rpi-update => bricked raspberry

The Internet is full of advice. This is especially the case in the world of Raspberry Pi tutorials. The problem is that sometimes you get an anti-pattern with respect to upgrading the Pi’s firmware and/or operating system: people are confused and they’re giving the wrong advice. And then this same wrong advice is repeated over and over.

Two Upgrade Paths and Only One Is Correct

There are two paths available to people so that they may upgrade their Raspberry Pi. One is for a tiny fraction of the coders out there, those who actually create the Raspbian operating system itself. And then the other path is for everyone else.

Incorrect:
sudo rpi-update

Correct:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y upgrade

Why is This?

Unfortunately, the people who wrote the Raspbian operating system included the tools they themselves use to develop it. Just because it’s there as a command line tool, that doesn’t mean that most of us were supposed to use it.

Granted, people will take the fewest steps to get somewhere. If they think that they can save a few characters with what looks to be a simpler command, they’ll try to use it. If things don’t figuratively blow up in their face, they assume it’s good and they’ll give this advice to others.

What’s the Difference?

When you run the sudo apt-get -y upgrade version, you’re pulling the latest code from the stable master branch of Raspbian. That sudo rpi-update command instead pulls from the development branch known as next. It’s a great way of trashing your Ethernet and wi-fi driver stack so that you can no longer get to it remotely, turning your Raspberry Pi into a brick.

brick

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