Arch Linux Step 1: Installation Guide
So now that you’ve decided to give Arch Linux a try, you’ll be needing to install it (duh!). Arch Linux is pretty different when it comes to installation. It does provide an ISO you can boot to but that’s provided mainly for you to be able to bootstrap your new system. I only provide some snippets of code to demonstrate what you should do but ideally you SHOULDN’T copy paste the commands blindly. Arch won’t be a good fit for you if you are not willing to learn. So let’s get started. I recommend you have an instance of the Arch Wiki Installation Guide on hand to be able to dive deeper if need be.
The sections below are structured similar to the Arch Wiki Installation Guide so people already familiar with it should feel at home.
Acquiring The Installation Media
There are primarily two ways of getting some kind of installation medium although you can go for more specialised configurations like PXE or installing from within another Linux machine. You can find those discussed in the wiki here.
- A bootable live-environment ISO
- A net-boot
You can find how to get them and use them here.
Some Knowledge To Help Make The Process Easier
Arch Linux used to provide a 32-bit OS too but that has been removed in the March 2017 release going forward. You need at least 500MB of RAM, 800MB of disk space and internet connectivity to complete the installation. There are ways to bootstrap the system without internet connectivity. You can explore those on the wiki here and here. I’ve also written a guide here if you’d want someone to hold your hand.
Once you boot into the live installation medium you can use a text mode browser (ELinks in included in the ISO) to
browse the Arch Wiki. You can swicth between virtual consoles using the
Alt+arrow shortcut. If you have a wired
connection and have DHCP working your internet connection should be good to go. Otherwise check out this article for wired networks and this article for wireless networks. By
default you will be dropped into Zsh and have proper tab completion for most commands. As for editors you can use
nano, vim or vi.
You should disable Secure Boot before proceeding to make sure we can install an unsigned bootloader. You can later write hooks to self-sign kernel images on kernel updates and re-enable Secure Boot.
Set the keyboard layout
The default layout that Arch Linux uses in the ISO is US. You can find available keymaps by running
/usr/share/kbd/keymaps/**/*.gz. You can change the active keyboard layout by running
loadkeys filename where filename
is the one you got from running the above commands. If you have the time read the
loadkeys manpage to
gain some knowledge. It’s always a good idea to read the manpage of a command you’ve never encountered before. You can
similarly set console fonts using
setfont and the fonts can be found under
Verify the boot mode
Most likely you are booting in UEFI mode if you have a computer made after the 2008s. You can check if you are currently
booted using UEFI by seeing if
ls /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/ returns any files.
Connect to the internet
If you have a wired connection and have DHCP working you should be good to go because the dhcpcd daemon is enabled
on boot if a wired connection is detected. You can force it to try again by issuing
dhcpcd interface-name. You can
find your intername using
ip link. If the network is not working or you are using a wireless network, stop
systemctl stop dhcpcd and follow the network configuration articles for wired networks
and wireless networks.
Check your internet connectivity using the
ping command. Your DNS may be the issue so you can try editing
/etc/resolv.conf to temporarily change them (they will be reset when you unplug the ethernet).
Update the system clock
You can use NTP to set time by using
timedatectl set-ntp true. You can also use
timedatectl set-time time to
manually set time if you can’t access NTP.
RTC in localtime vs UTC
If you dual boot with Windows and your Real Time Clock is set to use local time you can do two things:
- Tell Windows to use UTC in the RTC. Then you can simply reboot and set the RTC to UTC time and continue with the process.
- Continue using the RTC as local time. In that case you can achieve time-synchronization by running the following:
timedatectl set-timezone Timezone # You can use tab completion hwclock --hctosys --localtime # This copies the time from your RTC to system time timedatectl set-local-rtc true # This tells the OS that you have RTC set to use localtime # There are additional steps to take after chrooting in your new step which will be discussed in the relevant section.
There are some additional steps to take after the Chroot step to ensure time synchronization is carried over the new installation as well.
Partition the disks
fdisk -l to identify the partitions or disks that you have on your system. At least a partition for the root
/ and if using UEFI, an EFI System Partition are required. Ideally you should have a separate home
partition and a swap partition if needed. Read the article on Swap for the many possible ways you can set it up.
To modify partition tables you can use
fdisk (for MBR disks) or
gdisk (for GPT disks). I highly
recommend resizing your EFI partition to be atleast 250MB before proceeding. If at all possible, grow it to 500MB. The
best way to resize it will be from either GParted on Linux or AOMEI Partition Assistant on Windows. However if
you are feeling lucky you can parted too. My personal setup is:
Disk /dev/sda: 232.9 GiB, 250059350016 bytes, 488397168 sectors Device Start End Sectors Size Type /dev/sda1 2048 923647 921600 450M Windows recovery environment /dev/sda2 923648 1959929 1036282 506M EFI System /dev/sda3 1959930 1992697 32768 16M Microsoft reserved /dev/sda4 1992704 316577791 314585088 150G Microsoft basic data /dev/sda5 316577792 463403007 146825216 70G Linux filesystem Disk /dev/sdb: 931.5 GiB, 1000204886016 bytes, 1953525168 sectors Device Start End Sectors Size Type /dev/sdb1 2048 524313411 524311364 250G Microsoft basic data /dev/sdb2 524314624 1782620594 1258305971 600G Microsoft basic data /dev/sdb3 1782622208 1929439231 146817024 70G Linux filesystem /dev/sdb4 1929439232 1953523711 24084480 11.5G Linux swap
If you want to create any stacked block devices for LVM, disk encryption or RAID do it now before proceeding.
Format the partitions
After creating the partitions you need to format them with the appropriate filesystems. Format the EFI partition with
mkfs.vfat /dev/sdaN, the root partition using
mkfs.ext4 -L "Arch Linux" /dev/sdaN. You should look into
this for more details.
Mount the partitions
Mount the filesystem on root partition to
mount /dev/sda2 /mnt.
Create mount points for any remaining partitions and mount them accordingly.
mkdir /mnt/boot mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot
Packages to be installed are downloaded from mirror servers, which are defined in
/etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist. On the
live system, all mirrors are enabled, and sorted by their synchronization status and speed at the time the installation
image was created. The higher a mirror is placed in the list, the more priority it is given when downloading a package.
Edit the file accordingly, and move the geographically closest mirrors to the top of the list.
There is also a package
reflector which can help you in generating the file.
Install the base packages
pacstrap script to install the
base by issuing
pacstrap /mnt base. You can append
other package groups or package names to the command to install them. The
base-devel group is a good idea and
including some text based browser (ELinks) is recommended if you need to access captive portals.
It is worth noting that the
base group doesn’t include everything the live environment offers. Specifically some
firmware. See this for details.
Configure the system
Generate the fstab file
Use the command
genfstab to generate a fstab file. Also take a look at the article about persistent block device
naming to find ways to make sure your
fstab doesn’t break when disks are reformatted or plugged in and out of the
genfstab -U /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab # -U means UUIDs, while -L will use labels
Check the generated file under
/mnt/etc/fstab and correct any errors.
Now you need to change root into the new system so that all further commands we run will affect the newly installed system instead of the live-environment.
You can now set the timezone by linking the appropriate
/usr/share/zoneinfo as such:
ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/Region/City /etc/localtime
You can now set the time using
hwclock. If you have your RTC clock set to UTC and the time reported by the
command is correct, you can simply run
hwclock --systohc to generate
Picking up from previous instructions, you have some additional steps to take if you have your RTC clock set to use localtime. You can complete the time-synchronization by running the following:
hwclock --hctosys --localtime
Basically, the short guide is to use
--systohc if system time is correct,
--hctosys if hwclock is correct and append
--utc according to your preferences.
Now you need to set up localizations for your system by uncommenting required locales in
/etc/locale.gen and then
It’s a good idea to uncomment at least one UTF-8 locale, preferabbly
You now need to set the
LANG variable in
locale.conf accordingly. As an example:
# /etc/locale.conf LANG=en_US.UTF-8
If you made any changes to the keyboard layout, you’ll need to make the changes persistent in
# /etc/vconsole.conf KEYMAP=de-latin1
Hostname can be set by using the [
# /etc/hostname myhostname
You should also add a matching entry to your [
hosts][man:hosts] file to allow local name resolution:
# /etc/hosts 127.0.1.1 myhostname.localdomain myhostname
If you also want a pretty hostname (the machine name shown to other users on the network) like “Bob’s Laptop”, you can
use the [
# /etc/machine-info PRETTY_HOSTNAME="Bob's Laptop" ICON_NAME=computer-laptop CHASSIS=laptop DEPLOYMENT=production
The newly configured environment has no network connection activated by default.
For setting up a wired connection, follow this.
For setting up a wireless connection, follow this.
You can set the root password by running
There are a lot of bootloaders available. See this for available choices and configurations.
Personally I use systemd-boot. You can use it if you use an UEFI system and have your EFI System Partition formatted as VFAT (FAT32). It can be made to work in other configurations too but you should consult the wiki article for that.
Setting up systemd-boot
- Make sure you are booted using UEFI.
- Mount your EFI system partition preferabbly to
/boot(because systemd-boot cannot load EFI binaries from partitions other than ESP. In case you want to separate
/bootfrom ESP, see this.
- If the ESP is not mounted at
/boot, copy your kernel and initramfs to the ESP. To automate this process you can take a look at this article.
- Now install systemd-boot by running
bootctl --path=esp installwhere
espis the path where you mounted the ESP.
- Now configure the bootloader as follows.
- Edit the file
esp/loader/loader.conf. An example can be found at
timeout 0 # time after which default entry boots. If set to 0, you need to hold Space during boot to show the # boot menu. default Windows* # the default entry file to use for booting. This can be a glob pattern matching a file under # esp/loader/entries/ editor 1 # whether to allow editing of boot parameters from the boot menu.
- Add an entry for your Linux systems under a file in
esp/loader/entries/name.conf. Windows is autodetected. An example file can be found at
title Arch Linux # the title to show on the boot menu linux /vmlinuz-linux # the path to the vmlinuz relative to the EFI partition initrd /intel-ucode.img # the path to the initrd images. Install the intel-ucode package and use this line to # enable processor microcode updates. initrd /initramfs-linux.img options root=PARTUUID=024e95d2-3f50-4341-82f3-76b51b36a1ad rw quiet vga=current loglevel=3 # the boot parameters for the # kernel
- Enable microcode updates by following this article.
Exit the chroot environment by typing
exit or pressing
Unmount all mounted partitions using
umount -R /mnt.
Finally restart the machine by running
Remove the installation media and login into the new system using the password set using
You can now make a lot of changes that will needed to get basic functionality that you are used to out of the box in other distros. This is where learning begins. You can find my own post-installation guide here.