Saturday, 12 May 2012

Raspberry Pi SD Card Set-Up Guide (Debian)

Original Post Date 12/05/2012

So you have your Raspberry Pi! Great! But now what. . . .  ?

This Raspberry Pi SD card set-up guide will give you an overview of how to create a bootable SD card for your Raspberry Pi. ModMyPi does distribute SD cards with Debian pre-installed if you want to save yourself ten minutes!

Tools Required
  • A computer running any version of Microsoft Windows
  • A Raspberry Pi compatible SD Card. Here’s a list of Raspberry Pi compatible SD cards
  • An SD card reader. Note: The software did not work with my internal SD card reader on my laptop, so if you’re struggling, try an external one (ModMyPi SD Card Reader)
  • Win32 Disk Imager Software
  • The latest Debian Squeeze distribution (Operating System)

Step by Step

1. Downloading Debian

To download Debian, head over to the download section of the official Raspberry Pi website. 

The file you want to download is the ‘Direct Download’ under the Debian Squeeze distribution title shown below. If you know how to use torrents then feel free to do it that way, if not simply use the direct download.

2. Verifying Your Debian Download

This guide will assume that you are verifying your Debian Download on a Windows based computer. You can find verification guides for other operating systems here.

Once this is downloaded you need to place the ‘sha1sum.exe’ file in the same folder as your Debian download ‘’. I found placing them both on my desktop the easiest method.

Now you need to open up command prompt, this can be achieved by clicking the windows start menu and typing ‘cmd’ into the search box. This will open up the command window as shown below.

Next, you need to change the directory in the command window to the directory of your ‘sha1sum’ and Debian files. Note, when I say (space) I mean a space, don’t actually type space, and do not add the quotations marks either ‘’.

So, to change directory type ‘cd(space)yourdirectory’ e.g. in the image below I wanted to change the directory to my desktop, which is where the two files are.

Then you need the sha1sum tool to verify the Debian .zip file. This is achieved by typing ‘sha1sum.exe(space)’. Note that my Debian download is named '' yours may be called something else. This will output a code as shown in the image below beginning 1852. . . . . etc.

What you need to do is check this code against the code on the website you downloaded it from. As we downloaded it from the Official Raspberry Pi website, we can refer back to the first image in this guide and look at the ‘SHA-1’ code. If they match, as mine does, it means the file has downloaded successfully. If the codes do not match you will most likely have to re-download the file.

3. Extracting the Debian Download

Once this file has been verified, you need to extract it to the folder of your choice. It doesn't matter where you extract it too, as long as you know where it is.

Once extracted, you will be left with two files. The file we are interested in is the larger .IMG file which is the Debian Operating System. The other file, which is a .SHA1 file is simply part of the verification process specified in step 2.

4. Downloading Win32 Disk Imager

Win32 Disk Imager is the software that we will be using to burn the Debian image to our SD card. To download simply go to this Win32 Disk Imager download link and hit download.

Once downloaded you simply need to extract the ‘’ folder, anywhere you like. The Debian operating system and Win32 Disk Imager software can be in different directories, although for ease of use I put them in the same folder on my desktop.

5. Insert your SD card and check the drive letter.

Insert your SD card using your preferred method. Again, my internal SD card reader didn’t work with Win32 Disk Imager, so if it’s not registering your SD card, that’s probably the reason why.

WARNING. Once you’ve inserted your SD card, check the drive letter. You will need it for the Debian install. You need to be careful here as installing Debian will format whatever drive you choose. So just take care not to format your windows drive! :-D

6. Burn the Debian Image to the SD Card

Open up the ‘Win32DiskImager’ file.

In the programme, for the ‘Image File’ you need to browse to the Debian .IMG file we downloaded earlier. Under device you need to select the drive letter for your SD card. For me it is F:\ but yours may be different.

Then all you need to do is hit 'Write', and when the confirm box appears, hit ‘Yes’. The progress bar will gradually fill (takes around 2 minutes), and once complete you will be rewarded with a success pop-up box saying ‘write successful’.

Congratulations, you have added the Raspberry Pi Debian Squeeze Operating System to your SD card. You can now remove it from your computer and put it in your Raspberry Pi. Follow our next guide for information on initial booting and installing peripherals.

7. Reverting your SD card back to a windows partition

It should be noted that once the Debian image has been written to your SD card, windows will be unable to ‘see’ the space on that SD card, so it will effectively be useless on windows in that state. The easiest way to revert the SD back to its factory state is to simply place it in a digital camera and perform a format. Easy peasy.