D3 Tips and Tricks v4

Monday, 5 January 2015

Setting a Static IP Address on a Raspberry Pi

The following post is a section of the book 'Raspberry Pi: Measure, Record, Explore'.  The entire book can be downloaded in pdf format for free from Leanpub or you can read it online here.
Since this post is a snapshot in time. I recommend that you download a copy of the book which is updated frequently to improve and expand the content.

Setting a static IP address

As noted in the previous section, enabling remote access requires that we begin to stretch ourselves slightly. In particular we will want to assign our Raspberry Pi a static IP address.
An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication.
There is a strong likelihood that our Raspberry Pi already has an IP address and it should appear a few lines above the ‘login’ prompt when you first boot up;
My IP address is

Raspbian GNU/Linux 7 raspberrypi tty1

raspberrypi login:
In this example the IP address belongs to the Raspberry Pi.
This address will probably be a ‘dynamic’ IP address and could change each time the Pi is booted. For the purposes of using the Raspberry Pi as a web platform, database and with remote access we need to set a fixed IP address.
This description of setting up a static IP address makes the assumption that we have a device running on the network that is assigning IP addresses as required. This sounds like kind of a big deal, but in fact it is a very common service to be running on even a small home network and it will be running on the ADSL modem or similar. This function is run as a service called DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). You will need to have access to this device for the purposes of knowing what the allowable ranges are for a static IP address. The most likely place to find a DHCP service running in a normal domestic situation would be an an ADSL modem or router.

The Netmask

A common feature for home modems and routers that run DHCP devices is to allow the user to set up the range of allowable network addresses that can exist on the network. At a higher level you should be able to set a ‘netmask’ which will do the job for you. A netmask looks similar to an IP address, but it allows you to specify the range of addresses for ‘hosts’ (in our case computers) that can be connected to the network.
A very common netmask is which means that the network in question can have any one of the combinations where the final number in the IP address varies. In other words with a netmask of the IP addresses available for devices on the network 10.1.1.x range from to or in other words any one of 256 unique addresses.

Distinguish Dynamic from Static

The other service that our DHCP server will allow is the setting of a range of addresses that can be assigned dynamically. In other words we will be able to declare that the range from to can be dynamically assigned which leaves to which can be set as static addresses.
You might also be able to reserve an IP address on your modem / router. To do this you will need to know what the MAC (or hardware address) of the Raspberry Pi is. To find the hardware address on the Raspberry Pi type;
ifconfig -a
(For more information on the ifconfig command check out the Glossary)
This will produce an output which will look a little like the following;
eth0 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 00:08:C7:1B:8C:02
     inet addr: Bcast: Mask:
     RX packets:53 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
     TX packets:44 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
     collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000
     RX bytes:4911 (4.7 KiB)  TX bytes:4792 (4.6 KiB)
The figures 00:08:C7:1B:8C:02 are the Hardware or MAC address.
Because there are a huge range of different DHCP servers being run on different home networks, I will have to leave you with those descriptions and the advice to consult your devices manual to help you find an IP address that can be assigned as a static address. Make sure that the assigned number has not already been taken by another device. Hopefully we would hold a list of any devices which have static addresses so that our Pi’s address does not clash with any other device.
Be aware that if you don’t have a section of your IP address range set aside for static addresses you run the risk of having the DHCP service unwittingly assign a device that wants a dynamic address with the same value that you have already assigned for your Raspberry Pi. Such a conflict is not a good thing.
For the sake of the upcoming projects we will assume that the address is available.

Setting a Static IP Address on the Raspberry Pi.

Before we start configuring we will need to find out what the default gateway is for our network. A default gateway is an IP address that a device will use when it is asked to go to an address that it doesn’t immediately recognise. This would most commonly occur when a computer on a home network wants to contact a computer on the Internet. The default gateway is therefore typically the address of the modem on your home network.
We can check to find out what our default gateway is from Windows by going to the command prompt (Start > Accessories > Command Prompt) and typing;
This should present a range of information including a section that looks a little like the following;
Ethernet adapter Local Area Connection:

  IPv4 Address. . . . . . . . . . . :
  Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . :
  Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . :
The default gateway is therefore ‘’.
On the Raspberry Pi at the command line we are going to start up a text editor and edit the file that holds the configuration details for the network connections.
The file is /etc/network/interfaces. That is to say it’s the interfaces file which is in the network directory which is in the etc directory which is in the root ((/) directory.
To edit this file we are going to type in the following command;
sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces
The sudo portion of the command makes sure that you will have the permission required to edit the interfaces file, nano is the name of the text editor and /etc/network/interfaces is telling the computer which file to edit.
The nano file editor will start and show the contents of the interfaces file which should look a little like the following;
auto lo

iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet dhcp

allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet manual
wpa-roam /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
iface default inet dhcp
We are going to change the line that tells the network interface to use DHCP (iface eth0 inet dhcp) to use our static address that we decided on earlier ( along with information on the netmask to use and the default gateway. So replace the line…
iface eth0 inet dhcp
… with the following lines (and don’t forget to put YOUR address, netmask and gateway in the file, not necessarily the ones below);
iface eth0 inet static
Once you have finished press ctrl-x to tell nano you’re finished and it will prompt you to confirm saving the file. Check your changes over and then press ‘y’ to save the file (if it’s correct). It will then prompt you for the file-name to save the file as. Press return to accept the default of the current name and you’re done!
To allow the changes to become operative we can type in;
sudo reboot
This will reboot the Raspberry Pi and we should see the (by now familiar) scroll of text and when it finishes rebooting you should see;
My IP address is

Raspbian GNU/Linux 7 raspberrypi tty1

raspberrypi login:
Which tells us that the changes have been successful (bearing in mind that the IP address above should be the one you have chosen, not necessarily the one we have been using as an example)

The post above (and heaps of other stuff) is in the book 'Raspberry Pi: Measure, Record, Explore' that can be downloaded for free (or donate if you really want to :-)).

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