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This page will walk you through doing a headless installation of the default raspbian image. Most of you may get your raspberry pi with the default raspbian image, but some of you may want to create another one as a backup or try other distributions. There are several web pages that describe how to do this but most of them refer to inaccessible programs. For Windows in particular, the win32 disk imager refered to for burning the Raspbian image to the sd card uses the QT framework, and At the time of this writing, Window Eyes is the only screen reader that can speak these controls. If you use the Mac OSX operating system, since it is Unix based by design, you can either use the terminal command line interface or a GUI program to accomplish a headless install.

Note on operating systems

Instructions are provided for both The Windows OS and Mac OSX operating systems. These instructions are not the final word or the only way, but are a good starting point for getting the Raspbian OS up and running quickly and easily.

Installing the Raspbian Operating System on an SD Card Using the Windows Operating System

What you need

  1. A computer running Windows. My computer runs Windows 7 ultimate 64bit.
  2. An sd card that is 2GB or higher in capacity.
  3. The raspberry pi Revision B connected to your setup with a LAN cable.
  4. The WinFlashTool for writing the flash image to your sd card.
  5. A USB card reader if your computer does not have a built-in card reader.
  6. A way of finding what IP address has been assigned to a newly joined device on your router. Ideally, DHCP should be enabled.
  7. Tera-term should be installed for giving you access to the raspberry pi.
  8. Putty available from will also work well with nvda

The procedure

  1. Insert the sd card into the card reader of your computer and let Windows recognise it.
  2. Use the diskpart tool to clean the sd card. By clean I mean that all partitions should be erased from the card. To do this, carryout the following steps.
  3. Launch diskpart at the dos prompt.
  4. use the "list disk" command to see the drives detected by Windows on your computer.
  5. Your sd card will show up as a disk. I will assume that your card shows up as disk 2 for this example. Disks are numbered from 0.
  6. Select the card by using the "select" command. If your card is disk 2, then use

"select 2".
You will see an acknowledgement on the screen that disk 2 has been selected.

  1. Type "clean" without the quotes to remove all partitions from the drive.

Warning, this will erase all data from the card. You will be told once the card has been cleaned successfully.

  1. Use the WinFlashTool to burn the image on to the card. Windows may prompt you to format the card during the burn process. This is because the raspbian image consists of two partitions. One partition is a fat32 partition which is what Windows detects. The other is a x3 partition that Windows cannot read. You may also want to disable your anti-malware programs at this stage since they may try to scan the new removable drive that has been created during the process of burning the raspbian image to the card.

Enabling ssh

Note that as of the November 2016 release of Raspbian ssh is disabled by default for security reasons. to enable it create a file called ssh on the boot partition.

To do this under windows find the letter of the boot drive and open a command prompt. Let us assume your boot drive is f:

copy con ssh
hit control z then press enter
dos should respond 1 file(s) copied.

On a Mac if you can mount the partition simply use

touch ssh
to create the file on the boot partition.


Installing the Raspbian Operating System on an SD Card Using the Mac OSX Operating System

What you need

  1. A Mac Computer running OSX (10.5 or greater preferred to follow these instructions
  2. An SD Card
  3. An image of Raspbian somewhere on your hard drive

Flashing the SD Card with Pi Filler

As OSX is a Unix-based operating system, one can clean the SD card and copy the Raspbian operating system bit for bit via the command line, but we will install a simple, small, yet very powerful accessible utility called Pi Filler. Pi Filler works on OSX versions after 10.5, so if you have OSX versions prior to this, you must use a different method to flash your SD Card(not documented here). It can be downloaded Here. OSX will download the application to your mac's downloads folder.

  1. Navigate to the downloads location in finder.
  2. Go to the desktop
  3. press Command+Option+l or find the folder manually.
  4. Locate and click on it. OSX will then extract the application
  5. Locate using standard voiceover commands and press command+C to copy the file to the clipboard.
  6. Navigate to the applications folder by pressing Command+Shift+A or navigate to the folder manually
  7. Move the application to the applications folder by pressing Command+Option+v.

The Raspberry Pi site suggests that you download a formatting tool to clean your card. I downloaded the SD Formatting tool for OSX |here, installed it, ran it, and followed the instructions to clean the SD card. The process definitely cleans the card, but if you use Pifiller, it's my impression that pifiler does a quick format of the card and this software may not be necessary. It's your call whether or not you do this step. Important, before running pifiller, make sure that the SD card is ejected from your Mac. Pifiller seems to have a hard time detecting the card if the card is already mounted to the system. You should now be able to use Pifiller to flash Raspbian on your SD Card.

  1. Unzip your Raspbian image by clicking on or opening the zip file and note the file location.
  2. Run Pifiller.
  3. Press the continue button
  4. Locate the unzipped .img file (I put my file on the desktop) and click choose
  5. At this point, the system will ask you to insert the SD Card. Do so, and wait until it is recognized.
  6. Acknowledge the insertion and start the process.
  7. Watch the friendly Time remaining progress bar, or get lunch and come back after a time. When complete. pifiller will notify you and your card will officially be flashed and ready for use.

Backing up your card using the Mac

You used pifiller to flash your Raspbian image to your SD Card. The author of Pifiller has written a handy utility called picopier which is also very accessible and very easy-to-use and accomplishes this process in a snap. It can be downloaded Here. Unzip the program, move it to your applications folder, run it, and follow the instructions to copy your image from your card to your computer. One neat thing that Pi Copyer can do is compress your images on the fly. Though this takes longer, it can save you a step, especially if you are doing other things on your Mac and/or don't have a pressing need to use your Pi Right away.

Once the image burning process has finished

  1. enable your anti-malware applications if you had disabled them in the previous step. Eject the card from your computer.
  2. Insert the card into the raspberry pi.
  3. Activate the pi and wait for about 10 seconds.
  4. Check the router for the IP address of the raspberry pi. If no new addresses are shown, wait for a few more seconds and check again.
  5. Use tera term to login into the pi.

Making the package manager more accessible

Once you have reached this point, you can begin working on the raspberry pi. One of the most common things you will do is install programs. This is usually done through the package manager which in this case is called aptitude. The primary change you need to make is to set aptitude to use the readline interface. The default dialog interface is usable but difficult on a terminal since you get a lot of extraneous characters. Run the following commands at the "$" prompt. (Ensure you are root when you do this.)

apt-get install libterm-readline-gnu-perl
dpkg-reconfigure debconf
Hit the down arrow key once and then press enter to choose the readline interface. Follow the prompts and exit the program.

Note to Secure CRT Users

If you have purchased the Secure CRT emulator from Van Dyke Software, you may have an easier accessibility experience while using Raspbian, and you can take some simple steps to clean up junk characters an render the Pi configuration interfaces more accessible.

  1. First, make sure to either use raspi-config or dpkg-reconfigure locales to set your locale. In Raspi-config.
  2. select international options and then locale. Then, search for your language, in my case en_US, and select the UTF-8 encoding option.
  3. Press enter.
  4. after a short period of time, the system will generate the locales and ask you to pick a locale you want to use as a default.
  5. Select the locale you selected in the first place, in my case in-US_UTF-8. If you are using readline, continue using the numbers to select your options and press enter.
  6. The locale will then be saved and the system will use the UTF-8 unicode encoding to display your text as well as line art used in linux to make things look pretty.
  7. In the options menu, select session options and go to the appearance tab.
  8. Tab to fonts, and in that subsection, select utf-8 in unicode encoding. This is crucially important because Linux doesn't seem to pass this encoding to Secure CRT in its default state set as auto detect.

Once these settings are set up, Secure CRT works reasonably well with both the readline and dialog interfaces. Secure CRT works with the VT100 terminal, but also works well with xterm as well. The default is VT100, and will definitely get you started with Secure CRT as your terminal emulator.

Tell your Pi to use your whole SD Card

In its default state, Raspbian only takes up about 2 GB of space. If your card is larger than that amount, you might want to tell your Pi that it can use the whole capacity of your card. This can easily be done using the Pi's configuration utility. Sometimes, it can be tricky to use this utility if you use a screen reader and arrows, but these steps should help you give Raspbian room to grow.

  1. Make sure you are still logged into your Pi
  2. Type sudo raspi-config
  3. Do not press any arrow keys or explore around on the screen. You should be on option number 1 which takes care of the expansion. You may hear some strange symbols, don't be alarmed, these symbols denote line drawings which look pretty for sighted users, but make screen reader user's lives difficult.
  4. Press Enter
  5. Press enter again to confirm the change and return you to the main menu
  6. Press tab twice to select finish and press enter.
  7. Press enter, and then enter again. Your pi will reboot
  8. Reconnect to your pi using your terminal emulator and it will be able to expand to fill your fancy new and hopefully cavernous SD Card.
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Page last modified on January 08, 2017, at 03:52 PM