Pi-hole setup on a Raspberry Pi Zero W

Grouping several notes and resources found online to set up a Pi-hole on a Raspberry Pi Zero W, step by step.

Initial SD card setup

Plug your micro SD card on your machine and install Raspberry Pi OS lite. The easiest way to do this is to use the official Raspberry Pi Imager, found here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/

Unplug it and replug it for the following steps.

Finish setting up the SD card

You should see a Boot folder in your SD card if Raspberry Pi OS has been installed properly. Several files need to be created and edited at the root of this directory:

touch wpa_supplicant.conf
touch ssh

Add the following lines to wpa_supplicant.conf:

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev
country=FR # or another country, depending on yours

Next, run the command wpa_passphrase <ssid-name> <password-name> on your current machine, wrapping the parameters of your Wi-Fi connection in quotes if they contain spaces.

Copy the output of the command in wpa_supplicant.conf, and delete the commented_out psk line before saving. The last line will store your Wi-Fi password a bit more securely than plaintext.

wpa_supplicant.conf should now look like this:

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev

    scan_ssid=1 # add this line too!

Next, add the following line at the end of config.txt to enable troubleshooting through a USB console cable:


The ssh file does not need to be edited and enable SSH on its own.

Unplug the micro SD card and plug it in your raspberry Pi Zero W.

Power up and configuration

Power up your Raspberry Pi on your machine with a USB cable, by using the micro USB slot on the far right. The green LED light should show some activity, after a few minutes ping your Pi from your machine: ping raspberrypi.local

If this worked, you should be able to ssh to your Pi: ssh pi@raspberrypi.local, with raspberry as the default password.

Next, let's update the Pi Zero:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Then change the default password to something secure with passwd.

If you have SSH keys on your machine, it would be much better to use them to connect to your Pi Zero rather than a password. Create a .ssh folder on your Pi with appropriate permissions:

mkdir ~/.ssh
chmod 700 ~/.ssh

Copy your public key on your machine from ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub, then create the file ~/.ssh/authorized_keys on your Pi Zero and paste it inside. Run chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys too to set the right permissions.

Next, edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config on your Pi and add or edit the following lines like the following:

PasswordAuthentication no
PubkeyAuthentication yes
ChallengeResponseAuthentication no
PermitRootLogin no

This will harden SSH security on your Pi and use exclusively keys to connect. Reboot with sudo shutdown -r now to apply changes and be done with it.

Extend the life of your SD card

SD cards are fragile, and will fail way more often than any other kind of storage. To extend the life of your SD card a bit, you can disable swap on Raspberry Pi OS by removing the following package:

sudo apt remove dphys-swapfile

Install Pi-hole

Installing Pi-hole is easy if you don't wanna review the source code first, simply run curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash. Picking default options is fine.

Use unbound for your own recursive DNS server

Follow instructions here if you wish to use unbound rather than trusting Google's DNS servers or others: https://docs.pi-hole.net/guides/unbound/

Router settings

One of the easiest way to let your Pi-Hole become the default DNS server for all your machines is to disable DHCP on your router and let your Pi Zero handle it. Since this depends on your ISP and router model, you have to search how to disable this on your own.

It is also recommended to disable ipv6, as this can leak DNS queries that your Pi-Hole won't handle.

Once you've done that, go to pi.hole/admin and enable DHCP in settings. It might be required to reboot your Pi Zero and your router for changes to take effect.

Optional: display stats with a Waveshare 2.13inch e-Paper HAT


Enable SPI on your Pi Zero first:

sudo raspi-config
# Choose Interfacing Options -> SPI -> Yes  to enable SPI interface

Reboot with sudo shutdown -r now.

Next, install BCM2835 libraries:

wget http://www.airspayce.com/mikem/bcm2835/bcm2835-1.60.tar.gz
tar zxvf bcm2835-1.60.tar.gz 
cd bcm2835-1.60/
sudo ./configure
sudo make
sudo make check
sudo make install

Install wiringpi last version too:

cd /tmp
wget https://project-downloads.drogon.net/wiringpi-latest.deb
sudo dpkg -i wiringpi-latest.deb
gpio -v # should output version 2.52

Install related python3 libraries:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install python3-pip python3-pil python3-numpy
sudo pip3 install RPi.GPIO
sudo pip3 install spidev

Test if your display works with waveshare examples:

git clone https://github.com/waveshare/e-Paper
cd e-Paper/RaspberryPi\&JetsonNano/python/examples
python3 epd_2in13_V2_test.py # let it run its whole course

Get this font:

wget http://kottke.org/plus/type/silkscreen/download/silkscreen.zip
unzip silkscreen.zip

You can pick slkscr.ttf and ditch the rest

If you don't mind working at the root of your home folder, copy the following libraries:

cp e-Paper/RaspberryPi&JetsonNano/python/lib/waveshare_epd/epd2in13_V2.py ~
cp e-Paper/RaspberryPi&JetsonNano/python/lib/waveshare_epd/epdconfig.py ~

And add the following script in your home folder too, as display.py:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

import epd2in13_V2
from PIL import Image, ImageDraw, ImageFont
import subprocess
import requests
import json
import time

epd = epd2in13_V2.EPD()
font = ImageFont.truetype('/home/pi/slkscr.ttf', 18)
api_url = 'http://localhost/admin/api.php'

image = Image.new('1', (epd.height, epd.width), 255)
draw = ImageDraw.Draw(image)


partial_refresh_count = 0

while True:
            r = requests.get(api_url)
            data = json.loads(r.text)
            DNSQUERIES = data['dns_queries_today']
            ADSBLOCKED = data['ads_blocked_today']
            CLIENTS = data['unique_clients']

        IP_cmd = "hostname -I | cut -d\' \' -f1 | tr -d \'\\n\'"
        IP = subprocess.check_output(IP_cmd, shell=True).decode("utf-8")

        draw.rectangle(([(0, 0), (epd.height, epd.width)]), fill=255)
        draw.text((0, 0), f"IP: {IP}", font=font, fill=0)
        draw.text((0, 20), f"DNS queries: {DNSQUERIES}", font=font, fill=0)
        draw.text((0, 40), f"Queries blocked: {ADSBLOCKED}", font=font, fill=0)
        draw.text((0, 60), f"Clients: {CLIENTS}", font=font, fill=0)

        partial_refresh_count += 1
        if partial_refresh_count % 10 == 0:

    except KeyboardInterrupt:

This will refresh your e-ink display entirely every 10 iterations to prevent ghosting, but still: use at your own risk. This script has not been used for a long time yet.

You can run it as a background process by running python3 display.py, pressing CTRL-z and typing bg.


Like everything, update your Pi-Hole regularly to prevent security and performance issues.

wget -O root.hints https://www.internic.net/domain/named.root
sudo mv root.hints /var/lib/unbound/