I need help understanding how to format and partition and sd card for raspberry pi 4 from linux command line please. I have downloaded an iso image for raspian light (not noobs).

Question: If I am not using noobs do I still need a fat32 partition?

thank you

1 Answer 1


do I still need a fat32 partition

Yes, that is required for booting. The Raspbian card layout is much simpler than the NOOBs one though; there are two partitions, one little vfat one for the boot partition and a much bigger ext4 one which is the root filesystem.

Creating a card from the command-line is dead simple: You do not have to format the card first or anything, as it does not matter what is already on it. If there is anything on it though, and it is currently mounted, you should unmount that first. But to be clear: It doesn't matter what has been done or not done to the card. This process will overwrite everything and create a complete SD card with two partitions.

sudo dd if=raspbian.img of=/dev/sdb bs=4M status=progress

The only trick here is which /dev node to use. First, it obviously has to refer to the card and not your harddrive, etc. Be sure about that. The second issue, which confuses a lot of people, is that it should be for the card as a whole and not partitions on it.

/dev/sdb   <- Refers to the whole card/device.  USE THIS
/dev/sdb1  <- Refers to a partition on the device.

Similarly, mmcblk0 and mmcblk0p1; use the first one. In both cases you want the node without the numerical suffix (other that the 0 in mmcblk0).

If you get that correct, the process is pretty bulletproof. See man dd for details about that tool.

  • the sd card does not have a partition table or files system currently - does the dd command take care of those items or do I need to create those please? I do have the GParted gui app installed on my computer
    – Dave
    Sep 6, 2019 at 15:15
  • thank you - your solution worked and now I am able to boot - success!
    – Dave
    Sep 6, 2019 at 15:57
  • This doesn't work for me. I can no longer mount the sdcard (64GB) and Gparted shows warning signs on the two partitions (Fat32, and Ext4). No dostools, even though I have them installed. I would like to be able to mount the sdcard so that I can add WiFI and SSH configuration because I'm installing a headless image.
    – chx101
    Aug 31, 2020 at 21:02

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