Headless Pi Zero

March 5, 2018

Pi Zero‘s are even cheaper versions of the Raspberry Pi. The price you pay is that they’re harder to connect to since all the ports are small (micro-USB’s and mini-HDMI’s), so you need adapters to connect to keyboards, mice, and monitors. However, if you have the wireless version (Pi Zero W) you can set it up to automatically connect to the WiFi network, and work on it through there using the command line. This is a brief summary of how to do this (it’s called a “headless” setup) based on Taron Foxworth’s instructions. It should work for the full Raspberry Pi as well.

Set up the Operating System

You can install the Raspbian Stretch (or Raspbian Lite which does not include the desktop GUI that you will not use) on a SD card (I used 8 or 16 Gb cards).

  • Download Raspbian.
  • SD Card Formatter to format the SD Card. It’s pretty quick, just follow the instructions.
  • Etcher: to install the operating system on the SD Card

Set up automatic connection to WiFi

You may have to remove and reinsert the SD Card to get it to show up on the file system, but once you have you can set it up to automatically connect to WiFi by:

  • Go into the /boot partition (it usually shows up as the base of the SD Card on your file manager) and create a file named “ssh”.
  • Create a text file called “wpa_supplicant.conf” in the /boot folder, and put the following into it, assuming that the wifi router you’re connecting to is called “myWifi” and the password is “myPassword”.
  • country=US
    ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev

Now put the SD Card into the Pi and plug in the power.

Find the IP address

First you have to find the Pi on the local network. On Windows I use Cygwin to get something that looks and acts a bit like a unix terminal (on Mac you can use Terminal, or any shell window on Linux).

To find the ip address of your local network use:

on Windows:

> ipconfig

look for the “IPv4 Address”.

Mac (and Linux?)

> ifconfig

look under “en1:”


To connect you use ssh on the command line (Mac or Linux) or something like Putty

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2018. Headless Pi Zero, Retrieved March 24th, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

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