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What operating system to install on a Raspberry Pi?

Mar 12.2021Raspberry Pi written by Ionut Tutica
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We know which are the newest nano-computers from the Raspberry Foundation, the 4 / 2GB and 4 GB models and we took a tour of the main operating systems that can be run on a Raspberry Pi.

Once again, it will be difficult to show them all and tell you which is the best. Indeed, there is no ideal operating system, it all depends on the applications you want to implement, but also on your habits and preferences. Here are the main operating systems that have attracted our attention and that we will use in this article.

To test these distributions, you need the following:

* Single-board computer Raspberry Pi 4B / 4GB.
* USB Type C Power Adapter for Raspberry Pi 4.
* 32GB or larger microSD card.
* Manjaro flashing card reader on microSD card.
* Computer / laptop for flashing microSD card.
* Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable.

1. Raspbian

Based on the free Debian Linux distribution, Raspbian is the official operating system of the Raspberry Foundation. Raspbian is at the top of our list because it is a relatively simple distribution to use and has been specially designed and optimized to run on a Raspberry Pi. equipped with an ARM processor.

What operating system to install on a Raspberry Pi? - screenshot 01

Raspbian is available in several versions based on Debian 7, 8 and 9. Raspbian also has a very wide range of possibilities. Optimized for ease of use - especially thanks to the LXDE desktop environment - it also supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections.

Last but not least, Raspbian enjoys very good support and a large community that you can turn to to learn it.

Download Raspbian OS

2. Ubuntu

Always looking for modernization, the Canonical publisher continues its efforts on the Unity interface which is improved from one version to another, comes with a distribution whose success cannot be denied!

Accessible to the general public, Ubuntu has made the choice of efficiency: users can easily find and install additional software from the application manager.

What operating system to install on a Raspberry Pi? - screenshot 02

Designed to help beginners, Ubuntu does not have the Suse configuration tools or remains simple and enjoyable to use. The distribution includes a selection of software programs largely sufficient for browsing, mail or instant messaging, photo retouching, or office tasks.

How to install Ubuntu Desktop 20.04 for Raspberry Pi
Download Ubuntu Desktop 20.04 x64 bit

3. Ubuntu Mate

Developed by Canonical, Ubuntu is an open source GNU / Linux operating system that enjoys a very good reputation. Also based on the Debian architecture, it is widely used for servers and other cloud solutions, for desktops, but also for the Raspberry Pi due to its optimized version of Ubuntu MATE which, as its name suggests, uses the MATE desktop environment.

What operating system to install on a Raspberry Pi? - screenshot 03

Ubuntu MATE will be perfect for those who are already familiar with using Ubuntu and support both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and integrate native software such as Firefox and LibreOffice. Note that an SD card of at least 8 GB is required for installation. The developers of this operating system also recommend that you use a class 6 or 10 SDHC card to enjoy optimal performance.

Download Ubuntu Mate for Raspberry

4. Twister OS

There are a lot of Linux operating systems available for the Raspberry Pi. The official Raspberry Pi operating system, formerly known as Raspbian, Ubuntu, Manjaro and many more offers desktop possibilities for the Raspberry Pi.

What operating system to install on a Raspberry Pi? - screenshot 04

But the best part of Linux distributions is their customization. With Linux distributions, you can configure different desktop environments and customize the look of your operating system. With the Twister operating system for the Raspberry Pi, you can easily switch between Windows 10 and macOS environments.

Designed for the Raspberry Pi, the Twister operating system offers a number of alternative desktop themes, mimicking Windows and MacOS.

How to install Twister OS on a Raspberry Pi
Download Twister OS for Raspberry

5. Manjaro

Manjaro Downloads lists a variety of ARM versions, including Raspberry Pi 4, Pinebook, Rock Pi and Khadas. Each of them usually has three or four different desktops supported, so they all add up to a lot of options.

The only thing that seems a little disappointing is that the Raspberry Pi downloads do not include any of the older Raspberry Pi models, but only the RPi4, and this is due to the fact that it offers only a 64-bit version.

As you can see from the installation, we tested the XFCE version and came up with a fairly simple initial configuration based on text, where we had to choose the following:

* the appearance of the keyboard
* Username
* additional user groups
* Full name
* Username password
* root password
* time zone
* local language
* host name

Then it restarted and once I was connected, I received a wonderful Manjaro XFCE desktop!

What operating system to install on a Raspberry Pi? - screenshot 05

The startup time was reasonable, 30 seconds from the startup to the login screen, and the login time was good, about 10 seconds from entering my password to preparing the entire desktop for use. My first impression of installation and performance is very good.

If you are looking for a good, professional, well-supported operating system for the Raspberry Pi 4, I would recommend Manjaro ARM.

6. RetroPie

RetroPie allows you to go back to your childhood playing thousands of games on more than 50 different systems with EmulationStation software. RetroPie is based on Raspbian and RetroArch and is fully configurable with a simple controller.

What operating system to install on a Raspberry Pi? - screenshot 06

RetroPie is a retrogaming solution that we find most often on the Raspberry Pi. There are, however, others that are worth considering, including Lakka whose graphical interface is pleasing to PS3 gamers.

Download RetroPie to create a retrogaming console

7. Conclusion

If you plan to test some of the distributions listed above, here's the material I recommend you get to save time:

* Fastest SD card: We recommend a very fast SD card with enough space. This will allow you to use multi-boot or, in any case, to speed up the installation of systems.
* Raspberry Pi4: All the systems listed here are now compatible with the Raspberry Pi 4. It would be a shame not to take advantage of the best performance available.
A USB / SSD key: As indicated at the beginning of the article, SSD technology can significantly improve the performance of the Raspberry Pi and the system used.

* All operating systems have been tested on the Raspberry Pi4 / 4GB / 32GB SD

So in conclusion, the main goal was to present you some interesting operating systems to use on the Raspberry Pi4.