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Raspberry Pi Quick Start for Mac

This guide is for those Mac users who have received their Raspberry Pi and now want to get to a login prompt as quickly as possible. It also assumes you haven’t bought the pre-purchased SD card. If you have, you’re already up and running so I won’t take up any more of your time.

First things first, go and get an SD card. You may end up doing what I did, finding the nearest camera. The Pi is not a speed demon, so spending out on Class 10 16GB cards may offer some advantage, but probably nothing perceivable. The image we’re going to use creates a 2GB partition regardless of the actual size of the SD card, so size doesn’t matter for now. In fact, one of the joys of this little device is that you can quickly swap and change SD cards as if they were games console cartridges. This gives great scope for optimised builds.

Got an SD card? At least 2GB in size? Good.

Before we go any further, you now need to pop over to the official Raspberry PI website and download the image we’re going to be working with. This image is a build of Debian with all the drivers and things in place to give you a working system first time.

Download the Debian ‘Squeeze’ .zip file from (there’s also a torrent link if you’re comfortable with such things).

440 or so MB later, you’ll have the zip file. You now need to unzip it, revealing the .img file. If you’re using Safari, this may already have happened. I’m going to assume the resulting file is in ~/Downloads/debian6-19-04-2012/debian6-19-04-2012.img, but this may change as new versions come out. These instructions shouldn’t really change.

Now insert your SD card. Whatever is on it will be going bye-bye so make sure you’ve copied off anything you care about!

Once the SD card is mounted and recognised by OS X, open up a Terminal window. At the prompt, enter the following followed by the enter key:

$ df -h

This will produce a list of disks on the system. Have a glance down and if should be obvious, by the size report, which one is your SD card. If it’s the only extra drive in the system, it will probably be disk1s1. Make a note of the disk ‘name’.

Now we need to unmount it (tell the system to disconnect it from the filing system).

$ diskutil unmount /dev/disk1s1

If your device was identified as something other than disk1s1, change the command appropriately.

Now  establish the device name for the entire card, you do this by adding ‘r’ to the beginning of ‘disk’ and removing the ‘s1’ (or equivalent) from the end. So, disk1s1 becomes rdisk1.

Change directory to the location of your downloaded disk image (if you downloaded it into Downloads for example, enter ‘cd ~/Downloads/debian6-19-04-2012/’.

Now we copy the system over to the SD card like so:

$ dd bs=1m if=debian6-19-04-2012.img of=/dev/rdisk1

This command doesn’t give any output, so be patient. It takes a few minutes to run.

One the command prompt comes back, tell OS X we no longer need to use the SD card:

$ diskutil eject /dev/rdisk1

You can now safely remove the card and insert it into your Raspberry Pi. Go ahead, boot up!

After some screen noise, you’ll see a login prompt. Enter ‘pi’ as your login name, followed by ‘raspberry’ as the password. You’re in! if you’re freaked out by the flashing prompt and don’t know what to do next, type ‘startx’ followed by enter and the system will boot up an graphical interface. Welcome to your Raspberry Pi. You’ve got a fully-functional Internet-aware computer for less than the cost of the cables.

Hat tip to

Published inRaspberry Pi


  1. Rusty Shackelford Rusty Shackelford

    Thanks for the guide, but should not be an ‘-‘ before ‘bs’

    • PJ PJ

      Thanks. I’ve corrected it.

  2. Geoff Geoff

    have installed a raspberrypi-fedora-remix-14-r1.img on my card and the system boots, however I cannot log in. the user ‘pi’ password ‘raspberry’ does not seem to be correct. ant ideas before i reload the image?
    thanks from a wet jersey.

    • PJ PJ

      Hi. The guide here is for Debian. I believe use correct login for Fedora Remix is username ‘root’ password ‘fedoraarm’. Have fun!

  3. Eric Eric

    How do I establish the device name as rdisk1?

    • PJ PJ

      If the SD card is called disk1s1, then the resulting name you need is rdisk1. This is not always the case. If it’s disk2s1 (for example), it will be rdisk2. Point is, it doesn’t have to be rdisk1 for it to work, it just needs to refer to the correct device. So, if you end up with rdisk2, of=/dev/rdisk2 will work fine.

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