Install Operating System (Raspberry Pi OS 64 Bit Beta)


Install Raspberry Pi OS 64 bit beta on a RPi 4 to operate as “headless” (i.e., without monitor or keyboard) sever on the network, with SSH access .


Currently, the beta release is available.  A 64 bit OS will allow the pi to make full use of the 4 mb ram, operate a little faster and handle software that requires 64 bit OS.  There are other 64 bit operating systems for the RPI (e.g., Ubuntu 64 bit), but I want to begin using the Raspberry Pi OS because long term I expect this version to be easier to get support for from other Raspberry Pi users over the long run.


  • Raspberry PI 4, with at least 4mb, modified per this page so that it boots from an external SSD.
  • Power adapter capable of 3 amp / 5 volts to USB C input
  • External SSD, at least 128 mb, with USB connection to RPi.
  • Desktop Computer (I will be using Windows 10)
  • Wired Ethernet connection to the router wifi

Links to all good prices on hardware can be found on my referral and buyers guide page.


Prepare a SSD with Raspberry Pi OS 64 Bit.

The first step is to install the operating system onto the SSD.  Not all PI operating systems will boot from an SSD, however the Beta will.   We need to “burn” (a fancy word for “save”) the “image” of the OS (a fancy word for “program”) onto the SSD.  We are using these fancy words because when we do it in the fancy way, the software can start all by itself when the RPi turns on.

Download Imager

So we need a fancy app to save the program in a fancy way.  We will use Raspberry Pi Imager for Windows, available on the official Pi downloads page.  Download and install the software on your Windows desktop.

Download OS

Download the Raspberry Pi OS 64 Bit.  At present, only the Beta release as of May 2020 is available, and the only place I can find to download it is from the forums page.  The downloaded file is  Do not unzip.

Connect USB Drive

Insert your – WARNING: EVERYTHING WILL BE ERASED – usb drive.  Make sure there is nothing valuable on the drive because this next step will erase all the contents.

Burn the Image

Open Raspbery Pi Imager.  I’m using v1.4.

  • It will ask for permission to make changes.  I clicked yes.
  • Click “Choose an OS” and scroll down the list to “Use Custom”.  You will then be able to browse to your download folder and select the PI OS 64-bit Beta zip file.
  • Click “Choose SD”.  Your available detachable drives should be listed.  Make sure you select the right drive because its contents will be erased.
  • Click “Write,” read the warning and confirm you want to continue.

After the Imager is done writing and verifying the image, it will “eject” the drive.  You should physically remove the drive and then re-insert it into your desktop computer for the next step.

Activate SSH by Default

The SSH server is not activated by default, which will make it hard to access the RPi from your desktop later on.  When the RPi boots, it will check the drive to see if there is a file named “ssh” and if so, to start the SSH server.  With the drive re-inserted, open the windows explorer to see the contents of the usb drive.  In the “root” directory (the very first level of drive contents), right click and select “new” and then “text document”.    Name it “ssh” with no extension (in other words, delete the “.txt” at the end, and when it asks if you are sure you want to change the file name extension, click yes.  Now “eject” the drive and then physically remove it.

Start RPi

Plug the USB drive into the RPi, and assuming it is USB 3, connect to the top USB 3 (blue) port.  Connect the Ethernet cable to the router. Plug in the power to the USB C port.  Give it some time to boot up (maybe three to ten minutes).

Login Remotely Using SSH

Using putty, open a new session to connect to the RPI.  You will need to install Putty, identify the IP address, and connect.  (These steps are explained here.)  If you had saved the session last time, you may be alerted that the security key has changed, which is expected because you installed a new OS, it looks like a new computer.

Enter the default username, i.e., login as: pi

Enter the default password, i.e., pi@ip_address’s password:  raspberry

Update Password

Type passwd to reset the password for the main user “pi”.  Enter raspberry for the old password and select a new password and confirm.



df -h

to see quickly the drives that are connected to your system.  You should see a number of drives, including sda1 (boot); /dev/root (listed as ‘/’), which is the majority of your working primary drive, and sdb1 (likely mounted under ‘media’ by default), if you have a second USB drive attached.


sudo apt update


sudo apt upgrade


sudo raspi-config

In this order,

  1. Set Boot Options > Boot Rom Version > Latest [hit Enter] and then “Yes”.  The system will update configuration for about 15 to 30 sections and return you the config software
  2. Set Boot Options > Boot Order > USB Boot [hit Enter].
  3. Set:  Boot Options > Desktop / CLI > Console [hit Enter].  The RP-OS includes a desktop gui.  Since we are using a headless system, we don’t want to waste time loading up resources we will not use.
  4. Set: Localization Options > Change Locale > [select your region] .  Scroll down to en_US.  There are three options: UTF-8, ISO 8859-1, and ISO 8859-15.  These are different standard character sets.  The ISO 8859 stores the first 258 unicode characters (basically, the keys on a US keyboard).  The UTF-8 includes all UNICODE characters.  While I reckon that the ISO standard would be more efficient if the additonal characters are unneeded, I doubt a human could notice the performance difference in practice.  If anyone has advice on this point, you can point it out.  Otherwise, my rule of thumb is unless your life is limited to the US, choose “en_US UTF-8”.  Hit space bar to select, then enter.  You will be asked for the default locale for the system, and again you can choose “en_US.UTF-8”.
  5. Set the time zone.
  6. Set the Localization Options > WLAN > [your country]

I am leaving Interfacing Options, Overclock, and Advanced Options alone for now.  You have already connected via SSH so you really don’t need other methods to connect at this time.  Overclocking on the beta version can be done at your own risk.  Under the advanced menu, there are some options for prior versions of RPi’s.  Some options might be worth revisiting.  For instance, there may be a performance boost by disabling the video output altogether, which I don’t want to do at the moment in case I need the output to troubleshoot. You can also force audio to play through HDMI or audio port.

Exit config and select “Reboot,” or you can:

sudo reboot

You have successfully installed RP-OS 64 bit (beta).

For comparison purposes, the time it takes by RPi 4 to go from unplugged to the login prompt is 29 seconds.

Further Reference

For further information, check out these pages:

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