The Raspberry Pi family of single-board computers (SBCs) has revolutionized DIY and electronic tinkering since its launch in 2012 and, despite shortages and price rises, remains as popular as ever. You may have one or more old Raspberry Pis in a desk drawer, or maybe you received one as a gift, but how can you tell which Raspberry Pi model you have?
Check the Packaging
If you’ve just received a Raspberry Pi, or are wise enough to have retained the original packaging, you should be able to tell at a glance what Raspberry Pi model you have. Full-size boards come boxed, with the name of the board and some specifications written on the outside. If your box says, “Raspberry Pi 3”, for example, there’s a very good chance you have a Raspberry Pi 3.
Smaller Pi models, such as the Raspberry Pi Zero2, don’t usually come with boxes, and are instead sealed in semi-transparent anti-static bags. Although the front of the bag gives information about the bag itself, the back should give you a hint of what it contains. For instance, text on the back of a static shield bag for a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 contains, “Full instructions can be found at raspberrypi.org/products/zero2.”
There is also an FCC ID code: ABCB-RPIZ2. The text is small, and difficult to read, but if you know what you’re looking for, you should be able to find it.
Exclude the Obvious
Not all Raspberry Pis look the same. It’s easy to confuse the Raspberry Pi Model B range: the Raspberry Pi 2, 3, and 4. But it should be immediately obvious if your Raspberry Pi is not one of these.
The Raspberry Pi 400 has the form factor of a full-sized computer keyboard, while the Raspberry Pi Zero range is about the size of your thumb.
Find Your Device Model Using Terminal Commands
If your Raspberry Pi is running the official Raspberry Pi OS, you can use the cat command to view the contents of a file which contains the Pi’s model. Open a terminal by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T, and enter the following command:
The model of your Raspberry Pi will appear as output.
Some models of Raspberry Pi, such as the Raspberry Pi 4B, come with different amounts of RAM. You can find out how much RAM your Raspberry Pi has with this command:
In the screenshot above, you can see that the model is a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B Rev 1.4 with 8GB RAM.
Check the Board for Clues
Raspberry Pi SBCs usually have some writing on them which will reveal model details. The exact placement will vary, and you may need a magnifying glass or a camera with a macro lens in order to see it.
The image above shows writing on the underside of the board, behind the GPIO holes, revealing the model as a Raspberry Pi Zero W v1.1.
Check Your Receipts
If all else fails, you can check your receipts or purchase history to discover which Raspberry Pi model was bought. Or ask the person who gifted you the Raspberry Pi to check.
Start a Project With Your Raspberry Pi
Now you know how to identify your Raspberry Pi model, you can choose the right project. The capabilities and resources vary greatly between models, but it’s almost guaranteed that you can find a DIY or computing project which will be perfect for your Pi.