Getting Started — Raspberry Pi Zero W

The scope of this post is taking a Raspberry Pi Zero W from the packaging, getting it on your wifi, and being able to use it with Raspbian Jessie Lite from the command line or via ssh. This is partly a cheat sheet for me in case I forget what I did, and probably not great for beginners.

I recently resubscribed to the print version of MagPi, the official Raspberry Pi magazine . At time of writing they will send you a Pi Zero W, cases and cables if you sign up for 12 months. This is what I received:

MagPi Pi Zero W Subscription Offer

The important pieces right now are the Pi Zero W, the white USB ‘OTG’* lead and white HDMI connector. I won’t discuss the dark coloured bit of cable in this blog post.

Ahead of the arrival of the above gear, I had picked up a fresh 16Gb (8Gb is more than enough) micro SD card, and then downloaded Raspbian Jessie Lite from the Raspberry Pi official downloads page. Then I more or less followed the official instructions to get it ready. There are other OS images that you can use, but this post will only refer to Raspbian Jessie Lite. I set it up via linux, and the instructions were more than adequate for my purposes.

You will also need:

  • an HDMI monitor & cable
  • a wired USB keyboard
  • USB charger plug and micro USB cable or similar source of micro USB power

At this point, you can

1- Put the micro SD card with Raspbian Jessie Lite into the slot on the Zero

2- Plug the HDMI lead into the micro HDMI connector, plug that in too

3- Plug the keyboard into the USB OTG cable and plug that into either of the micro USB connectors

4- Now, the first interesting step. Plug in a micro USB power lead and if all is well, within a second or so you should see the Raspberry logo in the upper left hand corner of the HDMI monitor and boot up text whizzing past. It takes about 25 seconds to get from power on to login.

5- At the login prompt, the credentials are pi/raspberry

6- Now there is a bit of manual wifi configuration to do. The official doc is good, but since you are probably at home doing this then you can ignore their step 3, at least for the time being, so long as you are just playing around with it. Add a network {} block with your network SSID and passphrase in /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf in plain text and save the file. E.g. network { ssid=”aa.net.uk12345" psk=”passphrase” }

7- Reboot the Zero by your favourite method. Discover your Zero’s new IP address. Log in again (pi/raspberry) and type ifconfig. It’ll look something like 192.168.1.15

8- Use raspi-config to enable ssh

9- From some other machine: ssh -l pi 192.168.1.15

10- Feel free to unplug everything except the power cable.

11- Put it in the official case if you have one, leave it somewhere convenient. Log into it at your leisure. Do “things” with it.


*USB OTG (On The Go). I have no deep knowledge on this, but regrettably you can’t replace it with an ordinary USB lead that you have lying around and expect it to work. If you don’t use the correct cable you will have bad results.