This is what I call a dream box — Raspberry Pi multi-boot.

A Raspberry Pi 2.

Raspberry Pi has been a favorite tinkering box for enthusiasts around the world. And there is a reason for that: for a really low price you get a relatively powerful full-featured computer. There have been many crazy projects using this small miracle but the most common use is as an HTPC (Home Theater PC).

Using your Raspberry Pi for a single task (e.g. just to have Kodi installed) is pretty easy since there are multiple distributions dedicated for every task most of the times. But what happens when you discover another interesting task that your Raspberry can do, such as a full-featured retro gaming machine (e.g. RetroPie)?! Do you format your SD card and forget about your old system? Do you buy another SD card or even another Raspberry Pi? Not necessary. There is a really simple way to have more than one distributions on your Raspberry at the same time using these pre-build images that Multi Boot Pi offers (if the distributions you are interested in are being included in these pre-builds).

(Optional) Step 1: Backup your old system.

ApplePi-Baker in action.

For Mac OS there is a small but powerful utility that covers all your Raspberry Pi SD-card related needs called ApplePi-Baker. Get it and hit the “Create Backup” button in the lower right corner section playfully named “Pi-in-the-Freezer”. Select a file to store your current system into an image on your disk. Note that this file might be large and most of the times equal to your SD-card’s capacity. In case anything goes wrong, you can restore your current system by clicking “Restore Backup” and selecting the image file you saved earlier.

Step 2: Prepare the SD-card.

Head to Multi Boot Pi and depending on what OSes you want to have on your Pi download the appropriate zip (and while you are there don’t forget to write a “thank you” post to Steve that is the author of the site :).

For this tutorial, let’s suppose that you want this quad boot setup (for Raspberry Pi 2/3; there are other builds for 1/Zero) that offers you one Kodi-based distribution (OSMC, LibreELEC, OpenELEC), Raspbian, RasPlex and RetroPie. Note that the author of this prebuild recommends an SD-card with 8GB minimum capacity. Download and unzip the zip containing these OSes. Prepare the SD-card by selecting “Prep for NOOBS” button in ApplePi-Baker. This will create an empty partition in your SD-card ready to accept your new multi-boot system. Copy and paste the files in the folder “NOOBS Files” (that you unzipped earlier) in the root folder of the SD-card. Be careful to copy the contents of the folder “NOOBS Files” into the root of SD-card, not the folder itself.

Step 3: Install the multi-boot system

The NOOBS installer for selecting your desired OSes.

Before booting up your Pi, unplug your ethernet cable to avoid NOOBS from displaying any content that will download over the internet. Now you are ready to insert the SD-card back to Pi and boot it up! When the system boots, you will see the NOOBS installer prompting you to select your desired OSes. The author of the prebuild suggests to select one KODI-based distribution (OSMC, LibreELEC, OpenELEC) and Raspbian, RasPlex and RetroPie (an example is shown in the screenshot above). Select “Install” and sit back and relax (it’s gonna take a while :)

Step 4: Enjoy your multi-boot system!

You are all set! Take some time to configure each of the OSes you have installed (e.g. Plugins for KODI, emulators for RetroPie, etc) and then have fun your multi-purpose Raspberry Pi!

To switch between different OSes, there is an entry in each OS to switch (for example in KODI-based distributions there is an entry “Boot to RetroPie” in “Programs” to switch to RetroPie). Note that once you boot into one OS, every time the Pi will boot into the same OS. For example, if I am in LibreELEC and select to boot into RetroPie and then turn off the system, the next time the Pi will boot into RetroPie again (until I select to switch to LibreELEC).

Tip: Most of the cheap retro console controllers in Amazon and AliExpress work great with RetroPie!

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