Knowledge for the World

How to add a power button to your Raspberry Pi

Because you should always safely shut down your Pi.

To keep the price down, the Raspberry Pi doesn't ship with a power button, yet it's easy to add your own! This guide will show you how to add a power button to your Raspberry Pi that can turn your Pi on or off.

We're going to use a few scripts that will monitor two GPIO (general-purpose input/output) pins on your Pi and look for when the button is pressed to turn the Pi on or off.

Why is a Raspberry Pi power button important?

You should never "yank" the power cord out of your Pi as this can lead to severe data corruption (and in some cases, physically damage your SD card). You can safely shut down your Pi via a software command or, even better, use a power button (see: this guide). :)

Note: When we "shut down" the Pi, it will send it into a halt state, which still consumes a very small amount of power. This is similar to how all modern computers work. In this guide walk through the process of adding a power button that will both halt and wake the Pi up from a halted state. Additionally, after your Pi has shut down, you can safely disconnect the power supply (should you desire) without the worry of data corruption.


Gather your supplies

Before we get to work we should gather the supplies.

You'll need a Raspberry Pi, and any version will do for this project.

If you're following along with this guide, it's likely that you're going to have to choose an appropriate button for your project. I'm going to use a pretty large button, but the important part is that you choose a "normally open momentary push button".

If you're looking to add a button to your Pi Cart, Amazon has a lot of small momentary push buttons if you're looking for a smaller form factor.

For a complete list of what you'll need see the tools/materials section above.


Understanding the wake functionality

There's nothing to build here, but we need to understand how to wake up the Pi from a halt state before we build the shutdown functionality. Simply put, shorting pins 5 and 6 (GPIO3 and GND) together will wake the Pi up from a halt state.

An easy way to test this is to shutdown the Pi with sudo shutdown -h now, and connect pins 5 and 6 with a female to female cable. You only need to short them momentarily. Then you should find that the Pi is "awake".


The wake solution is fairly straight forward, but in order to safely shut down the Pi we're going to have to use a software solution. Since we know we're going to use pins 5 and 6 to wake the Pi, let's also use these pins to shut it down. That way we can wire up our button to those pins and it will both shutdown and wake the Pi.

We'll have to write a script that listens for a button press and shuts down the Pi. Before we look at the script, let's discuss a few different approaches. First, we could write a script that starts an infinite loop and waits for a change in the state of the GPIO pin. Using pseudo-code, that might look something like:

while True:
    if GPIO3 is pressed:
        shutdown the pi

While this would work, and probably doesn't have any real performance concerns, there's actually a better way. We can listen for an interrupt (edge detection). An interrupt is the change in state from LOW to HIGH or HIGH to LOW. The RPi.GPIO library provides a method called wait_for_edge that will block execution of our script until an interrupt is detected. So we'll setup GPIO3, and once we detect a FALLING edge we'll shutdown the Pi.

First, we need to connect to the Pi via SSH. Then, we'll use a script called

To create the script, we can use the nano editor. After connecting to your Pi, run the following command to create a file called

sudo nano

Then, paste the following code into that file, and press CTRL-X to exit, and Y to save when prompted.

#!/usr/bin/env python

import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
import subprocess

GPIO.setup(3, GPIO.IN, pull_up_down=GPIO.PUD_UP)
GPIO.wait_for_edge(3, GPIO.FALLING)['shutdown', '-h', 'now'], shell=False)

Next we need to start this script on boot. So we'll place the script in /usr/local/bin and make it executable:

sudo mv /usr/local/bin/
sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/

Now add another script called that will start/stop our service. To create the script:

sudo nano

Enter the following code in that file and save it:

#! /bin/sh

# Provides:
# Required-Start:    $remote_fs $syslog
# Required-Stop:     $remote_fs $syslog
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:      0 1 6

# If you want a command to always run, put it here

# Carry out specific functions when asked to by the system
case "$1" in
    echo "Starting"
    /usr/local/bin/ &
    echo "Stopping"
    pkill -f /usr/local/bin/
    echo "Usage: /etc/init.d/ {start|stop}"
    exit 1

exit 0

Place this file in /etc/init.d and make it executable.

sudo mv /etc/init.d/
sudo chmod +x /etc/init.d/

Now we'll register the script to run on boot.

sudo update-rc.d defaults

Since the script won't be running, we'll go ahead and start it with:

sudo /etc/init.d/ start

Note: These scripts have been added to a Github repo to make them easier to pull down. Feel free to submit pull requests with improvements.


Test the button using a breadboard

The first thing we'll do is wire up a button and test the functionality using a breadboard. This is a very simple circuit, but it's good to make sure it works before we move on.

You can see the image below for details, but I'll explain what's going on. I'm using two male to female jumper cables. I'm connecting one to pin 5 (SCL) and the other to pin 6 (ground). If pin 6 is already taken by something else, you can use any other ground pin instead. This is a great resource for identifying all your pins!

Then, I'm connecting them to the breadboard with a button in between. Since the button is normally open, the circuit will be open until the button is pressed. Then when the circuit is complete, it will either wake up the Pi if it's in a halt state, or it will shut it down if it's awake.

To confirm that this is working properly, I'll log in to the Pi via SSH.

ssh pi@raspberrypi

Then when I press the button, I confirm that I'm my session is lost. To get a step further, I can confirm that the network is down on the Pi by using arp-scan.

sudo arp-scan --interface=en0 --localnet

I won't go into detail about how to use arp-scan in this guide, but if you use the correct interface this should work.

You can check the output of arp-scan and make sure that the Raspberry Pi is not connected to the network.

Then go ahead an press the button again to wake it up. If you wait a few seconds, the Pi should be back up. You can test again using the arp-scan command. If the Pi is up you'll see output similar to this:        20:3d:66:44:c6:70 (Unknown)            b8:27:eb:79:49:f2  Raspberry Pi Foundation         58:82:a8:7e:66:36 (Unknown)

Now you can connect again via SSH!


Make our final circuit

Now it's time to wire up the button we're going to use for the project. I'm going to use a jumper cable still so the button can be easily detached from the Pi. But I'll strip the other end and solder it onto the button.


If you want to see what state your Pi is in (and when it's safe to unplug) after pressing your power button, you can also add a simple Pi LED status indicator.