Building the Raspberry Pi Server

Required and optional accessories

The absolute minimum accessories you need to purchase are a microSD card, and a micro USB or USB Type-C cable for power.

The minimum capacity for the microSD card should be 4 GB but unless you got it years ago, the cheapest and smallest capacity you can buy now is 16 GB for $8 CAD. I would get a 32 GB one for $4 more. The speed of the card won’t matter when running the applications as there is not a lot of writing that needs to be done after installation. Interestingly, UHS-III is only available on higher capacity cards. I have a SanDisk 32 GB UHS-I and a Samsung 32 GB UHS-I. Both have been good and I don’t notice any performance difference.

Update: The SanDisk microSD card got damaged after one month of use. It fit too tightly in the SD card adapter that it came with, and was very difficult to remove. I’m not sure if I damaged it that way, or the card was defective. Before it broke, I had about 2-3 GB of data on the card, and it had never crossed my mind to test the actual capacity to see if it was fake or not. All I know is that the quality of the card is inferior to the Samsung. I now have a Samsung 64 GB UHS-III and the speed observed when restoring my backup on the card was noticeably faster than the UHS-I cards.

You may want a micro USB or USB Type-C wall charger, depending on whether USB ports or wall outlets are more available and where you want the Pi to sit in your home. A wall charger will also guarantee you are providing enough current to power your Pi, especially if you plan to plug in an external USB hard drive to use your Pi as a media server on Kodi, or a network-attached storage (NAS). For my Pi’s, I got cables with built-in on/off switch. This is useful as the Pi does not have a button to power on or off. If you don’t get the cables with a switch, a tip to prevent you from wearing out the micro USB or Type-C port on your Pi is to power off from the terminal, then unplug from the power source instead of the Pi.

A fan, a case, and heat sinks are recommended but not required. These often come as a set on Amazon. If you use a case, you should definitely get the fan to increase air flow. The heat sinks, however, do not provide a noticeable difference in temperature for me, at least not the CPU temperature. The heat sinks come with thermal adhesives so you don’t need to buy a whole tube of thermal paste for the total surface area smaller than a quarter.

If you do buy a case, you need to consider whether you are using Wi-Fi or Ethernet (wired). A metal case will impact Wi-Fi performance. The degree of impact will depend on the specific case.

If you are using Ethernet, you obviously need the cable.

You will need a micro HDMI cable or adapter to connect with your display.

If your computer doesn’t have an SD card reader built-in, you will need to buy a USB card reader. Your microSD card should come with an SD card adapter to use with your card reader.

This whole tutorial will be done on a headless Pi, meaning that we will not be using a display, mouse, or keyboard attached to the Pi, only those that are already connected to your computer.

If you intend to use your Pi as a media center with Kodi, it will work with your existing TV remote via HDMI consumer electronics control (CEC). A mini-keyboard that plugs into the USB port on your TV will allow you to use type in your searches for the TV (like on Netflix), as well as Kodi.