Raspberry Pi Zero W — Headless setup

A quick setup tutorial for your Raspberry Pi Zero without a monitor

Lazim Mohammed
3 min readNov 5, 2017


Raspberry Pi Zero W Source: www.thingbits.net

There can be situation where you got your much awaited Pi Zero and you are waiting to get a micro USB powered keyboard, mouse and a micro HDMI connector for getting started with it. 😞

This tutorial will help you to get started with your Pi — with just a Windows/MAC machine, power cable, micro SD Card (with adapter — to urn image)and a WiFi connection.

Really??? YES!

Selecting OS

I’ll be using the new Raspbian Jessie for my rPi. Read more on Jessie from here

Download Jessie image from this link. Or even you can get the latest of the Raspbian available from here (Not sure if this will work on those, you can try and let us know in the comments section)

Setting up OS in your SD Card

Once you have completely downloaded the Raspbian image to your machine, you need to burn this into the micro SD Card you have.

I used Etcher by Resin to do so. You can use any other alternatives like Universal USB Installer, Win32 Disk Imager etc to do so.

Etcher UI — Taken from offcial website.

Setting up WiFi

After the image is completely written to the SD Card just reconnect it to your machine to see a partition named ‘boot’ on the SD Card.

  • Create an empty file named ssh or ssh.txt on the SD Card’s root. This is to enable SSH on the device.
  • Create a file named ‘wpa_supplicant.conf’ in the same place with the following details:

Done! This is all you need to get your rPi connect to your WiFi on boot.


Inorder to connect to your rPi from your machine we use technique called SSH.

Put the micro SD card to your rPi and boot it up. Wait for few seconds to complete the booting process. Your device must be connected to your network by this time.

Finding IP address of your rPi:

Run ‘arp -a’ on your MAC machine to get the list of devices connected to your network. Or you can login to your router and check for this. Try to get the IP address of the rPi from this list.

For more info on finding rPi on your network, check this rPi forum post.

Once you find the IP address, use putty on windows or ssh command on macOS machines:

ssh pi@<IP>

Here pi is the default user and the password corresponding to it is ‘raspberry’.

Done. You got inside the terminal for your rPi.

Security Tip

If you think, you want to change your password for the user pi, you can run ‘sudo raspi-config’ to enter into the startup configuration. You can change the password, timezone etc from here.

Easy built in text editor

Use nano command to edit your text files from terminal.

‘sudo nano /path/to/textfile’

Happy hacking…!

Let me know your suggestions in comments section.