In the past, I had no trouble getting my first Pi Zero-W board to boot.

Something seems to have happened, such that with:

  • three different boards (two newly purchased, one old that I think was blown out in an electrical storm)
  • three different micro-USB cords (no particular provenance, but they successfully charge other electronics)
  • different USB power supplies (an iPad charger, a MacBook Pro, a generic 5W USB charger)
  • nothing plugged into or soldered on the boards yet (no GPIO, etc.)

I am almost never getting any of the boards to even light up their LEDs.

Is there something I should look into that might be causing such widespread failure?

  • Without detail of what is connected it is difficult to comment. The Pi itself is quite rugged, but if you are interfacing GPIO to external devices you need to consider protection. Connecting long wires is a recipe for problems. PS NEVER "unplug" a Pi without a proper shutdown.
    – Milliways
    Jan 19, 2019 at 5:01
  • Welcome -- but I'm dubious that anyone can provide any insight here, particularly WRT the "new Zero-W. It wouldn't light up, even the first time", which implies simply plugging it in busted it, or it was already faulty, etc.
    – goldilocks
    Jan 19, 2019 at 5:48
  • I agree it's unlikely anyone can provide insight here, it's just bizarre. One bad board seemed like it could be defective/bad luck, but two seems like I'm doing something wrong. Jan 19, 2019 at 18:01
  • I am almost never getting any of the boards to even light up their LEDs. .... what does this mean? ...... do they light up sometimes?
    – jsotola
    Jan 20, 2019 at 4:02
  • Possible duplicate of Raspberry Pi 3b+ not booting
    – Ingo
    Jan 20, 2019 at 11:23

2 Answers 2


If anyone else has this problem, there were two main concept errors I had:

1) Most critically, the Pi Zero's LED, unlike other Pi versions does not light up unless it is doing IO. Once I realized this, it was obvious I had an SD card problem

2) A failure mode I wasn't aware of for SD cards is to give complete access sometimes, but fail most of the time

So, in summary, I just had a bad SD card (perhaps the SD card got fried in that electrical storm?). None of the Raspberry Pi Zero units were actually broken. The fact that the SD card booted up fine the first time I plugged it into a new unit was just bad luck.

  • I had two new Zero W's not light. Turns out, it was a bad SD and the OS wasn't booting. Flashed a new SD and all was well.
    – MACE
    Mar 14, 2020 at 15:18
  • Please accept your own answer with a click on the tick on its left side. Only this will finish the question and it will not pop up again year for year.
    – Ingo
    Mar 15, 2020 at 11:50

I had a very similar problem. Seems that some microSD cards aren't genuine. They may appear to work fine but often fail UNLESS cloned from a previously working card and within the spec ie 7.92GB for a fake 64, H2testW will ferret these out! I found that genuine cards use more power as size increases but not speed. A UHS-1 card will work the same as an x2 but write lifetime can be a factor.

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