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Unlocking your new Raspberry PI’s 512MB of Memory!

Update:  The new Raspbian image supports this out of the box now. The below instructions should no longer be necessary

A newer version of the Raspberry PI Model B has been release a few days ago, with 512mb of RAM (as opposed to 256MB). Using Raspbian as your OS, you will need to update the RaspberryPI’s boot firmware in order to take advantage of the new memory upgrade. To determine how much RAM your OS is currently seeing, you can do “free -h” at the prompt.

All the steps below are using SSH, as I don’t use the GUI on my RPi.


Login to your RaspberryPI through SSH. Default credentials are:

Username: pi
Password: raspberry

Upgrading the Software/Kernel

sudo -i
apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

Updating the Firmware

Note: Hexxeh’s rpi-update script is currently broken, so we’ll need to do this manually.

In /boot/, download (and overwrite if already exists) all files from here:

Hexxeh’s Rpi-Update script has now been updated, so you can follow the following steps:

rm -rf /boot/*.elf /boot/*.bin /boot/*.img
apt-get install git
apt-get install ca-certificates
wget -O /usr/bin/rpi-update && sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/rpi-update

The Memory Split

On the RaspberryPI, GPU (video) and system memory are shared. That means if your RPi has 512mb of RAM, some of that RAM will be reserved to use as video memory. Since my RPi doesn’t use the GUI, I set my GPU memory to be 16MB. If you are using a GUI, you may want to go with 64, 128, or even 256MB of GPU ram.

Edit /boot/config.txt and add the following line at the bottom of the file:



At this point, you can reboot. Running “free -h” again should give you the updated memory configuration!


DanyO is a hacker at the HubCityLabs Hackerspace. He has been a maker with a penchant for software and electronics for two decades.

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  • Oreo

    I tried this but I am not seeing any difference in my free -h command. Always getting 121m regardless of what I choose

  • Guest

    Are you sure you have the 512MB Model? When did you get your RaspberryPI?

    To make sure, you can follow the instructions here:

    I don’t have my RPi now, so I don’t know for sure, but your revision number should be something like “10000f”

    You can also check the chip’s model number on the CPU itself. if its got K4P2G324 its a 256MB Pi, if its got K4P4G324 its a 512MB Pi.

  • john

    brilliant post but i have 1 point
    If I set GPU to 16 i get No HDMI display even from boot up.
    remote putty and vncserver consoles still work normally.
    checking the memory using cat/proc/meminfo|grep Mem
    produced this
    cat /proc/meminfo |grep Mem
    MemTotal: 497764 kB
    MemFree: 366276 kB
    (My HDMI no longer produce any display with 16mb)
    I just used nano to amend the config.txt file this time
    meminfo now produces
    cat /proc/meminfo |grep Mem
    MemTotal: 481508 kB
    MemFree: 342180 kB
    and HDMI works fine again
    Also Setting 24 allowed HDMI to work and seems to be the min setting if you want a display to work.

    • Dany Ouellette

      Hi John! Great point!

      I’ve updated the article to reflect that. Thank You!

      I’ve also updated the steps involved, since the rpi-update script has been updated.

  • budd

    I’m getting start.elf is missing when I run rpi-update

  • Crisciple

    I have had a problem when using wget to grab the script and subsequently had trouble when running it. I checked the code and instead it has some HTML and some other code. So I replaced the script source in the rpi-update file and successfully ran the script.

  • roothen


    From the following link I got a suggestion just to do a;

    $ touch /boot/start.elf

    in the meantime, the shortest workaround is just to
    touch /boot/start.elf

    Got the following change in behavior when I used the guidance.

    root@raspberrypi:~# /usr/bin/rpi-update
    Raspberry Pi firmware updater by Hexxeh, enhanced by AndrewS
    Performing self-update
    /boot/start.elf doesn’t exist.
    root@raspberrypi:~# touch /boot/start.elf
    root@raspberrypi:~# /usr/bin/rpi-update
    Raspberry Pi firmware updater by Hexxeh, enhanced by AndrewS
    Performing self-update
    ARM/GPU split is now defined in /boot/config.txt using the gpu_mem option!
    We’re running for the first time
    Setting up firmware (this will take a few minutes)
    Using HardFP libraries
    If no errors appeared, your firmware was successfully setup
    A reboot is needed to activate the new firmware

    Then after my reboot it all has seemed to work;

    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ free -h
    total used free shared buffers cached
    Mem: 438M 52M 385M 0B 8.0M 25M
    -/+ buffers/cache: 19M 418M
    Swap: 99M 0B 99M
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $

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  • mjneedles

    Thank you for this post! I was worried that my RPi was only showing 224MB, (32MB Video), and after following your instructions, I now have the full 512MB. I was having near total lock-up trying to run Glassfish, but now it’s great!


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