Set up a Raspberry Pi Zero headless

If you are using the GUI (Raspian full download) and want to connect your RPi Zero to a keyboard and monitor there are probably easier ways to do this. These notes are for people that want to use a headless (no monitor and GUI) setup ready to connect to your RPi after first boot via SSH from another terminal.

Download Raspbian Lite

wget -O

Download link:

Write Image to SD Card

dd bs=4M if=2017-08-16-raspbian-stretch-lite.img of=/dev/sdb

After this step there should be 2 additional mounts (if not mount the 2 SD card partitions manually).

Set up network interfaces

Create a new config file for the wireless interface.

cd etc/network/interfaces.d/
vim wlan0.conf

Add the following to the new file (if you want to use DHCP – change to static if you want to fix the IP):

auto wlan0
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wpa-conf /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

Set up connection details for local wireless network

vim etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

Check the file and ensure the network settings are as per the Wireless Network you are connecting to.

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

You could use the clear-text PSK passphrase but I prefer not to do that in configuration files. Create a PSK hash using ‘wpa_passphrasethis older article

There could be other config values you might need depending on the network you are connecting to. More info:

Ensure there are DNS Servers configured

sudo vim etc/resolv.conf

Add the following to the new file (or your own nameservers):

# Google's public DNS servers

Enable SSH Access

Create an ssh empty file in the mounted boot partition. This is necessary to enable SSH access as SSH is by default disabled on more recent versions of Raspbian.

cd boot/
sudo touch ssh

Boot RPi

Boot the Rpi by powering up and after ~30secs you should be able to connect to the IP assigned. Check your router or ise ‘nmap’ or similar to check the assigned IP:

sudo nmap -p22 -sV

Default login details are
UID: pi
PWD: rasbperry

My normal further setup steps for RPi 3 are here.

EDIT [2017-08-21]: One of the things necessary on later RPi’s is to turn off power saving mode on the WLAN interface.

sudo iw dev wlan0 set power_save off

Author: Leo Gaggl

ict business owner specialising in mobile learning systems. interests: sustainability, internet of things, ict for development, open innovation, agriculture

2 thoughts on “Set up a Raspberry Pi Zero headless”

  1. Is this for the RPI zero with wifi integrated? Dumb question, but one could possibly do the others of course if you attach a usb network.

  2. I have tested this now on a few RPi 3’s and Zeros with integrated Wifi. But there is no reason this shouldn’t work on a Pi with USB Wifi adaptor. Might try this on one of my older Pi 2’s.

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