Optimize The Power Of Your Raspberry Pi With Raspbian

Christian Cawley 18-10-2012

optimize raspberry piAs 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 a media center, although I have no doubt that this use will be added to it in the very near future.


However, installing an OS and adding XBMC is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using the RPi – but you should be aware that simply booting up and using, while useful and quite normal, isn’t getting the best out of the pocket-sized computer.

Instead, you should spend time configuring your Raspberry Pi. My preferred OS for the platform is Raspbian, a port of the popular Debian distro for Linux. This has various configuration options on the Raspberry Pi, which you should take a look at.

Configuring The Raspberry Pi, Post Installation

The following details concern the use of the Raspi-config menu, displayed after installing the Raspbian OS on your Raspberry Pi, as discussed previously What You Need to Know About Getting Started with Raspberry Pi The Raspberry Pi computer is the latest in a line of compact, multi-function devices, shipped as a barebones package so that end users can use the hardware for virtually any computing project that comes to... Read More .

Like me, you were probably too keen to get started with the Raspberry Pi than to bother with the Raspi-config menu options, but you’ll be relieved to know that these can be displayed by opening the terminal and entering

sudo raspi-config

optimize raspberry pi


Note that some of the menu items will take a while to load, so be patient! You will need to use your keyboard’s arrow and Enter keys in order to make your selection from the following.

  • info – provides a warning against customizing the Raspberry Pi installation too much.
  • expand_rootfs this will the entire SD card (if over 4GB) for the OS, rather than any partitions.
  • overscan – this option removes the black border, present to ensure that all of the output can be seen on a typical display. Activated with a reboot, if the results are not favourable you can edit /boot/config.txt to undo.
  • configure_keyboard – set your choice of keyboard and keyboard language. The default language is UK English; onscreen instructions are quite detailed.
  • change_pass – the default login is username: pi and password: raspberry. As this isn’t very secure, use this option to set a new password.
  • change_locale – a slow-to-open menu, the default setting is en_GB UTF-8 UTF-8 – which means that the UTF-8 character set is currently applied, the choice for entering English. If you want to use more than one language the spacebar can be used to toggle selections in the menu.
  • change_timezone – this requires you to first select your continent, then your city. Again, this is a slow menu.
  • memory_split – with this option you can determine how much memory is saved for standard processes and how much for the video core. There are three choices: 32MiB, 64MiB or 128MiB for the video core. The default option is 64MiB – the highest option is best for running XBMC on your Pi.
  • overclock – enables you to overclock the processor on your Raspberry Pi. Not recommended unless you know exactly what you’re doing!
  • ssh – this is enabled by default, and provides command line access to your RPi from another computer, via an SSH client such as Putty. You might disable if your Pi is connected directly to the Internet.
  • boot_behaviour – this toggles which mode you want the Raspberry Pi to display upon booting, desktop or command line.
  • Update – upgrades the Raspberry Pi. More information on this can be found below.

raspberry pi optimization

Remember that using these options will force a reboot, which might only boot to the command line. In this case, use the startx command to launch the mouse-driven GUI.

Secure Your Pi!

In addition to those configuration options, you should spend some time configuring your RPi so that it is secure.


Changing the password on your Raspberry Pi can be easily done in Raspi-config (as outlined above), or by entering the standard Linux passwd command.

Most importantly, you should ensure that all security updates have been installed. If you’re not going to connect your Raspberry Pi to the Internet, this shouldn’t be a problem – but in most cases it will be vital! While there is a Raspi-config menu item to deal with this, the following method is more comfortable.

Open terminal and enter the following;

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Note that these updates might take some time to download and install, so be patient!


Conclusion: There Is More to Raspberry Pi Than Cream…

optimize raspberry pi

With a device that costs so little, you might be surprised to learn that so much is possible. But then, that’s the beauty of open source technology, one of the key elements of the Raspberry Pi’s popularity.

Devised originally as a low-cost yet competent computer for children and students to learn programming, the Raspberry Pi continues to surprise. The settings and configuration options listed here demonstrate that this small PC is capable of so much more than being simply a project computer – it is far more versatile and powerful than that!

Let us know if you have any interesting Raspberry Pi/Raspbian tweaks that you would like to share.


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  1. William Morrison
    February 13, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    I know this article is a couple of years old but could somebody who has installed this emulator try and run the following command and tell me how to correct the error?

    The command is:
    sudo apt-get install sqlite3

    I've tried the mentioned corrections that the error will display but nothing works. Could someone try this? I know it works great on the real thing, just not the emulator.

  2. mukesh
    May 11, 2015 at 10:13 am

    thanks for the article....found informative.

  3. Rocky
    February 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I would like to suggest detailing how to change the keyboard to a US based version. This caused me a lot of frustration when I got to the command line and could not find the Pipe character to do many terminal commands with my US keyboard. You can re-run the start up settings shown in this article by opening a terminal and typing "sudo raspi-config" then enter. Thanks for the article.

  4. Siddhant Chaurasia
    October 23, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Thanks for this article

  5. Theodore Fischer
    October 20, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you for the great information, I need to spend more time with my RPie. This gives me inspiration.

  6. Tim Knight
    October 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Still waiting for mine! Order a few months ago, but demand went through the roof. Least mine will have the latest ram upgrade :-)

  7. Richard Borkovec
    October 20, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Just got my Pi in the mail the other day, and have to do this once I get a keyboard that doesn't act up (it doesn't like the Microsoft Arc Keyboard). It's a great little computer though.

  8. Duane Arsenault
    October 19, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Does anyone on here have a Pi yet? Have you done anything interesting with it?

  9. Efi Dreyshner
    October 19, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Waiting for my Raspberry Pi :D

  10. Boni Oloff
    October 19, 2012 at 6:43 am

    What is Raspberry?
    Is this custom made PC?

    • Adrian Rea
      October 19, 2012 at 8:03 am

      here you are Boni,

    • Adrian Rea
      October 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

      Its a shame Ubuntu dropped support for ARM just befor the Raspberry Pi became popular. Who'd a thunk it?!

  11. Drew Butler
    October 19, 2012 at 12:24 am

    ^ I will as well. Thanks for the article :)

  12. Alex Perkins
    October 18, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Awesome, will be referring to this for when I get a Raspberry Pi.