84 MB Minimal Raspbian ARMHF Image for Raspberry Pi

Many embedded systems applications do not require a desktop environment or graphical interface on the screen (e.g. server), and you may want to only install the files you really need on the SD card either to reserve as much space as possible for data and/or your program or to reduce costs.

After searching for a minimal image based on Raspbian ARMHF distribution for the Raspberry, I could only find Linux Systems minimal image based on the Alpha version of the Raspbian Wheezy. Their compressed image is 109 MB in size, has a custom kernel,  sshd and ntpd are enabled, but the wireless tools were deleted, and at the time the swap was located in another partition instead of a file inside the rootfs. The uncompress rootfs is about 414 MB (as reported by df -h when mounted as a loop device).

I decided to prepare a minimal image myself based on the first Raspbian Wheezy release, that supports about the same features of the image mentioned above, plus support for the wireless tools. I’ll describe how I proceeded below, but for those who are only interested in the image, and could not care less how it was done, here’s the download link (84 MB compressed image). The username / password are the same: pi /raspberry.

Upon the first boot you can change the time zone:


This image only support US keyboard layout and English locale, if you need to change those:


If you are mainly going to access your board via ssh, you probably don’t need those.

Instructions to Generate a Minimal Raspbian Image

I’ve downloaded the image via BiTorrent and copied it to the SD card using dd. During the first boot, I configured the keyboard to US layout, Bangkok timezone, enabled SSH and disabled X are started and did not resize the partition.

Now let’s have a look at the rootfs usage:


We’ve got 1.4 GB used, so we’ll need to delete about 1 GB.

The steps below are not optimized, and I’ve just described the way I did it.
As I login to the Raspberry Pi as pi user, the first thing I see is a directory called python_games. Sorry kids, but:


Then I vaguely remember some things that are pre-installed in the image by default, so I removed those:


Those two steps only shoved around 100 MB, so it’s not such a good start, but it’s still progress. I miraculously remember a command to find large file in Linux:


Now that’s more interesting! The first 3 files are the apt caches and the swap, we’ll take care of those at the end. Some icon takes appear to take a lot of space, the .a file show there are some development libs installed and the last file reminded me there’s some Raspberry media sample code.

Let’s take care of those code samples:


Now I need to find a way to list development packages installed in the system. Luckily there is a command to list installed packages, which I can filter to list development packages:


Good! Let’s remove those:


Let’s remove python and some other packages (LXDE, omxplayer…)that do not look necessary in a minimal image.

sudo apt-get remove sudo dpkg --get-selections | grep -v "deinstall" | grep python | sed s/install//
sudo apt-get remove lxde-common lxde-icon-theme omxplayer raspi-config

At this point I just discovered there were still some x11 packages, and realized this should have been the first thing I had removed since it would get rid of several hundred MB of data:

sudo apt-get remove sudo dpkg --get-selections | grep -v "deinstall" | grep x11 | sed s/install//

Let’s say we don’t need audio support either:

sudo apt-get remove sudo dpkg --get-selections | grep -v "deinstall" | grep sound | sed s/install//

As I mentioned above, we would still like to have ssh access, but we don’t need to use the default sshd, and we can replace it with the lightweight dropbear ssh server:

sudo apt-get remove sudo dpkg --get-selections | grep -v "deinstall" | grep ssh | sed s/install//
sudo apt-get install dropbear

We now have 550 MB used space in the rootfs, minus the 100 MB swap file, that’s still 450 MB which is well above the 414 MB for Linux Systems image. I can see gcc is still there, and we should not need to build anything directly on the device. let’s remove it!:

sudo apt-get remove sudo dpkg --get-selections | grep -v "deinstall" | grep gcc\- | sed s/install//
After this operation, 234 MB disk space will be freed.
You are about to do something potentially harmful.
To continue type in the phrase 'Yes, do as I say!'
?] no

OK, this was a bad idea, and I answered no. So instead,  I decided to only keep gcc 4.7:


After some more time trying to find non-essentials packages, I removed a few others, and call autoremove to delete unused packages.

sudo apt-get remove ca-certificates libraspberrypi-doc xkb-data fonts-freefont-ttf locales manpages
sudo apt-get autoremove

Almost done. Since we won’t use apt-get anymore, let’s clean apt-get cache:


Let’s disable swappping, and fill the swap file with zeros:


Delete the logs


Check the size:


Yes! That 461 MB including swap file. Time to turn off the Pi:


Now, we can remove the SD card from the Raspberry Pi board, and access it from a Linux PC to create an image.


We can mount the root and use sfill to fill free space with zeros:


and finally compress the image with 7z using ultra settings:

7z a -t7z -m0=lzma -mx=9 -mfb=64 -md=32m -ms=on 2012-07-15-wheezy-raspian-minimal.img.7z 2012-07-15-wheezy-raspian-minimal.img

Done. We now have a 84 MB minimal Raspbian image.

It’s certainly possible to even go slightly lower, as a basic debootstrap of Debian unstable comes out at 269MB uncompressed, and using Emdebian Grip might even allow a ~100 MB uncompressed rootfs with all the features we need, but I doubt this option is available with Raspbian mirrors (TBC).

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dave m
dave m
8 years ago

Great post, thanks.

rew
rew
8 years ago

Hi, You forgot to mention the “mkswap /var/swap”

Matias
Matias
8 years ago

Deleting the whole /opt directory is not a wise thing, because you will lose the ability to change resolutions and use OpenGL. I guess you can remove “include” and “src” directories, however “bin”, “lib” and “sbin” should be spared.

Nicolás
8 years ago

Hi!
Thanks for this great post!!!
It would be great if you release this article’s instructions as a shell script, so everyone can follow your steps easily!
Regards

sophana
sophana
8 years ago

Hi, thanks for the image.
I found out that there is no sftp-server in openssh-server
I had to do a: “apt-get install openssh-server –reinstall” to get it back
removing useless packages is a good thing.
But removing files from packages is not a good idea.
Are there any other files deleted like this?

sophana
sophana
8 years ago


strange, so there’s something I don’t understand well in debian…

dpkg -L openssh-server gave me a list of files, which was much smaller than now after I reinstalled.

Artem Sidorenko
8 years ago

Thanks for creation of this howto and image,
But please add following steps to your howto/image:
#SWAP
sudo swapoff -a
cd /var
sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=swap bs=1M count=100
#We have to put the swap signature
mkswap /var/swap

#Optional: Regeration of SSH keys (I’m using openssh and not dropbear)
#Take a look to the original image, copy the script /etc/init.d/regenerate_ssh_host_keys to your image
chmod +x /etc/init.d/regenerate_ssh_host_keys
update-rc.d regenerate_ssh_host_keys defaults
update-rc.d ssh disable
rm -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_*

v1ncen7
v1ncen7
8 years ago

hunting for MBs 🙂

sudo apt-get remove liblapack3
sudo apt-get remove libatlas3-base
sudo apt-get remove penguins puzzle
sudo apt-get remove gdb

v1ncen7
v1ncen7
8 years ago

I meant sudo apt-get remove penguinspuzzle

Pieter-Jan
7 years ago

Thanks for this! Definitely going to try this!!

DrB
DrB
7 years ago

Using “apt-get purge” instead of “remove” will drop the configs and save some more bytes.

Chris Hatton
Chris Hatton
7 years ago

When will someone produce an image which is actually shrunk to fit? It’s easy to expand an image once its copied onto a card, not so easy to shrink one down using loopback or some other method beforehand. I want to run a minimal distro on 512Mb card. I can’t be the only one?

Adwin
Adwin
7 years ago

You can also drop the docs & man for an additional 44Mb:
rm -fr /usr/share/doc/* /usr/share/man/*

DrB
DrB
7 years ago


The manpages are part of the individual packages. Deleting them, is a hack, this
will damage the package consistency.

[email protected]:~ # dpkg -S /usr/share/man/man8/fdisk.8.gz
util-linux: /usr/share/man/man8/fdisk.8.gz

jtoledano
jtoledano
7 years ago

Wil dropbear suppor sftp with some pach

gnrl
7 years ago

thank for this great tutorial. I’m on a 2GB disk and after yate and dc++ hub (probably 4MB), and it’s out of space. It’s terrible how much space is wasted. Do people even use that crap?

Sander
Sander
7 years ago

FWIW http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=17028 offers a ready-to-run minimal Raspbian.

Samuel HERMANN
7 years ago

thank you very much for your tutorial ! Its really helps me 😉

Georg Bisseling
7 years ago

Hi,

Having a smaller image is a very appealing idea.

I just wanted to give the minimal image a try in the hope to use one of my 128 MB or 256 MB SD cards. Unfortunately the image is tailored to a 2 GB card. How much is actually needed? Would it be possible to provide a smaller image?

I tried to copy the image to a 256 MB card and to fix the partition table, but fdisk complained even about the start of the partitions so I refrained from further experiments.

Nice work though!

Andre
Andre
7 years ago

Hi,
I am pretty new to this and recently I downloaded one of the images online.
However, this one had at boot a logo which I wanted to remove.
If I use your image, will there be an option to enable splash or a simple picture as log at boot time?
If so, in which file can I change the boot logo?

Ps.: nice work as you make it sound easy even for a newbe like me.

Witiko
Witiko
7 years ago

@Matias
You don’t need either when you’re not using a graphical environment, do you?

Matthew
Matthew
7 years ago

Andre :
Hi,
I am pretty new to this and recently I downloaded one of the images online.
However, this one had at boot a logo which I wanted to remove.
If I use your image, will there be an option to enable splash or a simple picture as log at boot time?
If so, in which file can I change the boot logo?
Ps.: nice work as you make it sound easy even for a newbe like me.

Search online for a “plymouth” tutorial. “plymouth” allows you to have a custom boot animation/logo.

Will
Will
7 years ago

Some others you may want to consider removing:

not needed if you don’t have a desktop and are running headless:
menu
menu-xdg
xdg-utils
desktop-file-utils
raspberrypi-artwork

If your not going to do anything wireless
libiw30, wpa-supplicant, wireless-tools

network filesystem stuff
samba-common
smbclient
cifs-utils
nfs-common

A couple of others
parted
nano / ed vim / vim-tiny Whichever you dont use
dpkg-dev

Andres Misiak
Andres Misiak
7 years ago

Exelent!! Thank’s was very helpfull

Benjamin
Benjamin
7 years ago

Yeah ya, I’m just performing your cleanup on a new 2013.05 Raspbian Image and I got to notice the following. First you just use apt-get remove, but since you want to get rid of the packages at all you better should use apt-get purge which will also remove any configuration etc file 🙂 Freeed up another 40 MB or so 🙂 (as mentioned before by DrB) apt-get purge dpkg --get-selections | grep deinstall | sed s/deinstall// In doing all the stuff from your post and stuff mentioned in the comments, I get an rootfs of 675MB. There is still the… Read more »

RajaRaviVarma
7 years ago

I get an ‘sfill’ command not found error on Ubuntu 12.10. Neither it is available in repository.

RajaRaviVarma
7 years ago

How to install this minimal image back into the pi?

Liviy
Liviy
7 years ago

Hi,

Great read…I’m just trying to do the same with the current version and I’m a little confused where you got your offset & block counts for the mount & dd commands?

Thanks 🙂

Berry
Berry
6 years ago

What’s the password for user ‘root’?

Berry
Berry
6 years ago

@Berry
Solved.
Enter ‘sudo passwd root’ to set the password for root.

billy.
billy.
6 years ago

Security risk “IMPORTANT”. I download this image and it’s fantastic awesome. I clone the image to the SDD-Raspberrypi and export the public key to access password less. After I had clone the same download and I cloned another SDD. Now I do ssh [email protected] and work my pi1. and I do the same for the pi2 and I have Shell Access… All the copy’s of this image have the same private key. As soon you install this image you must to generate a new ssh_keys. generate a host-key: # rm -f /etc/dropbear/dropbear/dropbear_* # dropbearkey -t rsa -f /etc/dropbear/dropbear_rsa_host_key # dropbearkey… Read more »

onebir
onebir
6 years ago

Also check out minibian: http://minibianpi.wordpress.com/

Kyle
Kyle
6 years ago

@Matias
You do realize that he cut out the entire X system on purpose, right?

Uday
Uday
6 years ago

Hie, Thanks for the steps and explanation.
Can you please tell me, how can I access the Overlock option, because we don’t have rasp-config any-more.
Thanks a million in advance.

Uday
Uday
6 years ago


Thanks a lot for the reply.
I am trying to do some real time sensor data processing. I still have latency, even with the minimal raspbian.
Can you please suggest me with some other compatible OS, which can support real-time sensor data processing.
Right now I think the problem is wiht memory, and my fear is about the stability of the processor, if I overlock it.
Thanks in advance.

rich
rich
6 years ago

How does one disable hdmi from the command line?

rich
rich
6 years ago

@rich
Actually wondering if I can just blacklist a kernel module to do it.

Pranita
Pranita
6 years ago

Thanks, it worked for me if I used compressed image directly downloaded, but facing some issues when I executed the commands to remove unnecessary components, Actually I want to use this compressed image for executing nodeJs components further, so is there any other way to compress the image a little more.

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