DIY Linux

How to Upgrade to a Raspberry Pi 3

Christian Cawley 16-03-2016

You’ve just received a brand new Raspberry Pi 3 – the latest, most powerful version The Raspberry Pi 3: Faster, Better, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Today, the Raspberry Pi foundation announced the release of the Raspberry Pi 3. It's the most significant update to the popular line of low-cost computers yet. Read More of the popular mini-computer that has taken the “maker” world by storm. If this is your first Pi, then you’ll need to get a copy of the Raspbian OS installed. But if this is just the latest in a long line of Pis, you might prefer to upgrade your existing install, which is almost as simple as transferring the microSD card from your older Pi into the new model and booting.


Almost as simple, but not quite. Let’s take a look at what you actually need to do.

Install an Operating System on the Raspberry Pi 3

You have three options for installing an operating system – typically Raspbian – on the Raspberry Pi 3.

The first is to download and install Raspbian How to Install an Operating System on a Raspberry Pi Here's how to install an OS on your Raspberry Pi and how to clone your perfect setup for quick disaster recovery. Read More .

For a simple alternative, the NOOBs installer 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 presents a list of available operating systems, from Raspbian and OpenElec to Arch Linux, and makes their installation far simpler.

If you own a Raspberry Pi already, meanwhile, you can upgrade the existing operating system with a simple command. Once this is done, you will be able to take advantage of some of the new features, such as built in Bluetooth and wireless networking, as well as OpenGL 3D support.


Upgrade Your MicroSD for Raspberry Pi 3

To get started, ensure that your microSD card is still in your OLD Raspberry Pi B+ The Raspberry Pi B+ Is Here. What's Changed? Read More or Raspberry Pi 2 5 Things Only a Raspberry Pi 2 Can Do The latest edition of the pint-sized computer is awesome. So awesome, in fact, that there's 5 things you can only do on a Raspberry Pi 2. Read More . With it powered on, and connected via 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 or with a mouse and keyboard, open a terminal and enter

sudo apt-get update

This refreshes the package list. Next, upgrade the operating system with

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade


Follow the instructions, agreeing to install the upgrade, and when this is done, reboot your Pi to apply the changes with

sudo shutdown -r now

Once the Pi has rebooted, shutdown safely with

sudo shutdown -h now

Now that you older Pi has been switched off, it is safe to switch the microSD card out from the old Pi and into the new Raspberry Pi 3.

Enable OpenGL Acceleration

One addition to the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3 which is likely to prove a massive hit with hobbyist game developers is the addition of OpenGL 3D support. Note that once enabled, this will prevent you switching your microSD card into a Model A+, B+ or Raspberry Pi Zero Getting Started with Raspberry Pi Zero Whether you bought a magazine with one glued to the front, or found a kit online, the chances are you're now the proud owner of a $5 computer: the Raspberry Pi Zero. Read More due to the RAM requirements (Raspbian will fail to boot on any device with less than 1GB RAM once this is installed).

Note also that OpenGL support is currently experimental. To take a look, install the driver:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install xcompmgr libgl1-mesa-dri

Getting Your Raspberry Pi 3 Online, Wirelessly

Perhaps the biggest draw for the Raspberry Pi 3 is the inclusion of wireless networking and Bluetooth technology. This means that you no longer have to plug in USB dongles to gain access to Wi-Fi and connect Bluetooth hardware.

You have two ways to get online. The first, naturally, is via the desktop GUI, which can be accessed either with a mouse and keyboard, or via VNC How to Run a Remote Desktop on Raspberry Pi with VNC What if you need access to the Raspberry Pi desktop from your PC or laptop, without having to plug in a keyboard, mouse and monitor? This is where VNC comes in. Read More . Simply find the network icon in the top-right corner (near the clock) and select the network name, or SSID, that you wish to connect to.


When prompted, enter the passkey, and click OK. You should shortly join the network.


To set up access to a wireless network via the command line, you’ll need to begin with the following command:

sudo nano /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf


This opens the wpa_supplicant.conf configuration file in the nano text editor. From here, use the arrow keys to move to the end of the file and enter the following, substituting your network’s SSID and passkey where indicated:






Press CTRL+X, then Y to save and exit, and wait a few moments for the Pi to establish the connection to the wireless network.


Confirm connection by running the ifconfig wlan0 command. You should see an IP address on your local network. If you had the Ethernet cable connected, you can now disconnect it, but you’ll needs to login remotely again if you were using SSH.

Install Bluetooth Support

With wireless networking setup, you may like to get Bluetooth up and running too. To install Bluetooth drivers, all you need is a single command:

sudo apt-get install pi-bluetooth


Various Raspberry Pi projects utilize Bluetooth, such as the Pi Beacon which is capable of Minority Report-style personalized advertising and notices Build a DIY iBeacon with a Raspberry Pi Advertisements targeted to a particular user walking through a metropolitan center are the stuff of dystopian futures. But that isn't a dystopian future at all: the technology is already here. Read More , or an auto-locking office door Make An Auto-Locking Office Door with Smartphone Proximity Sensor We'll be setting up a Raspberry Pi with a Bluetooth adapter to be on the lookout for when your smartphone is out of range, and snap a relay into action to lock the door. Read More .

How the Raspberry Pi 3 Impacts Your Projects

You now have a Raspberry Pi 3 with four USB ports available, wireless networking, Bluetooth and optional OpenGL! Your projects have been considerably upgraded. But just how does this new device impact existing – and future – projects.

Well for a start off, the Raspberry Pi 3 features a BCM2837 SoC, which uses the 64-bit ARMv8 architecture. For the time being, Raspbian will continue to be developed as a 32-bit operating system (the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Eben Upton Raspberry Pi's Father Speaks: Eben Upton On The Future of Technology And More Enthusiasm radiates from Eben Upton. He's the driving force behind the Raspberry Pi, that small computer that has been revolutionising hobbyist computing since its launch in 2012. Tall, and dressed casually, the founder of the... Read More says he is waiting to be convinced about developing as a 64-bit OS), but the potential for a more powerful Raspberry Pi experience is there.

For young and amateur coders who have embraced the Raspberry Pi for homebrew game development, the fact that the main CPU is now capable of keeping up with the already-powerful GPU means that we’re going to see more complex games developed for the platform. If you’re into emulation (such as with the RetroPie system) this means that emulating consoles should be smoother, and improves the potential for emulating newer consoles.


Finally, there’s also the huge benefit that the built-in wireless connectivity delivers. First off, you have all four USB slots now freed up, allowing you to all-but-abandon your USB hub. Into these (or via the GPIO pins) you can connect sensors cameras, turning your Raspberry Pi 3 into an Internet of Things wireless sensor device.

The possibilities on offer with the Raspberry Pi 3 are superb, but before you get started with any new projects or upgrade previous efforts, make sure you have upgraded correctly, setup wireless networking, and installed Bluetooth support.

Do you have a Raspberry Pi 3? What have you done with it so far? Are you planning to upgrade? Tell us about it in the comments.

Image Credits:Raspberry by Tim UR via Shutterstock

Related topics: Bluetooth, Raspberry Pi, Wi-Fi.

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    December 8, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    i am working on a project for sending the pulse heart beat but i have problem with the code

  2. Sander
    September 12, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Can you also use this procedure to upgrade from a RPI B model (the very first one) straight through a RPI 3B?

  3. Linus Head
    May 27, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    In Windows 7 I can make my USB Pendrive be used as ram. So, if I install Windows 10 and do the same with it then will my OS and softwares in it run faster?

    • Christian Cawley
      May 27, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      Do you mean on a Raspberry Pi? If so, you can do that in Raspbian Jessie.

      • Linus Head
        June 2, 2016 at 1:56 pm


  4. Mark
    April 21, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Executed both the update and dist-upgrade. I'm able to boot from the SD card on my Pi 2, however the Pi 3 won't boot - just gets stuck on the "rainbow" image, with four quick LED flashes followed by 4 slow LED flashes.

    • Christian Cawley
      April 22, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      That's interesting. From what I can see here (and from subsequent experience) upgrading to the Pi 3 is safer if done with a fresh image, rather than upgrading. Bit of a shame.

  5. Don
    April 20, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    I have a triple boot on my rpi2 and done the dist upgrade on each OS but none of them boot in my rpi3?i really dont want to start from scratch again,any help would be much appreciated

  6. willie
    April 1, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Noobs does NOT offer an Arch Linux install! In fact, downloading and installing the distro for the Raspberry Pi 3 is still a tad confusing, as it appears that the Archlinuxarm folks point to the latest '2' version for use on the 3!

  7. Arun Kumar K S
    April 1, 2016 at 5:00 am

    I successfully completed

    sudo apt-get update


    sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

    sudo shutdown -r now

    sudo shutdown -h now

    from my old Raspberry Pi 2 raspebian image. and its working fine in my raspberry Pi 1 and 2 boards. But it is not booting in Raspberry Pi 3 board.

    • Christian Cawley
      April 1, 2016 at 8:00 am

      As I understand it (and in practice) if the card still works with Pi 1 boards, the upgrade hasn't run correctly.

  8. pinoob
    March 19, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    Can i upgrade a Pi Zero Sd card too?

    • Christian Cawley
      April 1, 2016 at 8:00 am

      Probably, but it won't work with the Pi Zero afterwards.