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Michigan State University

Getting Started with Raspberry Pi

This guide contains many resources on setting up and creating your first Raspberry Pi project.

Connecting to your Pi using the Desktop

So you have your Pi ready to go, the micro SD card has the OS and is in the Pi. Now what? There are a few options. You can connect using a monitor, keyboard and mouse, remotely using VNC Viewer, or remotely using SSH.

Using a Monitor, Keyboard, and Mouse (easiest option)

Connect your Pi to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Once you plug in the Pi, it will automatically boot up. Since you are running the Raspberry Pi OS with Desktop, you can you the graphical user interface just like a normal computer. I recommend a wired or wireless keyboard and mouse instead of bluetooth since the bluetooth can be difficult to connect at start up and consumes a lot of power for the Pi.

Don't have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse? You can check one out from the Makerspace!

Connecting to Wi-Fi on Home Network

There are a few ways to connect to wifi. If you are using the Pi with monitor, keyboard, and mouse then log into your Wi-Fi as you would on a regular computer.

However, if you are planning to only use your Pi remotely, there is a small hurdle. You will need your Pi to already be connected to the internet either via ethernet or wifi and then find the IP address of your Pi. If using wifi, make sure to set up your internet connection when you are installing the OS in Raspberry Pi Imager. Read through this guide from Raspberry Pi for a few different options.

Connecting to Wi-Fi on MSU Campus Network

If you are using MSU campus internet, you will need to register your Pi at 

When registering your Pi, you will need to know the mac address. The mac address is a unique code assigned to your hardware.

If you can access the terminal of your Pi, type "ifconfig" into the terminal and press enter. You can see an example of where the mac address is below:

screenshot of terminal after entering ifconfig command, mac address is highlighted with a red box

If you are remotely connecting to your Pi, it is tricky to find the mac address while using campus wifi. Typically, you can find the mac address either through your router or by using an IP scanner. There are many IP scanning programs available online depending on your operating system. However, if you are connected through MSU campus wifi you will not be able to use these options. For this reason, it is often easiest to set up your Pi with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse even if you plan to primarily use the Pi remotely. 

Don't have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse? You can check one out from the Makerspace!

Connecting Remotely Using VNC Viewer 

If you do want to connect to your Pi remotely, two popular options are VNC, or SSH. Both allow you to control the Pi across wifi on another device. For both you will need to be connected to the wifi and know the IP address of the Pi in order to connect to it.

VNC (virtual network computing) lets you view the the GUI (graphical user interface) of the Pi. With SSH you can only operate the Pi using the terminal. There are lots of benefits to using SSH and running your Pi without the Desktop at all but it does require you to be very familiar with using the terminal. 

Follow this guide from Raspberry Pi for connecting remotely.


Now that you are connected to the internet, update your Pi

Once you are connected to your pi, the first thing you will need to do is update your pi. 

  1. Open a terminal window (I promise it's not as scary as it looks!) You can use the icon in the top left of your browser or the hot key cmd+alt+T
  2. Type "sudo apt-get update" then press the enter key
    • sudo means that you want to run the command as an administrator which we definitely need to do for installing software
    • apt-get is the program that gets your packages. You might also see "sudo apt update" which uses apt instead of apt-get. I prefer apt-get because it does a better job of solving dependency issues than apt.
    • update is the command we are giving to apt-get
  3. If you are asked for a password, it should still be the default of either "raspberry" or "pi"
  4. The command line will start printing out some information 
  5. When it is done, the last line should say "Reading package lists... Done"
    • If you don't see that message and it says something like "command not found" then you typed the code wrong
    • If you see something like "Some index files failed to download" or "Failed to fetch https://..." then you aren't connected to the internet
  6. Now that the packages have been downloaded, it's time to install them. Type "sudo apt-get full-upgrade" then the enter key
    • sudo (run as administrator) apt-get (use this program) full-upgrade (what apt-get should do)
  7. The terminal will think for a bit and print out some messages before asking "After this operation, ___ MB of additional disk space will be used. Do you want to continue? [Y/n]"
  8. Type "y" for yes and hit the enter key again
  9. The terminal should now be installing all those new packages and printing out lots of messages. This is take some time since the pi is updating for the first time.
  10. When the upgrade is done, somewhere in the last few lines of the terminal messages, it should say "done" if the last few messages ended with lots of "failed" then something along the way went wrong, go back to step 6.
  11. Now, restart the pi so the changes take effect
    • Type "sudo reboot now" and press enter, your pi will automatically restart and is now ready to use!