-ray player, a PS3, or an HD streaming set-top box, you need at least one HDMI cable. Or more... Read More , Bluetooth and Wi-Fi dongles, and Ethernet cables can all prove troublesome. Your best option, therefore, is to seek out and buy good quality gear. You might also opt for a full Raspberry Pi kit, such as this one found on Amazon.

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External hardware that you connect to the Pi should be of similar good quality. Things like HATs and peripherals connecting to the GPIO, for instance, should be purchased from reputable suppliers. Check the reviews to make sure you’re getting reliable kit!

Choosing the Wrong Distro

Installing a Linux operating system (or “distro”, short for “distribution”) on your microSD card is straightforward, and simpler even than doing the same on a desktop or laptop computer.

But it can be baffling. The sheer scale of options mean that you can easily find yourself installing a distro that is unsuitable for your purposes. Worse still, if you’re using some sort of starter guide, the chances are that this will refer to Raspbian, the main Raspberry Pi Linux distribution.

While there are many Linux versions for the Raspberry Pi, we recommend you stick to Raspbian Jessie with the slick PIXEL desktop environment 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 . This can be downloaded free from the Raspberry Pi website. Note that most of our tutorials can be done remotely over an SSH connection Setting Up Your Raspberry Pi For Headless Use With SSH Setting Up Your Raspberry Pi For Headless Use With SSH The Raspberry Pi can accept SSH commands when connected to a local network (either by Ethernet or Wi-Fi), enabling you to easily set it up. The benefits of SSH go beyond upsetting the daily screening... Read More . However, the latest Raspbian now disables SSH by default, so you either need to boot with a keyboard and monitor first, then use the config utility to enable it, or after you’ve burnt the image to the microSD card, simply add a blank file called “ssh” to the boot partition.

However, if you do wish to consider an alternative, look at one of those on offer via the NOOBS installer 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 . This is a tool that simplifies installation considerably, but again, we’d recommend you start off with Raspbian Jessie 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use Following the release of Debian Jessie in July, the Raspberry Pi community has been blessed with a new release of the Raspbian variant, based on the "parent" distro. Read More .

Get Out of Your Depth

On a similar note, you shouldn’t rush into a project that you’re not equipped for, or confident of completing. You’ll need the right operating system version first of all — using the wrong Linux version while following some instructions will lead you down a blind alley. Make sure the OS you’re using matches the one in the guide.

Most importantly, stay within your limitations, at least within the first few days of using a Raspberry Pi. Pick projects that let you expand and develop your abilities, that you can digest and learn from. Once you have the experience you need, then you should feel comfortable moving onto other more advanced projects.

Use Any Old Power Supply

Harking back to the earlier point about cables and peripherals, it is very important to use a power supply with the correct specification.

Though the Raspberry Pi itself won’t draw more than 1 amp while under load, it’s recommended to use a quality 2.5 amp power supply, especially when using USB peripherals. If the USB cable you’re using isn’t capable of carrying this reliably, or the mains adaptor is insufficient (or poorly constructed and therefore inefficient), then your Pi may not run correctly. Perhaps it won’t even boot. Corrupt SD cards are likely, as is slow, sluggish or non-existent performance.

Whether you’re using a mains electricity supply or one provided by a battery or other portable power solution, ensure that it — and the cable — meets the requirement for your Raspberry Pi model. This way you can be confident that your Pi will be stable throughout the current project.

If you’re going to use power hungry USB peripherals, you may also need to connect them via a powered USB hub, rather than powering them through the Pi’s ports.

Attack It With a Soldering Iron

Speaking of knowing your limits, there’s really no reason to solder anything directly to the larger Pi models (the Pi zero is another story though). Instead, use HAT expansions that sit on the GPIO array 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 , or a breakout cable that allows you to work with a breadboard instead. For more permanent projects, a perma-proto board lets you solder components into place, then snaps onto the GPIO pins.

Weller Soldering Iron and Station

As with any computer, shorting the wrong GPIO pins can render your Raspberry Pi a credit card-sized piece of rubbish. Sure, it might be an inexpensive computer, but its innate charm would make this a tragic moment.

An understanding of soldering and electronics would be vital before proceeding with any project that requires a soldering iron!

Get the Most From Your Raspberry Pi

As you can see, there are a few steps you need to take to ensure successful operation on your Raspberry Pi. Just remember that while this is a low cost computer, it should not be treated as such. Don’t buy cheap hardware, make sure it has the power it needs, and treat it with respect.

Have you run into any beginner issues with your Raspberry Pi? How did you overcome them? Tell us about it in the comments.

Image Credit: studiovin via Shutterstock.com, Multicherry via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Thegoatnemesis
    February 7, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Underating static electricity is one of the most big mistake beginner do.

  2. Thegoatnemesis
    February 7, 2017 at 7:48 am

    Be aware of static electricity and dress in appropriate way, no wool mixed with some/many synthetic textiles, also long hair can charge your self of static electricity.

    Discharge your self to the ground before touching any electronics devices or, even better, use a grounded wrist strap.
    If you like thunder bolt don't make fun destoing your electronics boards with yours super power. ;-)

  3. Dom
    February 7, 2017 at 12:49 am

    So true about getting a decent Sd card. I use my pi(s) as an htpc running Openelec.

    When I started a couples if years back, i was using cheap sd cards and it was always getting corrupted or the pi wouldn't boot at all, needed to reformat and redo the setup all over again,numerous time and was getting very frustrated. After trowing a couple of them in the garbage I've decided to invest in an sandisk pro and its been working flawlessly since.

    Folks, you want to get the 'wear leveling" technology. This will spread the data evenly across all block on the card, instead of re-writing over and over the same block until it gets corrupted...

  4. Jonathan Nye
    February 6, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    I have a full Pi3 and hoped to run Android to make use of both Kodi and the Android Netflix app. In the boot process Iearned that the HDMI cabling must go direct to the TV. I currently run the HDMI through my receiver for simpler audio control. The raspbian and LibreElec distros boot fine, but no joy with the Android distro.

  5. Doc
    February 6, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    No warnings about overclocking the Pi too much? I'd think that would be a common noob mistake, especially if you didn't apply heatsinks the first thing...

    • James Bruce
      February 8, 2017 at 4:09 pm

      Do noobs overclock a Pi? That seems like a pretty advanced thing to do...

      • Jouni "rautamiekka" Järvinen
        February 8, 2017 at 4:18 pm

        It's not about if you're a noob, it's about whether you like to try.