How to install Arch Linux [Complete Guide]

Arch Linux is one of the most popular minimalist Linux distributions in use today.

Arch Linux is one of the most popular minimalist Linux distributions in use today. If you want a versatile, bleeding edge Linux distribution with a light footprint, Arch Linux has you covered from head to toe. Arch, however, does have a steep learning curve, and while the documentation for Arch Linux is comprehensive, many new users can find it overwhelming and complicated.

In this tutorial, we will be installing a basic Arch Linux system using the full disk to a computer or virtual machine(VM).

Installing Arch Linux

Prerequisites

You will need:

  • A computer or VM with at least 1GB of RAM, and 20GB of storage
  • Software capable of burning a DVD
  • A blank DVD onto which we will burn the ISO
  • An Internet connection

1. Download the Arch Linux ISO

Before we can install Arch Linux, we must download the ISO image from the Arch Linux website. To do this, navigate to https://archlinux.org/download and scroll down until you see a list of mirrors, as shown below.

Arch Linux download page
Arch Linux download page

Choose the mirror closest to you, and download the Arch Linux ISO file, which is shown below.

NOTE: The page you see may be slightly different than the screenshot depending on which mirror you choose.

Arch Linux ISO
Arch Linux ISO

Once you have downloaded the Arch Linux ISO, it is recommended that you verify it’s SHA1 checksum. If the checksum you get is different from the one on https://archlinux.org/download, the ISO file you have may have been tampered with, and should not be used.

2. Burning the Arch Linux ISO to a DVD

NOTE: If you plan on installing Arch Linux on a VM, you may skip this step and boot directly into the ISO image.

Now that we have downloaded the Arch Linux ISO, we will burn it to the DVD. There is a variety of software, many free, that allow you to do this, such as Brasero, AnyBurn, or the non-free PowerISO.

3. Boot up Arch Linux

Now we will boot into the installation DVD (or the ISO directly if you are using a VM). Once it loads, you should be greeted with a screen like the one below.

Arch Linux ISO menu
Arch Linux ISO menu

From here, press enter to boot Arch Linux.

4. Set the Keyboard Layout

NOTE: If you do not want to change the default US keyboard layout, you may skip this step.

Once the live environment has booted up, we can change the keyboard from the default US layout, if desired. To list all available layouts, use:

# ls /usr/share/kbd/keymaps/**/*.map.gz

Set the keyboard layout using the loadkeys command:

# loadkeys KEYMAP

Where KEYMAP is the keymap you wish to use.

5. Check your Internet Connection

To install Arch Linux, we will need a functioning Internet connection. If you are using a wired connection, you should already be connected to the Internet. You can check your Internet connection by using the ping command:

# ping -c 3 google.com

Output of ping
Output of ping

If you wish to use a wireless Internet connection to install Arch Linux, consult the wireless network configuration documentation on the Arch Linux wiki at https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Wireless_network_configuration.

6. Enable NTP

Once we have verified that we have a working Internet connection, we must enable Network Time Protocol (NTP) to allow the system to update the time via the network. To do this, run:

# timedatectl set-ntp true

7. Partition the Hard Drive

Next, we must partition the hard drive. While there are many ways that this can be done, for the purposes of this tutorial we will be creating two partitions, one for Arch Linux and one to act as swap space. To begin, use fdisk to list all available drives:

# fdisk -l

NOTE: The output you get from fdisk may be different from that in the screenshot.

Output of fdisk
Output of fdisk

Make note of the name of the disk you wish to partition. Now, we will use cfdisk, a partition manager, to partition the drives:

NOTE: In cfdisk use the arrow keys to navigate and the enter key to select.

# cfdisk /dev/sdX

Where X refers to the letter of the drive you wish to partition.

You should be greeted by a screen asking you to select the label type. In most cases, this will be “dos”.

cfdisk label types
cfdisk label types

Highlight the label type and press enter. A screen similar to the one below should be displayed.

List of partitions in cfdisk
List of partitions in cfdisk

Now we will create the partitions. To do this, select “New”. You will be prompted to enter the partition size. Be sure to leave enough room to create another partition for your swap space, which will be twice the amount of RAM.

Entering the partition size
Entering the partition size

Next, you will be asked if the partition should be primary or extended. Select “primary”.

Making the partition primary
Making the partition primary

Now make the partition bootable by selecting “Bootable”. Your screen should look similar to the one below.

Making the partition bootable
Making the partition bootable

Now, using the same process as before, utilizing the remainder of the space on the drive, create another primary partition. Do not make this partition bootable.

The partition type needs to be changed from “83 Linux” to “82 Linux swap / Solaris”. To do this, select “Type” on the swap partition and select “82 Linux swap / Solaris”, as shown below.

Changing the partition type
Changing the partition type

Now, write the changes to the drive. To do so, select “Write” and type “yes”, as shown below.

Writing the changes
Writing the changes

You may now exit `cfdisk` by selecting “Quit”.

8. Create Filesystem

Now that the drive has been partitioned, we can create the filesystem. There are several options for this, but for this tutorial we will use the ext4 filesystem. To create the filesystem, use:

# mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdX1

Using mkfs to create the filesystem
Using mkfs to create the filesystem

9. Create Swap Space

Next, we will create the swap space. Swap space in Linux is hard drive space that acts as extra RAM. To do this, run:

# mkswap /dev/sdX2

Creating the swap space
Creating the swap space

10. Mount the Filesystem and Swap Space

Now that both the filesystem and swap space have been created, they must be mounted. To do this, we will use the following commands:

# mount /dev/sdX1 /mnt
# swapon /dev/sdX2

These commands will mount the filesystem and activate the swap space respectively.

11. Install the Base System

Next, we will use the pacstrap utility to download and install all the necessary components of Arch Linux. To use pacstrap, run:

# pacstrap /mnt base base-devel

NOTE: This step may take some time.

Using pacstrap to install the system
Using pacstrap to install the system

12. Generate the fstab File

Now we must generate the fstab file. To do so, run:

# genfstab -U /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab

13. Chroot into Arch Linux

After pacstrap is done running, we will chroot into the newly installed Arch Linux system by using arch-chroot:

# arch-chroot /mnt

Using arch-chroot to enter the new system
Using arch-chroot to enter the new system

14. Set the Time Zone

If arch-chroot was successful, you should now be in the freshly installed Arch Linux system. From here, we must configure it. To start with the configuration, we will specify the timezone. This can be accomplished with the ln command:

# ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/REGION/CITY /etc/localtime

Where REGION and CITY represent your time zone and may be tab-completed.

Setting the timezone
Setting the timezone

Update the hardware clock with:

# hwclock --systohc

15. Generate Locale File

Now we will generate the locale file. To do this, uncomment “en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8” and any other locales you wish to use in /etc/locale.gen, and run:

# locale-gen

Running locale-gen
Running locale-gen

16. Create Locale Configuration File

Next, we will create the locale configuration file:

# echo "LANG=en_US.UTF-8" > /etc/locale.conf

17. Create Hostname File and Enable DHCP

At this point, we must create the hostname file. To do so, run:

# echo "HOSTNAME" > /etc/hostname

Where HOSTNAME is the hostname you wish to use for the system.

Now, enable DHCP:

# systemctl enable dhcpcd

18. Set the Root Password

Now we must set the password for the root account using passwd:

# passwd

Setting the root password
Setting the root password

19. Install a Boot Loader

Finally, we will install the boot loader. For the purposes of this tutorial, we will be using the GRUB bootloader. To do this, we will be using pacman, the package manager for Arch Linux:

# pacman -S grub os-prober

Now we must install GRUB onto the system:

# grub-install /dev/sdX

Installing GRUB
Installing GRUB

And configure it:

# grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

Creating the GRUB configuration file
Creating the GRUB configuration file

20. Exit and Reboot

Now, we will exit the arch-chroot environment:

# exit

And reboot the system:

# reboot

21. Login to Arch Linux

Once the system has been rebooted, GRUB will load.

GRUB
GRUB

From there you can press enter to boot into Arch Linux, and log in to your new Arch Linux system as root.

Arch Linux login
Arch Linux login

Conclusion

Now you have a fresh, working installation of Arch Linux. Arch does not contain many software packages out of the box, nor does it contain a GUI. However, you can configure and customize Arch Linux to meet your needs, whatever they may be.

Brandon Hammond
Hello, my name is Brandon Hammond, I am an avid Linux enthusiast, programmer, and contributor here at FOSS Linux. Linux is one of my passions, and when I'm not attending college I'm usually tinkering with it in a VM.

7 COMMENTS

  1. after a hard time i managed to set it up bro your steps saved me! finally i can start using this powerful and customizeable os

  2. last updated in 2019 but still suggests to partition as a dos disk? no man, you should partition gpt and boot with uefi only. don’t use any bootloader, just load the kernel with your uefi software. times have changed, keep up with it.

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