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Raspberry Pi

Raspbian Desktop VS Lite Installation

A desktop environment allows you to “see” a desktop via a GUI (Graphical User Interface). Running the Lite version of Raspberry Pi OS (formerly Raspbian) will require everything on your Pi to be done in the command line. Which is better?

Raspbian Desktop vs Lite, Which is Better?

Raspbian Desktop vs Lite, which one should you be using? Making this decision is required to use a Raspberry Pi. To answer the question we need to look at what having a desktop environment means. A desktop environment allows you to “see” a desktop via a GUI (Graphical User Interface). Running the Lite version of Raspberry Pi OS (formerly Raspbian) will require everything on your Pi to be done in the command line.

The Lite version of Raspberry Pi OS is going to come with less bloat pre-installed which means fewer programs and fewer repositories. By default, the desktop version of Raspberry Pi OS comes with several more tools that you can use right out of the box. These include things such as, VLC Media Player, Google Chromium, calculator, Task Manager, and Text Editor. Applications that require a GUI are installed by default on the Desktop environment. You cannot use the above programs with a Lite installation. To use similar applications, you would have to look for alternatives, such as; a Text Web Browser, Text Calculator, Text Task Manager, etc.

Lite Installation Example | Raspbian Desktop VS Lite

Okay, so which should I use Raspbian Desktop or Lite?

Raspbian Desktop vs Raspbian Lite, which should you use? Answering this question is slightly difficult. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you’re looking for a lightweight installation with minimum resource utilization, lower temps and better performance, go with the Lite version. Some people use their Raspberry Pi’s as a Desktop Computer, if you are one of them, then go with the Desktop Environment installation.

Are you planning to use your Pi as an at-home server? Is your Pi going to be running programs around the clock? If you answered yes to these questions, then you might use the Lite version. The Lite version will ensure that you’re keeping your resource utilization as low as possible. This will prevent slowdowns and ensuring better speeds for your services.

Now, if you’re a beginner to the Raspberry Pi or Linux world hold off using the Lite version of Raspberry Pi OS. There are several reasons for this, continue reading to find out more.

Desktop Environment Example | Raspbian Desktop VS Lite

Should you use Raspberry Pi OS Lite as a beginner?

Typically, the answer to this question is going to be no. If you’re a complete beginner to the world of Linux or Raspberry Pi’s and you’re trying to learn, then you should probably stick to using the Desktop Environment. 

 

You will come to learn that with Linux (Raspberry Pi’s run on Debian, a version of Linux) that Murphy’s Law is quite true. For those of you unfamiliar with Murphy’s Law, it simply states “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” This is absolutely the case with using a Raspberry Pi. Sometimes you’ll have everything working perfectly and then you will make some changes, reboot your Raspberry Pi and start experiencing issues. Maybe there is no HDMI signal being output, maybe you can no longer connect via SSH because you broke your Wi-Fi/Ethernet connection, or maybe you simply can’t figure out how to configure an application correctly without a GUI. 

 

With a DE installed, it is significantly easier to troubleshoot issues because you have a GUI. Whilst using Raspbian Lite you may find troubleshooting much more difficult. Reflashing your SD card and starting from scratch is quite common with a Lite installation.

Our Advice to Beginners

If you’re a beginner, then we suggest starting with the full DE experience.  Most people use the Desktop Environment for quite a while before switching. Taking longer than that is perfectly okay and no one will judge you. If you decide to continue using the DE, it doesn’t make you seem any less knowledgeable. 

If you wish to continue proceeding with a Lite installation; wait until you feel confident with working in the command line. We would advise to install Raspberry Pi Lite to a SD card that is separate from your primary installation. That way, if something goes wrong you can simply try again or revert to your old installation.

Final Thoughts

We prefer to use our Raspberry Pi’s in the command line without a desktop environment. This ensures that we’re operating to the max of our capabilities, it keeps loads low. There really is no “bad” choice here, both have their strengths and weaknesses. One of the amazing things about Raspberry Pi’s is that you can always start fresh and get back to where you were quickly. We feel if you’re just starting, stick to the Desktop Environment until you’re more comfortable with the Operating System. Eventually you’re going to experience issues, having a GUI makes it significantly easier for troubleshooting and correcting any errors. 

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