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How to install an OS on an SSD with the Raspberry Pi Imager

Install an OS on SSD with Raspberry Pi Imager

In this tutorial, we’ll see how easy it is to install Raspberry Pi OS or your prefered OS on a SSD with the Raspberry Pi Imager. And if your Raspberry Pi’s firmware has been configured to boot from an SSD, you won’t even need a micro SD card any more.

Time needed: 15 minutes.

These days, you have a large choice of OS (operating systems) you can use with your Raspberry Pi. And the Raspberry Pi Imager makes it really easy to install an image of your preferred operating system on your Raspberry Pi. With te Raspberry Pi Imager, you can choose from a wide range of operating systems, as for example : Raspberry Pi OS, Ubuntu, LibreELEC, RetroPie, Home Assistant, and much more.

  1. Prepare the hardware

    For this tutorial, you need to have your Raspberry Pi 4’s firmware (or bootloader) up to date and configured for an USB Boot. If this isn’t the case, it is absolutely necessary to follow our tutorial ‘Raspberry Pi Firmware Update‘ first.

    Next, you’ll need :
    – your PC (the tutorial has been setup with a Windows PC, but the steps remain exactly the same if your PC is running on macOS or Ubuntu)
    – an empty SSD. Be careful and backup the existing data for a used SSD. All data will be overwritten !
    – a SATA-to-3.0USB cable

    Visit our shop if you miss any components. We have for example a very nice Raspberry Pi 4 case with SSD slot and SATA-to-USB cable included.
    SATA-USB-cable and SSD

  2. Install the Raspberry Pi Imager (skip this step if this tool is already installed on your PC)

    Before uploading the image with the chosen OS, we need to install a small tool on our PC : the Raspberry Pi Imager.
    This tool has been developped by the Raspberry Pi Organisation and is safe to use. It allows to easily select the image of an operating system and install it on an SSD. You can dowload the tool by following the instructions on this page : https://www.raspberrypi.org/software/
    When the downloading process is finished, click on the downloaded exe-file to install the tool on your PC.

    Install Raspberry Pi Imager

  3. Connect your SSD to your PC

    Now the Raspberry Pi Imager has been installed, use the SATA-to-USB-cable to connect the SSD on a free USB-port of your computer.


    SSD connected to PC

  4. Select the OS (operating system)

    Next, open the Raspberry Pi Imager on your PC. And click on the left button “CHOOSE OS” to select your prefered operating system.
    – Select the submenu “Raspberry Pi OS (other)” to find the Raspberry Pi OS Full (32-bit) *.
    – Or select the submenu “Other general purpose OS” for Ubuntu.
    – To setup a media player OS, select the submenu “Media player – Kodi OS”.
    – Or have a look in the other submenus to select your preffered OS.

    * Raspberry Pi OS is an exellent choice for a wide range of applications. And it is the operating system which is officially supported by the Raspberry Pi organisation.

    Raspberry Pi Imager OS

  5. Select your storage media : your SSD

    Click now on the middle button “CHOOSE STORAGE” to select your SSD. Be careful to choose the right media if you have multiple media connected to your PC ! All existing data on the selected storage media will be overwritten and consequently lost. If you’re not sure which one is your SSD, just disconnect other storage media temporarly.

    Raspberry Pi Imager Storage

  6. Write the image

    Afther that, click on the right button “WRITE” and confirm with a click on the “YES” to start installing the image of your selected OS on your SSD. Depending on the OS you selected and your internet connection, this process can take several minutes.

    Raspberry Pi Imager Writing

  7. Connect your SSD to your Pi

    Finally, when the writing process has finished, you can disconnect your SSD from your PC and connect it to a free USB-port (preferably 3.0USB/blue) of your Pi. If you changed the firmware so that your Pi boots from an USB-port, your Pi will boot from your SSD now. No need for a micro SD card any more.
    Raspberry Pi with SSD

Remarks

The Raspberry Pi Imager is a very convinient tool to install an OS on your Raspberry Pi. Nevertheless, there are other manners to install an OS on your Pi. You can use NOOBS for example. If you want to know how, have a look at our tutorial “How to install NOOBS for your Raspberry Pi on a micro-SD card“.

If your already have a Pi and you’re looking for an upgrade-kit (case + SATA-to-USB-cable + SSD). Or if you want an additional Pi and are looking for a hassle-free kit with the OS preinstalled, have a look at these nice kits from our webshop :

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