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pi-topOS Overview

pi-topOS is the recommended way to use your pi-top. Let’s find out more about what it is and how it works!

pi-topOS is built on top of Raspberry Pi OS (formerly Raspbian), so a lot of things are identical. However there are some differences.

The focus of development in pi-topOS is primarily around device support for pi-top hardware, and usability improvements. Raspberry Pi OS handles much of the backbone functionality that pi-topOS depends on - things like the way that software stays up-to-date, the general desktop environment, etc.

This means that pi-top developers are not directly involved in the development of these core features, even though pi-topOS directly benefits from this work done by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

What does pi-topOS aim to do differently to Raspberry Pi OS?

pi-topOS changes some of the theming provided by Raspberry Pi OS, and adds out-of-the-box device support for pi-top hardware.

The focus of development in pi-topOS is primarily around device support for pi-top hardware, and usability improvements. Raspberry Pi OS handles much of the backbone functionality that pi-topOS depends on - things like the way that software stays up-to-date, the general desktop environment, etc.

This means that pi-top developers are not directly involved in the development of these core features, even though pi-topOS directly benefits from this work done by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

So pi-topOS is built on top of Raspberry Pi OS. What's different?

We install multiple extra bits of software (known as packages) on top of Raspberry Pi OS. These packages are responsible for such things as:

  • Plug-and-Play functionality with pi-top hardware
  • Modifying the user interface
  • Notification system
  • Automatic software updater
  • Simplified user onboarding/OS setup
  • Additional settings for pi-top hardware
  • ‘About’ page to show key information about the OS that is installed

For more information about pi-topOS, check out the technical details subsection of the pi-topOS knowledge base

What if I want to use another operating system?

With all of our pi-top products, pi-topOS sets up communication between the Raspberry Pi and the pi-top Hub. That means when you want to turn off your device, the hub cuts power to itself and the Raspberry Pi. If you're not using pi-topOS, you'll no longer be able to initiate a soft shutdown by holding the power button for a short time. Instead, the device will hard shutdown and will likely corrupt your OS, overtime.

If you're using a different OS, when shutting down your device from the Start Menu on the desktop, the Raspberry Pi will shut down, but you'll still see the green power light on your Hub and the red power light from your Raspberry Pi. You'll have to hold the power button for 5 seconds in order to turn off these lights.

With the pi-top [1], [3] and [4] you can also see the remaining battery level of your device and get prompted to plug in your device when the battery level drops too low.

With the pi-top [4], you'll not be able to use the miniscreen display and buttons.

If you'd like to use a pi-top device with Raspberry Pi OS, take a look at this article. Other operating systems are not supported.