How to set up your Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+

A step-by-step guide to getting started with your new $25 board.

How to set up your Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+

This is the latest board in the Raspberry Pi range, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+.

The A+ is the little brother of the Pi 3 B+, and packs most of the same specs into a smaller and more affordable computer.

The $25 A+, which like the other Pi boards is aimed at tech enthusiasts with a desire to learn about software and hardware, retains both the quad-core, 1.4GHz processor of the B+, as well as its support for wireless ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. The main differences from its sibling are it only has half the memory, 512MB, has no Ethernet, and only a single USB 2.0 port.

But with its low price, small size, and minimal power consumption, the Pi 3 A+, like the Pi 1 A+ before it, is a good choice for building homemade electronic hardware.

SEE: Hardware spotlight: The Raspberry Pi (Tech Pro Research)

I'll be taking you through how to set up your Raspberry Pi A+ using a Windows machine, starting with how to set up the operating system on the microSD card. The video above will walk you through the process step-by-step.

1. When you're setting up the microSD card, you may need to use a microSD adapter. If this is the case, start by slotting the microSD card into the back of a microSD card adapter. To install the operating system on the microSD card, you'll need to use either an SD card reader/writer or, if your laptop supports it, a built-in SD card reader.

2. Next, you'll need to download the operating system for your Pi A+. Go to Scroll down and click on the Raspbian operating system, which is the official operating system for the Raspberry Pi. Scroll down, and you'll see 'Raspbian Stretch with desktop'. You've now got two options. You can either download it as a torrent or download a zip file. Click your download of choice and wait for the download to complete.

3. Next, you need to download a program that can copy the image for the Raspbian operating system onto the microSD card. Go to, and search for 'Win32 Disk Imager'. Scroll down and go to the top result beneath the grey-shaded adverts and left click. Next, left click 'Download'.

4. Once the download is complete, you should see Win32 Disk Imager appear at the bottom of the window. Left click, and install Win32 Disk Imager on the machine.

SEE: More Raspberry Pi coverage (TechRepublic Flipboard magazine)

5. Once you've downloaded the Raspberry Pi operating system, go to your Windows 10 downloads folder, and look for a file with the words Raspbian Stretch in it. Right click on that file, and click on 'Extract all' and then 'Extract'.

After some time, you should have a folder with the same name appear next to the file. If you look inside, you can see the image file for the Raspberry Pi operating system. You'll now need to copy that over to the microSD card.

6. To copy your operating system image for the Raspberry Pi over to the microSD card, take your SD card reader from earlier, and plug it into a USB port on your PC. Alternatively, you can place the SD card into a card reader in your laptop.

Next, you'll need to copy the operating system image to the microSD card. Open up Win32 Disk Imager and you will see a window. Click on the blue folder icon, and find the image for the Raspbian Stretch operating system and then click 'Open'. Next, you need to pick the Device, by selecting the letter under the 'Device' dropdown menu. This letter should correspond to the letter used by your SD card. You'll see this letter appear inside Windows File Explorer when you plug the SD card or SD card reader in. Once that letter is selected selected then click 'Write'. Then wait some time, while the operating system is copied over to the SD card.

7. Once the operating system is installed on the SD card, take your board, turn it over. On the underside, you'll see a slot at the rear, which is where the microSD card needs to go. Take the microSD card, then insert it into the slot, gently, until it's sitting firmly inside.

8. The Raspberry Pi 3 A+ has a variety of ports on the front of the board. On the left, you've got a micro USB port for the power, in the middle, you've got a full-sized HDMI 1.3 port for hooking up TVs or monitors to the Raspberry Pi. On the far end, you've got a stereo audio output and composite video ports, which gives you even more audio-visual options.

On the righthand edge of the board, you can also see the single USB 2.0 port. This is where you want to connect your mouse or keyboard to the Raspberry Pi, but there's always the option of adding more peripherals via Bluetooth. If you're new to the Pi, a USB mouse and Bluetooth keyboard is a decent option. That's it for the ports, and next we'll start up the device.

9. After you've plugged in all the cables, plug in the power link last. You should see the system boot up like so. It takes no longer than about five to 10 seconds to boot to the desktop. Once the desktop is loaded, you'll be able to browse all of the software that's included: the LibreOffice suite, the Chromium web browser, a couple of games with a programming theme. Also a whole raft of tools for learning programming.

10. Once the machine is booted, click through the setup wizard, following the steps to select your country and language, change the default password, log into your Wi-Fi, and update the system to the latest version.

11. Next, you'll need to set up any Bluetooth peripherals, such as mice or keyboards, you want to use. Make sure these are turned on and are discoverable. Go to the top right of the Raspbian desktop and left click the Bluetooth icon, and in the menu select 'Add new device'. An 'Add new device' window will open and any discoverable peripherals should be listed. Select the devices you want to use and click the 'Pair' button to allow the Pi to find those devices, so you can start using them.

I hope you found this tutorial useful.


The Raspberry Pi 3 A is smaller and cheaper than the Pi 3 B.

Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic

Read more about the Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+