I made this Raspberry Pi operating systems list so you can look through them all and choose the one(s) best for you. It took me plenty of time to make this list, so I hope you find it useful.
- This Raspberry Pi OS list focuses on Operating Systems for Raspberry Pi 3 and Raspberry Pi 0 W (Wireless). So all the operating systems in this list work on RPi 3, RPi 0, or both.
First, I show you the three main Raspberry Pi operating system installers: NOOBS, PINN, and BerryBoot.
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Then I list all the Raspberry Pi operating systems I’ve tested and my notes on each one.
Raspberry Pi Operating System Installers: “The big daddies”
The three Raspberry Pi operating system installers listed below (NOOBS, PINN, and BerryBoot) enable you to easily install one or more operating systems onto your Raspberry Pi’s Micro SD card.
What are NOOBS, PINN, and BerryBoot? They’re Raspberry Pi operating system installers. If you’ve used an App Store on a smartphone, then NOOBS / PINN / BerryBoot are like “Operating System Stores” for your Raspberry Pi. Scroll down a little to see a screenshot of the NOOBS Operating System selection menu.
The NOOBS installer was the first Raspberry Pi operating system installer. Its biggest feature is that it allows you to download the NOOBS installer with an optional pre-included image of the Raspbian full-Linux GUI operating system.
So essentially you can download NOOBS Lite (without Raspbian pre-packaged).
Or download NOOBS Full (which has the full Raspbian OS).
Keep in mind you can STILL download and install the full Raspbian OS using NOOBS Lite.
But the best thing about NOOBS is that you can use it to install LibreELEC (which is basically Kodi) and RecalBox (which is an emulator system for playing classic games on RPi!). Keep reading to set it up on your RPi:
Here’s how to install an operating system on Raspberry Pi using NOOBS:
- Download NOOBS here (from RaspberryPi.org)
- After you click the NOOBS download link above, choose NOOBS Lite if you want to install operating systems by having NOOBS download them from “the cloud” after your Raspberry Pi boots up into NOOBS. This is also known as the NOOBS network installer.
- Or choose NOOBS (Full), which has the Raspbian Desktop PC operating system pre-packaged into the installer (so you don’t need network access to install at least the Raspbian Desktop PC operating system).
- Your computer will download the NOOBS zip file.
- Now insert a Micro SD card into your PC. Then format the Micro SD card with a free program called SDFormatter (free, for Windows or Mac).
- Now open the NOOBS zip file you downloaded in a previous step.
- Then extract the contents of the zip file to the Micro SD card you formatted
- Safely eject the Micro SD card from your PC
- Make sure the power is unplugged from your Raspberry Pi.
- Insert the Micro SD card into the Raspberry Pi and plug the power in.
- Watch Raspberry Pi boot up into NOOBS!
- If your Raspberry Pi has WiFi (such as the Raspberry Pi 3 or Pi 0 W), then you need to click OK to dismiss the “Network connection” notification. Then select your WiFi network and enter your WiFi password. Finally, click Continue. If your Raspberry Pi does not have WiFi, then plug it into your router / modem using a Network cable and reboot the Raspberry Pi.
- Your Raspberry Pi now refreshes the screen to display the full list of Raspberry Pi operating systems you can now install on your Raspberry Pi using NOOBS.
- Select the checkbox next to an operating system, such as LibreELEC (aka “Kodi for Raspberry Pi”). Then click Install, wait for the OS to download and install, and click “OK” to reboot the Raspberry Pi once it’s done.
- After rebooting the Raspberry Pi, it will boot up into whatever operating system you chose to install!
..and Here are the Operating Systems you can Install on Raspberry Pi using NOOBS:
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- Raspbian with PIXEL or Raspbian Lite
- LibreELEC (aka Kodi)
- Lakka Emulator System
- OSMC (aka Kodi)
- RecalBox Emulation Station, an alternative to RetroPie.
- and others (check back soon for more as I update this post)
- *NOOBS does not contain RetroPie. Use PINN to install RetroPie on Raspberry Pi 3 or RPi 0.
The NOOBS Full download just takes care of the Raspbian download before you put the Micro SD card into your RPi.
My experience with NOOBS: NOOBS treats me very well every time I go to install operating systems on Raspberry Pi Zero or 3 (those are the only 2 models I currently own). One thing I love about NOOBS is it has no trouble at all with the WiFi chip onboard the Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi 3.
Pros of NOOBS:
The reliability of NOOBS is amazing. It just works. And it’s fast & easy.
Cons of NOOBS:
NOOBS is the official operating system installer for Raspberry Pi, so they can’t have “unofficial” or “dubious” operating systems. Some of those “dubious” operating systems are the likes of Kali Linux (for network penetration testing) and Kodi.
My favorite Raspberry Pi installer is PINN, because of its great selection of easily-installable operating systems. PINN lets you install RetroPie and several other great RPi OSes.
- Download PINN here (from Sourceforge)
The BerryBoot operating system installer for RPi is unique. BerryBoot’s uniqueness lies in its ability to install one or more operating systems to an external storage device. This means you can install memory-hogging operating systems to a large USB external hard drive. Or you can install a Raspberry Pi operating system onto a small USB thumb drive. Additionally, BerryBoot still allows you to install OSes to the Micro SD card.
One major advantage of BerryBoot is that several operating-system-makers released “disk images” of their operating systems that slip right into the BerryBoot installer. By “slip right into”, I mean you just copy the “.img” (disk image) file into a particular folder of the BerryBoot folder structure. Then after you boot up your RPi into BerryBoot, you’ll see the OS as an option.
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Raspberry Pi Operating Systems LIST
Here’s a current Raspberry Pi operating systems list. You’ll find the best Raspberry Pi Operating Systems in this list – and even some of the not-so-best ones.
Install these OSes on Raspberry Pi by simply using NOOBS, PINN, or BerryBoot (see the top of this article or this Raspberry Pi install guide).
To see how to install operating systems with NOOBS, PINN, or BerryBoot, follow my Raspberry Pi operating install tutorial.
1. LibreELEC / OSMC / OpenELEC
This trio of slick RPi OSes make it very, very possible (and easy) to use your Raspberry Pi as a Kodi player.
Just use my Raspberry Pi Kodi install video tutorials to start streaming TV and movies in minutes.
2. RetroPi / RecalBox / Lakka
Another amazing trio of RPi OSes, the RetroPie / RecalBox / Lakka operating systems allow us to play retro games on our RPi. By retro games, we mean classic console games like the ones on SNES and N64 (you need a Raspberry Pi 3 to play Nintendo 64 games).
3. Raspbian with PIXEL
The Raspbian OS is a customized version of Linux made just for Raspberry Pi. PIXEL is the name of the GUI that the developers made custom for the Raspberry Pi version of Debian Linux, or “Raspbian”.
You can also download a no-GUI version of Raspbian, which is command-line only. This is for coders and people who are comfortable typing in commands to control their PC instead of using a mouse and keyboard. This also works great as any kind of SERVER, such as a file server or Plex Media Server.
Important: If you want to use Raspberry Pi 3 or 0 as a Desktop PC, then this is the OS for you. Most OSes in this Raspberry Pi operating systems list are geared toward media playback and streaming. But Raspbian with PIXEL is perfect as a Desktop operating system!
Raspbian supports full 1080P HD output to just about any HDMI monitor or television. It also recognizes Raspberry Pi 3 and Raspberry Pi 0 W’s built-in WiFi adapters. Bluetooth is also a no-brainer, and activates instantly with Raspbian. So it’s basically a full PC.
Personally, I use Raspbian to create just about any kind of Linux-based server. This is easier for me than creating a Linux-based server using just the command-line, since I’m more comfortable with a GUI. Yes – I can write commands, but it’s much faster for me to set up a server using the Raspbian PIXEL GUI.
Since small tasks like connecting to WiFi can be a pain via command line, I prefer to do it with Raspbian. Then I take advantage of the wide-open Linux Debian-based Raspbian OS to run whatever server applications I need.
Some examples of amazing server apps to run on Raspbian are:
- PLEX Media Server for streaming movies, TV shows, and music to any device in your home
- A network-attached storage device for serving files to all your devices
This is the OS for Raspberry Pi that lets us share our files. It basically turns your Raspberry Pi + internal and external storage into a NAS (network attached storage) device. NAS devices allow all PCs and other devices on your network to download and upload files to the network attached storage.
Using NAS to transfer files between two devices wirelessly (via WiFi!) is much smoother than using a USB thumb drive. Thumb drives are so 2010!
The AdagiosPi “OS” is basically NAGIOS network-monitoring platform for Raspberry Pi.
Best Operating Systems for Raspberry Pi Not Available in NOOBS, PINN, or BerryBoot
Note that some / all of the operating systems below may / may not be available as BerryBoot image files. RasPlex, for example, is available as a BerryBoot image file. But the list below shows you the OSes that aren’t available in the default, stock OS choices for NOOBS, PINN & BerryBoot.
The RasPlex Raspberry Pi operating system is a Plex client. This means your RPi will stream movies from a Plex server that’s set up on your local network.
Setting up a Plex server is easy and can be done on a PC, a Raspberry Pi 3, or several other devices. Watch my tutorial on how to make a $50 Plex Server out of a Raspberry Pi 3.
Yes – you can host a WordPress blog with Raspberry Pi. PressPi (supposedly) does exactly that. UPDATE: I actually tried PressPi and had no luck. I could not get anything to work! Instead, it was much much easier for me to simply install Raspbian with PIXEL using NOOBS. Then use Raspbian to install Apache, MySQL and PHP. Then follow the standard WordPress install instructions.
The idea of PressPi is to quickly setup a Raspberry Pi as a WordPress website server. Personally, I wanted to use this quite a bit for developing WordPress sites. But after I found that PressPi wasn’t as easy to setup as I’d hoped, I simply installed Raspbian with PIXEL and then set up a “LAMP” stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) web server.
Even if you do manage to get the PressPi WordPress Server running, there’s no GUI (Graphical User Interface)! So unless if you’re comfortable configuring a web server by typing in commands instead of using a mouse and keyboard, give it a shot. Or don’t. Raspbian Linux for Raspberry Pi 3 is a better bet.
8. Kano OS
The Kano operating system is made for kids. Download it here.
9. MineCraft Server
Check it out here.
10. Apple AirPlay Receiver
11. Pi MusicBox
Check it out here.
12. Wireless Access Point / Range Extender
Use PiPoint for this.
The Screenly operating system for Raspberry Pi 3 lets you turn any HDMI TV or monitor into your own custom digital sign. This is way cooler than it may seem at first.
Notice how more and more restaraunts are moving from old-fashioned signs to digital signs?
This is how they do it: Screenly for Raspberry Pi 3Screenly can be installed easily using BerryBoot.
- Simply extract the contents of the BerryBoot zip file to a formatted Micro SD card.
- Then put it in the RPi 3 and power it on. Screenly boots right up in almost no time flat.
- Then it displays a screen that says the IP address of your new digital billboard! Why?
- Because you control the Screenly digital billboard from any device with a browser. So use any device with a browser to browse to the IP address displayed on the Screenly monitor. Then add movies or images to the Screenly “management screen” to start using Screenly! I tried it. It’s super cool.
Simply put the address shown on your Screenly device into any web browser that’s on the same WiFi network. For example, my Screenly said the IP address was “192.168.0.16”, then it had “:8080” at the end. Just put the IP address (and the “:8080”) into a web browser and it’ll show you the Screenly management console. Simply click “Add Asset” to add a new video to your new digital sign.
This is a great way for someone to start their own digital signage business.
14. Batocera Raspberry Pi Multi-Boot Operating System with Kodi
This great operating system is basically a clone of RecalBox with Kodi on the side. So, with Batocera, you can play retro games and stream movies & TV shows with Kodi. This dual-boot feature makes Batocera one of my favorite OSes in our Raspberry Pi operating systems list.
- UPDATE: I couldn’t find a way to configure the Raspberry Pi 3’s onboard WiFi in the Kodi part of Batocera. Therefore, I was unable to install Kodi plugins via WiFi.
- So I ended up rebooting the Raspberry Pi 3, holding down the Shift key at the Raspberry splash screen to enter recovery mode, and uncheck Batocera. Then I checked the box next to LibreELEC, since I know LibreELEC has a WiFi setup wizard for RPi. Then I’ll use Raspbian with PIXEL for my Dekstop PC operating system. Between Raspbian with PIXEL and LibreELEC, I should have plenty of operating system power to use normal Desktop programs (like Office programs).
- I’ll also have the ability to play streaming movies & TV shows with Kodi. Then, I can even install emulators in Raspbian with PIXEL, since Raspbian is just a version of Linux (which has several free game emulators available!).
Install Batocera and you’ll get a Raspberry Pi that boots right up into the RecalBox emulator system (even with several test games to play!).
To launch Kodi from within RecalBox, just open the RecalBox main menu (by pressing Enter on the keyboard), then select “Kodi Media Center” by using the arrows on your keyboard, then press the “A” key to press “Kodi Media Center”. RecalBox will reboot into Kodi – then just install TV Addons and set up a Kodi VPN.
For playing retro games, Lakka OS is a solid emulation station-based Raspberry Pi operating system. It’s a fork (or “spin-off”) of RetroArch.
If there was 1 OS that most closely resembles a PS4 interface in our Raspberry Pi operating systems list, it’s the Lakka emulator.
What makes Lakka unique is it’s interface. The interface is very reminiscent of a Playstation 2, Playstation 3, or PS4 homescreen (I can’t remember which one it most closely resembles.
But the core of Lakka is a solid emulator system, regardless of the homescreen display.
One more thing that makes Lakka different than other Raspberry Pi emulators is how it gives you several options to scan for games and find games on your memory card / external hard drive or thumb drive. This is one huge problem I’ve had with RetroPie and RecalBox: it’s harder than it should be to copy games to the system. Therefore, the fact that Lakka addresses the difficulty of game copying solves a huge problem for me.
So, I will spend quite a bit more time messing with Lakka to see if it’s significantly easier to load games. If so, it might be worth trading the “classic” look of RecalBox for the easy game-loading of Lakka. Fortunately, we can choose from Lakka, RecalBox, or RetroPie as three different unique operating systems for emulating classic games on RPi. In addition to that, we have at least one “spin-off” of RecalBox, called Batocera.
Lakka gives us a no-BS approach to playing retro games on Raspberry Pi 3, 2, 1, or 0. It has a simple menu system, and like I already mentioned, at least a few simple options to scan your games. Here are your options for copying / finding / scanning games in Lakka:
- From the main Lakka menu, choose “Load Content”. Then use the built-in file manager to find your game and select it to start playing instantly.
- In the right-hand most menu item (a dashed square with a “plus sign in it”), select Scan Directory.
- Or select “Scan File” from the same menu item.
Raspberry Pi Operating System Download Links
- Check out RetroPie images at arcadepunks.com. Or download RetroPie officially from https://retropie.org.uk/download/.
- Downloads, such as Adagios and PressPi: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B6d-JruA2JInbW5NSkZqZ3NLTTg
- Interesting RetroPie setup with Hue light integration: https://www.reddit.com/r/RetroPie/comments/4hq14c/my_rpi3_custom_image_kodi_161_retropie_37/
- MultiBootPi: http://www.multibootpi.com/category/builds/
- Use Etcher to write disk images (relatively large download though, compared to smaller apps like SDFormatter + windows file manger).
Have a suggestion for our Raspberry Pi operating systems list? Let us know on the KFire YouTube channel!