Mom gets what Mom wants. The necessary parts came in to build Mom’s Raspberry Pi-Hole server, so I thought I’d take the extra time to keep track of every step, trying to make it as easy and low-cost as I could. This meant not attaching a monitor or keyboard through the entire process. Hopefully someone will benefit from this guide. It looks long and scary, but I tried to be as thorough as possible. Nothing here is particularly difficult if you can follow directions.
Note: these instructions are for using a Mac.
Step 1: Buy the Parts
At a minimum, I recommend:
Make sure the microSD card is class 10, because it’s faster and don’t be afraid to go for 16GB since they are so cheap. Adafruit sells a budget pack which includes everything above except the WiFi adapter. If you don’t want to use WiFi, you could get something like this Ethernet Hub and USB Hub.
I also recommend some type of case. It may be small, but it’s still a computer with electrical components. 😉 I bought the Adafruit Raspberry Pi Zero Case this time around, but I don’t like how loose the GPIO slot cover is. Three cases I use with my own Zeros and like (ordered by preference) much better are:
Shouldn’t cost more than $50.
Step 2: Install the Operating System (Raspbian)
- Download Raspbian.
- Download ApplePi Baker and extract the app from the zip file.
- Plug the SD card into your computer, probably via a USB card reader or SD card adapter.
- Launch ApplePi Baker. It’ll ask for your MacOS user password.
- Select your SD card on the left side.
- Uncheck Auto eject after successful restore.
- Click the Restore Backup button and browse to select the Raspbian file you downloaded. Once selected it’ll start writing to your SD card. It should look like this…
- While that is running, save this sample wpa_supplicant.conf file. If you set Format to All Files you can remove the
.txt without MacOS adding it back on. This file needs to be named exactly
- Open the file in TextEdit. Replace
with the name of your WiFi network and
YOUR_PASSWORD with your WiFi password. Save the file.
- When ApplePi Baker is finished click OK and quit the app.
- Copy the updated
wpa_supplicant.conf file to the SD card.
- Open the Mac’s Terminal app.
cd /Volumes/boot and hit Enter.
touch ssh and hit Enter.
- Quit Terminal.
- Eject the SD card via Finder and then remove it from your computer.
Step 3: Prepare the Raspberry Pi
- Slide the SD card into the slot on your Pi Zero.
- Put the Pi Zero into your case if you have one.
- Plug the USB cable and WiFi adapter into the micro USB port labeled USB. Hint: it’s not the one on the end. You should end up with it looking like this…
- Now you’re ready for power! Plug your power supply into the other micro USB port (nearest to the edge) and into your power source.
- You should see some activity from the green light (labeled ACT) near the power connection.
Step 4: Access the Pi
If you did the second half of step 2 correct, the Pi should have been able to connect to your WiFi network. Give it 1-2 minutes to go through the entire boot process.
- Open the Mac Terminal app again.
ssh email@example.com and hit Enter.
- Using the IP address for SSH may work better for you
ssh firstname.lastname@example.org but you’ll need to find it in the DHCP list in your router’s admin.
- If everything worked, it’ll connect and you will be asked if you want to continue. Type
yes and hit Enter.
- Then you’ll be asked for the password. Type
raspberry (you won’t see any characters on the screen) and hit Enter. This should log you in and set you at the command prompt…
Step 5: Run Software Updates
sudo apt-get update and hit Enter.
- When it finished you’ll be back on the command prompt. Type
sudo apt-get upgrade and hit Enter. When it asks Do you want to continue? [Y/n], type
y, hit Enter, and wait.
Step 6: Configure Your Pi
sudo raspi-config and hit Enter.
- Any mouse/trackpad devices won’t work in here, so get used to the tab, Enter, and arrow keys.
- Change User Password. Remember it!
- Choose Advanced Options and then Hostname. Set a new “computer name” instead of the default raspberrypi. When you’re done and back to the main menu, select Finish and perform the reboot.
- You’ll lose your connection when the Pi is rebooting. Terminal will send you back to the local Mac command prompt. Wait 1-2 minutes.
Step 7: Install Pi-Hole
- Connect back to your Pi via ssh, but this time you need to use your new hostname. For example if I had set
nickspi the new command I would type is
ssh email@example.com. You’ll be prompted again to continue and enter the password. Do both.
curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash and hit Enter.
- Accept all of the defaults when prompted during installation.
- At the end it’ll give you a bunch of information on an Installation Complete! screen. Make note of the IP address and admin password. Hit Enter.
- It’ll do a little more and then send you back to the command prompt along with providing all of the information again.
- Change the password right away with the command:
pihole -a -p PASSWORD_YOU_WANT_TO_USE
Step 8: Configure Your Router
Step 9: Profit
Enjoy your mostly ad-free browsing and faster network!
Step 10: Notes
It’s not advised to unplug the Pi from power when it’s running. You could corrupt the SD card. SSH in (you’re a pro by now) and issue the shutdown command:
sudo shutdown -h now
Wait about a minute before unplugging power (make sure the activity light has been off at least a few seconds). You can also issue a restart command if you need to:
Periodically it’s a good idea to update the software:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
With all of that said… if you plan to run anything else on this server, I recommend going with more power, probably a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. The Zero I originally used wasn’t enough to handle Home Assistant and Homebridge running on the same machine.