How to Boot Your Raspberry Pi from USB


The Raspberry Pi is a versatile and compact computing platform celebrated for its adaptability across various applications, from home servers to media centers. Traditionally, Raspberry Pis boot from a microSD card, but the capability to boot from a USB drive opens up new possibilities for performance and storage reliability. This guide explores how to enable your Raspberry Pi to boot from a USB drive, bypassing the need for an SD card altogether.

Why Consider Booting from USB?

Booting your Raspberry Pi from a USB drive has several advantages over the traditional SD card approach:

  • Durability: USB drives often have better durability and longevity compared to SD cards, which are prone to wear and corruption over time.
  • Performance: Depending on the USB drive, you might experience faster read/write speeds, leading to improved overall performance.
  • Storage Capacity: USB drives typically offer more storage options at higher capacities than microSD cards, giving you more space for your projects and data.

Preparing for USB Boot

Before you start, ensure your Raspberry Pi model supports USB booting. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and later models, including the Raspberry Pi 4, offer support for USB booting. Here's how to prepare:

  1. Update Your Raspberry Pi Firmware:
  • For Raspberry Pi 4, updating the EEPROM firmware is essential for USB boot functionality. Execute the following commands:
sudo apt update sudo apt full-upgrade sudo rpi-eeprom-update -d -a sudo reboot
  • For Raspberry Pi 3 and earlier models, ensure your device is up to date with the latest software versions.
  1. Prepare Your USB Drive:
  • Format your USB drive to FAT32 (for drives under 32GB) or exFAT (for drives over 32GB).
  • Use a reputable brand and ensure the drive has a high read/write speed for optimal performance.

Enabling USB Boot on Raspberry Pi

The process to enable USB boot varies slightly between Raspberry Pi models.

  • Raspberry Pi 4:

    1. After updating the EEPROM firmware, the Raspberry Pi 4 can boot from USB by default if no SD card is present.
    2. Simply insert your prepared USB drive with a suitable operating system image.
  • Raspberry Pi 3:

    1. Boot your Raspberry Pi 3 with an SD card first.
    2. Open a terminal and run sudo raspi-config.
    3. Navigate to Boot Options > Boot ROM Version and select USB Boot.
    4. Confirm the changes and reboot your Raspberry Pi without the SD card, but with the USB drive inserted.

Installing an OS on Your USB Drive

  • Use Raspberry Pi Imager or a similar tool to flash your preferred operating system onto the USB drive. Ensure the drive is connected to a computer for this step.
  • Once the OS is installed, safely eject the USB drive from your computer and insert it into your Raspberry Pi.

Troubleshooting Tips

  • If your Raspberry Pi doesn't boot from the USB drive, double-check the EEPROM firmware update and ensure your USB drive is correctly prepared and formatted.
  • Some USB drives might not be compatible due to power requirements or other factors. If you encounter issues, try a different USB drive or consult online forums for recommendations.


Booting your Raspberry Pi from a USB drive can significantly enhance the device's performance and reliability. Whether you're a hobbyist looking to optimize your Raspberry Pi setup or a professional in need of a more durable storage solution, USB booting is a worthwhile upgrade. Follow the steps outlined in this guide to transform your Raspberry Pi's boot process and unlock new potentials in your computing projects.