How To Set Up The MiSTer

This is an essential guide for your first time setup of the MiSTer system. It will guide you through the SD-card installation, help you update the MiSTer system files and show you how to run a game on an example core.


You will need the following things to get everything started.

  • DE10-Nano board + 5V power supply
  • SDRAM-Board
  • Monitor + HDMI cable
  • USB-OTG adapter + USB keyboard
  • SD card (4GB,8GB,16GB are good choices for beginners)

Prepare the SD-card using Windows OS

  1. Download the latest SD-card installer from here
  2. Insert your SD-card into your PC.
  3. Extract the release_201#####.rar file.
  4. Start “MiSTer SD Card Utility.exe”
  1. Make sure it says “U-Boot + Linux + MiSTer” in the “Image” field.
    • Newer versions of Mister SD Card Utility will says “Boot + Files” in the “Image” field.
  2. Select your SD-card in the “Drive” field. If you have inserted the SD-card after starting the Installer, hit the “Refresh” button and your SD-card should appear.
  3. Press “Full Install” and confirm the following Warning with “Yes”. All data on the SD-card will be deleted! Make sure to backup the SD-card before you execute this!
  1. Confirm the successful installation with “ok”
  1. The Installer will open multiple windows which will ask you to format the drive. Don’t format the drive! Press “Cancel” in all three windows.
  1. The SD-card File Explorer window will be opened twice, close one of them. The SD-card should contain the following three files / folder:

If you see only the menu.rbf file, hit F5 on your keyboard or “right click > Refresh” to refresh the window. You should see all three files now.

The files you see are:

  • linux – Folder containing linux files
  • config – The configuration folder. You can place configuration files like the mister.ini in this folder. Check out the Configuration Files wiki page for more information (not yet so…).
    • This folder is no more created by newer version of SD Card Utility, but it will be created automatically by the MiSTer hardware at first run (you can manually create and populate it if you want)
  • menu.rbf – This is the actual MiSTer menu core, which you will see when you boot up the DE10-Nano board (GitHub).
  • MiSTer – MiSTer main firmware (GitHub)


Update MiSTer files

The SD-card installer might be older then the actual binary releases of the MiSTer firmware and the menu core. Therefore, we want to bring those files up to date.

  1. Go to the MiSTer-devel/Main_MiSTer Repository and download the most recent MiSTer_201##### firmware file on the bottom of the page.
  1. Rename the MiSTer_201##### file to MiSTer
  1. Copy the file over to your SD-card and override the old MiSTer file.
  1. Repeat this for the menu core file: Go to the MiSTer-devel/Menu_MiSTer repository and download the most recent menu_201#####.rbf core file on the bottom of the page. Rename menu_201#####.rbf to menu.rbf and override the old file on the SD-card.

Get a core

We want to actually run a core like the NES or Amiga on our DE10-Nano FPGA board. Therefore, we have to copy a core .rbf file to the root of the SD-card. The sidebar on the right contains a list of MiSTer compatible cores. Check out the GitHub repository page of each core for specific information. The following description is a generic example based on the NES core, but it is applicable to most other cores.

  1. Click in the sidebar on Cores > “NES” or go directly through this link to the MiSTer-devel/NES_MiSTer release folder. Download the lates NES_20######.rbf core file
  1. Copy the core file to the root of the SD-card. Leave the date in the filename. By this, you know which version you are actually using.
  1. Create a new folder and name it for example NES Games.
  1. Download a .nes ROM (Game) file and copy it into your NES Games folder. You have to google that by yourself…

MiSTer DE10 Nano Switch Configuration

By Nat D on October 16, 2019

MiSTer Switch Configuration Setup DE10 Nano
If the switch settings are not as shown, you can use a wooden toothpick to change the 6 pin DIP switch SW10 on the Terasic DE10-Nano board.

If you are just setting up your MiSTer for the first time, or maybe you are experiencing issues you just can not fathom out. It is always best to check the six on board DIP switches are in the correct positions, remember to make sure you turn off the DE10 Nano before adjusting the switches.

The correct configuration is shown in the images below. Using a wooden cocktail stick for the SW10 DIP switches makes adjustment easy, once done you are ready to power up the DE10-Nano.

MiSTer Board SW10 Dip Switch Settings

SW10 DIP Switches

Power it up

  1. Make sure the SDRAM-Board is attached to the GPIO header JP1 of the DE10-Nano. Connect the board via HDMI to an monitor and via USB-OTG adapter to a keyboard. Do not connect the power supply yet.
  1. Remove the SD-card from you PC and insert it in the DE10-Nano board.
  1. Connect the power supply. This will turn on the DE10-Nano board. You will see the MiSTer menu on the monitor. You see in the menu the NES core we have copied to the SD-card. Hit the enter key on your keyboard to start it.
  1. You will see a black screen. This is normal because no ROM is loaded yet. Press F12 on your keyboard to bring up the MiSTer menu. In order to run a game, select *“Load .NES” and hit Enter.
  1. This will bring up the SD-card root directory. Navigate into your “NES Games” folder and select the ROM you want to start and hit Enter..
  1. Congratulation, you successfully started you first game on your MiSTer!!!

Additional notes

Once you’ve installed Release_20180115 or later, you can install future updates on MiSTer without removing the SD card. It’s done in 2 stages:

  1. Copy everything from files folder of release to /media/fat using FTP client and then reboot MiSTer (use LShift+LCtrl+LAlt+RAlt combination).
  2. Login serial console or ssh and type updateboot and then reboot again.

Usually bootloader has none or little change and not always requires update. But for better experience it’s advised to update the bootloader with every release. If somehow new version of Linux won’t be able to boot with previous bootloader, then simply use SD Install Tool to update the bootloader (Update Boot button).

If you wish to organize the cores into directories rather than have them stored on the root directory, you will need to add an underscore in front of the directory name.



Author: Admin