Running CentOS on the Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a small, inexpensive computer that has become wildly popular among hobbyists and educators. Its low cost and small size make it an ideal platform for learning about Linux and experimenting with DIY projects. One of the most popular Linux distributions used on the Raspberry Pi is CentOS.

Running CentOS on the Raspberry Pi?

CentOS (Community Enterprise Operating System) is an open source operating system based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). It is designed to provide a free, enterprise-class computing platform. CentOS is stable, easy to use, and has a large user community.

In this article, we will walk through the process of installing CentOS on a Raspberry Pi. We will cover:

  • Raspberry Pi hardware needed
  • Downloading the CentOS image
  • Writing the image to an SD card
  • Initial setup and configuration
  • Optimizing and customizing CentOS
  • Helpful resources for troubleshooting and learning more

Whether you want to use your Raspberry Pi as a web server, media center, or general Linux environment, CentOS provides a robust and reliable operating system option. Let’s get started!


To install and run CentOS on a Raspberry Pi, you will need the following hardware:

  • Raspberry Pi board – Model 3 B+ or newer recommended
  • MicroSD card – 8 GB or larger recommended
  • Power supply – Official Raspberry Pi supply recommended
  • HDMI cable and monitor
  • USB keyboard and mouse
  • Ethernet cable or WiFi dongle (for network connectivity)

Newer Raspberry Pi models like the 3 B+ and 4 B have faster processors and more RAM, which provide a better CentOS experience. Using at least an 8 GB microSD card ensures you’ll have enough space for the operating system, software, and data.

The other hardware components listed above are generally necessities to interact with your Pi. Now let’s get CentOS installed!

Downloading the CentOS Image

The first step is to download the latest CentOS minimal image for the Raspberry Pi architecture:

  1. Go to the CentOS website and navigate to the Minimal Install downloads section.
  2. Find the latest Raspberry Pi image file ending in “Minimal for ARM” and download it. This will be an .img or .iso file.
  3. At the time of writing, the latest version is CentOS Linux 8 Stream for ARM 64-bit – size around 900 MB.

The minimal image contains just the core CentOS files needed to boot up the operating system. It provides a compact base ideal for customizing your installation. Downloading and verifying the image before writing it to your microSD card is crucial.

Once you have the .img/.iso file downloaded, you’ll use a utility like Etcher to flash it onto your microSD card. This prepares the card to boot up CentOS when inserted into your Pi.

Writing the Image with Etcher

Etcher provides an easy way to write OS images to SD cards & USB drives. To write your CentOS image using Etcher:

  1. Insert your microSD card into your computer or a reader/writer.
  2. Install and open Etcher.
  3. Click Select Image and browse to your CentOS image file.
  4. Select your microSD card as the target drive.
  5. Review your selections to ensure the proper source and target.
  6. Click Flash to begin writing the image – this may take 5-10 minutes to complete.
  7. When finished, Etcher will inform you it is safe to remove the SD card.

With the image written, you can now insert the microSD into your Raspberry Pi and proceed with initial booting and setup.

Initial Setup and Configuration

To start using CentOS on your Raspberry Pi, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the prepared microSD card into the Pi’s slot.
  2. Connect the Pi to a monitor and USB keyboard/mouse.
  3. Power on the Pi either via the micro USB port or GPIO header power pins.
  4. Select CentOS Linux on the NOOBS boot menu and hit Enter.
  5. Log in using the default ‘root’ username and password ‘centos’.
  6. Run sudo passwd to change the root password. Choose something secure.
  7. Update CentOS packages with sudo dnf update. This may take some time on first run.
  8. Reboot Pi to complete update changes.
  9. Consider changing hostname via sudo hostnamectl set-hostname new-name
  10. Add a regular, non-root user account for daily use via sudo adduser username.
  11. Give user sudo privileges with sudo usermod -aG wheel username.

You now have CentOS up and running on the Raspberry Pi! The initial configuration steps like adding a user account help secure your system. Next we’ll look at customizing CentOS and accessing additional features.

Customizing and Optimizing CentOS

One of the great things about CentOS is its flexibility and customization options. Here are some ways to adapt CentOS on your Raspberry Pi:

  • Install a lightweight desktop environment – Try Xfce or MATE for a GUI and added software.
  • Adjust system performance – Change GPU memory split, overclock CPU speeds, etc.
  • Set up networking – Configure WiFi, static IPs, hostnames, etc.
  • Install LAMP stack – Add Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP for web serving.
  • Enable SSH – Remotely access your Pi CLI over SSH.
  • Develop and compile code – Install compilers and libraries for programming projects.
  • Run Docker containers – Deploy containerized apps on your Pi.
  • Automate tasks – Use cron jobs to schedule regular scripts and jobs.
  • Mount external storage – Add networked or USB storage for media and files.

There are endless possibilities when optimizing CentOS for specialized uses on a Raspberry Pi. The active community provides many excellent guides for popular customizations.

Troubleshooting Help and Resources

When issues inevitably come up, there are various helpful resources for troubleshooting:

  • Search the CentOS forums and subreddits for similar problems.
  • Consult the in-depth CentOS wiki for documentation.
  • Ask questions and look for solutions in Raspberry Pi forums.
  • Check Stack Overflow for Linux and CentOS help.
  • View error logs in /var/log/ for diagnostic details.
  • Reach out to @CentOSProject on Twitter.

Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from the helpful CentOS community when you run into issues. Chances are someone has experienced and solved a similar problem already.

With the power of CentOS and the Raspberry Pi, you have an affordable platform to learn Linux administration and implement cool projects. From lightweight web servers to home media centers, the possibilities are vast. Have fun exploring what this minimal but mighty OS can do on the Pi!

Key Takeaways

  • The Raspberry Pi is a versatile device that can run CentOS for cheap Linux experimentation.
  • Using a minimal image provides a compact OS base to customize for different needs.
  • Writing the image with Etcher properly prepares the microSD card for booting.
  • Initial setup involves changing passwords, updating packages, and adding user accounts.
  • Customizations like desktop environments, LAMP stacks, and SSH unlock more features.
  • Helpful online resources aid in the troubleshooting of any issues down the road.
  • CentOS + Raspberry Pi opens the door to awesome DIY Linux projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What model Raspberry Pi do I need to run CentOS?
    Any Raspberry Pi model can run CentOS, but newer models like the 3 B+ and 4 B are recommended for their improved performance. At minimum get one with 1 GB RAM.
  2. Does the CentOS image come with a desktop environment?
    The minimal CentOS image only includes a command line interface. Lightweight desktop environments like Xfce and MATE can be installed.
  3. How do I connect my Pi to WiFi instead of Ethernet?
    WiFi can be configured after installation by editing the connection profiles found in /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/.
  4. Can I use an external USB hard drive with CentOS on the Pi?
    Yes, external USB drives can be formatted and mounted for extra storage in CentOS. The drives will need to be properly formatted and mounted.
  5. What programming languages can I install?
    CentOS has package repositories containing tools for many languages like Python, PHP, Java, Javascript, Ruby, C++, and more.
  6. What are some good starter projects for Raspberry Pi CentOS?
    Some beginner-friendly project ideas include magic mirror displays, retro gaming stations, smart home hubs, and streaming media boxes.
  7. How do I backup my Pi’s SD card contents?
    SD card contents can be backed up by making a disk image with utilities like dd or Win32 Disk Imager on another machine.
  8. Does CentOS for ARM support common server software?
    Yes, you can install packages like Apache, MySQL, FTP, email servers, CMS’s like WordPress, and more.
  9. Can I automate tasks with cron jobs?
    Cron jobs can be created via the crontab -e command. This allows you to schedule timed and recurring scripts.
  10. How do I enable SSH to remotely access my Pi in CentOS
    Use the sudo systemctl enable sshd command. SSH can then be accessed through any client with the Pi’s IP address.
  11. Why choose CentOS over Raspbian on the Pi?
    CentOS provides Red Hat enterprise-level stability and support options. This can be helpful for more critical tasks versus Raspbian’s focus on education.
  12. Is CentOS the best choice for media center Pis?
    CentOS can work well in this role but OS’s tailored for media playback like LibreELEC may be a better fit.
  13. Can I run CentOS on a Pi using my Windows/Mac workstation?
    No, CentOS cannot run directly on Windows/Mac. It is a Linux distribution. You can access your Pi remotely from these OS’s.
  14. How can I tell if a software package or driver will work with CentOS ARM?
    Consult the package details and forums to verify ARM/32-bit support. If compiled only for x86_64 it likely won’t work.
  15. Why do certain platforms list CentOS as end of life (EOL)?
    While CentOS 8 itself is EOL, the CentOS Stream 8 platform/repos live on. Confusion stems from rebranding.
  16. Does CentOS have enterprise-level paid support options?
    Yes, paid tiers of support are offered by Red Hat for CentOS deployments needing guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs).
  17. Can I swap out the SD card and use a different one later?
    Yes, you can place the CentOS SD card into a new Pi or device and it should boot up. The OS lives on the card independently.
  18. How frequently do I need to update and upgrade CentOS?
    It’s recommended to update the packages, dnf, and yum repositories on a regular basis to maintain security and stability.
  19. Can I install CentOS alongside another OS using NOOBS?
    You can select CentOS at bootup using NOOBS, but dual booting it with Raspbian or others takes additional partitioning.
  20. Is there an easy way to backup my Pi SD card?
    Using another machine, make an image backup with Win32 Disk Imager (Windows) or dd (Mac/Linux). This creates a full copy to restore from.

Installing CentOS on a Raspberry Pi opens exciting possibilities for DIY Linux experimentation. This guide covered downloading the minimal CentOS image, writing it to an SD card, performing initial setup, and customizing the installation. We also explored some troubleshooting tips and resources for assistance.
With both the stable foundations of CentOS and the flexible hardware of the Pi, you now have a platform to learn enterprise Linux administration or create fun projects on the cheap. Whether it’s a home server, automation hub, or retro arcade, a Raspberry Pi running CentOS provides a capable and endlessly customizable solution.


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