Sep 292016
Flash an SD card larger than 4 GB for raspberry pi

Yesterday (28 Sep 2016) a new version of Raspbian was released with a brand new skin called PIXEL. I downloaded it on my Mac and tried to unzip it in the usual way. It threw an error, so I assumed the download was faulty and downloaded again. But the error persisted. GAH!!!

Unzipping error on Mac

Unzipping error on Mac

My friend Albert Hickey (who runs the Egham Jam) had a similar issue on Windows…

Unzipping error on Windows

Unzipping error on Windows

Les Pounder said it worked fine in Ubuntu though.

Didn’t Unzip on Pi

I tried unzipping it on a Pi, but that failed too. BOO! However, it was soon revealed on twitter what the issue was…

Files Over 4 GigaBytes Need a Modern Unzipper

The unzipped Raspbian image is larger than 4 Gigabytes, which means the default unzipping software cannot cope. So I took Simon’s recommendation and looked in the App Store for “The Unarchiver”. It turned out to be a free app, which installed easily…

The Unarchiver - FREE in the app store

The Unarchiver – FREE in the app store

I used it to unzip the 1.52 GB “” file to its full 4.35 GB as “2016-09-23-raspbian-jessie.img”

Zipped and unzipped Raspbian

Zipped and unzipped Raspbian

7-Zip Works for Windows

If you’re using Windows, you can use 7-Zip instead. You can download 7-Zip here.

“Great!” I then thought. “I’ll shove the 4.35 GB .img file on a memory stick and use a Pi to flash it to the micro-SD card with dd”

Foiled Again

But the file refused to copy onto the memory stick (something to do with the stick’s format), so that idea was shelved. Could I use dd directly? I don’t really like using dd on my main computer. It’s not by accident that it’s nicknamed “destroy disk”, which isn’t something I want to do to my work machine. I sometimes use it in a Ubuntu virtual machine on my Mac, but…

Etcher is the New Way

…then I remembered Matt Richardson recently mentioned Etcher, which is a lovely piece of FREE software that handles the SD flashing process for you. It not only works well and has a lovely interface, but there are versions for Linux, Mac and Windows. So finally we have a system that works on all three major platforms. YAY! You can find and download Etcher here. (It will also write an image directly from a .Zip file if you prefer to do that, but it is slower.)

Etcher really IS this simple to use

Etcher really IS this simple to use

Etcher installed beautifully and worked perfectly the first time. It also has built-in safeguards to prevent you from accidentally destroying your hard drive. Using a USB3 card reader/writer, it took 12 minutes and 21 seconds to flash the new Raspbian image “2016-09-23-raspbian-jessie.img” to a micro-SD card.

And then I was able to have a play with the latest OS and see the new PIXEL UI improvements. But that’s a story for another day.

In Summary

The new Raspbian is 4.35 GB and may not unzip without using a newer “unzipper” than the defaults on OSX and Windows.

Unzip Raspbian images >4GB with The Unarchiver on OSX, 7-Zip on Windows, it should “just work” in Ubuntu.

Flash Raspbian images with Etcher – works on all 3 platforms (but not yet on Pi)

  14 Responses to “How to Flash an SD Card with Larger than 4GB Image – Raspbian September 2016 update”

  1. If your memory stick is the usual fat32 you encountered the 4GB limit of that file system.

    • yeah I think that’s what it was, which was why I couldn’t be bothered to find a way round it. However, it did make me try out Etcher and it was so good that I can happily recommend it to everyone. Pity there’s no Pi port of it, but maybe one day :)

  2. Sigh, over 4 GB again. So more bloat alas, time to research the ‘Purge raspbian’ method again.

  3. Etcher will open zipped files directly, so no need to unzip first!

  4. I’ve been using 7-zip for years now so I forgot this might be an issue for others. Etcher is a good choice as it is cross-platform so us bloggers can mention 1 tool and not kick-off a flame war.

    • No you’re wrong about that (jk) ;p

      Yes Etcher is awesome for that reason, and now Alexandros has told us it can use .zip files directly it’s even more awesome :)

  5. I had no problem unzipping on Win 10. Perhaps the Win 10 internal unzipper handle this ok?

  6. Etcher is even more perfect!
    I used a 16gb sd card filled with a working copy of an older Version of jessie.
    Etcher copied the Image of the new Software from the zip file including verification
    within 11 minutes to the sd card on a windows10 Notebook.
    NO erazing, no formating of the target was nessecary.
    Thank you Alex for this and other very usefull articels

  7. “jar -xvf” seemed to work for me

  8. On the MacBook Pro I use (very old-January 2006) running OS X 10.6.8 I am using Apple Pi-Baker from
    It works very well.

  9. Aha! Used 7-Zip in Windows 7 Home Premium and it worked fine. Of all the zip apps for Windows I’ve found 7-Zip the easiest and least problematical. Only problem I had was with 4GB SD card. So I pulled out a 16GB model and it worked fine. Pixel loads really fast on my Pi-Top and seems more robust & responsive than pi-topOS.

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