October 15, 2019
There are numerous articles and blog postings detailing how to install Arch Linux. This one is mine. I’ve been fascinated with Arch Linux for several years. I like that it is very much a “some assembly required” distribution. Nearly every other installer hides away the underlying complexity of installing and configuring an operating system. The Arch installation process exposes you to all the details and lets you determine how much or how little you want to put on your machine. Exposure to all the details can be cause for both excitement and frustration. Fortunately there are excellent resources to help you.
The single best resource is the Arch Linux Installation Guide. You should read that completely before installing Arch Linux. In fact, you should follow that to do your install and not follow my setup.
Arch Linux is a rolling release and a moving target. Rolling release distributions constantly get updates, there is no schedule where once or twice a year a major update to the distribution is released. You can update your install everyday. Sometimes multiple times in a single day. Or you can do it once a week. It’s entirely up to you.
As for being a moving target…. In the time it took me to work through the installation process I
wanted and capture the steps in this posting, the contents of the
group were changed. It no
longer includes a kernel, or an editor, or other software that you might expect or need. So the
pacstrap command to install the operating system could no longer be just
pacstrap -i /mnt base
But instead needs to be something like
pacstrap -i /mnt base linux linux-firmware mkinitcpio lvm2 vi
All of which leads to this disclaimer. Follow my installation steps at your own risk. Read the
installation guide. Use the Arch Wiki. The answers
to your questions are there. Join the Arch Linux Reddit or go old school and use the
#archlinux channel on freenode.
Here are my high-level goals for this Arch installation:
For equipment I have an ASUS Q325UA laptop with a dual-core i7 CPU running at 2.7 GHz, 16 GB of RAM, Intel graphics, a 512 GB SSD, and a 1920x1080 13” screen in a 16:9 ratio. It’s a good little computer that runs Linux rather well.
I am presuming that you have already downloaded the Arch Linux installer and flashed it to a USB drive. If not, there are instructions online describing how to accomplish this step.
Using whatever hot key on your equipment allows you to access the BIOS, ensure that the USB drive with the installer on it is first in the boot order and restart your computer.
My laptop doesn’t have an Ethernet jack, so I use WiFi for connectivity. Use
wifi-menu to select
an access point and get connected. Once connected, verify that you have an IP address and can reach
wifi-menu ip addr show ping archlinux.org
Now that you have connectivity, update the package repository indexes.
And while we are at it, set the time and date.
timedatactl set-ntp true
I am going to setup three disk partitions:
Start by determining what device you want to use for the install.
In my case
/dev/sda is the disk.
You can see the current partition scheme by using the
p for print command.
The EFI partition I created is 500MB in size and has a type of
EFI Partition. Here are the
commands I used.
g (creates an empty GPT table) n (creates a new partition) <enter> (accept the partition number) <enter> (accept the starting position) +500M (set the partition size) t (set the partition type) 1 (for EFI partition)
I wanted a 500MB boot partition. (I’m obsessive and two 500MB partitions adds up to 1000, which is more pleasing than say a 300M EFI and 400M boot only equaling 700M.)
n <enter> <enter> +500M
By default the partition type is Linux filesystem, so there is no need to change the type of the boot partition.
I used the remainder of the drive space for the LVM partition.
n <enter> <enter> <enter> (use all remaining disk space) t <enter> (accept offered (last) partition number) 31 (LVM type partition)
Display (print) the partition scheme and verify that it is what you want.
Once this step is completed the partition changes will be written to the drive.
The EFI partition wants to use the FAT file system, and boot wants to be ext4.
mkfs.fat -F32 /dev/sda1 mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda2
The entire third disk partition,
/dev/sda3, will be encrypted using
LUKS. This is where the
passphrase for the encryption will be set, and where the name of the cryptdevice will be set.
cryptsetup luksFormat /dev/sda3 cryptsetup open --type luks /dev/sda3 lvm
The first command will create the encryption and ask for the passphrase. Make sure you note what the phrase is, losing it means you’ll never be able to open this partition.
The second command opens the newly created encrypted partition and gives it the wildly inventive
I wanted to have separate logical volumes for
home. For naming I went as simply as I
lv_rootand will be 50G in size
lv_homeand will be 250 G in size
Here are the commands I used to accomplish this LVM configuration.
pvcreate --dataalignment 1m /dev/mapper/lvm vgcreate vg /dev/mapper/lvm lvcreate -L 50GB vg -n lv_root lvcreate -L 250GB vg -n lv_home
Next we need to load the necessary modules
Finally we have LVM scan for volumes and activate the volume group
vgscan vgchange -ay
mkfs.ext4 /dev/vg/lv_root mkfs.ext4 /dev/vg/lv_home
mount /dev/vg/lv_root /mnt cd /mnt mkdir boot efi home mount /dev/sda2 boot mount /dev/vg/lv_home home mount /dev/sda1 efi
The root partition mounts to
/mnt and the remaining mount points are all contained within root.
For no good reason I’m mounting the EFI partition in
/efi rather than
Run the mount command to verify that all the mounts are correct
As I mentioned above, due to changes in the base package, the contents of this command changed recently. In addition to base, I’m also installing a kernel, the firmware package, mkinitcpio, and an editor.
pacstrap -i /mnt base linux linux-firmware mkinitcpiio vi
Depending on your connection speed and location in the world this may take a while to complete.
With everything mounted, and an Arch installation located at
/mnt I can generate the
genfstab -U -p /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab
Verify the contents of this file. (
!$ is bash shorthand for “last argument from previous
The rest of the steps happen inside the new Arch installation. This command changes root to the new install.
pacstrap command was a good start, but there are more package necessary to complete the
pacman -S base-devel grub efibootmgr dosfstools openssh os-prober mtools linux-headers networkmanager network-manager-applet wpa_supplicant wireless_tools dialog vim
Once the install is complete, and the machine is rebooted, having NetworkManager ready to use will be helpful.
systemctl enable NetworkManager
In order for the encryption to work, the
/etc/mkinitcpio.conf file needs to be edited.
HOOKS line (approximately line 51) and add
encrypt lvm2 bewteen
filesystems. Save the file.
mkinitcpio -p linux
vi /etc/locale.gen (uncomment en_US.UTF-8 - or your locale) locale-gen
useradd -mg users -G wheel <username> passwd <username>
pacman -S sudo
wheelgroup to use sudo
%wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL line. It’s very near the end of the file.
This step is vitally important. A mistake here will prevent your system from booting. Ask me how I know.
Start by editing the
/etc/default/grub file. There are three changes to make here.
The first change is made by removing the
# at the beginning of the
The second change is the trickiest. Edit the
GRUB_CMNLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT line and add
cryptdevice=/dev/sda3:vg:allow-discards to it. In my case I put it just before the
argument that was already there. A typo here, say spelling the argument
cryptodevice will render
the configuration inoperable. There won’t be any errors, but the machine will only boot to a
The third change is to add
lvm to the list of preloaded modules. The list is space-delimited. I
lvm at the end of the list.
Here are those three lines after the edits. The rest of the file is not shown below.
... GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="loglevel=3 cryptdevice=/dev/sda3:vg:allow-discards quiet" ... GRUB_PRELOAD_MODULES="part_gpt part_msdos lvm" ... GRUB_ENABLE_CRYPTODISK=y ...
Once the changes have been made and saved Grub can be installed
grub-install --target=x86_64-efi -efi-directory=/efi --bootloader-id=grub_uefi --recheck
Since I opted to put the EFI partition in a non-standard location, I needed to add the
--efi-directory=/efi directive to the command.
Finally generate the grub configuration file
grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg
Rather than have an entire partition devoted to swap, I’m using a swap file instead. Easier to resize and manage.
fallocate -l 4G /swapfile chmod 600 /swapfile mkswap /swapfile
And add the new
/swapfile to the
echo '/swapfile none swap sw 0 0' | tee -a /etc/fstab
-a on the
tee command is crucial, leave that off and the
/etc/fstab file will be
overwritten, not appended to.
At this point the installation process is complete. Exit the chroot, unmount devices, and reboot.
umount command will likely produce some errors, these can be ignored.
exit umount -a reboot
If all has gone well the computer should reboot. It will ask for the passphrase used to encrypt/decrypt the LVM partition. Once that has been entered the bootstrap will complete. If you get the Grub menu and can select Arch Linux, and then end at a login prompt, then the install was successful.
However, the computer is still not completely setup. In my case I chose to install the i3 window manager, and the Sway window manager. I also installed lightdm as a display manager. Below are some additional commands and setup configuration I made immediately following the install. Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, please hesitate to call.
I like having a record of all the sudo commands I’ve issued. Edit
add this line
sudo ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/America/Chicago /etc/localtime hwclock --systohc --utc
localectl set-locale LANG="en_US.UFT-8"
hostnamectl set-hostname <hostname>
Run this command to get a list of access points
nmcli d wifi list
And run this command to join one. Yes, the password is in plain text. It gets stored that way too.
nmcli d wifi connect <BSSID> password <password>
ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096
The AUR is one of the best features of the Arch ecosystem. Add the following the end of the
[archlinuxfr] Server = http://repo.archlinux.fr/$arch
By default the pacman mirror list includes all the mirrors, worldwide. pacman performance can be improved by using the Arch Mirrorlist to generate one for you. This will probably be easier to accomplish after you’ve installed a window manager or desktop environment and a browser.
yayfor AUR access
yay -S i3-gaps i3blocks i3lock i3status yay -S xf86-input-libinput xorg-server xorg-xinit xorg-apps mesa xf86-video-intel lib32-intel-dri lib32-mesa lib32-libgl
~/.xinit file and put this line in it
startx to open i3 session. Note, with no terminal emulator installed, and no typical desktop
tools installed, running i3 may be a bit anti-climactic.
Sway is a Wayland based alternative to i3.
yay -S wlroots-git sway-git
Copy the default sway config. Sway starts from the command line by running
yay -S terminator
Edit i3 and Sway configurations to make terminator the terminal they use.
At the end of this process I have a functioning Arch Linux installation, running on LVM and booting
via EFI. I’ve got separate
home partitions, and some unallocated drive space to grow
either or both of those logical volumes. Wireless networking is up and running, and I’m able to
search for and manage packages using the
yay AUR tool and
pacman wrapper. Two tiling window
managers, i3 and Sway, are install and working, and I’ve got lightdm setup as my display manager.
The rest of the setup will evolve over time.