Getting Started with the Raspberry Pi Zero

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The below guide is the text version of a course put on by the local makerspace BinarySpace, and was written by the talented Tom Van den Bon. If you learn better with other people in the room, we suggest making it down to BinarySpace to attend one of their lessons.

Until recently it was pretty tricky to get a Raspberry Pi Zero or Raspberry Pi Zero W in South Africa. That was until PiShop became the official distributor for it in SA.

The Raspberry Pi Zero is a smaller version of the Raspberry PIi It’s not a powerhouse and the processing power is comparable to a Raspberry Pi 1 and there are two variants: the normal version and the W version.

 The W version is basically the same, but also has Bluetooth and wifi onboard. It’s a very useful small form factor development board that is very cheap . You’ll pay about R80 for the regular and R183 for the W.

Unlike the bigger brother you don’t need an extra screen or keyboard to get started with the Raspberry Pi Zero. With the correct config you can plug it straight into your computer and use it.

Below is a quick start tutorial on getting started on the Raspberry PI zero

Hardware Required:

  • Raspberry Pi Zero or Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • USB Cable
  • SD Card (you will need an 8GB card for the full Raspbian OS)

Software Required:

Setting up the SD Card

Use Win32DiskImager to write the OS image onto the SD card.

Note: Make sure you are selecting the correct drive letter of your SD card, otherwise you can wipe your drives.

We then need to enable ethernet gadget and SSH on the SD card so that we can use it without having to connect a monitor or keyboard.

Enable SSH

Create an empty file on the SD  card called “ssh” and make sure that Windows is not adding an extension.

Enable Ethernet Gadget

Note: You need to edit these files in a text editor that handles new lines properly. I.E. not Notepad. On Windows it is recommended to use Wordpad or Scite.

Modify config.txt by going to the bottom and adding “dtoverlay=dwc2” as the last line:

Modify cmdline.txt:

After “rootwait” (the last word on the first line) add a space and then “modules-load=dwc2,g_ether”.

Eject the SD card from your PC and insert it into the Pi, connect your cable to the USB port on the Pi and connect it to your PC.

Once it has booted it should enumerate as an Ethernet device.

Note: If it enumerates as a USB serial port then use the rndis driver (click here to download it) and update it via the device manager.

We will be using PuTTy to SSH into the Raspberry Pi. This means that we will connect to the Pi and get a terminal on which we can type commands.

Open PuTTy and type in the following address: “raspberrypi.local”.

If everything is correct then it will open a putty window and ask for a username and password. The default is as follows:

Username: pi

Password: raspberry

You can use the Raspberry Pi Zero as you would normally.

If you computer has internet access then you can share that connection to the Raspberry Pi Zero using Internet Connection Sharing options in Windows.

This is a broad overview of connecting to your Raspberry PI Zero without having to connect it to a separate screen or keyboard. Feel free to post questions or issues in the comments!


Clinton Matos

Clinton Matos

Clinton has been a programmer, engineering student, project manager, asset controller and even a farrier. Now he handles the maker side of