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I was wondering if there is a need to solder the header to the GPIO pins. Can it not just be pushed into place and kept unsoldered? If kept unsoldered, is it going to damage the pi? I am a software engineering student and not a hardware engineer so I don't know anything about the hardware, and am worried that soldering will destroy my pi, especially with how expensive they are nowadays.

Edit: I’ve decided to take everyone’s advice and solder the pins. The device in question is a raspberry pi zero 2w, and in particular I was wondering if I could just place the headers in the pins and if they would work. The device is not here yet, so I did not realize how loose the connections would be.

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    If kept unsoldered it's not going to work. You have to solder it, or use the Pimoroni "hammered" header. shop.pimoroni.com/products/…
    – Dougie
    Oct 14, 2022 at 11:22
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    There appear to be some confusion as to what you actually want to do, please add a photo of whatever you are trying, just to clear things up
    – pipe
    Oct 14, 2022 at 20:52
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    Although I posted an answer below which covers most possibilities your Question is unclear. The gold plated parts of the board are PADs. Header pins can (must be) soldered if are planning to use them. The hammer headers MAY be OK on a 2 layer board like Zero but using on a multi layer board risks damage. Soldering to a header pin is vandalism - if you feel the need for a more permanent connection solder to the pad (on the opposite side of the board where the header is soldered).
    – Milliways
    Oct 15, 2022 at 0:11

6 Answers 6

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All real Pi have headers already installed which are designed for DuPont cables. These are extensively used in many computers for interconnection.

Only the cheap PiZero models (designed to be included in cereal packets on magazine covers) don't have headers (because they wouldn't fit).

If you use a PiZero as designed (as a dedicated controller) soldering to the pads is preferable.
PiPico are designed with castellated pads to facilitate mounting on a board.

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  • Pico may also come without headers
    – Vadim
    Oct 14, 2022 at 14:58
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    Soldering to the pads preferable? So you think OPs idea of just putting the header in the socket without soldering is still ok but not preferred?
    – pipe
    Oct 14, 2022 at 20:50
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You can't take a standard header pin and just put it through the hole without soldering it and expect it to work. The result will be at best a loose and intermittent connection, and possibly no electrical connection at all. There are alternate pins (as mentioned in other answers) that are designed to not be soldered however.

Also, there's no requirement to use a pin at all. If you just need a temporary connection, sometimes you can use an alligator clip, assuming you can fit it on the pad without touching any other pads or traces around it. (This may work less well with the Pi, but several of the Arduino variants are designed for this.) For a more permanent connection, instead of soldering a pin, you could solder a wire to the pad.

The important thing is that you have a solid electrical and mechanical connection. A loose pin won't give you that.

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You can get hammer headers, but i've never tried them, always solder mine. Soldering just takes some practice.

https://shop.pimoroni.com/products/gpio-hammer-header?variant=35643318026

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With the ‘standard’ DuPont headers that generally get used with Pi hardware (and a lot of other computer hardware for that matter), soldering is required both to provide a solid mechanical connection between the header and the board, and to establish an actual electrical connection between the pins and the pads.

You can, however, get press-fit headers instead, generally known as ‘hammer headers’ among the Pi community because of the branding of the ones offered by Pimoroni. You literally just line these up properly, and gently tap the top with a small hammer a couple of times to pop them in place. They have a couple of issues though, namely that they may not provide a reliable connection if there’s lots of movement or vibration, and that in some environments they may run into issues with corrosion. You also have to be careful when installing them to avoid bending the pins or the board (especially the board, you can straighten pins, but too much bend on the board in the wrong place and you’re popping out solder joints).


That said, soldering is a skill just like anything else, and with a little practice and patience, through-hole headers like this are a relatively easy soldering job.

If you actually have interest in learning to solder (it’s actually not very hard, and this is coming from someone who has terribly unsteady hands), you can generally find DIY electronics kits oriented towards teaching basic soldering skills many places online for less than USD 25 each, ranging from simple preprogrammed LED displays, to simple digital clocks or FM radios, to more complex stuff like LED tetris games. Speaking from experience, these are a great way to learn without shelling out lots of money.

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No, you don't need to solder cables to the pins, if you have the right cables. Many manufactures provide you with sets of cables that can be easily plugged onto the pins of a Raspberry Pi (and also all the sensors you get for it). Here's an example of such cables (note that these in particular come with separate pins, so they can be changed from female to male to be plugged into a breadboard).

So far, I only once had to solder cables to a sensor, because the connection was unreliable. That sensor was connected to an engine with heavy vibrations, though.

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  • The OP is asking about soldering pins to the header through-holes, not connecting DuPont wires to the pins Oct 15, 2022 at 20:38
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    @Greenonline it seems so now, but the question was a bit unclear. I thought he was attempting to solder cables to the header, because the "normal" Pis already have headers.
    – PMF
    Oct 15, 2022 at 21:02
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You are correct soldering male header pins is the best approach. I have done it with both male and female and over the long term especially with experimenting the female headers fail, the male do not seem to cause any problems. This way if I have a failure I can be 99.9% sure it is the female on the cable which is easy to change or replace, no unsoldering from a PCB which is easy to damage. I have several Arduinos which have two rows of pins so they have male and female pins (I assembled it that way), the female are now starting to fail, the male are OK.

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