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NOOBS vs Raspbian: What Are the Major Differences Between Them?

Are you running a Raspberry Pi project, and you’re confused about whether to choose a NOOBS vs Raspbian OS? If yes, we’re here to help you!

Installing an operating system on your Pi board is essential. The number of operating systems available makes it tricky to create the perfect choice for your project. 

While Raspbian is the official OS of the Raspberry Pi, Noobs is like an installer that allows you to install other OS, including Raspbian.

This post will break down everything about NOOBs and Raspbian and help you decide which one is best for building your Raspberry Pi circuit.

NOOBS vs Raspbian: What Are the Key Differences

As we mentioned earlier, NOOBS is an installer or wizard that allows you to choose the operating system, download and write its image to an SD card.

The best part is that your downloaded OS stays on your SD card, making it possible to install other operating systems. 

Plus, there are two variants of NOOB: 

  • One is an online installer that allows you to download and install the OS you desire. 
  • The other is an offline installer that comes packed with preloaded operating systems.

Now, choosing between these two variants depends on your internet connection speed.

Alternatively, you can use the standalone Raspbian OS. It works based on Debian Linux and is the official OS of the Raspberry Pi foundation.

Raspbian is already loaded with training, multimedia, and development software. Hence, Raspbian is one of the best general-purpose operating systems for Raspberry Pi projects.

How to Install NOOBS

Like Raspbian, Raspberry Pi also created NOOBS. All its preloaded operating systems can run on a Raspberry Pi board.

NOOBS stands for “New Out of the Box Software.” It makes installing operating systems easy for Raspberry Pi beginners and professionals.

But for it to work, you have to download NOOBS on your computer and install it into a micro SD card. Also, loading the SD card on your Raspberry Pi would open an interface with different operating systems. 

You can choose from the existing list or download other OS before installing them directly on your Pi board.

How to Download and Install

You can download NOOBS from Raspberry Pi’s official website. Plus, downloading the default version will give you access to a preloaded version of Raspbian. Alternatively, you can download the lite version without preloading. 

1. First, you’ll download a ZIP file, and to install NOOBS, you must copy the zip file’s contents into a blank SD card.

2. Next, insert your SD card into your computer. Then open the zip file and extract all its contents into the SD card. 

3. Once the extraction is complete, connect the SD card to your Raspberry Pi. It should boot into NOOBS. 

Available Downloads on Noobs

Some operating systems on Noobs come with the SD card installation. Others require an internet connection to download. However, you don’t have to worry about downloading the OS from the internet. With Noobs, you can get the job done.

Operating systems available on NOOBS

Operating systems available on NOOBS

Note that you can install some operating systems and prebuilt images like Retropie using NOOBS.

How to Set up and Use

Once your Raspberry Pi boots into NOOBS, you should connect to the internet to access more installation options.

You can connect to the internet using an Ethernet cable or by clicking on wifi Networks at the top of the NOOBS interface to connect to your wifi options.

Your list of operating systems should expand. Then scroll through the list to find the operating system you want. Then complete your setup process by following the prompts. 

How to Install Raspberry Pi OS

If your Raspberry Pi is not running Raspbian, you can easily install it without stress. The process is similar to installing NOOBS, but you’ll be writing a disc image rather than extracting a zip file.

Also, you’ll need a micro SD (at least 8 GB), a computer with an SD card slot, basic peripherals, and a Raspberry Pi for this installation.

Here’s how to install Raspbian OS: 

Download Raspbian

First, download the Raspbian disc image file from the official Raspberry Pi website. You can find the updated versions here. Downloading this can take up to half an hour or more, so be patient.

Unzip the File

You’ll find the Raspbian disc image in a zip file format. So, you’ll have to extract it. Hence, you might need software to remove the file. 

Raspberry Pi recommends using 7-zip for windows, the Unarchiver for Mac, Unzip for Linux.

Write Your Disc Image into Your microSD Card

Here, insert your SD card and write the extracted disc image into your computer. Plus, you’ll need specific programs to write this disc image successfully: 

For Windows, you’ll need the Win32 Disk imager; for MAC, you can use the in-built disk utility. Finally, you can use Etcher for Linux.

Though the process of writing the disc image is different across these programs, the starting points are at least similar. 

First, you’ll choose your destination (micro SD card), then select the disc image (Raspbian file). Finally, click double-check and write to start the process.

Insert SD Card into your PI

Once the writing process is complete, insert the micro SD card into your Raspberry Pi and boot it up. It should boot into the Raspbian OS. Also, don’t forget to plug in the necessary peripherals. 

Interestingly, the recent versions of Raspbian will boot straight to your desktop with default credentials. You can change this later, but if it requires a login, you can put username: pi and password: raspberry.

Other Operating Systems

NOOBS offers a list of different operating systems for use on your Raspberry Pi. Let’s take a brief look at these operating systems and others not available on NOOBS:


If you’re into gaming, then this OS is for you. RetroPie is an open-source and Debian-based software library that offers a solid retro game emulation experience on Raspberry Pi, ODriod C1/C2, or PC.

Windows IoT Core

Want a Windows operating system on your Raspberry Pi? Then try Windows IoT core. It is a Windows OS designed for Raspberry Pi as a development platform for building prototype IoT devices.


The OpenELEC OS is a Linux-based just enough operating system (JeOS) that transforms your Pi into a Kodi media center.

OpenELEC has few customization options and doesn’t grant access to some areas like SSH.

Ubuntu Core

If you’re into IoT applications, you have many options for your OS, and Ubuntu Core is one of those options.

Ubuntu Core is an Ubuntu derivative designed explicitly for IoT applications.


OSMC is another Kodi OS that can play any available media format.

It’s also easy to use and features a customizable minimalist user interface.

Should I Install NOOBS or Raspbian?

Installing NOOBS or Raspbian depends on what you want or your application. Both OSs are great for beginners and building Raspberry Pi projects.

But, if you’re going to test out the different operating systems available on Raspberry Pi, NOOBS is an excellent choice. If not, then go for a clean install of Raspbian OS.

Rounding Up

Raspberry Pi board

Raspberry Pi board

Raspbian and NOOBS are great options for people developing applications and projects with the Raspberry Pi.

While Raspbian is the official operating system for Raspberry Pi, NOOBS is like an OS installation wizard that shows a list of OSs that can work on your Raspberry Pi.

You’re also not restricted to these two options. You can try other operating systems not available on NOOBS.

Do you have more questions? Feel free to contact us, and we’ll be happy to help.

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Emma Lu
Our professional engineering support saves our customers a lot of trouble and loss. >>>>>> After you place the order, our engineer will conduct technical reviews to make sure the parts can be mounted well/correctly on the boards. We will check if the component packages match well with the Gerber footprints, if the part numbers you provided match well with the descriptions, and if the polarity is clearly marked. >>>>> When your design is ready, please send your Gerber and BOM so we can quote and start!