Raspberry Pi Zero Headless Configuration

This guide describes how to configure a Raspberry Pi Zero W without the need of attaching it to a keyboard and monitor. Settings will be configured by editing text files directly on the SD card using an editor, prior to first booting the Raspberry Pi.

Installation of Operating System to SD card:

The guide assumes the operating system of choice for the Raspberry Pi will be Raspbian. Visit the Raspberry Pi website to download the latest image of Raspbian

Installation of the operating system can be achieved by utilising the command-line utility "dd" for Unix. Insert the SD card into a unix computer and using terminal utilise the command lsblk to determine the correct physical disk labelling for the SD card.

Once the correct physical disk label has been determined, use the below command to burn the raspbian image to the SD card:

sudo dd if=/home/username/Downloads/2012-10-28-wheezy-raspbian.img of=/dev/sdc

Headless Configuration:

Once the image has successfully burnt to the SD card, a partition titled "boot" should be visable. To configure wireless and SSH, two files are required to be created:

  • wpa_supplicant.conf
  • ssh

Wireless Config:

In the root on the "boot" partiton create a new file and title it "wpa_supplicant.conf". During boot up this file will get copied to the system folder and then deleted. So this a one time only process.

The contents of the file should be as shown below. Replace YOURSSID and YOURPASSWORD with the correct details used for the network the Raspberry Pi will be connected to.

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


When the contents is complete, save the file.

Enable SSH:

As of November 2016 SSH is turned off by default. Simply create a file called "ssh" within the root of the "boot" partition. The file can be empty. The system looks for this file during boot up and will enable ssh if it is present. It is then deleted.

Validating Configuration:

Insert the SD card into the raspberry pi, then apply power via a micro USB cable to the PWR IN connector. Once power is provided the green activity LED should flicker, wait 2 minutes, then attempt to ping the pi from your preferred operating system. If a successful reply is received, congratulations you have successfully configured your raspberry pi, and can now SSH into it via wifi.