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17 Best Operating Systems for Raspberry Pi

raspberry pi os

Raspberry Pi is doubtlessly the best single-board computer out there in the market today. It’s a tiny credit-card-sized computer that can be used to do a multitude of projects for our everyday computing. Since it is a much useful device, it’s wise to choose the right operating system for it. Even though there are a few general-purpose Raspberry Pi OSs available for free, an OS crafted specifically for a purpose can reduce your effort and save a significant amount of time.

So, in this article, I’m going to share with you a curated list of 17 Raspberry Pi operating systems that can be used for various projects.

17 Raspberry Pi Operating Systems

So, here is a list of raspberry pi OSs in which some are Linux distributions and some are not. At the time of writing this article, all the operating systems mentioned here are working and getting updates regularly. If for some reason, any OS is deprecated by the creators in near future, please let me know it in the comment section and I will update that.

1. Raspberry Pi OS (formerly Raspbian)

Official Raspberry Pi OS
Official Raspberry Pi OS

The Raspberry Pi OS or Raspbian is the official operating system created for Raspberry Pi. This is so far the best and fastest operating system for Raspberry Pi. It is based on Debian and comes with a lot of in-built tools for programming, education, and general use. The packages include in the OS are Java, Python, Scratch, Sonic Pi, etc.

For the purposes mentioned above, all the required packages and dependencies are pre-installed with it and you don’t need to download and install manually. This is the most actively maintained OS for Raspberry Pi and you can blindly go for that. You can refer to my guide for installing the Raspberry Pi OS using the Imager tool.

Best use cases:

  • Teaching purposes
  • Programming
  • DIY projects
  • Web browsing
  • Office Suite
  • General use

2. Ubuntu MATE

Ububtu MATE OS for Raspberry Pi
Ubuntu MATE OS for Raspberry Pi

Ubuntu MATE is one of the lightest Linux-based Raspberry Pi operating systems that offer the latest packages and quicker updates.

It’s a free open-source flavor of Ubuntu that comes with the APT package manager and works perfectly with major remote workstation utilities like LTSP, X2GO, etc.

If you are going to install Ubuntu Mate on Raspberry Pi make sure that you have at least 4GB RAM with your Pi.

Best use cases:

  • Basic desktop computing
  • IoT prototyping and testing
  • Deployments for hobbyist projects

3. OSMC

OSMC for raspberry pi
OSMC for Raspberry Pi

OSMC stands for Open Source Media Center, which is a free open source Kodi OS which can be installed when you use your Pi as a media server device. It is capable of playing all major media formats from a variety of different devices and streaming protocols.

It comes with a modern minimalistic user interface that can be drastically customized according to your needs. If you are about to use your Pi for managing media content then you can make use of this OS.

OSMC perfectly works on Pi 1, 2, 3, 3+, 4/400 & Zero. If you are looking for the best Raspberry Pi OS for streaming, then OSMC is your best bet.

Best use cases:

  • Home media center
  • Media creation/consumption

4. RetroPie

retropie for raspberry pi
RetroPie OS for Raspberry Pi

Retro is another popular Raspberry Pi operating system that is specially designed for retro gaming purposes. It comes with loads of customization options that can be used for tweaking the emulator to run your favorite games seamlessly.

This is a Debian-based software library and is currently the best raspberry pi os for retro gaming. For installation and other details about RetroPie, you can read my article here.

Best use cases:

  • Retro gaming

5. LibreELEC

LibreELEC OS for raspberry pi
LibreELEC OS for raspberry pi

LibreELEC is another media server software for Raspberry Pi. It’s not only a super lightweight OS but also a ‘just enough’ OS for KODI on your Pi. It is an Embedded Linux Entertainment Center software developed for embedded devices used for home media centers.

It is actually a fork of the now-discontinued OpenELEC Project. Once you install it on your Pi, you can download movies, TV shows, etc.

The LibreELEC is highly optimized to use with most flash drives like SSD, USB drives, etc and it supports all Raspberry models like 0,1,2,3,4 including B and B+ variants.

Best use cases:

  • Run Kodi as the main application
  • Media creation/consumption

6. RISC OS

risc os for raspberry pi
RISC OS for Raspberry Pi

RISC OS is an open-source OS specifically tailored for ARM-based single-board computers like Raspberry Pi. While it’s different from Windows OS and Linux distros, the RISC OS has a dedicated community to work for.

Unlike other OSs, you may take some time getting used to it. Though there is a short learning curve involved, it’s worth it.

Best use cases:

  • Programming
  • Word processing
  • Web browsing
  • General-purpose

7. Windows 10 IoT Core

Windows 10 IoT core for Raspberry Pi
Windows 10 IoT core for Raspberry Pi

Windows 10 IoT Core is one of the best Raspberry Pi OS for IoT prototyping and development purposes. The sole aim of the package aims at developers, coders, and programmers who are actively involved in prototyping, development, and testing internet-connected devices.

Though it won’t provide a full Windows 10 desktop experience, it’s more than enough for any IoT-based project.

If you are interested you can refer to my installation guide.

Best use cases:

  • IoT prototyping and development.

8. Lakka OS

lakka for raspberry pi
Lakka for Raspberry Pi

Lakka is a free, lightweight, and open-source Linux distro that can be sure to turn your Raspberry Pi into a retro gaming console.

If you are an addicted retro gamer and wanna play games on your Raspberry Pi, then you can’t go wrong selecting this OS. This is originally built on the RetroArch emulator so that you can have loads of games on your Pi within a matter of seconds.

Best use cases:

  • Retro gaming

9. Ubuntu Core

Ubuntu Core for raspberry pi
Ubuntu Core for Raspberry Pi

Ubuntu Core is another Linux distro solely developed for the Internet of Things applications. The OS is specifically tailored for IoT devices and specifically to run on Raspberry Pi boards.

The Ubuntu core is also a well-secured OS so that you won’t have to worry about security problems. Also, since it is having a dedicated community you can get help from the forums very easily, and it is one of the favorite operating systems for developers across the globe.

Best use cases:

  • IoT development, testing, and prototyping

10. DietPi

DietPi OS for Raspberry Pi
DietPi OS for Raspberry Pi

DietPi is an extremely lightweight operating system for Raspberry pi which is based on Debian. The developers claim that it is lighter than the Raspbian Lite OS.

Even though it is considered as a lightweight OS, it is capable of providing a wide variety of feature which will come in handy while you work on different kinds of projects.

If you a looking for a lightweight OS without compromising the performance, DietPi is the one you should definitely give a try.

Best use cases:

  • Advanced networking
  • Camera and surveillance
  • Development and programming
  • DNS and File servers
  • Home automation
  • Hardware projects
  • VPN server
  • Distributed projects

11. Kali Linux

Kali Linux for Raspberry Pi
Kali Linux for Raspberry Pi

Wanna learn or do ethical hacking? Kali Linux is the one meant for you. This OS offer a wide variety of in-built applications for forensic and reverse engineering purposes.

It also ships with a set of advanced tools for security testing and network performance analysis which lets you do literally a lot of things on your small Raspberry Pi board.

Best use cases:

  • Low cost remote penetration testing.
  • Ethical hacking
  • Forensics purposes
  • Reverse engineering
  • Learning

12. OpenMediaVault

Open Media Vault for Raspberry Pi
Open Media Vault for Raspberry Pi

If you are looking for setting up a Network Attached Storage (NAS) with minimal hardware requirement, then Raspberry Pi is the option and the OpenMediVault is the platform for you.

OpenMediaVault is a special purpose Linux distro which is capable of providing advanced web based administration provisions, web based interface, volume management and plugin system. This can definitely help you set up a NAS your own using this operating system.

Best use cases:

  • NAS for small offices or home offices

13. ROKOS

Rokos for Raspberry Pi
Rokos for Raspberry Pi

Are you interested in BitCoin and Cryptocurrencies? Here is the OS for you. ROKOS is designed specifically for mining cryptocurrency. It basically lets you turn your Raspberry Pi into a full node using its pre-installed packages and drivers.

ROKOS comes with a fully functional Bitcoin Full node client that provides the user a great out-of-the-box experience. You can read more on the official website to gain some knowledge about how it works and how to operate.

Best use cases:

  • Cryptocurrency mining

14. OpenSUSE

OpenSUSE for Raspberry Pi
OpenSUSE for Raspberry Pi

The OpenSUSE project is a community-driven global initiative that promotes the usage of Linux for servers and normal desktops.

The Tumbleweed and Leap versions are the best choices to install and use on a Raspberry Pi board.

It comes out of the box with all stable packages and provides a smooth and seamless experience on your Pi. It is meant for people who are in need of a decent OS but can’t afford to pamper the OS regularly.

Learn more about the OS from its developer website.

Best use cases:

  • Suitable for home, office, and business computers.

15. Kano OS

Kano OS for Raspberry Pi
Kano OS for Raspberry Pi

The Kano OS is an open-source operating system designed for Raspberry Pi that helps you educate your kids to code.

As Kano is a Raspberry Pi OS-based platform, it’s possible to install the system on a Pi easily and start teaching computing and coding to your kids. Parents and teachers can make use of this OS to educate children to visually learn things at an early age.

Best use cases:

  • Teaching students computing and coding

16. Alpine Linux

alpine linux for raspberry pi
Alpine Linux for Raspberry Pi

Alpine is basically Linux-based security and privacy-oriented OS for Raspberry Pi that is aimed at power users who need extra security features, simplicity, and efficiency.

Though it is not having a beginner-friendly interface, it’s a beast in terms of privacy, security, and resource efficiency.

Best use cases:

  • Hosting virtual machines
  • Desktop usage

17. Manjaro

arm kde full
Manjaro Linux for Raspberry Pi 4

Manjaro is a free Arch-based Linux operating system that is easy to use and stable. It is a cool option for those who need a stable OS with full control, and without compromise in performance. Although it’s built on Arch, it is not much complicated and it comes with a plethora of pre-installed software.

Manjaro has thousands of applications that can be downloaded and installed from its software center. So you will not come in shortage of applications for various purposes. Even fully compatible equivalents of Windows apps like MS Office are available to download for free.

Best use cases:

  • Daily computing needs
  • General-purpose

Installing an OS on Raspberry Pi

Installing an operating system on Raspberry Pi is made simple by the release of the official Raspberry Pi Imager Tool. You can read my guide to Install Raspberry Pi OS using the Imager tool. And you can refer to the official video as well.

So that’s the list of popular operating systems available for Raspberry Pi along with their best use cases. Now it’s your turn to find out which OS is suitable for your project and proceed with it. Once you choose one, do let us know about the same in the comments.

About the Author: Vishnu Mohan

Vishnu Mohan is an ardent hobbyist of Raspberry Pi projects, who hails from God's Own Country. He is kind of a minimalist person who believes in keeping things simple & elegant in life. Apart from the techy things, he is passionate about music and cricket. In his free time, he likes to read books and spend quality time with his family and friends.

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