The Raspberry PI OS comes with a handy configuration tool which lets you change settings for display configuration, location, interfaces, system and performance.
To access the configuration tool click on the menu icon and navigate to the preferences menu and click on “Raspberry PI Configuration”.
The configuration screen is split into 5 sections:
Raspberry PI System Settings
The system settings tab has options for
- changing the default user password,
- changing the hostname,
- choose to boot to a desktop or the command line,
- choose to automatically log in,
- choose to wait for the network before booting
- choose whether to display a graphical splash when booting or text
Changing the default user password is one of the first things you should do after installing Raspberry PI OS as the default PI password is known by everyone who owns a Raspberry PI.
The hostname by default is “raspberrypi” and this is how the Raspberry PI will appear if you search for it on your home network. You may wish to change this for security reasons. If somebody knows that the device is a Raspberry PI they may well try using the default user and password for a Raspberry PI to connect to it. This is more important when you have SSH or VNC enabled (read further into this guide for details).
Another good reason for changing the hostname is if you have more than one Raspberry PI. By giving it a more descriptive name you will know which of your Raspberry PIs you are connecting to.
The change the hostname simply enter the new name into the box provided and click “OK”.
It is worth pointing out that you can change multiple settings at once before clicking “OK”. This is important as changing settings quite often involves a reboot and you don’t want to have to do this more often than you need to.
The boot to desktop or cli option determines whether your Raspberry PI boots to the graphical desktop or a terminal. For desktop use it is obviously recommended that you leave this option as desktop. If you were only going to use your Raspberry PI for running scripts, as a file server, web server or for tasks that don’t require graphical interfaces then you might want to choose the cli option.
By default the Raspberry PI logs in automatically when you boot it up. If your Raspberry PI contains sensitive data or connects straight to WIFI which has access to other devices then you should probably switch this to off so that you need to log in every time. To switch the feature off remove the tick from the box provided.
The wait for network at boot option is useful if you have network shares set up to link to other devices and folders on your network. By turning this feature on the Raspberry PI will wait for the network to be available and then boot up and your shares will all be available. If there are network issues the Raspberry PI should still boot but it will take longer to do so.
By default I recommend leaving this to off and if you find that you are constantly having to repair network shares then change the setting.
The final option for system settings is whether to show a graphical splash screen or text when booting. This is a personal decision but I recommend leaving it to enabled.
The displays settings let you troubleshoot issues with your monitor setup.
There are four options:
- Pixel Doubling
- Composite Video
- Screen Blanking
If you see a black border around the Raspberry PI desktop then turn the underscan to disabled, alternatively if the desktop interface doesn’t fit on the screen correctly enable the underscan feature.
Pixel doubling does exactly what you would think it would do. Each individual pixel is doubled in size which is useful on very high resolution displays where it is hard to see the contents but on a smaller lower resolution screen causes everything to be too big.
By default the Raspberry PI is setup to use HDMI for video output but you will see a composite video port on the side of the PI. If your display doesn’t have an HDMI port but it has ports for video and audio output then you can connect a cable to the composite port on your PI and to the relevant sockets on the screen and set the composite video option to true in the display settings screen.
The screen blanking determines if the screen goes blank after a period of inactivity. If you do not want the screen to ever go blank disable this feature.
The interfaces tab contains a whole host of features. Many of them are to do with external peripherals and their connections so in this guide we will cover the common options for desktop use.
By default all of the options are turned off.
The options you may wish to turn on are as follows:
If you have a Raspberry PI camera then you will want to enable the camera option.
If you want to connect to the Raspberry PI via SSH then you will want to enable the SSH option. SSH provides a way to connect to the Raspberry PI from another computer but you will only see a command line interface.
If you want to connect to the Raspberry PI via VNC then you will want to enable the VNC option. VNC provides a way to connect to the Raspberry PI from another computer and will show the full desktop.
All of the other options on this tab are for specific devices and connections out of scope of using the Raspberry PI as a desktop computer.
The performance tab should be amended with extreme caution. The overclocking option is greyed out on the Rapsberry PI 4 with 4gb RAM and cannot be amended via the config tool.
The GPU memory lets you set how much of the PI’s RAM is allocated to graphical processing. You would increase this if your PI usage is mainly at high end graphics and decrease if you mainly work in the terminal. I recommend leaving this alone unless you have a good reason for changing it.
The “Overlay file system” option is actually very interesting. When you click configure you will see the following screen.
If you set the “Overlay” to enabled then the entire filesystem becomes readonly at boot time. This means that everything you do on the PI only happens in memory and when you reboot any changes you make are lost.
You might be wondering why you might use this. Imagine a classroom where you are teaching a subject and every person in the class is using a Raspberry PI. You want all the users to be setup in the same way everytime they boot the PI.
The users follow the class lesson and when they have finished they leave and the teacher knows that the next set of students can start from the same place as the previous class simply by rebooting the Raspberry PIs.
If the students create files during the lesson they can be saved to a network file share.
Other uses for the readonly filesystem maybe for using the PI as a web kiosk in a hotel. Each user in the hotel can log in and browse the web and when they finish the system reboots and the next person can’t see what the previous person had been doing because everything stored in memory was lost.
The second option on the overlay tab is to make the boot partition readonly which prevents the boot options from being amended as well.
The final tab in the Raspberry PI configuration settings deals with localisation and this lets you choose where you are, your keyboard layout, your timezone and your WIFI country.
The locale settings deals with the language settings for your PI. If you are in the UK for instance the terminology used is British (colour instead of color for instance), if you are in France and speak predominantly French then you would of course set this to French.
The timezone settings are used to set the clock on your Raspberry PI. Simply choose your continent and location within that continent.
The keyboard settings let you choose the type of keyboard you are usingand the layout of the keyboard.
Finally the wireless LAN country settings are used to determine which country you are in. This enables the correct frequencies to be used when setting up the WIFI connections.
This guide has shown you all the settings you need to know about for using the Raspberry PI as a desktop computer.
If you have any problems with display settings or you need to configure your keyboard or language settings you now know how to change them.