Things you’ll need for your first Raspberry Pi build

The things you'll need for your first Raspberry Pi build
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Raspberry Pi

To get started with the Raspberry Pi, here are the things you’ll need for your first Raspberry Pi build.

This is an ongoing post. It is updated at least once a year. Please suggest corrections, explanations, etc. in the comment section at the bottom of this page and please report dead links or removed items.

Introduction

Although the Raspberry Pi comes with all the required features onboard, there are still additional requirements to make it power and boot up into a fully functional computer. This post lists and introduces the 7 requirements and 3 optional requirements you will need for your first build.

When it comes to your first Raspberry Pi build, various kits are available, or parts can be obtained individually. For those interested in a kit instead of the individual parts, see the end of this post.

The Raspberry Pi board

At the time of updating this post, there are a couple of Raspberry Pi models and versions available. The latest addition is the Raspberry Pi 4 Model 4 released in 2019. New models will be added from time to time.

Models can be categorised into the Raspberry Pi A-models, B-models, Compute Models and the Raspberry Pi Zero-models. Versions include version 2 (2015), version 3 (2016) and version 4 (2019).

For beginners, I would recommend sticking to the newest B-models.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is one of the older additions to the Raspberry Pi family. Image Sven.petersen (CC BY-SA 4.0)

All the B-models look almost identical, but the latest versions are considered top of the range with the most features and largest/fastest specs.

Please support us by using these links - they come at no additional cost to you, but we get a little commission each time they are used. These and others are available from Amazon.com and BangGood.

We have tested most of these products ourselves. Other selection criteria include affordability, quality, availability and average user rating and popularity by other buyers.

Links will open in a new window.
(Dead or old links can be reported in the comments section below.)

Raspberry Pi 2B
Raspberry Pi 2B
2015 Model B
900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU & 1GB SDRAM, Megabit Ethernet, USB 2.0 x 4, headphone jack and HDMI.
Available from Amazon.com
Raspberry Pi 3B
Raspberry Pi 3B
2016 Model B
1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU & 1GB SDRAM, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0, headphone jack and HDMI.
Available from Amazon.com
Raspberry Pi 3B
Raspberry Pi 3B
2016 Model B
1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU & 1GB SDRAM, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0, headphone jack and HDMI.
Available from BangGood
Raspberry Pi 3B+
Raspberry Pi 3B+
2018 Model B+
1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU & 1GB SDRAM, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0, headphone jack and HDMI.
Available from BangGood
Raspberry Pi 4B
Raspberry Pi 4B
2019 Model B
1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU & up to 8GB SDRAM, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0/3.0, headphone jack and duel Micro HDMI (4K).
Available from Amazon.com
Raspberry Pi 4B
Raspberry Pi 4B
2019 Model B
1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU & up to 8GB SDRAM, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0/3.0, headphone jack and duel Micro HDMI (4K).
Available from BangGood

Power supply (power adaptor)

All Raspberry Pi boards need a 5V DC power supply. Important factors when choosing the right power supply includes the plug type, connector type and the amount of amperage it can supply.

Plug type

The type of plug used will depend on the wall socket and the country where it is used.

Plugs are typically marked US (United States of America), EU (Europe), AU (Australia), etc. South Africa uses EU standards. Some power supplies, like some of the official Raspberry Pi power supplies, will have plug type adapters.

Apart from being able to connect to the wall socket, the plug type will usually correspond to the voltage output of the wall socket (110V or 220V).

Connector type

The Raspberry Pi 2 and Raspberry Pi 3 models use a Micro-B USB connector. Raspberry Pi 4 models use USB-C connectors.

Power output

The amperage (amps in short) will determine the amount of power (in Watts) that can be delivered to the Raspberry Pi. The total amperage required depends on what and how many peripherals are hooked up to it.

Official Raspberry Pi power supply
Official Raspberry Pi power supply with a micro-USB plug. This one is capable of supplying 5V DC & 2.5A of power.

The Raspberry Pi foundation recommends a power supply that is capable of supplying at least 1.2A (1 200mA). More is better. Typically, power supplies that can supply 2-3A are popularly used, especially when USB peripherals are connected.

5V 2.5A Power Supply With On/Off Switch (US, EU)
5V 2.5A Power Supply With On/Off Switch (US, EU)
For Raspberry Pi 2/3
Input 100-240V AC. 75x41x29mm. Micro-B USB connector.
Available from BangGood
CanaKit 5V 2.5A Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Power Supply (US)
CanaKit 5V 2.5A Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Power Supply (US)
For Raspberry Pi 2/3
UL Listed. Input >100V AC. 3.75 x 2.75 x 1.25 inches. Micro-B USB connector.
Available from Amazon.com
Official 5.1V 3A Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply (US)
Official 5.1V 3A Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply (US)
For Raspberry Pi 4
UL Listed. White. Input: 100-240V 50/60Hz 0.5A, Output: 5.1-3.0A. 3.27 x 2.4 x 1.93 inches. USB-C connector.
Available from Amazon.com

MicroSD card

As with all computers, the Raspberry Pi board needs primary storage space. This is where the operating system (see later) and files are stored. Additional space can be added later on. The Raspberry Pi comes standard with a MicroSD card slot.

Raspberry Pi MicroSD card
On the back of the Raspberry Pi B models, there is a slot for the MicroSD card.

The guys at RaspberryPi.org recommend a MicroSD card with at least 8GB of space. More is better but is dependant on the purpose of the Raspberry Pi. It is also recommended to get hold of the fastest card available, e.g. Class 10 or faster.

Because MicroSD cards are fairly cheap and easily interchangeable, it is recommended to get a few at the same time.

MicroSD card
MicroSD cards come in many shapes and sizes. Try to get the fastest speeds and at least 8Gb of storage. Well-known brand name MicroSD cards are of better quality.

Online shops, such as Amazon.com, often have great discounts on MicroSD cards under their camera sections. Although not always the case, BangGood might have some deals on generic MicroSD cards that are worth their price.

SanDisk Ultra MicroSDHC Memory Card (various sizes)
SanDisk Ultra MicroSDHC Memory Card (various sizes)
SDSQUA4-032G-GN6MA, UHS-I/Class 10
Includes adapter.
Available from Amazon.com
SAMSUNG MicroSDHC EVO Memory Card (various sizes)
SAMSUNG MicroSDHC EVO Memory Card (various sizes)
MB-ME32GA/AM, Class 10
Includes adapter.
Available from Amazon.com

MicroSD card reader

A MicroSD card reader is needed to copy the operating system onto the SD card. Card readers are also typically used to transfer photo files from a camera to a desktop. If you don’t already have a built-in card reader on a desktop or laptop, you will need an external card reader.

External SD card readers are connected to a desktop/laptop via one of the USB ports. If used correctly, the desktop operating system will connect the card reader as one of its drives.

HAMA USB 2.0 MicroSD card reader for various card types
The HAMA USB 2.0 Micro SD card reader has SD & MicroSD card slots.

There are many options available. Some card readers will only be able to read SD/MicroSD cards, while others have slots for a variety of card sizes.

My experience with the HAMA External USB 2.0 Card Reader has been a good one. BangGood also offers a range of cheaper card readers.

HAMA 8-in-1 SD Card Reader
HAMA 8-in-1 SD Card Reader

USB, USB 2.0, USB 1.1 interface. SD & MicroSD.
Available from Amazon.com

Operating system (OS)

The Raspberry Pi board will need commands to function. The commands are determined by the operating system (OS) which is copied onto the MicroSD card.

Most of the popular operating systems are Linux-based, incl. Raspbian, OpenELEC, etc. Although there are many certified Raspberry Pi operating systems available, Raspbian is probably one of the better ones for beginners.

Raspbian Jessie GUI
Stretch is one of the latest versions of Raspbian and has a Windows-like, GUI & a terminal to send & receive commands.

Most of the better, certified Raspberry Pi operating systems are open source and free to download.

Generally speaking, operating systems are copied onto a MicroSD card as a .img file.

Keyboard & mouse

Peripherals, such as a keyboard and mouse, can be connected via the Raspberry Pi’s multiple USB ports. The most basic peripheral needed is a keyboard, but for graphic user interface (GUI) users, a USB mouse is also a must.

USB Keyboard & mouse
Any standard or wireless USB keyboard & mouse will be enough to connect to the Raspberry Pi’s USB ports.

Any new or old USB keyboard and mouse will do. Out of the box, the Raspberry Pi is also capable of using a wireless keyboard and mouse. These peripherals can be obtained fairly cheaply from Amazon.com or BangGood.

The HDMI cable & screen

Unfortunately (or fortunately), starting with the second generation Raspberry Pi boards, there are only a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) connection port to connect to a screen.

HDMI cable & VGA converter
Most male-male HDMI cables will be enough to connect a newer Raspberry Pi board to a screen. VGA converters are also available to be able to connect to some older screens.

The screen can be anything from an old PC monitor to a flatscreen TV. If a screen does not have an HDMI input, various connectors are available to make it work.

HDMI cables and screens are available from local PC shops, Amazon.com and BangGood.

Optional requirements

While most of a Raspberry Pi’s functionality can be used with the previous requirements, there are some optional requirements in certain circumstances. They include a network cable, a Raspberry Pi case and a USB Wi-Fi dongle.

Network cable

Being able to connect a Raspberry Pi board to a network (or the internet) significantly increases its functionality. Although, technically, not a requirement, it definitely comes highly recommended.

Ethernet cable
Regular cat5/cat6 Ethernet cable.

The Raspberry Pi has an Ethernet port, ready to connect to a local area network (LAN).

Although the third generation (Version 3) Raspberry Pi’s have onboard Wi-Fi, a wired network might be your style. Any standard Ethernet cat5/cat6 cable can be used.

Ethernet cables can either be bought as required or they can be cut to length and assembled. Various types and lengths are available online from shops such as Amazon.com and BangGood.

The Raspberry Pi model 3 can also be connected to a Wi-Fi network in almost no time. Earlier models will need a USB Wi-Fi dongle (see later).

RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet Network Cable
RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet Network Cable
Cat6. 2m, 3m, 5m or 10m
Shengwei RJ45 Cat6 Gigabit Ethernet network cable. 2m, 3m, 5m or 10m. LC-1202G.
Available from BangGood

Raspberry Pi case

Just like any computer, the Raspberry Pi board needs some protection. Apart from this, the case is also something to show off with or to make the Raspberry Pi fit into its surroundings.

Official Raspberry Pi case
One of many available Raspberry Pi cases. This is the official Raspberry Pi white/red case.

When it comes to Raspberry Pi cases, there are many types, shapes, colours and form variations available. One thing to look out for is to make sure the case is designed for the model used.

Amazon.com has a nice variation of Raspberry Pi cases available. Seeing that the Raspberry Pi case is generally just a piece of plastic, nice, cheaper generic cases can also be ordered from BangGood.

USB Wi-Fi dongle

In the case of a Raspberry Pi model 2 (or earlier), a USB Wi-Fi dongle can be used to connect wirelessly. Various USB Wi-Fi dongles are available these days and most of them should be compatible with the Raspberry Pi. Many generic Wi-Fi dongles are available at cheaper prices.

Edimax USB Wi-Fi dongle
Edimax is a popular brand when it comes to USB Wi-Fi modules, but there are many others that are compatible with the Raspberry Pi.
TP-Link TL-WN725N USB Wi-Fi Adapter
TP-Link TL-WN725N USB Wi-Fi Adapter

RoHS complient. Compact (0.73 x 0.58 x 0.27 inches). IEEE 802.11b, USB, IEEE 802.11n. 2.4 GHz TP-Link Wi-Fi adapter dongle. Up to 150 Mbps. Perfect for PC, Mac and Raspberry Pi.
Available from Amazon.com
USB 2.0 Wireless Wi-Fi Adapter Dongle
USB 2.0 Wireless Wi-Fi Adapter Dongle

Compact (2 x 1.5 x 0.6cm), generic, IEEE 802.11n, 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi adapter dongle. Up to 150 Mbps. Perfect for PC and Raspberry Pi.
Available from BangGood
TP-Link Nano AC600 USB Wi-Fi Adapter
TP-Link Nano AC600 USB Wi-Fi Adapter

RoHS complient. Compact (0.59 x 0.28 x 0.73 inches). 2. 4G/5G GHz TP-Link Wi-Fi adapter dongle. Up to 433 Mbps. Perfect for PC and Raspberry Pi.
Available from Amazon.com

Generic versions are also available from BangGood.

Raspberry Pi Kits

Catda Raspberry Pi 4B Starter Kit
Catda Raspberry Pi 4B Starter Kit
2019 Model B, 4GB RAM
1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU & 4GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0/3.0, headphone jack and duel Micro HDMI (4K). Kit includes power supply, MicroSD, USB MicroSD card reader, a case with heatsink and fan, mini-HDMI cable and USB-C PiSwitch.
Available from BangGood
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4B 8GB Starter Kit
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4B 8GB Starter Kit
2019 Model B, 8GB RAM
1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU & 8GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0/3.0, headphone jack and duel Micro HDMI (4K). Kit includes power supply, MicroSD, USB MicroSD card reader, a case with heatsink and fan, mini-HDMI cable and USB-C PiSwitch.
Available from Amazon.com
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4B 4GB Starter Kit
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4B 4GB Starter Kit
2019 Model B, 4GB RAM
1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU & 4GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0/3.0, headphone jack and duel Micro HDMI (4K). Kit includes power supply, MicroSD, USB MicroSD card reader, a case with heatsink and fan, mini-HDMI cable and USB-C PiSwitch.
Available from Amazon.com

Conclusion

New Raspberry Pi users can either start off with a kit or collect individual parts separately. This post listed and discussed the individual requirements for your first Raspberry Pi build.

About the author
Renier busies himself with improving his English writing, creative web design and his websites, photoshopping, micro-electronics, multiple genres of music, superhero movies and badass series.
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