Let’s Build a Basic MiSTer FPGA Console (Part 3)

Part 1: Introduction and what you’ll need
Part 2: Hardware assembly
Part 3: Setting up the micro SD card
Part 4: Setting up a USB game controller
Part 5: Adding games to the SD card, and using some common cores
Part 6: Extra Settings, Features, and Hardware

This guide covers the preparation of a MiSTer SD card using Microsoft Windows.  If you’re using MacOS or Linux, a simple-to-use command line script along with instructions can be found here.  Once the script has done its job, skip down this page until you get to the (optional) wifi setup section.

The DE-10 Nano actually comes with an 8GB micro SD card, which if you’re trying to build your MiSTer as affordably as possible, you’re certainly free to use.  The main drawback will be the limited space for the relatively large Sega CD images, but 8GB is certainly enough space for all of your favorite console ROMs.  Either way, remove the microSD card already in the DE-10 Nano’s slot.

Insert whichever SD card you intend to use into your PC’s card reader.  You’ll need the MiSTer SD Installer Tool, which you can download here.  This page contains links to every version of the installer, but you should just download the most recent one, at the bottom of the list.  Simply unpack the file you just downloaded (using WinRAR or a similar program) and run the “Mister SD Card Utility.exe” application contained inside the extracted folder.

Select your SD card from the drop-down menu.  It should be the only option available (unless you have other SD cards plugged into your system), but be absolutely sure as it will completely wipe all data off of the target drive.

Click “wipe” to clear the SD card, and when it finishes select “full install”.  When the tool creates the new partitions on the SD card, you will get a Windows error message (or maybe even multiple messages) telling you that you need to format the drive before you can use it, because you created a Linux partition on the card.  Just click “cancel”.

If you’re using a USB wifi dongle, you need to set up the wifi settings before ejecting the SD card from your computer.  If you’re using an ethernet cable, skip this step.  On the “MiSTER_Data” partition of your SD card, locate a folder called “linux”.  Inside is a file called “_wpa_supplicant.conf”.  Open it with notepad or another text editor.

Replace “put_your_SSID_here” with your home network’s name, and replace “put_your_password_here” with your network’s password.  Change the country code from “TW” to the code for your own country (“US” for United States, “CA” for Canada, etc.)  Save the file, close the text editor, and then rename the file to “wpa_supplicant.conf” by removing the leading underscore.  Wifi setup done!  Don’t forget to plug the wifi dongle into your USB hub, though.

Now eject the SD card from your computer, and put it back into the MiSTer’s card slot.  Hook the MiSTer up by attaching the inline power switch to the power supply, and plugging one end into the MiSTer and the other into wall power.  Plug the USB hub into the micro USB port, and plug your USB keyboard into the hub.  Use an HDMI cable to plug the MiSTer into a display, and use the ethernet cable to plug it into your network router or switch, or alternatively plug your USB wifi dongle into the USB hub.  Power on the MiSTer using the inline power switch.

Where the main menu should be, you’ll only see a message that says “No Files!”  That’s what we’re going to fix right now.  Hit the ESC key on the keyboard to go to the “System Settings” menu.  Hit the down arrow until “Scripts” is highlighted, then hit the enter key.

You’ll get a message telling you that this is a “dangerous operation”.  Use the down arrow to highlight “Yes, and don’t ask again”, because you’re an adult who doesn’t need to be hand-held, and press enter.

On the next screen, the only option available to you is “Update”, which is good because that’s what we want to do.  Highlight this option and press enter.

The MiSTer is now going to phone home and perform a complete system update.  This will take several minutes, after which the MiSTer will reboot.  In the future, any time you want to update your system based on news of new or updated cores, you’ll repeat this step.

Now with the MiSTer rebooted, you’ll see that the main menu is now populated with a number of folders corresponding to categories of cores.

The next thing to do is configure your USB game controller.

<Next: Setting up a USB game controller>