Setting Up Raspberry Pi Using a Mac

The easiest way to get up and running is to use NOOBS, a software program created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. You can buy a NOOBS SD Card from Raspberry Pi but it’s easy to make your own with an old unused Micro SD Card (8GB recommended). Once you have NOOBS on an SD card, you can simply plug the card into your Raspberry Pi and off you go. Here's how to get set up using an Apple Mac.

Step 1 – We’re going to use a utility called SD Card Formatter 5 to erase the SD Card with correct formatting. You can download this app from https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/ formatter_4/. Click Download SD Formatter for Mac and Accept. Click the SDFormatter.pkg file in your Downloads folder and follow the instructions to install the app.

Step 2 – Use an SD Card of at least 8GB capacity to install the operating system on your Raspberry Pi. The card needs to be formatted, which will erase all the data on it, so make sure you have copied any files from it you want to save. Insert the SD Card into your Mac, either directly into the SD Card slot or with an SD Card adaptor.

Step 3 – Make sure the card is present in the Select Card area; you should only have one SD Card inserted into your Mac. Open SDFormatter and choose the Overwrite Format option to ensure that all the old data is removed from the card. Enter a name for the card in the Name field to help you identify it; although this isn’t necessary for the installation process.

Step 4 – Click the Format button when you are ready to wipe the card. There are other ways to format SD Cards in macOS (in particular Disk Utility) but the advantage of SD Card formatter is that it wipes SD Cards with the correct FAT32 format and doesn’t affect the protected partition. It can take a while to format the SD Card, but the progress bar will show you how the process is going.

Step 5 – When SD Card formatter has finished formatting the SD Card it will be mounted so you can access it. By default mounted volumes appear as an icon on the desktop. If not open a new Finder window and check for it under Devices. Check that the SD Card is accessible and click Close in SDFormatter.

Step 6 – Now it’s time to download the NOOBS software from the Raspberry Pi website. Open Safari and enter www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/ into the Smart Search Field. Scroll down to find the NOOBS section (not NOOBS LITE) and click Download Zip. A zip file containing the NOOBS files will be placed in your Downloads folder.

Copy The Software

Step 1 – Open the Downloads folder and click on the NOOBS zip file to unzip it. A NOOBS folder should appear in your downloads; it will be marked with the version number you downloaded from the Raspberry Pi Downloads page. Click on the folder to open it and view all the files contained inside.

Step 2 – Press Command-A to select all the files inside the NOOBS folder. Now drag and drop all the files from the NOOBS folder to the SD Card. This will copy all of these files to the root (the base) of the SD Card. Make sure you copy the files and not the NOOBS folder containing them.

Step 3 – Wait for all of the files to be copied from your Downloads folder to the SD Card. After the files have finished copying open the SD Card and check that all of the files are in the root. You should see “bootcode.bin” and “BUILD-DATA” files, and a “defaults” folder among other files.

Step 4 – Make sure you eject the SD Card properly. Do not just remove it from the Mac. Instead, drag the SD Card icon to the Trash to eject it from your system. Or open a new Finder window and locate the SD Card under Devices, click the small Eject icon next to it. Now remove the SD Card from your Mac. It is ready to be inserted into your Raspberry Pi.

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David Hayward

David has spent most of his life tinkering with technology, from the ZX Spectrum, getting his hands on a Fujitsu VPP5000/100 supercomputer, and coding on an overheating Raspberry Pi. He's written for the likes of Micro Mart, Den of Geek, and countless retro sites and publications, covering reviews, creating code and bench testing the latest tech. He also has a huge collection of cables.

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