USB Boot on the Raspberry Pi 5

by Bret
Published: Last Updated on 5 minutes read

The new member of the Raspberry Pi family is now available and shipping into eager maker’s hands! With faster, more capable USB ports, USB boot on the Raspberry Pi 5 is a great option if you have a disk lying around (perhaps from an upgrade to your PC!) that you can repurpose.

If you’re on the fence, or not sure what you’re new Raspberry Pi 5 can do vs the Raspberry Pi 4 and other boards available at the moment, check out my Raspberry Pi 5 Review.

Step 1: Prepare your USB boot drive

The quickest and easiest way to get a Raspberry Pi image onto your disk is going to be to use the Raspberry Pi Imager which will enable you to choose the specific image, download it, and write it to your chosen disk. Simply select your chosen Operating System and the correct (double-check!) storage device and press write.

The neat thing about this over something like balenaEtcher is that you’re going to be able to hit the settings button (in the bottom right of the UI shown in the screenshot below) and configure your hostname, SSH preferences, usernames, passwords, WiFi connection details, etc and they’ll all be copied across and enabled for use on first boot!

USB Boot on the Raspberry Pi 5 - Raspberry Pi OS Imager UI

Step 2: Prepare your Raspberry Pi 5 to boot from USB

By default, the Raspberry Pi 5 will boot from a microSD card if one is in the slot so make sure that you only have your USB device attached (and in a USB 3 port if it’s a USB 3 device, they’re the 2 blue ones.) Having said that though, you can use the Raspberry Pi Imager tool in the “Misc utility images -> Raspberry Pi 5 family” section to change the default. This can also be changed once you’ve booted for the first time too within the OS if you prefer.

image 16

Step 3: Successfully* USB Boot on the Raspberry Pi 5

The final step here will be to connect your USB drive and plug in a power source. It’s extremely important with the new Pi 5 that you have a powerful enough power supply as if you don’t have at least a 5V 5A power supply, your USB ports will be limited to 600mA. You can, however, override this in raspi-config if you wish. I had a 5V 4A power supply that I tested with this and there was no issue.

All being well, your device will now boot directly from the USB drive that you prepared earlier and you can enjoy your latest toy in all its glory.

Raspberry Pi 5

If you get stuck, reach out to me on Twitter or Mastodon, or leave a comment and I’ll see if I can point you in the right direction!

UPDATE: 2023-11-17

Thanks to the people who took the time to leave a comment or reach out on social media regarding the misunderstanding in the post. I’d half-written it with the Raspberry Pi 4 previously and then adapted it to my first experiences with the Raspberry Pi 5. At the time, I hadn’t realised that I had the wrong cable plugged into the Pi 5 (my desk is cable spaghetti central) and it was only feeding 2.4A and failed to boot. Apologies to any confusion caused by the original post, this has now been amended to be less confusing and point out that nothing in particular is required.


Dean Blackketter 10/11/2023 - 15:44

I received my Raspberry Pi 5 yesterday and just plugged in a prepared USB drive and it booted just fine. No SD card at all!

Bret 10/11/2023 - 15:47

Oh?! How strange, mine didn’t.. Let me do some digging and if worst comes to worst, I’ll Search + Replace Pi 5 to Pi 4 hah!

Bret 10/11/2023 - 21:47

Hey, Dean! Out of curiosity, when you wrote the image to your USB drive, did you use the option in the Raspberry Pi Imager to enable the USB boot from the bootloader section?

Shoe 12/11/2023 - 12:48

Thanks for the guide, it was really helpful. I’ve just followed it and my Pi 5 booted without modifying config.txt. That’s a really nice change from the Pi Foundation!

Rob Jansen 14/11/2023 - 08:07

Hi Brett,
I did the same as Dean and this just works – as specified by the RaspberryPi foundation!
The Pi5 will first check for an SD card and then for a USB device so as long as you have no SD card in the slot this will work.
That is … if you have an official Raspberry Pi5 (5A) power supply. Any other supply needs a small modification in the config.txt file.
You will need to add “usb_max_current_enable=1” in /boot/config.txt when using any other power supply. Otherwise, during boot you will see a message that you need to set this or momentarily press the power button to proceed.
This is due to the Pi5 using a non-standard 5V 5A profile, I have not been able to find any other power supply supporting this.
I tested this with my Pi5 and a Pi4 (5V 3A power supply) using a Seagate USB-SATA converter and a Samsung 860 EVO SSD

P.s: there is currently a bug in the bootloader. If you change the boot order from SD -> USB to USB->SD in the bootloader, the wireless network will not be enabled

Bret 15/11/2023 - 16:14

Thanks, guys! Looks like when I first drafted and started writing this I didn’t realise I wasn’t plugged into the right PSU, so it wasn’t booting due to that at first. Quite disappointed in myself to have not realised that prior to publishing this :( I’m going to re-work the piece in the next day or so to clarify things and go over a little more of the details/options in the RPi Imager instead. Apologies to anyone that got confused by this!

rbnet 16/11/2023 - 09:20

My Rapsberrry Pi 5 also booted from USB (classic 2TB HD, just to try) without making any preliminary changes to the /boot/config.txt file. I am using the official Pi 27W USB-C power supply. I have no option in the Imager (V 1.8.2) to set the boot from USB.

rbnet 16/11/2023 - 12:40

Sorry, I hadn’t seen the last two comments

Bret 16/11/2023 - 20:04

No worries! I’m reworking the post now to be a little less confusing :D


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