We cannot deny that the Raspberry Pi is the most successful microcomputer. Whether we are amateur or professional users, this device allows us to have a fully functional computer to carry out all kinds of projects, from experimentation to setting up a personal server at home. Typically, this microcomputer is powered by Linux distros, distributions designed to accomplish specific tasks. However, there are projects designed to turn the Raspberry Pi into a fully functional computer, being able, among other things, to install Windows 10 on it.
Microsoft provides, in part, support for the Raspberry Pi. Among the most popular distros we can find Windows 10 IoT, a version of the operating system focused especially on the Internet of Things. If we are developers, this system may have some utility, but at the home and hobbyist level, its functions leave much to be desired.
Windows 10 ARM Features on the Raspberry Pi
Thanks to the community, many features and functions have been made usable on the Raspberry Pi. Some of the most important are:
- Support for UEFI.
- Development, implementation and debugging of specific drivers for Raspberry Pi.
- Operation of HDMI, USB ports and SD / MMC card reader.
- Bootable SD card without additional bootloaders.
- Windows BSP Drivers.
- ACPI drivers operation.
Windows 10 cannot be officially installed on the Raspberry Pi, even though Microsoft’s operating system has been designed to work on ARM computers as well. However, thanks to WOA Deployer, it is possible to prepare a micro-SD to be able to use Windows 10 on a Raspberry Pi.
Limitations of Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi
We must bear in mind that, since the support of this operating system for the RPi is not official, we are going to have a series of limitations that may influence the experience of using this operating system.
For example, the first thing we will bear in mind is that this only works on the Pi 3 and Pi 4. Nothing else. We cannot install it on any other version of the micro-computer.
It is also true that we are going to encounter significant performance problems. Although Windows 10 works 50% better on the Raspberry Pi 4 than it does on the Pi 3, the operating system can only use 1GB of RAM out of the available 4GB. This dramatically hurts the overall performance of Microsoft’s operating system.
Some functions and features (such as sound, video output, and even GPIO) may not work properly on Windows 10 due to lack of implementation. We must also bear in mind that the operating system can be unstable and generate blue screens. In addition, it is necessary to have some technical knowledge to be able to launch this operating system on the Raspberry Pi.
The developers at WOA Deployer are working on increasingly improving the performance of Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi, although it will still take time to make it fully functional.
If we don’t want to wait, then we explain how to try it.
When to use Windows 10 and when to use Linux
The Raspberry Pi has been designed with Linux in mind from the ground up. Its main distribution is Raspberry Pi OS, also known as Raspbian (the old name). This distro is based on Debian, and is designed to take full advantage of all the features of the RPi. The Linux kernel has official drivers to run on this microcomputer. For this reason, most of the distros that exist have versions for ARM, and many, specifically, for this PC.
Windows can be interesting if we plan to mount a personal computer and we need to depend on proprietary software that only exists for this system. However, the limitations that we find, by not having official support, are very large. We will have performance and compatibility issues. Windows 10 for ARM is not fully debugged yet.
Despite this, if you want to install Windows on the Raspberry Pi, this is how you should do it. If you regret it, you can always delete it and change the system simply by changing the SD.
How to install Windows 10 on an SD for the Raspberry Pi
In order to install the Microsoft operating system on the Raspberry Pi we need a series of requirements:
- Have a Raspberry Pi 3 or 4 (another version is not worth it).
- A Micro-SD of at least 16 GB.
- Download a Windows 10 WIM image for ARM. We can do it easily by following the steps in the following link. We recommend choosing a stable Windows image, no Insider builds.
- Download WOA Deployer, which we can do in its GitHub repository. WOA Deployer we can find it in two different versions. The CLI version, to be used in terminal mode, with commands, and the GUI version, with a more user-friendly graphical interface.
When we have all of the above, we can start the process. We are going to use the GUI version of WOA Deployer. When executing the program we will be able to see a window similar to the following one. In it we will have to choose the device for which we want to prepare the micro-SD with Windows 10.
Once done, we will click on the «Deploy» button and the program will begin to carry out its work. Next, a new window will appear in which we must select the WIM image of Windows 10 for ARM (which we will have downloaded and generated before), and the memory card where we want to install Windows 10, which must be connected to the computer.
We must bear in mind that the memory card will be completely erased to install Windows 10 on it. Therefore we must be sure that we do not keep important information, and select the correct unit and not make mistakes.
Once this is selected, we will click on «Ok» and the creation of the memory card will begin. This process will take a long time, so we must wait calmly for it to finish.
When it reaches the end, we can disconnect the memory card from our computer, put it in the Raspberry Pi and start it. The micro-computer will run Windows 10 in much the same way as a PC.
How to erase Windows 10 from Raspberry Pi
Being able to install the Microsoft operating system on the Raspberry Pi is undoubtedly a great advantage to turn the micro-computer into a fully functional computer. However, its limitations can make it worthwhile to dedicate this device to running Windows, when we have much more optimized and better Linux distros.
If we get tired of using this version of Windows 10 we have several options. The first one is to simply swap the memory card for another. As the operating systems work like this on the Raspberry Pi, we will not have to do more than change the micro-SD for another to load another operating system. And we can save the Windows card to use it later, if we regret it.
And, if we are not going to use Windows 10 on ARM again, then we can simply format the memory card. We will erase all the data from it so that it is clean. Then we can install any other system (such as Raspbian, or RetroPie) to give the RasPi a new use.