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What is the thought process / questions / issues that must be addressed to determine if 3B+ Raspbian burned to a micro-SD can be transplanted to a Zero-W? Ideally, the evaluation process would work between between any rPi.

Update

I am hoping for an answer that would shine a light on any similarities between the two platforms and conditions that would need to be met for a successful transplant.

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    Put it in the Pi and see if it boots. – joan Jul 27 at 22:35
  • as @joan says ... plug it in and see ... that evaluation process definitely works with all versions of RPi – jsotola Jul 28 at 0:58
  • I am hoping for an answer that would shine a light on any similarities between the two platforms and conditions that would need to be met for a successful transplant. – gatorback Jul 28 at 21:05
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The only thing you need to check is if the release date of your Raspbian image is NEWER than the release date of the hardware you want to use it with. The release date is in /boot/issue.txt. For hardware release dates you'll have to check Wikipedia.

OLDER images will always fail to work without modification.

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Run the following

sudo apt update

sudo apt dist-upgrade -y

That will pull in the latest updates to raspberrypi-kernel & raspberrypi-bootloader. If you've got that on your SDCard it will boot on a 3B+ or zero without any trouble.

3B+ is a Broadcom 2837 32/64-bit cortex-A53 processor (which uses 32-bit kernel7.img). The zeroW is the older Broadcom 2835 32-bit ARM5 (which uses the 32-bit kernel.img).

The kernel and bootloader packages contain everything you need for both processors (on Buster it also includes a 32-bit kernel7l.img for the new RPi4B).

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