1. Computer Skills

How to Install NOOBS on a Raspberry Pi With a Mac

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Read Time: 5 min

If you are new to Raspberry Pi and want to get up and running without too much fuss, then NOOBS is probably going to be one of the best places for you to start.

NOOBS stands for New Out Of The Box Software and it’s intention is to make the start of your Raspberry Pi adventure somewhat less daunting than it otherwise might be, especially if you are unfamiliar with the command line interface, or CLI.

Before You Begin

Before starting any project, it is sensible to ensure that you have everything to hand. This avoids frustration part way through the process. Here’s what you will need:

  • An Intel Apple Mac running OS X 10.5 Leopard or later
  • A Raspberry Pi
  • An ethernet wired connection to the Pi
  • A keyboard, mouse, monitor and power supply connected to your Pi
  • An SD Card, capacity 4GB or higher
  • The SDFormatter app for Mac
  • The NOOBS zip download

Prepare Your SD Card

Step 1. SD Card

Insert the SD card into the SD card reader on your Mac. If your Mac does not have an SD card reader, you will need to use an external SD card reader that connects via USB.

Step 2. Formatting

Download and install the SDFormatter app from the SD Association website.

SDformatter appSDformatter appSDformatter app
Running the SDFormatter application requires your admin username and password

Launch the SDFormatter app and enter your admin username and password to allow the app to run.

Formatting the SD CardFormatting the SD CardFormatting the SD Card
Formatting the SD Card -- be sure to pay attention to the options before clicking Format

Under the options to format an SD/SDHC/SDXC card, select the following:

  • Section one, select the correct SD card that you inserted into your Mac
  • Section two, select Overwrite Format
  • Section three, enter an appropriate name for your card, for example I went with RaspberryPi
  • Section four, when you are happy that sections one to three are all correct click on the Format button
Formatting the SD CardFormatting the SD CardFormatting the SD Card
Formatting the SD Card may take some time -- do not interrupt the process

Be aware that the process can take a few minutes and may take longer than you were prepared for. A progress bar is shown, so go and make a cup of tea and it will probably have completed by the time you get back. Do not interrupt the formatting process.

Step 3. Copy NOOBS

Copying NOOBSCopying NOOBSCopying NOOBS
Copying NOOBS to the freshly formatted SD Card

Download NOOBS from the Raspberry Pi website downloads page. Extract the zip file, to a folder, by double-clicking the downloaded zip archive.

Locate the contents of the extracted NOOBS folder and copy all of the files of the NOOBS folder to the root SD card.

Tip: Don’t copy the NOOBS folder itself. Instead, copy the contents of the NOOBS folder to the root of the SD card. If you copy the folder, in error, simply move the contents of the folder to the root of the SD card and delete the folder

Step 4. Eject the SD card

Once the SDFormatter app has completed the formatting of the SDHC card, click CLOSE and eject the card from your Mac.

Tip: the formatting of the card may take some time. To format an 8GB SD card on my Mac mini Intel Core i5, it took around 22 minutes.

Installing an Operating System on Your Pi

Insert your newly created SD Card into your Raspberry Pi and insert the power cable to turn it on.

NOOBS will run automatically, first resizing the FAT (File Allocation Table) partition and formatting the settings partition, launching into a graphical user interface (GUI).

Choosing your OS in NOOBSChoosing your OS in NOOBSChoosing your OS in NOOBS
Choosing your OS in NOOBS

NOOBS provides you with an easy way to set up and install from the following operating systems:

  • Raspian – the recommended Debian version optimised for Raspberry Pi
  • Raspian – Boot to Scratch – a version of the recommended OS that boots straight into Scratch
  • Arch – An Arch Linux port for ARM devices
  • RaspBMC – An XMBC media centre for Raspberry Pi
  • Pidora – A Fedora remix optimised for Raspberry Pi
  • OpenElec – A lightweight, fast and user-friendly XMBC distribution
  • RISC OS – A very fast and compact operating system

Select the desired operating system, by clicking to place an X in the adjacent box. Then click on Install.

You will be advised and prompted when the operating system has finished installing. Click OK and your Pi will reboot into the Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool (raspi-config).

Configuring Your Pi

Configuring your PiConfiguring your PiConfiguring your Pi
Configuring your Pi with raspi-config

When your Pi reboots, your will be taken to the Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool (raspi-config).

Use the Tab key to cycle through the following sections and press Enter to select the desired option:

  1. Expand Filesystem
  2. Change User Password
  3. Enable Boot to Desktop/Scratch
  4. Internationalistion Options
  5. Enable Camera
  6. Add to Rastrack
  7. Overclock
  8. Advanced Options
  9. About raspi-config

It is not necessary to change any of these options, but feel free to explore them anyway.

Tip: If you do not change the user password, the login for your Pi will default to the username pi with the password raspberry.

When you have completed configuring the options, tab to and press enter. The Pi will return to the command line interface.

Start it up!

Starting up your PiStarting up your PiStarting up your Pi
Starting up your Raspberry Pi from the command line interface (CLI)

In this example I have installed Raspian. Unless you changed them, enter pi and raspberry as the username and password, respectively.

To start Raspian, from the command line, type startx.

This will then launch the graphical user interface.

The Raspberry Pi desktopThe Raspberry Pi desktopThe Raspberry Pi desktop
The Raspberry Pi desktop GUI in Debian-wheezy


NOOBS, or New Out Of The Box Software, has been designed to get the novice Raspberry Pi enthusiast up and running with an operating system, of their choice, quickly and easily. NOOBS means that the novice Pi enthusiast can start to experience the fun of this revolutionary little computer without much of the frustration that goes along with the command line interface.

In this tutorial, I have shown you how to format an SD card, how to load it with NOOBS and how to get your Raspberry Pi up and running with the NOOBS SD card.

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