Cloning Raspberry Pi OS

Learn how to clone the Raspberry Pi OS across multiple devices to quickly set up your Raspberry Pi 5 cluster.

By Kevin McAleer,    3 Minutes

Streamlining Cluster Setup

Setting up multiple Raspberry Pis for a cluster can be time-consuming if done individually. This lesson teaches you how to clone the Raspberry Pi OS from one Pi to others, streamlining the setup process for your cluster.

Why Clone Raspberry Pi OS?

Cloning the operating system (OS) from one Raspberry Pi to others in your cluster has several benefits:

  • Efficiency: Significantly reduces the setup time for multiple Pis.
  • Consistency: Ensures each Pi in the cluster has identical configurations and software, reducing potential compatibility issues.
  • Ease of Management: Simplifies the process of updating and managing the Pis by starting with a uniform base.

Preparing for Cloning

Before cloning, you’ll need:

  • A fully set up Raspberry Pi (source Pi) with Raspberry Pi OS and any necessary configurations or software.
  • A microSD card reader/writer.
  • Blank microSD cards for each additional Pi (target Pis).
  • Software for cloning the microSD card (e.g., Raspberry Pi Imager, Win32DiskImager, or dd command on Linux).

Step-by-Step Cloning Process

  1. Shutdown the Source Pi: Safely shut down your source Pi to ensure data integrity during the cloning process.
  2. Remove the microSD Card: Carefully remove the microSD card from the source Pi.
  3. Clone the microSD Card:
    • Using Raspberry Pi Imager (recommended for beginners):
      • Insert the source microSD card into your card reader and connect it to a computer.
      • Launch Raspberry Pi Imager and select “Choose OS” > “Use custom” to select the source microSD card.
      • Select “Choose SD Card” and pick your target microSD card.
      • Click “Write” to clone the OS to the target card. Repeat for additional Pis.
    • Using dd on Linux:
      • Identify the source and target drives (e.g., /dev/sdx for the source and /dev/sdy for the target).
      • Use the command sudo dd if=/dev/sdx of=/dev/sdy bs=4M status=progress to clone the card. Replace /dev/sdx and /dev/sdy with the correct device identifiers.
  4. Eject and Insert into Target Pis: Safely eject the cloned microSD cards and insert them into your target Raspberry Pis.
  5. Boot and Configure Each Pi: Power up each Raspberry Pi. You may need to configure network settings or hostnames individually to avoid conflicts.

Post-Cloning Steps

  • Change Hostnames: To avoid network conflicts, change the hostname of each Pi using sudo raspi-config > Network Options > Hostname.
  • Configure Network Settings: If you’re not using DHCP, configure static IP addresses for each Pi to ensure stable communication within the cluster.


Cloning the Raspberry Pi OS for a cluster setup is a practical approach to quickly and efficiently prepare multiple Raspberry Pis for Docker Swarm. By ensuring each node starts with an identical setup, you streamline both the initial deployment and future maintenance of your cluster. Next, we’ll move on to initializing Docker Swarm on your newly prepared Raspberry Pi cluster.

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