How to install Armbian Debian on an Orange Pi Zero

For those who don’t know, Armbian is a Debian or Ubuntu based Operating System for ARM single board computers. It is supported on board such as Orange Pi One, Orange Pi Zero, NanoPi Neo, Rock64, Pine64, Tinker Board, Banana Pi and many others. It is like what Raspbian is to a Raspberry Pi and its installation is not much different. I’ll show you here the steps needed to install Armbian Debian on an Orange Pi Zero but it will be similar for any other board.

 

Download image

First you’ll need to go to the download section of the Armbian website, look for your board model and check if it’s supported. For the Orange Pi Zero the page is armbian.com/orange-pi-zero. You’ll see that there are two section, one beside the other, for two different downloads: Armbian Stretch and Armbian Bionic. As I mentioned previously, Armbian is based on Debian or Ubuntu, so here you’ll find both options. The one on the right, Armbian Stretch, is the Debian based distribution, whereas the one on the left, Armbian Bionic, is the Ubuntu based one. You can download either, but I usually choose the Debian based one. Also, you’ll have two options to download the Armbian image: with a direct download or via Torrent.

How to check download integrity?

It might happen that your download got somehow corrupted. To verify the image, after uncompressing the download, you can compare the image’s SHA-256 hash with the one contained in the sha256sum.sha file. On Windows you can use 7-Zip’s built-in hash functionality to display the SHA256 hash while on macOS/Linux you can use the shasum command like this:

$ shasum -a 256 -c sha256sum.sha
Armbian_5.59_Orangepizero_Debian_stretch_next_4.14.65.img: OK

 

Flash image

Now is the time to flash the Armbian image to a microSD card. You’ll need a specific software to do this and my recommendation is to use Etcher. Download it from their website or from GitHub, install it and you’re ready to go.

Important!

Make sure you use a good, reliable and fast SD card (Class 10 highly recommended!). If you encounter boot or stability troubles in many cases it’s either insufficient power supply or related to the SD card (bad card, card too slow, something went wrong when burning the image).

In Etcher, select the image file, the target SD card (Warning! double check that the drive is correct) and click on the ‘Flash!’ button.

Wait a few minutes and if everything goes right you’ll have the SD card ready to plug it into your board.

 

First boot

Insert the microSD card into the memory slot of the Orange Pi Zero, connect an Ethernet cable and plug in a micro USB cable to power the board.
The orange and green LEDs on the Ethernet port will start flickering, in less than a minute the Orange Pi Zero will have booted and we can remotely access it to complete the installation. We’ll access the board via SSH but we need to know its IP address first. One way to find this address is to access the control panel of your router and search for the address assigned to the orangepizero hostname.

Another way to find this address is to use a network application such as Fing or Angry IP Scanner. Once we have the IP address of the Orange Pi Zero we can then use SSH to access it for the first time.

ssh root@192.168.1.144

You will be warned about the authenticity of the host. Accept the key fingerprint to be added to your computer’s known_hosts file and move on.

The authenticity of host '192.168.1.144 (192.168.1.144)' can't be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is SHA256:-------------------------------------------.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes

You will then be asked to enter the root password, which is 1234 initially, and then immediately prompted to change this root password to a new one.

password: 
You are required to change your password immediately (root enforced)
  ___                               ____  _   _____              
 / _ \ _ __ __ _ _ __   __ _  ___  |  _ \(_) |__  /___ _ __ ___  
| | | | '__/ _` | '_ \ / _` |/ _ \ | |_) | |   / // _ \ '__/ _ \ 
| |_| | | | (_| | | | | (_| |  __/ |  __/| |  / /|  __/ | | (_) |
 \___/|_|  \__,_|_| |_|\__, |\___| |_|   |_| /____\___|_|  \___/ 
                       |___/                                     

Welcome to ARMBIAN 5.59 stable Debian GNU/Linux 9 (stretch) 4.14.65-sunxi   
System load:   0.08 0.02 0.01  	Up time:       25 min		
Memory usage:  9 % of 493MB  	IP:            192.168.1.144
CPU temp:      60°C           	
Usage of /:    6% of 15G    	

New to Armbian? Check the documentation first: https://docs.armbian.com
Changing password for root.
(current) UNIX password: 
Changing password for root.
(current) UNIX password: 
Enter new UNIX password: 
Retype new UNIX password: 


Thank you for choosing Armbian! Support: www.armbian.com

After that, you will be asked to create a normal user account that is sudo enabled. In my case I’m calling this new user account ‘hass’ because I’m planning to install Home Assistant on this Orange Pi Zero.

Creating a new user account. Press  to abort

Please provide a username (eg. your forename): hass
Trying to add user hass
Adding user `hass' ...
Adding new group `hass' (1000) ...
Adding new user `hass' (1000) with group `hass' ...
Creating home directory `/home/hass' ...
Copying files from `/etc/skel' ...
Enter new UNIX password: 
Retype new UNIX password: 
passwd: password updated successfully
Changing the user information for hass
Enter the new value, or press ENTER for the default
	Full Name []: Home Assistant
	Room Number []: 
	Work Phone []: 
	Home Phone []: 
	Other []: 
Is the information correct? [Y/n] Y

Dear Home Assistant, your account hass has been created and is sudo enabled.
Please use this account for your daily work from now on.

 

System Upgrade

Use the following commands when you need to upgrade the system:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

 

System Reboot and Shutdown

In case you need to restart the system you can use the command reboot:

reboot

To turn off the board you can use the command shutdown:

shutdown -h now

 


Some handy links

AliExpress : Orange Pi Zero H2+ Quad Core Open-source 512MB Development Board with Wifi Antenna

Amazon : Orange Pi Zero H2+ Quad Core Open-source 512MB Development Board with Wifi Antenna
Amazon : Orange Pi Zero H2+ Quad Core Open-source 256MB Development Board with Wifi Antenna
Amazon : SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSDHC Memory Card with A1 App Performance, Class 10, U1
Amazon : SanDisk Ultra 16GB microSDHC Memory Card with A1 App Performance, Class 10, U1
Amazon : Samsung 32GB 95MB/s Memory Evo Plus Micro SD Card

armbian.com
Armbian : Getting Started
GitHub : Armbian
Etcher
GitHub : Etcher releases

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2 Comments
  1. fmatic says:

    Thank you for a great guide. I have a weird issue with OrangePI Zero, Armbian Jessie and Samsung EVO SD Card. First boot works ok and I can SSH to my box and change root password and create new user etc. System ask to reboot to complete filesystem resize and there comes problem. After reboot Opi Zero won’t come back online :(