You have a lot of points of entry with the Raspberry Pi depending on what type of project you want to tackle first, but we recommend CanaKit’s Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit if you’re not totally sure what you’ll do with it. That way, you have the basic necessities and you can expand from there.
That kit includes the Raspberry Pi 3 itself, a Micro-USB power supply, a case, a 32 GB microSD card, an HDMI cable, and a few other extras. You’ll need to bring your own mouse, keyboard, and TV or monitor. If you want to connect the Pi to objects like sensors, knobs, or buttons, CanaKit’s Raspberry Pi 3 Ultimate Starter Kit includes the Pi alongside a breadboard, a ribbon cable, jumper wires, LEDs, resistors, and push-button switches. If you want to pick up your own case and microSD card and don’t need all the random cables, Canakit has a simpler kit that includes the Pi, a power supply, and a couple of heat sinks.
Part of the fun of the Raspberry Pi is customization, and while you have thousands of options for cases, we like either the official case or the colorful Rainbow Pibow. If you already have plenty of microSD cards and a power supply, you can always buy just the Raspberry Pi 3 itself, but be sure to never pay much more than the $35 retail price.
Like any computer, the Raspberry Pi needs an operating system to do stuff. Most machines these days run Windows or macOS, but the Raspberry Pi primarily runs Linux, and you have a lot of options. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has an official general-use operating system, called Raspbian, that’s optimized to work on the Pi. It includes free software for coding, an office suite, and of course, a special version of Minecraft. Several other specialized operating systems are built around particular projects, like Recalbox for retro games or OSMC for a media center.
Unlike most computers with built-in hard drive or SSD storage options, the Pi’s OS is installed onto a microSD card, which is also where you’ll put all your files since the board doesn’t include any built-in storage (though you can always add a USB hard drive). This structure makes it easy for you to expand the storage and switch between different operating systems by swapping out microSD cards. (It also makes the Pi resilient: If you bork your OS install, you can just reimage the card on another computer and you’re back in business.)