I copied the NOOBS files to a FAT32 microSD Card. There is no monitor or keyboard installed on the Raspberry Pi all I have is power and a network cable.

I've put the NOOBS microSD Card in and powered it up. Presumably it now "displays" the NOOBS OS installer but there is no way to know.

Can I connect to it now via VNC (GUI preferably) or SSH and tell it to install something?

The scenario I'm looking for is similar to setting up a Mac Mini Server, which is headless by default.

  • Please see also Installing Raspbian from NOOBS without display, which elaborates on a method from the NOOBS github page, using Raspbian as an example.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 13:08
  • @goldilocks Apparently there is an undocumented better way of doing this available here: github.com/raspberrypi/noobs/issues/250 it involves modifying recovery.cmdline in the NOOBS files, this is easier but still not exactly what I'm looking for. Setting up a Mac Mini Server in this manner is what I want, write the files to the sd card, put it in the Pi and power it on with ethernet connected. Then it should appear/connect to it via Bonjour raspberry.local so I can VNC to it. From there setup as if you were next to it. This works like a charm on OS X.
    – unom
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 20:56
  • I kind of see your point about making it even easier, although it already sounds easy enough -- keep in mind scale users of the pi are going to automate installs and/or use custom images, and most "power" users probably won't be using NOOBs to start with (you could create a card that boots up and is online right away, but there are less awkward ways to do that than via NOOBS). So the target audience for this may be a smaller niche than you think. It might happen though.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 11:41
  • P.S. If you end up using that other method, please consider adding it as an answer to the other Q; part of the point of closing things as duplicates and linking them is to make it easier for people to find what they're looking for all in one place.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 11:58
  • @goldilocks Hello again, found a supported way of doing this, apparently adding vncinstall to the recovery.cmdline let's you connect this way. See here: github.com/raspberrypi/noobs/issues/250 Please unlock the question so I can add a proper answer. Thank you.
    – unom
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 11:30

2 Answers 2


VNC is already supported (in the newer versions of NOOBS like v1.4) but you have to modify the recovery.cmdline file before you use the microSD card in the Pi.

Add 'vncinstall' at the end of the line in that file.

For example making:

runinstaller quiet vt.cur_default=1 elevator=deadline


runinstaller quiet vt.cur_default=1 elevator=deadline vncinstall

Now put the card in the Pi and power it up. Get the ip address of the Pi and you can VNC to see the setup screen.

PS. Using this 'mode' makes the display unusable during the setup procedure. If you connect a display via HDMI, for example, you'll get a black screen with, probably, some text in it "ip: SIOCGIFFLAGS: No such device"


It's always best to refer to the official docs:

Basically, in contrast to the answer by @unom this allows you to use the Rasberry Pi both with a screen connected and using VNC at the same time.

The setup uses their RealVNC server there to configure and enable it. Also pay attention to enable the support for other VNC viewers, in the part about “If you're connecting from a non-RealVNC Viewer app, […]”.

Though I've also sent a PR for clarifying some aspects of this setup.

Important workaround

If you get a black screen with the white error text “Cannot currently show the desktop.” when connecting, try changing/decreasing the system resolution go to

  • Run sudo raspi-config
  • Go to Advanced Options
  • -> Resolution
  • -> Anything than the default should work
  • -> Ok. The save the settings and reboot the pi.

I've opened a bug report for this issue, so maybe that can be solved.

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