So, you’re here because you want to learn all about the Raspberry Pi Zero computing board and all it has to offer.

Or, you’re already about to buy one and want to get the most out of your product.

Either way, this article is for you!

The Best Raspberry Pi Operating Systems

Before we get into it, here’s an overview of what the Raspberry Pi Zero is. 

 

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You can use the Raspberry Pi Zero as a multi-purpose desktop computer system, a media center, a hub for classic retro computer games, and a way to learn about how robots/computers work. You can even use the Raspberry Pi Zero as a way to program in languages like Python and Scratch.

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The Raspberry Pi Zero is one of the smallest, most efficient computer boards out in the market, and costs only about a third of its predecessor’s price, the Model B. Instead of paying $35 for a similar value, you now get a great amount of computing value for just over $10. 

There is an even less expensive version of the Zero available for about $5 USD, but it does not have wireless connectivity or Bluetooth capabilities.

The model that gives you the most features for the best price is the latest edition of the Zero, the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

This is important because if you were to buy the older Zero, you’d have to pay much more money to buy accessories for internet connectivity. So, if you’re looking for an amazing-value computer that won’t even come close to breaking the bank, check out the Zero W model.

Technical Specifications

If you want to use a small but powerful computer, consider the Raspberry Pi Zero W’s set of technical specifications. With these specs, this model is solid for almost any project you might be working on.

Here’s the full overview of the tech specs:

  • HAT compatible 40-pin header
  • Composite video and reset headers
  • 1GHz single-core CPU
  • 1 mini HDMI connection port
  • Micro-USB power port
  • Micro-USB OTG port
  • CSI camera connector (only for v1.3)
  • 512MB of RAM space

Why does the Raspberry Pi Zero matter?

The Raspberry Pi Zero matters because of the various possibilities it opens up for projects and other uses. It’s super small, but it’s also inexpensive and incredibly versatile. 

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There have been so many creative uses found for the Raspberry Pi board. It’s tiny, so it has been used in things like lightsabers, robotic projects, and as a part of desktop computers. If you’re building something that needs a computer, this device can serve many purposes.

And—get this, those projects were all finished with the previous version, the one that didn’t have Wi-Fi capabilities incorporated in. So, the possibilities are even more vast as of the Zero W update. All the device needs is a creative mind to put it to use!

In the future, we predict that this new Raspberry Pi Zero model will become much more popular for use in laptops or desktops since there are lots more connective capabilities. 

The main importance of the Raspberry Pi Zero W is that since you no longer need connectors, such as a Wi-Fi dongle or USB cable, it will no longer lose its compactness. 

Additionally, its specs remain similar to previous versions, but it has seen an increase in processing speed. Specifically, its 1GHz processor is a considerable upgrade from previous versions. 

If you want to use the Raspberry Pi Zero as a desktop computer, you’ll find this information important. You’ll need a few things to get your system up and running: a Mini HDMI connector for the monitor, a MicroSD card to store data, and a Micro-USB charger.

Here’s a current Raspberry Pi Zero Operating System list.  Since Raspberry Pi Zero is the lowest-power Raspberry Pi, we only include the OSes that run on RPi Zero.  Therefore, we do not include all of the Raspberry Pi Zero OSes in this list (since some OSes only run on Raspberry Pi 2 or 3, for example).

Why?  Because there are simply too many “clones” of one operating system.  So, to keep it interesting we only show you the “unique” operating systems.  Or we at least won’t show you duplicates ;).  Without further time wasting, here’s the list:

How Do I Install Operating Systems on Raspberry Pi Zero?

Copy the BerryBoot files to your Micro SD card!  It’s the easiest way to install operating systems on Raspberry Pi Zero.

Or try NOOBS, but BerryBoot was better, easier and had more options in my opinion.  They’re both free to download.  See more details on how to copy NOOBS or BerryBoot to an SD Card just below this list of RPi Zero operating systems:

Raspberry Pi Zero Operating System List

While there are many operating systems available for Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, there are almost as many for Raspberry Pi Zero.  The OSes that run on Pi Zero also run on Raspberry Pi 1, by the way.

Here is the Raspberry Pi Zero Operating system list with download links and install instructions for each:

1.  Raspbian Jessie

Raspberry Pi’s Debian Jessie is a version of Linux that now rocks, due to being finely-tuned over the years.  This is the “default operating system” for Raspberry Pi’s across the globe.

  • Download Raspbian Jessie here
  • Install Raspbian Jessie or Wheezy easily with BerryBoot or NOOBs, or use the official install guide located here
  • Alternatively you can download a .img file of Raspbian here to import into Berry Boot instead of installing it with the default menu (which is the easiest way!)

    Raspbian Jessie: #1 in our Raspberry Pi Zero Operating System List

    Raspbian Jessie screenshot

2.  Kodi (aka OpenElec or OSMC)

Kodi is the favorite media center app for millions of people.  It’s conveniently available as its own entire OS (a bonus for this Raspberry Pi Zero operating system list)!

  • Check out the official OpenELEC homepage for install details
  • Easily install Kodi by first copying BerryBoot to a clean Micro SD card. After that, put the card in your Pi and select OpenELEC > Install!
  • Or download a Kodi .img file to use with Berry Boot here

    Kodi Raspberry Pi (OpenELEC)

    Here’s what Kodi looks like on Raspberry Pi (OpenELEC)

3.  RetroPie

Play classic games of all kinds using Retro Pie.  Raspberry Pi Zero handles everything up to N64 (but not including Nintendo 64).  So enjoy plenty of SNES games on your RPi Zero.

  • Here’s the official RetroPie website and their downloads page is here
  • Download RetroPie .img file (download here) for Raspberry Pi Berry Boot here
  • Install RetroPie by simply putting BerryBoot on a Micro SD card.  Then use BerryBoot to install RetroPie in just a few minutes!

    RetroPie for Rpi Zero

    This is what RetroPie looks like on Raspberry Pi!

4.  Kali Linux

This is the classic network penetration testing (pentesting) and security toolset version of Linux.  Kali Linux is our favorite hacking OS in the Raspberry Pi Zero operating system list.

  • Kali Linux needs to be installed using a .img file.  Download a Kali Pi image file here.
  • Use BerryBoot to Import the image file and install it to your Raspberry Pi’s Micro SD card

    Kali Linux

    Kali LInux Raspberry Pi OS

5.  MusicBox

As the name suggests, PiMusicBox is an online streaming music service-connector that plays tracks from your online music services.

  • Install MusicBox for Raspberry Pi by installing BerryBoot
  • Download the Music Box image file here

6.  MotionEyeOS

This is simply a surveillance camera / home security monitoring system.

  • Install MotionEye OS by importing the .img file (here) into BerryBoot
  • Make sure your Raspberry Pi is plugged directly into your router with an Ethernet cable.  Otherwise, the MusicBox won’t start!  Or use the official MusicBox install instructions to pre-configure your WiFi username and password and write it to the Micro SD card while you’re preparing the .img file.

    MotionEye OS for Raspberry Pi Surveillance (Home Security)

    MotionEye OS Web Interface

7.  RuneAudio

Rune Audio is another streaming music connector for your Raspbery Pi 0.  While Rune Audio seems like just another jukebox for Raspberry Pi, it may give us some added functions not available in other OSes.

  • Rune Audio is yet another audio system you install with BerryBoot by importing the image file
  • Download Rune Audio img file here

8.  ArchLinux

ArchLinux is just another flavor of Linux that works well on RPi zero.  So, check it out as an alternative to Raspbian!

  • Arch Linux is easily installed using Berry Boot for Raspberry Pi
  • Download Ach Linux .img file here

9.  PuppyLinux

Puppy is one of the oldest and smallest distributions of Linux.

10.  PwnPi

This is basically a slimmed-down version of Kali Linux, which is used for security, hacking, and network penetration testing.

11.  Open Media Vault

Open media vault allows you to set up your Raspberry Pi as a NAS device (network-attached storage).  It basically creates your own personal cloud.

Wrap up

So, we hope that this article has covered any questions or concerns you had with the Raspberry Pi Zero and its capabilities. Whether you’re looking to build robots, play retro games, learn coding languages, or use it for something else, this tiny computer can help.

It’s small and seriously low-priced, so be sure to read on the specs before you use it for larger, more demanding projects. 

If you have any questions for us, feel free to let us know down below, we’d be happy to help you further understand any points we’ve made in the article.

Thanks for reading!