When it comes to DIY IoT projects, you can’t ignore Raspberry Pi’s special capabilities. You can build a hacking station with Kali Linux or a NAS server, which is like the home version of cloud storage. In other projects, you can also use Raspberry Pi to telecast media services, control a security camera, or operate a home automation system. If you don’t own a Pi, you can get the same coding experience with an online Raspberry Pi emulator/simulator. This allows you to test out your project – no soldering skills or electronic components are required.
What follows is our updated list of the best Raspberry Pi emulators for Windows PC, online, Linux, or Mac systems.
What Is a Raspberry Pi Emulator?
A Raspberry Pi emulator replicates the Raspberry Pi GPIO pins, Raspbian operating system, and the coding environment across Windows PC, Web, Linux, and Mac. This way, the Raspberry Pi experience can be simulated across another system, and there is no dependence on the actual Raspberry Pi hardware.
For the purpose of this discussion, we won’t take into account any virtual machine software, such as VMWare Workstation, DOSBox, Hyper-V, or VirtualBox. Although these are also capable of running a Raspberry Pi Desktop environment, they aren’t emulators in the true sense, as they require the physical GPIO pins to be available. Without being on an actual Pi, you can’t execute code that works with the virtual machine.
1. Raspberry Pi Desktop for PC and Mac
Did you know Raspberry Pi has an official simulator to experience Raspberry Pi on a PC or Mac? If you have an older PC that is no longer active, you can download Raspberry Pi Desktop and either use it as a proper computer or use its software tools for digital coding.
The procedure is simple: first, download a 3 GB ISO file from the official link. Then create a USB drive installer using BalenaEtcher and boot it from the USB drive on your Windows or Mac systems. A Debian 9-based Raspberry Pi Desktop will be installed on the system.
2. Microsoft Azure IoT Online Simulator
Don’t want to download anything? Microsoft Azure IoT has a ready-to-use online simulator which syncs with your Azure IoT Hub account (any Microsoft account will do). There is an assembly area to the left containing a sensor and a red LED which you can’t change in the preview version. However, there is an online coding area which sends the sensor and LED reading to your Azure IoT hub account.
For developing a connection, you need to check Line 15, which has a device connection string for an Azure IoT hub. Of course, you need an Azure account subscription (free trial or paid) to be able to register a new device in the IoT hub. The procedure is explained in detail here.
3. Raspberry Pi on QEMU
QEMU is a generic open source emulator which stands for Quick Emulation. For Raspberry Pi simulation, there are Windows and Linux (Ubuntu) download links via zip file. For Windows, all you have to do is run a batch file (.bat) inside the zipped “qemu” folder, and it will launch a Raspberry Pi command screen as shown here.
Once it starts, let the procedure continue until the end. You have to enter
startx to launch a graphic interface show below and use your keyboard’s arrow keys to launch the starting menu. You can use the Windows PC taskbar menu to turn off the QEMU Raspberry Pi emulator at any time.
Linux (Ubuntu) users can follow the detailed procedure for QEMU-Raspberry Pi at thislink. If you don’t want to burden your system with separate Raspberry Pi booting yet want the same emulator benefits, the QEMU download is best.
4. Wyliodrin Studio
Wyliodrin is a little-known but effective web emulator for Raspberry Pi, where the Raspberry Pi simulation happens as a plug-in. For that, you need to go to the web studio link (beta.wyliodrin.studio), close the pop-up menu, and click “connect” on top of the headbar. This will allow you to select Raspberry Pi as a device to connect to.
Once the Raspberry Pi simulator device has been set up, you can use various combinations, such as LCD, LED, and buttons. You can also load your own schema in the interface to enjoy a proper emulation.
Apart from Raspberry Pi, this site also simulates Beaglebone Black, Udoo Neo, Raspberry Pi-Pico, and ESP8266.
5. Labcenter Visual Designer for Raspberry Pi
If you’re looking for a premium, professional emulation experience with Raspberry Pi, Labcenter’s Visual Designer offers a good option. Although it comes at a steep price of $652, you can easily write your code for Raspberry Pi and simulate the entire program in their platform. It also supports Grove, a modular development platform. The program does support a free trial.
The possibilities are endless with Raspberry Pi, which makes it extremely popular for all sorts of IoT projects. Using one of the Raspberry Pi emulators in the above list is a shortcut into the entire single board computing experience.