I would like to use my Linux host to update and upgrade a Raspian image. Can this be done?

I know you can mount the image and make permanent changes, see e.g. https://raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/a/13138/101680

The reason I want to do this is I have a Pi Zero that won't boot. I suspect a bug in Raspian Buster and would like to experiment with the latest changes (Pi Zero USB On The Go cannot connect)

  • You could run it inside of a Docker container with QEMU: raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/a/109524/107831
    – tttapa
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 17:00
  • Not an answer to your question, but if I were doing work with a Pi Zero, I'd seriously consider having a Pi 3 B+ or Pi 4 with monitor and keyboard available. If monitor and keyboard are a constraint, you could still use VNC from your Linux system.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 18:29
  • @tttapa Your comment would make a great answer if you included how to save the changed container into a new Raspbian image.
    – Peter bill
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 19:41

1 Answer 1


You should be able to use Qemu User Emulation to accomplish this via chroot. Its a similar sort of setup to debootsrapping a foreign arch but you'll already have the OS installed.

This assumes your host is Debian based - i'd assume the Qemu stuff is available on other distros though.

Important steps from the Debian Wiki

sudo apt-get install qemu binfmt-support qemu-user-static

Mount your Pi SD card somewhere on your linux host

mkdir /tmp/pizero
sudo mount /dev/mmcblks0p1 /tmp/pizero (or whatever it is called on your system)

Copy the Qemu binary onto the pi SD card (can be deleted when you've finished) - might not need to do this anymore though.
cp /usr/bin/qemu-arm-static /tmp/pizero/usr/bin

Chroot into the Pi and you can then treat it as if it was running natively.
sudo chroot /tmp/pizero

and you should end up as root on the Pi and able to run apt and stuff against the Pi FS.

  • I've not tried this, but the referenced link does not seem to cover saving the changed Raspbian image.
    – Peter bill
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 19:44
  • The changes you make whilst the card is mounted on the host will persist. When you have finished exit the chroot by typing exit and sudo umount /dev/mmcblkp01 (or whatever it is) to unmount the volume and then sudo sync to write back any lingering changes. You can then eject the SD card.
    – user29019
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 20:31

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