How to Set Up a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W

Many Raspberry Pi models are available, and figuring out which one to buy can be difficult. But Pico aside, most Raspberry Pi models can do much of the same job – provided you consider different hardware specs.

If you’ve bought a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W, you might be wondering what you can do with it. Here’s everything you need to know about setting up a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W and what to do next.

What is the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W?

Small but surprisingly powerful, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W is the latest member of the Raspberry Pi Zero family.

When it was first released, the Raspberry Pi Zero was given away for free on the cover of MagPi Magazine (the official publication of the Raspberry Pi). Nowadays circuit boards are a bit more expensive, even the 65x30x5mm Pi Zeros.

The original Raspberry Pi Zero was launched in 2015 and was based on the Raspberry Pi 2. It was followed two years later by the wireless Raspberry Pi Zero W and a few months later by the Raspberry Pi Zero WH, complete with GPIO pins.

In 2021, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W was released, sharing some features with the Raspberry Pi 3. However, it’s limited to 512 MB of RAM, a single micro-USB data port, a micro-USB power input, and a mini-HDMI output.

The device is booted via a microSD slot, has single-band b/g/n Wi-Fi at 2.4 GHz and Bluetooth 4.2 BLE. Like the original Raspberry Pi Zero, this model does not have GPIO pins (although these can be added). If you want to upgrade a Pi Zero project, the Pi Zero 2W has the same physical profile and the USB ports, mini-HDMI and microSD slot are in the exact same place. This makes replacing an original Pi Zero with the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W a hassle-free replacement.

I reviewed the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W when it was released and found it to be a smart, if somewhat disappointing, upgrade from the original.

What you need to set up a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W

To get your Raspberry Pi Zero 2W up and running you will need:

You will also need software:

A case for the Pi Zero is optional.

Even if you plan to use the Pi Zero 2W in headless mode (that is, without a display), it’s helpful to have a display handy for setup. Note that you can also connect a Pi Zero to a non-HD display via the TV header. This is located on the underside of the circuit board, on the back of the mini HDMI connector.

What operating system do you need for a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W?

Many Raspberry Pi operating systems are available. For the best results on the Pi Zero 2 W, consider one of the lightweight options. These include Raspberry Pi OS Lite and DietPi, both of which are optimized for low-spec devices. However, other lightweight Raspberry Pi operating systems are also available.

Once you’ve decided, you’ll need to download the required operating system to write to the microSD card. To do this, one of the image writing tools mentioned above is used.

Follow our guide to installing a Raspberry Pi operating system for the complete steps.

Before you do that, you should also take a look at how to set up the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W for headless use with SSH.

Wiring and GPIO options for the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W

Unlike the Raspberry Pis Model A and B (e.g. Raspberry Pi 3 and 4), a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W does not have GPIO pins.

This means that wiring a Raspberry Pi to a breadboard or other project requires either attaching a GPIO pin array or soldering directly to the board.

Like the larger Pis, the Pi Zero 2W has a 40-pin (hole) GPIO, each with different functions, from power management to data. It also has a CSI camera interface that can be used with a compatible Raspberry Pi camera.

Understanding what the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W’s connectors and GPIO pins do will help you make the most of your computing time. However, it is important to check the GPIO pinout of the model you are using. Revisions to GPIO functionality from one Raspberry Pi to the next can result in incompatibility or even hardware damage.

Programming for the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W

Just like the larger devices, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W is a great device for learning to program. Various programming languages ​​are supported and to get the most out of them you need an integrated development environment or IDE. Various Raspberry Pi compatible IDEs are available.

Not sure where to start? Well, the Raspberry Pi OS comes with a pre-installed development tool. Start learning to program on the Raspberry Pi with Scratch.

You’ve set up the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W: what’s next?

The vast majority of standard Raspberry Pi board projects can be run on a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W. This includes controlling robots, running retro video game emulators, and even setting it up as a Kodi media center.

Being lighter, smaller and thinner, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W also lends itself to IoT projects in a way that a Raspberry Pi Model A or B is not.

Of course, some projects are much better suited to the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W.

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