Shortening the GPIO Header

With the single-height USB jack(s) installed, the GPIO header is now the highest-profile part on the board. This can be shortened slightly while retaining full functionality…

The edge of the header’s plastic support can be lifted slightly using flush cutters. Be careful not to cut the pins!


You can then work along the edge with a small screwdriver to pry off this piece.


Your mileage may vary. With one Pi, the plastic support pried off cleanly. With another, this part need to be completely “nibbled” into dust!

Use a spare piece of single-row pin header as a template for trimming the GPIO pins. Wedge this pin side down between the GPIO rows, then trim along the plastic edge.


When you’re done, the GPIO header will be a couple millimeters shorter, roughly in-line with the video connectors on the opposite edge. Anything plugged into this (ribbon cables, Pi HATs, etc.) will sit just a little bit lower now.

Or, if you don’t anticipate using the GPIO header at all (or just need a few pins and can wire to them directly), it can be completely desoldered and removed.

Removing Additional Parts

If extreeeme weight saving is needed (e.g. for drones), many of the ports and jacks can successfully be removed, as long the corresponding functionality is never again needed for your application (there’s no going back with most of these surface-mount parts):

  • GPIO header
  • HDMI port
  • Composite video/audio port
  • FPC display connector
  • Camera connector
  • Micro USB power connector (if regulated +5V is instead fed to the appropriate pins on the GPIO header).

Most of these parts are about the same height, so there’s little point in removing a subset as a space-saving measure. But for aerial applications, every gram counts…go nuts.

If all of the display options are removed, then the system can only be administered remotely (e.g. ssh through WiFi). If all of the USB ports have also been removed, then the only way to log directly into the system is with a serial console cable connected to the appropriate pins on the GPIO header.

Sometimes it’s easiest just to have a second, unmodified Raspberry Pi for administration tasks. Move the microSD card to this system, boot and perform whatever configuration is necessary, then shut down and move the card back to the pared-down board.

This guide was first published on Oct 31, 2014. It was last updated on Oct 31, 2014.

This page (Further Modifications) was last updated on Oct 28, 2014.

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