7 Tips for Using a Raspberry Pi 3 as a Desktop PC with Raspbian

Christian Cawley 19-01-2018

Did you know your Raspberry Pi can be used as a desktop PC Use Your Raspberry Pi Like a Desktop PC There are so many amazing things that you can do with a Raspberry Pi, from running your own space program to building a media centre. Although ostensibly intended as a compact computer that can be... Read More ? Perhaps you’ve already tried building a media center and a retro gaming station, and now you want to settle things down. Maybe your own desktop PC is no longer fit for purpose.


Either way, the Raspberry Pi 3 (the newer the better!) makes an ideal desktop replacement for basic productivity purposes. But are you getting the best performance? We’re guessing you’re not.

So, if you want to use your Raspberry Pi 3 How to Upgrade to a Raspberry Pi 3 Upgrading from an older Pi to the new Pi 3 is almost as simple as swapping out the microSD card. Almost - but not quite. Here's what you'll need to do first. Read More as a desktop PC and enjoy maximum performance, try these seven tips. Some of them might even work for other Raspberry Pi projects…

1. Apply Our Performance Tweaks

Any version of the Raspberry Pi can be used as a desktop PC, but the more recent Raspberry Pi 3 (released in 2016) is more suited than earlier versions. Whichever device you opt for, you’ll need to make sure that you’re getting the most out of it.

raspberry pi

The tips you find in this list will help you. But for hardware tweaks to improve overall system performance, ensure you have things like an adequate power supply, and a good quality SD card. We’ve compiled a list of great tweaks to improve your Raspberry Pi’s performance Slow Raspberry Pi? 11 Tips for Better Speed and Performance If you have a slow Raspberry Pi, here are some tips and tricks for better Raspberry Pi performance. They really work! Read More , so check those out before proceeding.


Once you’ve applied those changes, read on!

2. Use the Chromium Browser

Several browsers are available for the Raspberry Pi 8 Great Browsers You Can Run on Your Raspberry Pi 3 Several browsers are available for the Raspberry Pi, but which is best? Should you stick with Chromium, or try one of the others? Let's find out! Read More . While the Vivaldi browser is a good alternative, for the best productivity on the Raspberry Pi 3 you should opt for Chromium. Fortunately this is pre-installed, and you’ll find it in the Internet menu.

Chromium Browser

There are several reasons why you should use Chromium, not least because it delivers continuity with your current desktop. Assuming you’re using Chromium on Windows or macOS, you can sign into the browser on the Raspberry Pi and sync your favorites, for example.


More importantly, Chromium offers a degree of stability and performance that the other browsers do not (yet). It’s the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s preferred browser for the Pi 3, and has been included since the release of the PIXEL desktop 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 in September 2016. Chromium should run well with the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3; older devices are better served with the Epiphany browser.

3. Google Apps Work in Vivaldi!

You may know that the Vivaldi browser has been released Is Vivaldi the Best Browser for Your Raspberry Pi? The Vivaldi browser is great on any platform, but it really stands out at a Raspberry Pi browser. Read on to find out why you should use Vivaldi on your Pi. Read More with compatibility for ARM devices, including the Raspberry Pi. Among the features of Vivaldi 9 Reasons to Switch to Vivaldi Browser Today Chrome rules, but Vivaldi can be the backup browser of your choice. Here are nine compelling reasons to try it out. Read More is support for Google apps and Chrome extensions.

Google Apps in Vivaldi

Remember, the Raspberry Pi 3 uses a 1.2 GHz CPU with just 1 Gb of RAM. You’re not going to get PC-like performance out of it, so use with moderation.


Along with apps, however, Chrome extensions will also (mostly) work in Chromium. This is important for enjoying the same browsing experience as you would on a PC or laptop computer.

4. Keep Browser Tabs to a Minimum

Speaking of extensions, it’s a good idea to employ a “session manager” add-on to ensure superior tab management.

Minimize browser tab use

Your best solution here is to run several tab sessions, along with a bookmarking tool. Keep your tabs focused on the task at hand, and save irrelevant reading for later. It’s basic productivity and time management, but becomes more important when you’re using a lower spec machine as your desktop computer.


Even a Raspberry Pi 3 will struggle with over 10 tabs. For the best results, keep it to around five most of the time.

5. Use LibreOffice for Productivity

Although Google Drive is an option via the Chromium browser, you should rely on LibreOffice for a superior office experience. Raspbian Stretch has the open-source office suite built in; you’ll find it in the desktop menu under Office.

LibreOffice for Productivity

Here, you’ll find LibreOffice Writer for word processing, Calc for spreadsheets, Impress for presentations, Base for database design, and more. It isn’t quite at the level of Microsoft Office, but should be adequate for 95% of users.

If you enjoy using LibreOffice, when the time comes to move away from the Raspberry Pi as a desktop (and return to some of the more interesting uses 26 Awesome Uses for a Raspberry Pi Which Raspberry Pi project should you start with? Here's our roundup of the best Raspberry Pi uses and projects around! Read More ), you can take the suite with you. LibreOffice is an open source office suite Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown? LibreOffice is the king of free office suites. It's unlikely to replace Microsoft Office in a business environment, but it's an excellent alternative for casual users. Here's what's new in LibreOffice 5.1. Read More available for Windows and macOS as well as Linux.

6. Use a Cabled Keyboard and Mouse

The Raspberry Pi 3 has wireless internet and Bluetooth. Despite this, however, it is recommended to rely on a cabled keyboard and mouse for the best performance.

While it is advantageous to run a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (or integrated pointing device) for flexibility, power-wise it doesn’t always work out. This is especially the case if you haven’t connected the Raspberry Pi to a reliable power supply.

You may already know that Bluetooth Low Energy is designed to use as little power as possible. But with a computer as low spec and low power as the Pi, even a minor drain can result in power issues. Using cabled peripherals is the best answer here.

7. Install Some Extra Software

Although there is a great selection of applications bundled with the Raspberry Pi’s preferred Raspbian Stretch operating system, you might need a few extras. For instance, you might wish to access the command line quickly: Guake is a good option here.

install software for raspberry pi 3 as desktop

Or you might require access to Dropbox. As this isn’t officially supported on Raspbian (or any Raspberry Pi, as there is no ARM version of Dropbox) you’ll need help. The answer is the Dropbox Uploader tool.

These, and several other useful tools, are featured in our look at the best apps to install on your Raspberry Pi The 10 Best Apps to Install on Your Raspberry Pi Looking for the best software to install on your Raspberry Pi? Here are the best Raspberry Pi apps to install today. Read More .

Are You Using Your Raspberry Pi as a PC?

If you want to use your Raspberry Pi 3 to replace a desktop computer, start with these seven tips to improve productivity. Here’s a recap:

  • Apply Raspberry Pi performance tweaks
  • Use the Chromium browser
  • Favorite Google apps work with Chromium
  • Only open a few browser tabs
  • Rely on LibreOffice for word processing and spreadsheets
  • Avoid using Bluetooth
  • Install some extra apps

Did you know you could even print using a Raspberry Pi? We show you how! And if you’re ready to move on, check out the features and specs for Raspberry Pi 4 Why Everyone Should Try the Raspberry Pi 4: New Features and Impressive Specs Interested in buying the Raspberry Pi 4? Here's what's new, as well as why three versions of the Raspberry Pi 4 are available. Read More .

Related topics: Linux, Raspberry Pi.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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