This is the current Top 10 Best Raspberry Pi Uses, for RPi Zero, 1, 2, and 3.
Raspberry Pi Uses: TOP 10
1. Watch Movies with Kodi (aka XBMC Media Center) for Raspberry Pi
Yes, Raspberry Pi Zero ($5) runs Kodi very well! Just install Kodi using BerryBoot. On Raspberry Pi, Kodi runs on a “quasi-OS” called OpenELEC, or alternatively OSMC. Out of all Raspberry Pi uses in this list, Kodi is our favorite.
To see how to install OpenElec in detail, click here to go to the official Wiki. Or just follow these steps:
Kodi Raspberry Pi Install:
- Simply extract the BerryBoot zip file to a clean Micro SD card
- Put the Micro SD card in your Raspberry Pi Zero
- Then use BerryBoot’s menu to install and run OpenELEC (aka Kodi)!
Here’s my video tutorial on how to install Kodi on Raspberry Pi 3 (or any other Raspberry Pi!):
Other Raspberry Pi operating systems that support Kodi include:
- LibreELEC is the primary alternative to OpenELEC. OpenELEC is the “favorite”, but LibreELEC is the best alternative.
- OSMC is a Kodi-enabled Operating System
- XBian is a fork of Raspbian. Raspbian is a Linux-based Debian OS for Raspberry Pi
- Raspbian is the default OS for RPi
- TriPi is a triple-boot Raspberry Pi for Kodi, Raspbian, and RetroPie.
The OSes above are just RPi-Kodi alternatives, similar to how Android has SPMC as a Kodi alternative app.
2. Play Retro Games on Raspberry Pi with RetroPie
Raspberry Pi Zero also runs emulators exceptionally well. The little $5 RPi plays any SNES game and games from any system before SNES. But N64 games are too beefy for RPi Zero. If you want N64 emulation, you’ll need the speedier Raspberry Pi 2 Model B or Raspberry Pi 3.
RetroPie easily made its way into the Second spot on our Best Raspberry Pi Uses list.
How to Install RetroPie on Raspberry Pi:
- Copy BerryBoot zip file to a clean Micro SD card
- Insert the Micro SD card into the Raspberry Pi while it’s turned off
- Turn on the Raspberry Pi, wait for it to boot to BerryBoot menu
- After BerryBoot menu appears, select RetroPie from the list of operating systems
- If a list of operating systems does not appear automatically, click the button to EDIT the BerryBoot menu. Then click Add to add your new RetroPie operating system.
Check out my YouTube Raspberry Pi Kodi tutorial on how to install RetroPie or any other OS on Raspberry Pi:
Other operating systems that support retro gaming emulators on Raspberry Pi include:
- RecalBox OS is a retro console emulator software system like RetroPie, but different.
- Batocera is a fork of RecalBoxOS, which makes it pretty much a dead-on copy of Recal Box OS.
- Happi Game Center is another alternative to Retro Pie OS
3. Set Up Home Security & Surveillance with Raspberry Pi + Webcam(s)
Use the MotionEyeOS operating system to use a USB camera as a home security & surveillance monitoring system for CHEAP.
Install MotionEyeOS on Raspberry Pi
- Follow our instructions to boot up your Raspberry Pi using BERRY BOOT
- Now copy the .img file of the Operating System you chose. Then paste it onto a second USB thumb drive (since you already used 1 thumb drive to run BerryBoot). This is easiest using a PC, Mac, or Linux laptop.
- Then put the thumb drive into your Raspberry Pi zero’s USB port or USB usb (you’ll need an OTG adapter or OTG hub)
- Boot up your Raspberry Pi
- Before BerryBoot has a chance to launch the default OS, click “Edit Config”
- Then click Backup
- Now click “Restore image file”
- Then locate and select your image file. Your USB thumb drive is usually listed as “sda1” or “sdb1”. After you click on your thumb drive location (such as sda1), give it a few seconds to read the USB drive.
- One you selected the image file, click OK.
- Wait for your Raspberry Pi to copy the new operating system to your first thumb drive.
MotionEyeOS is the only known Operating System for Raspberry Pi to natively support video surveillance for the home / business.
4. Use Raspberry Pi as a Workstation / Study Tool
The Raspbian operating system is a great solution to turn your RPi into a full-fledged PC workstation. Since Raspbian is a full Linux operating system with a Graphical User Interface (GUI), you can use Raspbian to do work or study on your Raspberry Pi 0, 1, 2, or 3! Raspbian OS, like all operating systems in this guide, is free to download forever.
I installed Raspbian using NOOBS first. But I wasn’t happy with the fact that NOOBS would only let me put 1 OS on 1 memory card. So I then installed Raspbian using BerryBoot and was happier with the result.
To install Raspbian on Raspberry Pi, you have two options:
A) Use NOOBS to install Raspbian
B) Or use Berry Boot to install Raspbian OS
Other operating system that enable you to do work on your Raspberry Pi include:
- Arch Linux
- Puppy Linux
5. DIY Personal Cloud Server with Raspberry Pi File Server
The Raspberry Pi has all the hardware and software requirements to act as a file server! You can do this several ways. Here are a few options to set up Raspberry Pi file server functionality:
A) Set up Raspberry Pi file server using a standard Linux operating system like Raspbian. This may be easiest for most users, since Raspbian (Jessie or Wheezy) has a clean point-and-click GUI. With Raspbian, you can simply Enable File Sharing. There are tons of documents on how to do this. The GUI for Samba shares app for Ubuntu Linux may assist you in setting up File Sharing on your RPi.
- Note: Raspberry Pi uses very little resources, so it makes a perfect low-energy file server! It’s portable, too.
B) Use an operating system designed specifically for file sharing purposes. An example of this is SynCloud, which acts as your own “personal online file storage” server.
Other operating systems that support cloud server file sharing on RPi incldude:
6. Browse the Dark Web with a Raspberry Pi Tor Gateway
Set up your Raspberry Pi 3 as a Tor gateway and surf the dark web! Use the BerryBoot .img file located at Alex Goldcheidt’s download site.
7. Use Raspberry Pi as a Plex Media Player
Use your Raspberry Pi to play streaming movies from your home Plex server! If you don’t know about Plex, it’s one of the best ways to watch movies on any device.
Download Plex Media Player for Raspberry Pi from this download page. Just look for “Plex Media Player”.
Other operating systems that enable you to play Plex movies on Raspberry Pi:
8. Create a Raspberry Pi Hacking Terminal with Kali Linux (NetHunter)
Turn your Raspberry Pi into a Kali Linux Nethunter hacking terminal! Use industry-standard network penetration testing (pen-testing) tools like airmon-ng, aircrack-ng, wifite, kismet, deauth, and other great packet injection methods.
This is the “sneakiest” of Raspberry Pi Uses on this list.
Try the full Kali Linux for Raspberry Pi (“Kali Pi“).
Or give the Kali Linux Nethunter version a whirl, which is intended for lower-power devices like Raspberry Pi Zero or old Android smartphones / tablets.
9. Make your own Digital Billboard Using a TV and a Raspberry Pi
Use the “Screenly OSE” to turn any TV or projector into a digital billboard easily.
The official Screenly OSE homepage is here.
10. Track Aircraft Beacons in Real-Time with Raspberry Pi
So planes send out network packets as beacons so air traffic controllers can see where they’re at. Guess what! We can receive these beacons too, with a Raspberry Pi and the “ADS-B Receiver” OS for Raspberry Pi. This OS listens for “dump1090” packets from aircraft and plots it on a visual graph.