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I have experimented a lot with my Raspberry Pi over the years since I got it. Mostly, however, it has spent its time collecting dust in the wardrobe, because I always run into show-stopping issues every time I try to actually use it for anything.

In every case so far, I've not got to boot it up with a USB stick containing a standard installer, as one would install an OS on an x86 machine these days (previously from CD-ROMs DVD-ROMs). Instead, I've been handed an ISO which I then have to use special software to "burn" directly onto the "hard disk" of the RPI -- the flash memory card, that is, which is then put into the RPI and booted up.

This "convenient" way of installing the OS for the RPI has at least one serious issue: you never get a way to enable encryption, because there is no installer where that would be picked.

Instead, I was forced to spend endless hours trying to figure out how to enable encryption after the fact. This sounds like it would be doable or even simple, but it's not. I don't care what anyone says: I'm a programmer and poweruser since childhood, long ago, having done all kinds of advanced things with computers, and I just couldn't figure it out. When online tutorials (frequently outdated or plain wrong) start talking about entering fixed numbers into long, error-prone manual commands, never explaining any of it properly, I can't help but "zone out" and sink back in my chair, killing the tab and forgetting about it.

I wasted quite a lot of time trying to use VeraCrypt, which I already use on Windows. However, it turned out that it actually does not support actually encrypting the disk on Linux! Only on Windows! I only realized this after plowing in many painful hours into trying that solution.

At this point, I have concluded that, whether on purpose or just for whatever other reason, enabling encryption after installation on Linux is just not doable. For me. Maybe it is for you, because you are much more intelligent than I, but it isn't for me. None of those guides help whatsoever. It's impossible in my context.

With this in mind, I'm trying to get a real installer for some Linux onto my Raspberry Pi. Is this available at all? Given the absence of such a thing whenever I've looked for it, I have to assume that there is a reason that this doesn't (seem to) exist.

Is it somehow not possible to have a real installer for the RPI? What prevents this technically? Why must the OS be "put onto" the flash card rather than "installed once booted up" from a real installer?

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  • have you seen this? ... raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/43899/… ... i know that it does not relate to your question, but it relates to what you are trying to solve – jsotola Nov 12 '20 at 20:29
  • @jsotola That guide was exactly what I did not want... – Ziyi Nov 12 '20 at 20:38
  • i think that the problem is the guides themselves .... even though they appear to be step-by-step instructions, there is always something that is unclearly written .... it should be possible to do runtime encryption with linux ... I mean, you can delete all the files on disk, and the machine will continue to run, until you try to reboot or start a new program, that is – jsotola Nov 12 '20 at 20:57
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    Did you ask this question previously under another username? raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/117152/… – Steve Robillard Nov 13 '20 at 0:09
  • "have a real..." -> There is a sense in which a Raspberry Pi is "not a real computer", and I think this is your real problem. As in, if my grade school age kid asked me for a computer, and I said, "Sure, I'll get you one of these Raspberry Pis", and my kid said, "But dad, that's not a real computer..." we would understand what is meant and have to agree with the kid in that sense -- what the kid wants is a real computer, and Pi does not fit that bill, which is sort of subjective, but could be delineated in objective terms (if I say, a real computer to me means ____). – goldilocks Nov 14 '20 at 16:09
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You are telling a long story by finally coming to the questions in two small paragraphs. I would say the main reasons that there is no installer program available for Raspberry Pis is, that it is seen as an embedded device, a System On Chip (SOC). It does not have a Basic IO System (BIOS) that can boot an installer program from any medium like CD-ROM, USB-Stick or Network. It only has its own custom boot loader that can just boot from a predifined source, the first FAT formatted partition on the SD Card (and limited others with recent models) with special custom boot code.

So you have to flash a SD Card with a light operating system and the installer program to install the Raspberry Pi OS to what destination? That doesn't make much sense because there is no much difference to flash the operating system directly then.

Netbooting an installer program may be a possible solution with RasPis that support it, but that is limited to a wired network and you need a working netboot environment, which isn't an ad hoc setup.

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