Apparently the Raspberry Pi 3 can boot from things other than the SD Card, including USB flash drives. I got my Pi 3 today (hurray!) and burnt the latest Raspbian to both an SD card and a USB flash drive.

The Pi boots from the SD Card no worries (of course!), but it doesn't do anything if I just plug in the USB Stick (and I removed the SD card).

Do you still need the SD card to 'pre-boot' still, or do you have to format the USB Stick in a certain way? Anybody have a setup like this working?

See : "USB and PXE network boot" at https://www.raspberrypi.org/magpi/pi-3-interview/

It would be nice to be able to swap in a test operating system like Windows 10 iOT or Ubuntu on a Flash Drive, rather than an SD card sometimes!

  • 1
    Why do you think "the Pi 3 can now boot from things other than the SD Card"
    – Milliways
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:02
  • There was already a pi-3 tag.
    – Jacobm001
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:03
  • Ah - I misread this I think - the title seems to suggest USB-boot. But I think it's network-boot and USB (direct mass storage)...
    – monojohnny
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:12
  • 3
    @milliways because they said so? raspberrypi.org/magpi/pi-3-interview
    – Thomas
    Mar 25, 2016 at 17:40
  • 1
    @Milliways but PXE is "something other than the SD card"
    – Thomas
    May 27, 2016 at 14:20

4 Answers 4


I think the currently provided answer is inaccurate--or at least it will be. From a MagPi interview with Eben:

"...The Foundation had some final input for Broadcom in order to add two new features: direct USB massstorage and PXE network boot capabilities. “Gordon rewrote the boot ROM for the chip and then provided an updated boot ROM to Broadcom, saying ‘shove this in the chip, it’ll work’,” Eben laughs. “And it does!" (Emphasis added).

Eben goes on to note that while the hardware supports these features, it will take some time after launch for the software support to come out. We already have "pre-boot" from SD, so what Eben mentions is something new. It also makes sense that they would want to add these features 1) with all the SD corruption issues, 2) to keep costs low--why ask your users to by an SD just to boot, and 3) to help support its use in education--imagine a school lab with 30 RPI3s all PXE booting from the same image!


The foundation has now published instructions on enabling USB Boot (Raspberry Pi3 only).

Please note that this feature is in the beta phase.



You still need your SD card for pre-boot. Then you can pass the boot process to USB DoK by passing root=/dev/sdX (your USB) in the kernel parameters.

see: https://archlinuxarm.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=64&t=9537

  • 2
    This is incorrect. SD card will not be needed once the proper software is available, which is what Eben Upton was speaking about. As it currently stands, we must wait. Mar 12, 2016 at 1:08

The USB-boot option isn't defaulted to on. It requires a tweak in the firmware first. Please refer to pi documentation. The USB-boot option doesn't support all usb drives, just those that startup in 2 seconds (which you can extend up to 5).

  • 1
    A link and a summary of how to do this would help. Dec 25, 2016 at 15:32
  • In addition to Steve's comment, an attempt at proper grammar would also be greatly appreciated.
    – Jacobm001
    Dec 27, 2016 at 17:02

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