Configuring your own micro SD card in order to install Raspbian on a Raspberry Pi is not so hard. Some of the instructions out there are a bit dated and make it out to be harder than it really is.
For instance this site has some extra steps you don’t need: http://elinux.org/RPi_Easy_SD_Card_Setup.
I’d stick with the simplest possible approach, which turns out to be this set of instructions: https://diyhacking.com/install-raspbian-raspberry-pis-sd-card/
But all these instructions seem to refer to an IMG file which I don’t even see. The main thing is to download NOOBS (new out-of-box software) from https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/ .
Then, get the SD card formatter. But the latest version is 5, not 4, and it looks different from before – there are essentially no options!
So go with Quick Format and it works out OK. Unless your SD card is used. Then choose Overwrite format. That also works but takes a lot longer.
Then when it comes to copying the image file, which makes no sense with NOOBS because the image file is hidden, I think. Just extract all the files form the NOOBs zip file and copy them over to your E: drive, of whatever drive your SD card appears as.
Then follow the instructions on your Ras Pi display.
That’s it! I know because I just did it.
(non-)Reliability of SD Card
For the record, I’m in this situation because my old micro SD card just died. This is after running it continuously for a little over two years. Not very impressive in my book. Also for the record the card came as part of a Cana kit.
Symptoms of SD card failure in my case:
– boot paused, then after 120 seconds spits out some warnings about MMC something or other.
– LED status light solid green
A word about NOOBS and Balena Etcher
Note that the Etcher people were a bit lazy, and refuse to support burning NOOBS to an SD card with Etcher! to repeat, Etcher and NOOBS are incompatible. The stated reason is that NOOBS is not a true image.
References and related
This is probably the best guide, but I did not find a guide with 100% correct info; https://diyhacking.com/install-raspbian-raspberry-pis-sd-card/