Booting Multiple Raspberry PI Operating Systems

Created on: 10 September 2014

In this tutorial, NOOBS (New Out Of the Box Software) from the Raspberry PI Foundation is used to load multiple operating systems to a Raspberry PI (RPI).

To demonstrate how to load more than one operating system, three different operating systems are loaded to the same SD card.

After the operating systems are installed on the SD card, any one of the operating systems can be booted using a menu that appears on the screen whenever the Raspberry PI is powered up or rebooted.

Hardware and Software

This tutorial should work on any Raspberry PI board. You can also choose which operating systems you want to install and are not restricted by which ones are installed in this tutorial.

For reference, this is the hardware and software used in this tutorial:

  • Raspberry PI B+
  • HDMI screen
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • 5V RPI compatible power supply
  • 16GB micro SD card (micro SD card fits the B+ model)
  • NOOBS version 1.3.9 – download whatever the newest version is

The following operating systems are installed in this tutorial:

  • Raspbian
  • Arch Linux

Preparing the SD Card

  1. Download the latest version of NOOBS.
  2. Unzip the downloaded file and copy the unzipped contents of the file to an SD card that is formatted FAT32. Be sure to choose a big enough SD card as the more operating systems you install, the more SD card memory space you will need.

Installing the Operating Systems

  1. After copying the contents of the downloaded NOOBS file to the SD card, insert the card into the SD card socket on the Raspberry PI.
  2. Plug the screen, mouse and keyboard into the RPI. Plug the power supply into the RPI to power it up.
  3. The PI will boot from the SD card and the NOOBS installation screen will be displayed.
  4. Choose the operating systems that you want to install by checking the boxes to the left of the listed operating systems.
  5. Choose your language and keyboard layout from the boxes at the bottom of the screen.
  6. Click the Install button at the top of the screen to start the installation.

Choosing the Operating System to Boot

When powering up the RPI with multiple operating systems installed, a menu will appear allowing any one of the installed operating systems to be booted.

Either double-click the operating system to boot, or use the up and down arrow keys and the Enter key to boot an operating system.

If no choice of OS is made, the last booted OS will be loaded after a time-out period.

Working with the Newly Installed Operating Systems

Below is some basic information on the three operating systems installed.

Basic OS Information


Raspbian is the "official" Linux distribution for the Raspberry PI and is the most supported distribution. It is based on Debian Linux.

Find more information on the Raspbian website.


RISC OS is a non-Linux operating system. Find more information on the RISC OS Pi page.

Arch Linux

Arch Linux is a simple, lightweight Linux distribution that leaves the user to customise the system. Find more information on the Arch Linux ARM website.

Logging In and Shutting Down the Operating Systems


After the initial boot into Raspbian, a screen is displayed allowing settings to be changed. Subsequent booting to Raspbian will boot to the command prompt or to the graphical Desktop if settings were changed to do so.

To log in to Raspbian, the default user user name is pi and the default password is raspberry.

To safely shut down the RPI, enter the following from the command prompt:

sudo shutdown -h now

To reboot Raspbian, enter:

sudo shutdown -r now

If in the desktop, there is a desktop icon that can be double-clicked to shut down the raspberry PI, or use the logout button on the right of the bottom task bar to log out to the command prompt.

For more information on starting with Raspbian, see the article on 10 things to do after buying a Raspberry PI.


RISC OS boots straight into the graphical desktop without any user name or password required.

To shut RISC OS down, middle-click the raspberry icon on the bar at the bottom right of the screen(using the mouse scroll button to click). Click Shutdown on the menu that pops up.

The power to the PI can now be switched off, or click the Restart button to reboot the RPI.

Arch Linux

Arch Linux boots straight to the command prompt. You will need to log in with the default user name root and default password root.

By logging in as root, you will have privileges to modify any file in the file system, so be careful what you modify as you could corrupt the system by modifying the wrong files.

Arch Linux does not have a graphical desktop installed by default. If a graphical desktop is needed, it must be installed.

To shut down Arch Linux, enter:

shutdown -h now

To reboot Arch Linux, enter:

shutdown -r now