Installing an OS on Raspberry Pi Is About to Get Way Easier

Andrew Heinzman

Review Geek

A Raspberry Pi 4 installing its OS over a network connection.

Raspberry Pi Foundation

Few things are more time-consuming than setting up a Raspberry Pi for the first time. And even when you know what you’re doing, flashing an operating system on an SD Card and installing it on the Pi SoC is a pain in the neck. Thankfully, things are about to get waaaay easier.

A beta version of the Pi Bootloader now features the Network Install tool. As its name suggests, this tool lets you start the Raspberry Pi Imager application and install operating systems over the internet. Simply plug an Ethernet cable into your Pi computer, run the bootloader, and it will flash an operating system to whatever SD Card or USB storage device is connected to your Raspberry Pi.

Unfortunately, the Network Install tool is still in beta testing. You have to install the beta Pi Bootloader to your Raspberry Pi to get it working. Also, it requires a monitor and input device, and it only works on the Pi 4 and Pi 400 computers.

And even when Network Install exits beta testing, you’ll still need to manually upload the bootloader on any existing Pi boards before using it. Eventually, the Pi Foundation will ship new Raspberry PI computers with the bootloader pre-installed.

You can learn how to test the Network Install tool at the Pi Foundation’s website. Note that it may be a bit wonky, and it doesn’t seem to work properly on super small screens (like those that are integrated with some Pi cases). Unless you have a use for Network Install today, I suggest waiting for a stable release.

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