In this tutorial, we walk you through the process of installing Ubuntu Server on a Raspberry Pi, connecting it to the internet and using it remotely. There are two setup methods in this tutorial: with an extra HDMI screen and USB keyboard for your Pi, or headless. Let’s start!
What you’ll learn
- How to create a bootable Ubuntu Server microSD card
- How to setup internet connectivity on the Raspberry Pi
- How to access your Raspberry Pi remotely
What you’ll need
- A microSD card (4GB minimum, 8GB recommended)
- An Ubuntu Server image for Raspberry Pi
- A computer with a microSD card drive
- A Raspberry Pi 2, 3 or 4
- A micro-USB power cable (USB-C for the Pi 4)
- A Wi-Fi network or an ethernet cable with an internet connection
- A monitor with an HDMI interface
- An HDMI cable for the Pi 2 & 3 and a micro HDMI cable for the Pi 4
- A USB keyboard
Prepare the SD Card
Following these steps will erase all existing content on the microSD card.
First, insert the microSD card into your computer.
Now you need to install the right Raspberry Pi Imager for your operating system. You can do this with the following links:
Once this is done, start the Imager and open the “CHOOSE OS” menu.
Scroll down the menu click “Ubuntu”.
You will then be able to see a list of Ubuntu downloads to choose from. For this tutorial we recommend you select the Ubuntu 18.04 download. As indicated in the imager this will work for the Raspberry Pi 2,3, 3+ and any of the 4’s.
Select the image and open the “SD Card” menu. Select the microSD card you have inserted.
Finally, click “WRITE” and wait for the magic to happen… (This magic might take a few minutes)
Wi-Fi or Ethernet
There are two ways to get your Pi connected to the internet:
- The first is to connect your Pi to your router with an ethernet cable. In this case, you can skip this step and go to the next one in the tutorial.
- The second requires a local Wi-Fi network that both your computer and Pi can be connected to. We are going to edit files you just downloaded on your SD card to ensure your Pi can connect to the Wi-Fi network at boot.
Getting setup with Wi-Fi
With the SD card still inserted in your laptop, open a file manager and locate the “system-boot” partition on the card. It contains initial configuration files that will be loaded during the first boot.
Note: Screenshots have been made on an Ubuntu desktop but it can be done on Windows and MacOS too
network-config file to add your Wi-Fi credentials. An example is already included in the file, you can simply adapt it.
To do so, uncomment (remove the “#” at the beginning) and edit the following lines:
wifis: wlan0: dhcp4: true optional: true access-points: <wifi network name>: password: "<wifi password>"
wifis: wlan0: dhcp4: true optional: true access-points: "home network": password: "123456789"
Note: If your network name has a space in it, you need to add quotation marks around it.
Save the file and extract the card from your laptop. During the first boot, your Raspberry Pi will automatically connect to this network.
Boot Ubuntu Server
If you are using an HDMI screen and a USB keyboard, ensure they are plugged in before powering the Pi. You will be able to see the boot process on screen and log in using “ubuntu” as both the password and login ID.
If you are running your device headless, you need to connect to it remotely from your laptop. We are going to do so using the SSH protocol.
Insert the SD card into the Pi and power it up (plug in your power supply). After a minute or so, Ubuntu on your Raspberry Pi will have fully booted and connected to the network.
Connect remotely to your Raspberry Pi
To connect to your Raspberry Pi remotely, you need two things (we’ll help you find them):
- Its IP address on the local network
- An SSH client (SSH is a communication protocol between machines)
Determining the Pi’s IP address
To determine the IP address of your board, open a terminal and run the
On Ubuntu and Mac OS:
arp -na | grep -i "b8:27:eb"
Depending on your version of Ubuntu, you may need to install the
net-toolspackage. Install it with
sudo apt install net-toolsand try the
arp -a | findstr b8-27-eb
This will return an output similar to:
? (xx.xx.xx.x) at b8:27:eb:yy:yy:yy [ether] on wlp2s0
Where the x’s are the IP address of any Raspberry Pi connected to the local network. Note it down.
If the command doesn’t return an IP address, you may need to wait a little longer for your Pi to join the network. If you still can’t see it after a few tries, which can happen with some home or office network configurations, we recommend you use a USB keyboard and HDMI screen to interact with your device.
Using an SSH client
On Ubuntu and Mac OS, an SSH client is already installed. On Windows, follow these steps to install one.
Open a terminal and run the following command:
ssh ubuntu@<Rapsberry Pi’s IP address>
You will be asked to confirm the connection:
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no/[fingerprint])?
Type “yes” to confirm.
Changing the password
When prompted, use “ubuntu” for the password. The first thing Ubuntu will do is to ask you to change it to a secure password. Once done, you can reconnect again with the SSH command and the new password.
Success! You are now connected to Ubuntu Server running on your Raspberry Pi.
Install a desktop
ⓘ Optional step
Depending on what you are going to use your Pi for, you may want a desktop environment to run graphical applications. Nevertheless, this step is completely optional.
First you need to ensure your packages are updated to the latest version, run:
sudo apt update sudo apt upgrade
Then, you can use the
apt install command to install a desktop environment.
Here are some popular and lightweight options:
sudo apt install xubuntu-desktop
sudo apt install lubuntu-desktop
sudo apt install kubuntu-desktop
Learn more about Ubuntu flavours.
Once the install finishes, reboot your pi with:
And your new desktop will come up automatically
That’s all folks!
You are done! Up and running on Ubuntu Server.
For more details about Raspberry Pi specific packages included with this image and further customisations, such as accelerated video drivers and optional package repositories, you can refer to the RaspberryPi wiki.
You also might want to install some software on your Pi. Ubuntu has extensive repositories available, that you can browse at packages.ubuntu.com. You can also use the snap command to install snap packages. The Snap Store is where you can find the best Linux open source and proprietary apps to install on your Raspberry Pi and get started with any project!