My daughter got a Pi for Christmas. I have no HDMI monitor or TV available at the moment. Until we get one is there any way to use the Pi?

I have researched and tried various approaches to the headless setup. At one point I got it working by pluging the Pi into my router and finding it's IP address in the router admin, and from there logging in with PuTTY — but then I attempted to get in directly via ethernet from my laptop and to cut a long story short some file I changed in that procedure must have ended up locking me out and I have been unable to log in by any method since.

Since then I've wiped the SD card and tried installing Noobs and Raspian and using silentinstall but I really don't have a clue about Pi as of yet and some of the comments I've read on this stack exchange site have led me to believe that what I'm after is actually impossible. Is that the case and if so then why was I able to log in originally.

What I need to do is to get the Pi working without a HDMI monitor. Can I do this and if so what route should I proceed with? By "what route" I mean Raspbian vs NOOBS or Ethernet vs WI-FI vs serial TTL. I'm open to trying any setup strategy but for now ideally it would the simplest way of doing it.

  • Download the latest Raspbian image and image it to your SD card using Win32DiskImager. Connect you Pi to your router and find its IP address. SSH into it using PuTTy and install VNC Server. On your computer install VNC Viewer. Once VNC Server is running it can be accessed using VNC Viewer. This gives you essentially what would be output through the HDMI port on the Pi. There are lots of detailed instructions out there that will allow you to follow the steps I have laid out. (Also a fixed IP address on the Pi makes everything easier).
    – Darth Vader
    Dec 29, 2016 at 19:04
  • I'm in the process of imaging raspian but using etcher - is this much the same thing or should I use win32diskimager specifically for some reason - also can you tell me how long I should leave the PI after power up for the install to take place before I try to ssh in Dec 29, 2016 at 19:17
  • Etcher is not a piece of software I have used but if its working for you, go ahead and continue using it. The Pi starts up quite quickly, after about 30 seconds you should be able to SSH in. Once you have done so I recommend going into your router settings and giving your Pi a static IP address. So you don't have to keep looking up what IP address it has been assigned by the router.
    – Darth Vader
    Dec 29, 2016 at 19:23
  • 4
    The most recent versions of Raspbian have SSH disabled by default: raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/q/58478/5538 If the card came pre-made, this may explain why it was enabled. Using a new image, as per the accepted answer to the linked question, you should be able to put the SD card in any computer and create a file called ssh on the first partition (likely, the only partition you'll be able to see) to change this on first boot.
    – goldilocks
    Dec 29, 2016 at 19:23
  • ok - managed to ssh in - should be ok from here, thanks peoples Dec 29, 2016 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


Well, here's what I've done to use my Pi without a display.

First, make sure your Pi is connected via Ethernet to your Router, and has a keyboard connected. Power it on, and carefully type the following:

pi (enter)

raspberry (enter)

sudo apt-get install ssh -y (enter)

Now that your Pi has SSH installed, try locating your Pi with your router's dashboard or use Fing on your phone. Use that IP in Fing on port 22. Proceed with the following commands after login:

Login (if prompted):

Username: pi
Password: raspberry

sudo apt-get update -y
sudo apt-get upgrade -y
sudo reboot now

You're all set!

If you intended to use a graphical OS execute the following:

Install VNC:

 sudo apt-get install realvncserver

Install the graphical OS:

sudo apt-get install lightdm -y

Change boot options to graphical:

sudo raspi-config

Navigate to boot options >> graphical with or without autologin

  • You would have to login before typing the first command that you mentioned.
    – JakeD
    Dec 30, 2016 at 1:38
  • That is true, but I meant to insert that into their SSH client. Dec 30, 2016 at 2:13
  • I got mine going the other way so haven't actually tested it but looks good to me so giving it the tick, thanks Dec 30, 2016 at 12:46

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