4 Tweaks to Super Charge Your Raspberry Pi

Christian Cawley 19-07-2013

One of the first things I discovered when I first plugged in my Raspberry Pi Raspberry Pi: The Unofficial Tutorial Whether you're a current Pi owner who wants to learn more or a potential owner of this credit-card size device, this isn't a guide you want to miss. Read More was that the little computer wasn’t particularly optimised to the setup.


In some ways, this is understandable. Although the Raspbian OS is specifically designed for the Pi, it isn’t completely perfect – what operating system is? Similarly, the Raspberry Pi is designed to be used “as-is”. It seems that the developers initially doubted anyone would want to overclock the device.

You may be surprised to learn that there are many tweaks that can be applied to the Raspberry Pi, both from within the configuration screen and in how you set up and install your operating system. The following tweaks and tips can help you drastically improve performance on your Raspberry Pi Raspberry Pi: The Unofficial Tutorial Whether you're a current Pi owner who wants to learn more or a potential owner of this credit-card size device, this isn't a guide you want to miss. Read More .

Use a Faster SD Card

The very first thing you should do is ensure that the SD card you have installed Raspbian Optimize The Power Of Your Raspberry Pi With Raspbian As befits a man with too much tech on his hands, I’ve been playing with my Raspberry Pi recently, configuring the device so that it works to its fullest potential. It continues to run as... Read More (or RaspBMC How To Make Your Raspberry Pi Into a Home Theater System Four weeks on and I’ve been playing with my Raspberry Pi in various ways, from using it to browse the web and standard day-to-day computing tasks to playing around with the various configurations that are... Read More or set up a RetroPie 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 ) on is really up to the job. There are many different types of SD cards, and for the best results you should be using one of the SDHC cards, of class 2 or above.


For occasional use, you might get away with low grade SD cards or even microSD cards in SD card adaptors, but for regular use you will need a reliable, fast card. Remember that the SD card is the Raspberry Pi’s on-board storage – on a desktop computer this would be the hard disk drive, so what we’re suggesting here is no different to buying and installing a faster HDD.


SD cards vary in price and size. Ample storage space should be found on an 8 GB card in most cases, although if you’re on a budget be careful!

Maximise the Partition

When installing Raspbian and any related distros, you’ll be offered the opportunity to maximise the partition. This means that instead of the operating system sitting in the 2 GB partition as defined by the image, you are able to expand the partition so that it fills your entire SD card.

This is achieved by booting your Raspberry Pi and using the configuration menu to select the EXPAND-ROOTFS option. If you can’t see this, you’ll need to open a command line and enter

sudo raspi-config


From here, select the Expand Root Partition to Fill SD Card option, and wait while the SD card is resized.


Once expanded, you shouldn’t need to worry about space running out. Note that the same manual method can be used on Debian, OpenSuSe and Raspbian images, as well as those that use Raspbian, such as RaspBMC and RetroPie.

Overclocking Your Raspberry Pi

Another way in which you can improve the results and performance of your Raspberry Pi is by overclocking.



Initially, this was only possible with a configuration script saved to the SD card, but in more recent releases of Raspbian, the feature has been added to the raspi-config screen.

Overclocking is easy. Just boot up, switch to the configuration menu and select the overclock option. Full details can be found in this article: 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 . Note that should you opt to overclock your Raspberry Pi, you do so at your own risk. You should also consider employing a fan or attaching a heatsink to the SoC.

So You Really Need a GUI?

Depending upon how you plan to use your Raspberry Pi, you might inadvertently hit upon a way of speeding things up by simply not using a graphical user interface. If you’re running a project that doesn’t require mouse and keyboard, there is no point in running an OS that does.



Although the Raspbian operating system is ideal for many things, the implementation of the X GUI is a little sluggish. As such, you might prefer to not use it, particularly if you’re familiar with Linux and command lines.

If you’re in X already you can close it by using the logout command from the main menu. You can also prevent Raspbian from booting into X by running raspi-config and selecting the boot_behaviour option.

This will both speed up your boot time and prevent GUI-based lags.

Conclusion: Raspberry Pi, with Cream!

The myriad of ways in which you can put your Raspberry Pi to use can all benefit from these tweaks that will super charge the minicomputer.

Although some of these tips rely on the use of the Raspbian OS (or images based upon it) don’t overlook the importance of using a fast and reliable SDHC card with your Raspberry Pi. Also, don’t forget to ensure your device chip is properly cooled if you plan on overclocking.

Ultimately, however, remember that the little Raspberry Pi is a versatile piece of kit, so if you do plan to apply any of these tweaks, consider what effect they might have on any projects you’re currently running in order to avoid any ill-effects.

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  1. UncleMabs
    February 10, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Christian C:
    What about just saying "thank you for your input", and stop being so arrogant?
    You might end up being a more likable guy.

  2. Akira
    December 28, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    To speed up internet on models B and B+, you might consider using an Ethernet cable instead of using wireless.

  3. Christian C
    November 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    I can assure you I do not feel slighted.

    If you feel I have pitched the article adrift of center, by all means feel free to contact the editorial team, a member of which has already read and approved this article.

    There is nothing in the article that says micro SD cards "aren't reliable and shouldn't be used". But a dedicated SD card should be used. How is that bad information?

    As for the Raspbian question, it is a version of Debian optimized to run on the Raspberry Pi with a load of extras again optimized specifically for the Pi. Does a new RPi user need to know about Debian? No. Do they need to know anything at the beginner stage other than the fact that there is a dedicated OS for them? No.

  4. James
    November 19, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I'm sorry you feel slighted, Christian, but a 'newbie' has as much right to the truth as anyone else.
    You're in a position where 'newbies' are looking to you for information, and many of them will take that information at face value, which means they will leave thinking micro SD cards aren't reliable and shouldn't be used in a RasPi, and that the Rasbian OS was written specifically for the RasPi... That's bad information, and I do consider correcting bad information to be 'something useful', because I believe that bad information is worse than no information.

  5. James
    November 19, 2013 at 12:50 am

    Christian... You said:
    "Although the Raspbian OS is specifically designed for the Pi, it isn’t completely perfect"

    Er... No it wasn't! Raspbian is an unofficial port of Debian. It wasn't designed for the Pi, It was ported to run on the Pi.

    Do you actually have any idea what you're talking about? Based on some of your comments here, I doubt you do!

    That's all.

    • Christian C
      November 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

      Little more than a bad turn of phrase. I'm well aware of what Raspbian is. However many new Rasppi users wouldn't be. I'm hardly going to start talking about ports and Linux to a newbie, am I?

      I'd appreciate it if you could actually add something useful when you comment on my articles. Calling out an MUO writer when you're clearly unaware of our aims seems irrational to me.

  6. downvote
    October 14, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    i dont like you Christian Cawley :/

    • ryan
      February 4, 2016 at 11:43 pm

      then dont post on hir website

  7. MakeUseOf TechGuy
    July 22, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Seems like you missed installing to USB, which can also increase the life of your SD card with less writes. You still need the SD card to boot, but all other data ops would go through much faster USB.


    I did this for my OpenElec install, and it seemed to improve a little. Or that could just be anecdotal...

    • Christian C
      July 22, 2013 at 8:56 am

      I didn't miss it. I held back on it for a future article...

  8. Horation B
    July 20, 2013 at 1:11 am

    Some SD Cards don't play well with the Pi (at least not with Raspbian). has a pretty comprehensive list of cards and compatibility information on a wiki page here:

    Also, you say, "For occasional use, you might get away with low grade SD cards or even microSD cards in SD card adaptors, but for regular use you will need a reliable, fast card." It sounds as though you are implying that micro cards are, or are likely to be, slower than the standard size cards, but that's just not true.

    • Christian C
      July 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      I don't agree.

      There is no mention of speed in this sentence you quote. I'm not implying anything - I'm advising readers to use a dedicated SD card.

      Having said that, in my experience a poor microSD card adapter will slow data transfer, regardless of the speed of the actual card.

      • dragonmouth
        July 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        "There is no mention of speed in this sentence you quote"
        Oh yes, there is. Doesn't the word "FAST" in the following phrase not only imply but explicitly mention speed "for regular use you will need a reliable, FAST card."?

        Also doesn't the very title of the paragraph "Use a Faster SD Card" imply speed?

      • MakeUseOf TechGuy
        July 22, 2013 at 8:50 am

        So, I bought some fast microSD cards, but are you saying the adapter itself is slowing them down? I was under the impression that an adapter for those is just a pin expansion, no actual chips or hardware in them...

        • Christian C
          July 22, 2013 at 8:55 am

          I've had two sub-standard adaptors where the pin connectors have worn down... obviously you can't tell until you rip the things open.

        • MakeUseOf TechGuy
          July 22, 2013 at 9:32 am

          Wouldn't that just make them not work at all though? Or were you seeing intermittent read errors?

        • Christian C
          July 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

          Yes, although I wouldn't have called them intermittent...