Using the Raspberry Pi as a Minecraft server

Lead Image © Dietmar Hoepfl,



Minecraft has millions of devoted fans worldwide, and players who organize a communal game with friends and acquaintances achieve an entirely new gaming experience. The Raspberry Pi is an excellent replacement for the Minecraft server.

Minecraft [1] is a game about constructing things out of simple blocks. This straightforward theme has attracted millions of fans since its introduction in 2009. The game offers players various play modes for exploring virtual worlds, building habitats, or even taking on an elaborate project like the construction of a virtual computer [2].

It is even more fun for many players to explore the Minecraft world together. The prerequisite for multiplayer games is the Minecraft server. The server does not necessarily require a high-performance computer, however, so a Raspberry Pi will suffice. Once a server is set up properly, nothing stands in the way of multiple rounds of play.

The Right Server

Surprisingly enough, there is no preferred Minecraft server. Instead, several options can be found online, including, for example, the official Minecraft Multiplayer Server [3], which works without much need for modifications, resulting in the nickname "vanilla server."

The Bukkit server Craftbukkit [4], which is derived from the original server, is also widely used. A drawback to choosing Craftbukkit is the possibility that development on this server may stop. The project no longer offers builds from official sources because of problems with infringement of intellectual property rights [5], but unofficial downloads are available over the Internet. However, you should not rely on unfamiliar sources for server software, and that goes for clones and server modifications, too.

The official server requires Java, which means it has been criticized from the beginning for its performance. Consequently, the renamed Custom Minecraft Server, also known as MCServer – originally programmed in C++ – and now known as Cuberite [6] [7], received lots of attention when it was introduced. This server is faster and consumes fewer resources than the original. Additionally, the source code is open source under the Apache license.

In this article, we introduce the installation and configuration of both variations of the server for the casual player. Accordingly, init scripts are not addressed. From the perspective of the player, the two servers are not different in terms of access and operation. For the administrator, however, differences do exist.

Useful Helper

Probably the easiest way to operate a Raspberry Pi is by using a keyboard and a display screen. However, because a Rasp Pi used for Minecraft will need to work quietly all by itself, you should log in to the computer with SSH and learn to install, start, and shut down the server via the terminal. The Screen program is useful when working on the console [8].

Screen helps you avoid the risk that programs launched from the terminal will vanish into thin air when their connection is terminated, which can be an annoying problem if it occurs when players are connected to the server. Under Raspbian, you can download Screen from the package sources and start a Minecraft session with:

sudo apt-get install screen
screen -S minecraft

Within a session, you do your work as usual. For example, after you start the Minecraft server, you can leave the session with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+A,D, accomplish additional tasks on the system, and even close the SSH connection while the server started in the Screen session keeps running. Then, you can log back in to the Rasp Pi and return to the session using screen -r minecraft.

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