Installing NixOS on a Raspberry Pi#

This tutorial assumes you have a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with 4GB RAM.

Before starting this tutorial, make sure you have all the necessary hardware:

  • HDMI cable/adapter.

  • 8GB+ SD card.

  • SD card reader (in case your machine doesn’t have an SD slot).

  • Power cable for your Raspberry Pi.

  • USB keyboard.


This tutorial was written for the Raspberry Pi 4B. Using a previously supported model like the 3B or 3B+ is possible with some modifications to this tutorial.

Booting NixOS live image#


Booting from USB may require an EEPROM firmware upgrade. This tutorial boots from an SD card to avoid such hiccups.

To prepare the AArch64 image on another device with Nix, run the following commands:

$ nix-shell -p wget zstd

[nix-shell:~]$ wget
[nix-shell:~]$ unzstd -d nixos-sd-image-23.11pre500597.0fbe93c5a7c-aarch64-linux.img.zst
[nix-shell:~]$ dmesg --follow


You can download a recent image from Hydra, clicking on the latest successful build (marked with a green checkmark), and copying the link to the build product image.


It may be more convenient to use a software like Etcher to flash the image to your SD card if you are on a system where it’s available.

Your terminal should be printing kernel messages as they come in.

Plug in your SD card and your terminal should print what device it got assigned, for example /dev/sdX.

Press Ctrl+C to stop dmesg --follow.

Copy NixOS to your SD card by replacing sdX with the name of your device in the following command:

[nix-shell:~]$ sudo dd if=nixos-sd-image-23.11pre500597.0fbe93c5a7c-aarch64-linux.img of=/dev/sdX bs=4096 conv=fsync status=progress

Once that command exits, move the SD card into your Raspberry Pi and power it on.

You should be greeted with a fresh shell!

In case the image doesn’t boot, it’s worth updating the firmware and booting the image again.

Getting internet connection#

Run sudo -i to get a root shell for the rest of the tutorial.

At this point you’ll need an internet connection. If you can use an ethernet cable, plug it in and skip to the next section.

If you’re connecting to wifi, run iwconfig to find the name of your wireless network interface. If it’s wlan0, replace SSID and passphrase with your data and run:

# wpa_supplicant -B -i wlan0 -c <(wpa_passphrase 'SSID' 'passphrase') &

Once you see in your terminal that connection is established, run host to check that the DNS resolves correctly.

In case you’ve made a typo, run pkill wpa_supplicant and start over.

Updating firmware#

To benefit from updates and bug fixes from the vendor, we’ll start by updating Raspberry Pi firmware:

# nix-shell -p raspberrypi-eeprom
# mount /dev/disk/by-label/FIRMWARE /mnt
# BOOTFS=/mnt FIRMWARE_RELEASE_STATUS=stable rpi-eeprom-update -d -a

Installing and configuring NixOS#

Now we’ll install NixOS with our own configuration, here creating a guest user and enabling the SSH daemon.

In the let binding below, change the value of the SSID and SSIDpassword variables to the SSID and passphrase values you used previously:

 1{ config, pkgs, lib, ... }:
 4  user = "guest";
 5  password = "guest";
 6  SSID = "mywifi";
 7  SSIDpassword = "mypassword";
 8  interface = "wlan0";
 9  hostname = "myhostname";
10in {
12  boot = {
13    kernelPackages = pkgs.linuxKernel.packages.linux_rpi4;
14    initrd.availableKernelModules = [ "xhci_pci" "usbhid" "usb_storage" ];
15    loader = {
16      grub.enable = false;
17      generic-extlinux-compatible.enable = true;
18    };
19  };
21  fileSystems = {
22    "/" = {
23      device = "/dev/disk/by-label/NIXOS_SD";
24      fsType = "ext4";
25      options = [ "noatime" ];
26    };
27  };
29  networking = {
30    hostName = hostname;
31    wireless = {
32      enable = true;
33      networks."${SSID}".psk = SSIDpassword;
34      interfaces = [ interface ];
35    };
36  };
38  environment.systemPackages = with pkgs; [ vim ];
40  services.openssh.enable = true;
42  users = {
43    mutableUsers = false;
44    users."${user}" = {
45      isNormalUser = true;
46      password = password;
47      extraGroups = [ "wheel" ];
48    };
49  };
51  hardware.enableRedistributableFirmware = true;
52  system.stateVersion = "23.11";

To save time on typing the whole configuration, download it:

# curl -L > /etc/nixos/configuration.nix


Credentials you write into a NixOS configuration will be stored in plain text in your /nix/store when that configuration is built.

If you don’t want this to happen, you can enter your credentials at a console or use one of the community’s solutions for encrypted secrets.

Due to the way the nixos-sd-image is designed, NixOS is actually already installed at this point, so we only need to nixos-rebuild with our new configuration:

# nixos-rebuild boot
# reboot

If your system doesn’t boot, select the oldest configuration in the bootloader menu to get back to the live image and start over.

Making changes#

It booted, congratulations!

To make further changes to the configuration, search through NixOS options, edit /etc/nixos/configuration.nix, and update your system:

$ sudo -i
# nixos-rebuild switch

Next steps#

  • Once you have a working OS, try upgrading it with nixos-rebuild switch --upgrade to install more recent package versions, and reboot to the old configuration if something broke.

  • To enable hardware acceleration for a nice graphical desktop experience, add the nixos-hardware module to your configuration:

    1imports = [
    2  "${fetchTarball ""}/raspberry-pi/4"

    We recommend pinning the reference to nixos-hardware: Pinning Nixpkgs

  • To tweak bootloader options affecting hardware, see config.txt options. You can change these options by running mount /dev/disk/by-label/FIRMWARE /mnt and opening /mnt/config.txt.