So it appears there have been significant changes to the "New Out Of the Box Software" (NOOBS) system with version 2.1 and beyond. According to the release notes included with the package:

2016-11-25: * SSH disabled by default; can be enabled by creating a file with name "ssh" in boot partition

There has been some pretty good discussion on why there is a change.

The boot partition on a Pi should be accessible from any machine with an SD card reader, on Windows, Mac, or Linux. If you want to enable SSH, all you need to do is to put a file called ssh in the /boot/ directory. The contents of the file don’t matter: it can contain any text you like, or even nothing at all. When the Pi boots, it looks for this file; if it finds it, it enables SSH and then deletes the file. SSH can still be turned on or off from the Raspberry Pi Configuration application or raspi-config; this is simply an additional way to turn it on if you can’t easily run either of those applications.

But wait. Boot partition? Where is that? With the NOOBS system, you simply copy a few files and directories over to the SD card, then boot the card with the Raspberry Pi. There isn't an actual /boot/ directory. Clearly just adding a ssh file to the root directory on the SD card is a fail. Ditto for adding an ssh file to the OS directory. That failed too.

Anybody been here before? Since 11.25.2015, how does one enable a headless system accessible via SSH?

Note: A previous answer on this issue, Installing Raspbian from NOOBS without display no longer is applicable to the latest version of NOOBS. So no, this question isn't a duplicate of that one. There is no file flavours.json. There is no file recovery.cmdline.

And here's a file listing of the unzipped Noobs root folder:

Noobs file listing

  • 2
    You are wasting your time asking about NOOBS here. No one uses it - I still don't understand why the Foundation recommends it. Try asking them.
    – Milliways
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 9:45
  • "Boot partition? Where is that?" -> Please read: raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/a/51100/5538 /boot is not a partition, it is a file path to a directory; filesystems on *nix systems are traditionally mounted at a point in a hierarchy beginning with / (the mount point for the root fs) and commonly on Pi distros /boot is used for the first partition. The one thing all Pi card images have in common out of necessity is that the first partition is vfat formatted and contains certain things (bootloader, os kernel, etc.). This is the "boot partition".
    – goldilocks
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 15:07
  • 1
    @goldilocks Er, yeah. I do appreciate your response, but... You are missing my point. The NOOBS system is purportedly set up for pure functionality, from the point of a raw beginner to the Raspberry Pi system. You format an SD card as fat32, insert some files to it. At initial boot up the system queries you with some questions, and poof, it re-partitions the SD card as it builds a pi O/S. The no keyboard / no display / SSH only option as described in the documentation is NOT functional. You simply can't get there from here. ?H
    – zipzit
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 17:21
  • I appreciate your point WRT to what NOOBs is "purportedly" and that it may fail to live up to whatever expectations of "pure functionality", etc. I've never used it myself, and while I'll disagree with Milliways about "no one" using it (based on regular questions here), he may be a little bit correct about not holding your breath waiting for help with it. So my comment was intended to point you in the direction of a potential solution -- all SD cards that work to boot a Raspberry Pi have a boot partition.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 19:21
  • You should be able to apply that information to formulate either a solution for yourself, or further questions that might get you closer to one. If not, someone may come along and lay it all out A-B-C wise, but as I said don't hold your breath. It might be worth noting that if expressing dissatisfaction/frustration with NOOBS or its documentation is meant to have rhetorical significance ("surely this should be better/easier!"), think again. Why would anyone care about that?
    – goldilocks
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 19:21

3 Answers 3


So it turns out I was doing it wrong (or not using the tools as originally intended). I received a nice response from Simon Long, the author of the blog entry referenced above:

The /boot/folder isn’t visible on a NOOBS card – use Etcher (from http://etcher.io) to flash the standard Raspbian PIXEL image – not the NOOBS image – to an SD card. The /boot/ partition will be visible on the resulting SD card as the only thing mountable by Windows.

As I look thru the raspberrypi.org website, I do see this link, currently showing two different compiled images of Raspbian Jessie.


Now that makes a whole lot of sense. No NOOBS for an SSH implementation, have a nice day. Many thanks to Simon Long and the folks supporting raspberrypi.org

Note: there was some considerable discussion of this issue at https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=166984&p=1075797#p1075797, but ultimately, using NOOBS without a keyboard/mouse/monitor really isn't an intended usage case. The Simon Long response really makes more sense.


You say that there is no recovery.cmdline. However, if you take a closer look at the image you have supplied you will see it there. I have just installed using VNC by adding vncinstall to the end of the recovery.cmdline file. So the file should look like this

runinstaller quiet ramdisk_size=32768 root=/dev/ram0 init=/init vt.cur_default=1 elevator=deadline vncinstall

I've downloaded and using NOOBS v2.1.0.

After the Pi booted, I just had to find it's IP Address. I did this by logging into my Router to find it.

  • Er, yeah. That will work, but... 1) My issue is the NOOBS thing is allegedly set up for a Raspberry Pi virgin. 2) The instructions don't match the required behavior. (i.e. just add an SSH file to boot partition) 3) Your response trumps #2... there is a solution for initial boot up to wifi network, but to get there you have to take actions beyond written guidance. Again, the NOOBS thing is VERY POORLY documented for a new beginner to Raspberry Pi. But yeah, you are right there is a path to get there from here. Its not obvious, but possible. Milliways said it best in his very first comment.
    – zipzit
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 3:52
  • I just added an answer here which explains this step by step. Good to have the cmdline in this answer too. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 18:49

The latest version of NOOBS should look for the ssh file on its Windows-readable partition.

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