How to Install an Ubuntu Desktop on the Raspberry Pi

Get your favorite open-source OS on the Pi.
Ash Ash (362)
20 minutes

If you've got a Raspberry Pi, you may want an Ubuntu desktop. Ubuntu is a classic open-source Linux OS, and it seems to run on just about everything.

Ubuntu provides Ubuntu Server for the Raspberry Pi but unfortunately, it doesn't have a GUI. For our guide today, we'll be installing Ubuntu MATE (pronounced mah-tay).

This image won't work with the Raspberry Pi 4, but Ubuntu Server will. If you don't mind running Ubuntu without a desktop, you can check out Ubuntu Server for Raspberry Pi here. Ubuntu Mate won't work with any Pi model that uses an ARMv6 instruction set—this includes the Raspberry Pi 1 A+, Pi 1 B+, Pi Zero, and Pi Zero W.

Raspberry Pi 3 B+Raspberry Pi 3 B+ ×1
MicroSD card, 16GBMicroSD card, 16GB ×1
Wireless keyboard with touchpadWireless keyboard with touchpad ×1

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Download Ubuntu MATE

Download the Ubuntu MATE Raspberry Pi image from the official website. There is an experimental version for ARMv8 machines, but I'll be using the recommended version for this guide.

Etcher Ubuntu MATE

Once everything has downloaded, extract the contents of the zipped folder. You should have a .img file. This .img file can be written to a microSD card. I'll be using Etcher to write the OS to my card. I like it because it's free and usually doesn't respond with errors when writing images for the Pi. However, you can use another image writing program if you prefer.

This process is similar to installing Raspberry Pi OS (formerly Raspbian) on the Raspberry Pi.

  1. Connect the microSD card to your computer with an SD card adapter.
  2. Open Etcher or an image writing program of your choosing.
  3. Select the Ubuntu MATE image and write it to the microSD card.

You should receive a notification when the image has been written to the microSD card. Safely remove it from the PC, and insert the microSD card into the slot on the Raspberry Pi.

Ubuntu MATE

With the microSD card inserted, power on the Raspberry Pi. When Ubuntu MATE loads, you'll see a welcome screen. These prompts are used to set up the OS. You'll need a USB keyboard and mouse for this step.

On the first screen, set your language and choose a keyboard layout. The next page will ask you to connect to a wireless network. Set a location and then follow the prompts to create a username and password.

It will take a few minutes for the setup process to complete. When everything is ready, you should see an empty desktop. Congratulations! You're running Ubuntu on a Raspberry Pi.

Pick your flavor of Linux.
Ash Ash (362)

Linux is the internet's go-to open-source operating system. With tons of flavors and editions to choose from, it can be a little intimidating to jump in.