Raspberry Pi Zero W Headless Setup – Day 1

My Raspberry Pi Zero W arrived and I finally had a chance to sit down and start to do some work with it. I downloaded the latest version of Raspbian, and installed it on a Sandisk Ultra Plus Class 10 microSDHC 16 GB card using Etcher. I did a lot of YouTube watching and read a lot of comments on what worked for setting up the Zero W headless. It worked fairly well for the most part as I am running it via a USB cable off a Windows 10 system.

Raspberry PI Zero W
Raspberry PI Zero W top side

When you are done, locate the file “config.txt” from the Boot drive of the sdcard and insert this at the end


Then save the file, and locate the file called “cmdline.txt” and insert this text right after rootwait


When done, save the file and your going to create 2 more files before your done.  I created both of these files with Notepad++

The first file you want to create is called “ssh” with no extension and completely empty.

The next file you want to create is called “wpa_supplicant.conf” and you want to put the following in it.

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev

        ssid="YOUR SSID"
        psk="your password"

and you can now insert the sd card into the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

Remember, you need to edit those 2 files and add those 2 files for this to work the way I did it. It is not the only way but it is the way that I got it to work.

To access your Raspberry Pi Zero W from your computer, use ssh client PuTTY and point it to:


Password: raspberry

Now you should be all done!

Raspberry PI Zero W
Raspberry PI Zero W bottom side

Once I was into the Pi I ran the command:

sudo raspi-config

Your going to want to make sure that WiFi is on under network options and that you have VNC on under interfacing options. Turn those both on and then reboot your Pi.

sudo reboot

Watch your Pi and in about 30 seconds you can relaunch your last PuTTy session and get right back into the terminal.

If you want to get into the Pixel desktop you can VNC into it with VNC Viewer and do all the GUI things that you would like to.

NOTE: This is a Raspberry Pi Zero W. It is not very fast in the desktop environment. I suggest that you do not log into your Google services if you are a heavy user of extensions. Your Pi will run very slow.

I’ll get into the benchmark tests, how I did them with examples and how you can do the same things if you want to. I am going to be making a USB dongle out of this as the project progresses and I’ll be adding that information soon.

Conclusion for day 1: not too bad! I was able to get the Pi Zero W to fully run off of one cable. For the person that wants to work in a Linux environment and have Windows at same time this is a dream come true. For the cost of the Pi and a good SD card (that you can reuse on other projects if need be) the investment is very cheap for awesome rewards. More to come!

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