Self hosted

DietPi: Tiny OS for Home Server Self-hosting

For home labbers and others running small board computer systems like Raspberry Pi board computers, there is a tiny operating system you may not have heard about. It is called “Diet Pi,” and it is a really cool option for those who want to have a small-footprint operating system for their underlying projects. However, as we will see, you can also run DietPi as a virtual machine.

What is Diet Pi?

DietPi is an incredibly lightweight operating system optimized for the smallest of devices, but it packs a punch for performance. This minimal Debian OS DietPi system brings the best of both worlds – minimal CPU and RAM resource usage coupled with optimized software tailored for server operations.

Dietpi is an excellent solution for tiny os in the home lab
Dietpi is an excellent solution for tiny os in the home lab

The power of Single Board Computers and DietPi Combined

Raspberry Pi is a name most known among single-board computers. When you install DietPi, it becomes an efficient, cost-effective solution for your home server needs. With a Raspberry Pi OS, you have the basics. But with DietPi, it unlocks additional capabilities streamlined for server tasks.

DietPi contains a large list of software from a software catalog that allows you to spin up self-hosted services in your home lab quickly.

The small image intended to run server tasks provides an excellent platform for thOSe looking for a minimalistic OS to run self-hosted applications and services on a Pi server and other SBCs and virtual machines.

In addition to Raspberry Pi, it also features support for:

  • Orange Pi 5 Plus

  • Orange Pi 5

  • ROCK 5B

  • RK33xx SBCs

  • DietPi Wifi:

    • 802.11ac/WiFi 5

    • 802.11ax/WiFi 6

    • 5 GHz support for WiFi hotspot

Features and capabilities

Note the following features and capabilities:

Optimized Performance – It stands out as an ultra-light Debian OS, fine-tuned to guarantee minimal CPU and RAM usage. This ensures that your Single Board Computer (SBC) always operates at peak performance.

User-Friendly Interface – It uses Whiptail menus, reducing your time with the command line and letting you get the most out of your Pi experience.

Software Solutions – You can install top-tier software that’s “ready to run” and tailored for your device. It installs only the essentials, eliminating bloat.

Configuration – Customize your device’s hardware and software effortlessly, including fine-tuning network connections and setting up localizations.

Backups – Easily back up or restore your entire DietPi environment with just a few clicks to avoid risk losing data on your SBC.

Flexible Logging Options – Choose the degree of logging that suits you. Whether it’s enhancing performance with RAMlog or employing rsyslog and log rotate for servers requiring comprehensive logs.

Services Management – Prioritize the software on your device. Determine which installed application gets more or less emphasis through tools like nice, affinity, policy scheduler, and beyond.

Real-time Updates – It continuously scans for updates and notifies you as they arise. Upgrade on the fly without the need to flash a fresh image.

Automated Setups – Automation allows for a hands-off setup. All it takes is a preliminary configuration of dietpi.txt before powering on.

Install DietPi

To install DietPi, it is a simple process of downloading the image you want to use and then installing the OS on your platform.

Downloading the Image

Getting started is as simple as downloading the image. This image file, usually available as a zip file, can be written onto an SD card or a bootable USB drive. For Raspberry Pi users, the SD card is the most common choice.

Also, home lab enthusiasts can download Virtual Machine images for VMware, Proxmox, and others which is super nice since it allows you to easily spin up virtual machines running DietPi to form the basis for your self-hosted platform.

You can download it from here: DietPi – Lightweight justice for your SBC!

Download the dietpi image for your single board computer or vm
Download the dietpi image for your single board computer or vm

Installing DietPi is a straightforward process. Note the following overview of steps for single board computers and the walkthrough installing it into a virtual machine.

Overview of single board computer installation process

Here’s a brief overview of the steps for most single-board computers:

  1. Download the appropriate DietPi image for your single-board computer or other small-board computer. For most, the Raspberry Pi version will be the correct one.

  2. Write the image onto an SD card or USB drive.

  3. DietPi will ask for user input on the first boot, making it easy to set software settings, change the default password (a crucial step), and make all the necessary configurations.

  4. Once you’ve finished, you can easily backup your configurations with the DietPi backup tool.

Virtual Machines and DietPi

Not everyone might want to run DietPi on a Raspberry Pi or a similar single-board computer. For those inclined towards virtualization, DietPi works fine on virtual machines. This allows for testing, development, or simply running the OS without dedicated hardware.

Since I am running VMware vSphere at home, you can download Diet Pi as a virtual machine image in the form of an OVA for VMware. It makes installing it super easy. Just deploy the image as you would any other OVA appliance.

Below I have extracted the VMware OVA appliance 7z Zip package to a folder.

Extracting the ova appliance file for vmware esxi
Extracting the ova appliance file for vmware esxi

Below, I am beginning the process of deploying the OVA appliance.

Beginning to deploy the dietpi ova
Beginning to deploy the dietpi ova

After stepping through the OVA deployment wizard with the Diet Pi installation.

Finishing the ova deployment wizard for dietpi
Finishing the ova deployment wizard for dietpi

After the OVA appliance is deployed, we start up the DietPi appliance.

Dietpi booting up for the first time
Dietpi booting up for the first time

The DietPi software is fully booted.

Dietpi fully booted and ip address assigned with dhcp
Dietpi fully booted and ip address assigned with dhcp

The DietPi software is automatically updated.

The automatic update process begins in dietpi
The automatic update process begins in dietpi

The DietPi software will go through a configuration process to have you setup the keyboard and other settings.

Beginning the keyboard configuration
Beginning the keyboard configuration
Selecting the keyboard input
Selecting the keyboard input
Choosing the country of origin for keyboard
Choosing the country of origin for keyboard

You will be prompted to change your password.

Prompted to change passwords for users
Prompted to change passwords for users

During the initial configuration, the DietPi software configurator will automatically launch and allow you to install the software.

You will be prompted to install software if you would like during installation
You will be prompted to install software if you would like during installation

Now that DietPi is installed and initially configured, you will see the following splash screen. You can run one of the following DietPi commands:

dietpi-launcher: All the DietPi programs in one place
dietpi-config: DietPI configuration tool
dietpi-software: Install DietPi software
htop: resource monitor
cpu: Shows CPU information and stats
After the initial configuration process with dietpi
After the initial configuration process with dietpi

Running updates

Staying updated is critical. With the DietPi update tool, you’re always ensured to have the latest version of the OS along with any software improvements and bug fixes. Plus, DietPi ensures that updating doesn’t become resource-heavy, maintaining its minimalistic nature.

Updating dietpi software
Updating dietpi software

Software packages

To me, this is the area that makes DietPi amazing. Not only is it tiny and very lean on resources, but it also has a large list of software packages you can install by a simple process using the dietpi-launcher. You can launch the dietpi-launcher with the command of the same name:

Launching the dietpi software installation app
Launching the dietpi software installation app

DietPi software is a large collection of software packages (most that self-hosters would want to run) and tools specially optimized for the OS. From web server solutions, VPNs, DNS servers, to file server programs, DietPi has a large selection to choose from. Installing DietPi also means you’re not just getting a bare-bones OS, but a large ecosystem of installed software that’s ready to go.

Viewing software packages for installation
Viewing software packages for installation

Kubernetes options

For those wanting to run Kubernetes, it caught my eye that you can easily spin up a k3s or MicroK8s cluster using the Software installation tool.

Viewing kubernetes distributions for installation
Viewing kubernetes distributions for installation

Categories of software packages you can install

Note you can install software from the following categories:

  • Advanced Networking

  • BitTorrent & Download Tools

  • Camera & Surveillance

  • Cloud & Backup Systems

  • Databases & Data Stores

  • Desktops & Utilities

  • Development & Programming

  • Distributed Projects

  • DNS Servers

  • File Servers

  • Gaming & Emulation

  • Hardware Projects

  • Home Automation

  • Logging Systems

  • Media Systems

  • Printing Servers

  • Remote Desktop & Remote Access

  • Social & Search

  • SSH Servers

  • System Security

  • System Stats & Management

  • VPN

  • Web Development

You can check out a full list of software and details here: DietPi Software Options – Docs.

Installing software

Let’s see how we can easily install software using DietPi. Using the menu-driven interface, you first select the software package to install software. Here, we are selecting K3s.

Selecting k3s for installation
Selecting k3s for installation

Next, you choose Install and then select OK.

Choosing to install selected software
Choosing to install selected software

When you select Install, you will get a request to confirm the installation.

Confirm the software installation
Confirm the software installation

The K3s installation begins.

K3s begins downloading and installing
K3s begins downloading and installing

To verify the installation, I ran the command:

sudo kubectl get nodes
Running basic kubectl commands to verify the k3s installation
Running basic kubectl commands to verify the k3s installation

You can see the value of DietPi software packages. We didn’t have to curl the binary for K3s. DietPi performed the heavy lifting and was able to pull down and install K3s for us.

Configurations and Customizations

Aside from installing software, the DietPi config can be fully customized. You can adjust network configuration, set up a wireless connection, or even configure an SSH server – the options are endless. Combined with DietPi tools, this gives you complete control over the OS.

Security features

From the initial setup where you’re prompted to change the default username and root password to the regular updates, DietPi helps you focus on security. The minimalistic and lean operating system itself helps to reduce the attack surface as well.

You can also run software on your DietPi that helps to bolster security in your home network and home lab like DNS filtering with Adguard and Pi-Hole, or secure DNS with Unbound. You can also run SSH servers, etc.

Rich community support

The backbone of any open-source project is its community. The DietPi forum is a great resource with many administrators, the previous project lead, source code contributors, and everyday users sharing tips and tricks as well as insights.

The forums are a great place to find support if you are having issues or need guidance with configuration and keeping informed on the latest features of DietPi.

Wrapping up

In looking at a lot of the home lab and home server operating system options recently, DietPi is a great choice for home lab enthusiasts and makers using single board computers like Raspberry Pi devices. I really like how you can use not only SBCs but also virtual machines as the base for DietPi, making it extremely flexible in how you deploy it.

If you are looking for a virtual machine OS to form a lean base for installing self-hosted applications or running Kubernetes distributions, DietPi is definitely worth checking out and I highly recommend it as a top choice for home lab environments.

Subscribe to VirtualizationHowto via Email 🔔

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

Related Articles


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.