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 ls /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 /usr/share/kbd/consolefonts/.

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 dhcpcd using 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Use fdisk -l to identify the partitions or disks that you have on your system. At least a partition for the root directory / 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 FAT32 using 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 /mnt. e.g. mount /dev/sda2 /mnt.
Create mount points for any remaining partitions and mount them accordingly.

mkdir /mnt/boot
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot


Select mirrors

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

Use the 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 system.

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.

arch-chroot /mnt

Time zone

You can now set the timezone by linking the appropriate tzfile from /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 date command is correct, you can simply run hwclock --systohc to generate /etc/adjtime.

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 --localtime or --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 running:


It’s a good idea to uncomment at least one UTF-8 locale, preferabbly en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8.

You now need to set the LANG variable in locale.conf accordingly. As an example:

# /etc/locale.conf

If you made any changes to the keyboard layout, you’ll need to make the changes persistent in vconsole.conf as:

# /etc/vconsole.conf


Hostname can be set by using the [hostname][man:hostname] file:

# /etc/hostname

You should also add a matching entry to your [hosts][man:hosts] file to allow local name resolution:

# /etc/hosts    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 [machine-info][man:machine-info] file:

# /etc/machine-info

Network Configuration

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.

Root password

You can set the root password by running passwd.

Boot loader

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

  1. Make sure you are booted using UEFI.
  2. 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 /boot from ESP, see this.
  3. 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.
  4. Now install systemd-boot by running bootctl --path=esp install where esp is the path where you mounted the ESP.
  5. Now configure the bootloader as follows.
  6. Edit the file esp/loader/loader.conf. An example can be found at /usr/share/systemd/bootctl/loader.conf.
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.
  1. 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 /usr/share/systemd/bootctl/.
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
  1. Enable microcode updates by following this article.


Exit the chroot environment by typing exit or pressing Ctrl+D.
Unmount all mounted partitions using umount -R /mnt.
Finally restart the machine by running reboot.
Remove the installation media and login into the new system using the password set using passwd.


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.