Finding your Raspberry Pi 3 isn’t quite reaching its limits? You’re not alone. Despite it being the most advanced version of the little computer to date, it can be tricky to get your set up right.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re using your Raspberry Pi to run retro games, as a media center, or any of the other wonderful projects that might pique your interest. If the Pi isn’t configured to run at its most optimum, you’re going to have a bad experience.
No one wants that.
So, take a look at our seven tips to find out just what you need to do to get the most out of your Raspberry Pi. Get ready for some awesome performance!
1. Connect a Reliable Power Supply
One thing you need to make sure with any Raspberry Pi setup is that you’re using a reliable power supply. The Raspberry Pi 3 (which is the best solution for desktop use) requires a micro-USB power connector. Ideally this should be connected to a power supply adaptor with a 2.5A capacity. While it may seem more convenient to connect the Pi directly to a USB port on your power bar, or to use your smartphone charger, these deliver unreliable results.
Consider this: You’re using the Pi for desktop work, internet, email, office tasks. Some programming. You don’t want the computer to suddenly freeze or shut down because you’re asking too much of it. Avoid this by ensuring the power supply is up to specification, and reliable. You’ll find a 5V 2.5A power supply is more than powerful enough.
2. Employ a Lightweight Operating System
Once your power requirements are sorted out, you’ll need to install a distro that uses as few resources as possible. Pushing performance on your Raspberry Pi means keeping things to a minimum, and several Linux operating systems (distributions or distros) have been developed with this purpose in mind.
Even Raspbian is available in a lightweight “lite” flavor, but you might also consider DietPi or even the non-Linux RISC OS for a truly low-footprint experience.
The aim here is simple. With an operating system that takes up less space and demands few resources, you can dedicate what’s left to your current project. It could make the difference between success, and failure.
While a number of websites will not appear as they usually do (or they’ll be less functional), browsing will be far quicker.
4. Don’t Forget to Overclock (And Stay Cool)
Overclocking your Raspberry Pi is an obvious solution to poor performance. It comes in particularly useful when using your Pi as a media center with Kodi, or playing retro video games. While older games don’t need accelerated performance, those from consoles from the 1990s and early 2000s do.
If you want to overclock your Raspberry Pi, the tools to do so are provided in most distros. For instance, in Raspbian, you can open the Raspberry Pi Configuration on the PIXEL desktop, or use raspi-config in the command line. See our full Raspberry Pi guide to find out more on this.
Here, use the arrow keys to select Overclock, then choose the increased setting you wish to use. For the best results, step up to the next level, save, then restart your Pi and the app(s) you’re hoping to gain improved performance from.
If you’re overclocking your Raspberry Pi, you should consider some cooling solutions. Everything from heat sinks to liquid cooling is available for this little computer.
5. Don’t Abuse Your SD Card
After the power supply, the Raspberry Pi’s SD card is probably the weakest part of the setup. When the original Pi was launched with a standard SD card, it was particularly prone to failure. Later models of the Raspberry Pi rely on microSD cards, but again, there is a problem.
First of all, you need to ensure that you’re using good quality cards. $5 cards off eBay are not suitable. You should be using high quality cards for the best results, preferable microSDHC type cards. These have superior error correction, and are much faster than cheaper cards.
Similarly, the card you select for your Raspberry Pi should have the highest rating you can afford. For instance, I use cards with a 10 rating. This tells me that the card can transfer data at a minimum of 10MB/s — ideal! Check our guide to choosing the right SD card for further help.
Looking after your microSD card is vital. One of the ways in which cards are misused is when it comes to switching off the Raspberry Pi. In short: do not unplug the Pi without first shutting down.
If the operating system is running when you disconnect the power, you risk corrupting the operating system, and even shorting a sector on your microSD card. The way around this is to always use the safe shutdown option in your chosen operating system. You’ll find a desktop button for this, but you can also use this command:
sudo shutdown -h now
This is one of the key commands every Raspberry Pi user should know. You can also time the shutdown:
sudo shutdown -h 12:01
This will shut your Raspberry Pi down safely at one minute past 12.
If you’re concerned about data on your Raspberry Pi, and want to maintain a level of continuity between projects, it’s a good idea to back up. See our guide to cloning your Raspberry Pi’s microSD card for more information.
6. Run From USB/HDD
You probably know that the Raspberry Pi boots from the microSD card. But did you know that it can be reconfigured, and the OS boot from a USB device? If you have a spare USB flash memory stick, or hard disk drive, this may prove useful.
It will certainly speed up booting, and make performance more reliable, while expanding the storage capacity of the Pi. This will only work on a Raspberry Pi 3. If you have this version of the board, you should certainly try this out.
In short, it means you can change the Raspberry Pi’s boot mode in Raspbian, then format the new storage and copy the key files from the microSD card. The card will still be required for the initial boot sequence, but everything else is then run from the USB device. See our full guide on how to boot your Pi from USB, and improve your Raspberry Pi’s performance considerably!
7. Take It Easy, Don’t Push Your Pi
Finally, consider what it is you’re using your Raspberry Pi for. Is it really suitable for that little computer? Isn’t it time you stopped using a Raspberry Pi for everything?
After all, it’s just a credit card sized computer. It does a lot for the size, and puts many of the PCs you were using 20 years ago to shame. But that doesn’t mean that you should employ a Raspberry Pi for every single project.
Other devices are available. Some projects may work better with a full PC, or laptop. Others might be improved by switching to a smartphone or tablet. Or another single board computer (SBC) entirely. So, even with overclocking, a superior power supply and top-end microSD card, make sure your Raspberry Pi is the right device for the project. That’s arguably the best way to get top performance out of it.
How Do You Get the Most Out of Your Raspberry Pi?
By working your way through these tips and tricks, you’ll soon have a much faster Raspberry Pi. While intended for desktop use, many of these tips can be transferred to other uses. Here’s a reminder:
- Use a reliable power supply
- Install a lightweight distro
- Try overclocking!
- Look after your SD card
- Run the OS from a USB stick or HDD
- Don’t do too much at once
Do you get the most out of your Raspberry Pi? Does it run well, or have you had to make sacrifices? Tell us in the comments below!