Arch Linux – How to install and configure

Arch Linux is an independently developed, x86-64 general purpose GNU/Linux distribution versatile enough to suit any role. Development focuses on simplicity, minimalism, and code elegance. Arch is installed as a minimal base system, configured by the user upon which their own ideal environment is assembled by installing only what is required or desired for their unique purposes. GUI configuration utilities are not officially provided, and most system configuration is performed from the shell by editing simple text files. Arch strives to stay bleeding edge, and typically offers the latest stable versions of most software.

Exert from https://www.archlinux.org/about/

I’m just going to say it – Arch Linux isn’t for everyone. It’s a DIY operating system, though it isn’t as neckbeard worthy as Gentoo. You’ll essentially have to install nearly everything by yourself. By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have a computer that boots to a command line, and… that’s it. I have another article just for you after you finish these steps to have a more… user-friendly environment.

If you’re new to Linux and/or scared of typing commands into a command line, I would recommend an easier to use distribution such as Ubuntu or it’s many flavours.

If you think you’re up to the challenge and/or you’d like to be an Arch Elitist, here’s how to install Arch Linux.

Requirements

  • Access to a working computer
  • A computer with the following specifications (or better):
    • 512MB of ram (Yep! Only 512MB!)
    • 1 GB of free storage space (You’ll definitely want more though)
    • Internet connection via Ethernet
    • USB Ports
    • x86-64 (64 bit) or ARM compatibility
    • Basic computer components required for function
  • Keyboard, mouse, monitor and other basic computer peripherals
  • A USB drive (~2GB or more)
  • The ability to follow instructions

Stage 1: The USB

In order to install Arch Linux on the target computer, you’ll need to write a temporary image on Arch Linux called ArchISO onto the USB Stick.

Estimated time needed: 10-15 minutes

1 – Download the latest release of Arch Linux from their website.

Before we need to touch the target computer, we must write the download the ISO file from the official website. https://www.archlinux.org/download/

Screenshot of the Arch Linux download page

2 – Write the ISO on to the USB Stick

If you’re using a VM, you can skip this step, and directly boot the ISO image.

If you’re actually intending to install this distro on a real computer, you will need to write the ISO to the USB stick. I recommend using Rufus.

Image displaying Rufus, a tool used to flash ISO files to USB drives.
Using these settings will do the trick.

That’s it! Now it’s time to get the target computer ready.

Stage 2: Installing Arch Linux

Congratulations on reaching this stage, the real part of installing Arch Linux begins here.

1 – Booting from the USB

To start off, you will need plug the USB in, and enter the boot menu of your device. Every device is different, so at this stage, I’ll put it into your hands to find the boot menu. This might help.

Image showing a sample of the boot menu
Boot off the USB

Tip: Spamming F2, F8, or F12 during boot might be what you need.

2 – Entering Arch Linux

If you see this, congratulations, you’ve done something right in your life!

If you’ve followed these instructions correctly, you should be granted with this screen. All you need to do from here is hit enter (With “Boot Arch Linux” selected)

3 – Test the internet

This is where the commands start. To test the internet, we’re going to use the ping command. Type something such as:

ping -c 5 thatoneguy.com.au
Display of the ping command
Screenshot displaying the ping working successfully.

If you plan on using a wireless connection, the Arch Linux wiki provides documentation on this. I wouldn’t personally worry about this until later.

4 – Make sure the clock is correct

Before we do anything else, you need to enable Net Time Protocol so the system can update the time via the internet. You can do this with the following command:

timedatectl set-ntp true

5 – Partitioning the Hard Drive

In this guide, you’re going to partition the hard drive so you have one partition for the OS, and another for swap (virtual memory).

Begin with the command:

fdisk -l
Sample output of the command fdisk -l
Sample output of the command fdisk -l. /dev/sda is the drive I want to use.

Remember (or write down) the drive you want to use. In my case, it’s /dev/sda, the teeny tiny 8GB drive.

Now we’re going to use a cfdisk, a partition manager.

cfdisk /dev/THE DRIVE YOU WANTED TO USE

In my case, I would type “cfdisk /dev/sda

Screenshot of cfdisk, a tool used in arch linux
You’ll be greeted with this menu. Use the arrow keys and the enter key to navigate.

Select “dos” as your label type. You’ll be taken to another screen which will look like this:

Screenshot of cfdisk, a tool used in arch linux
You’ll probably have a bigger hard drive than me.

It’s now time to partition the drive. Select “new” (highlighted by default). You’ll have to come back to this step later.

drive partitioning with cfdisk, a tool used in arch linux

Type the size that you would like for the partition. If you intend on using swap space, be sure to leave room for double your ram. I’m using an 8GB drive, with 1GB of ram, so I will type “6G” and then hit enter.

Next, you’ll be asked if you want it to be a primary or extended partition, select “primary”. A final option will come up.

Screenshot of cfdisk, a tool used in arch linux

Select “bootable”.

Scroll down to the “free space” and repeat the last few steps. Do not make it bootable. This is going to be your swap space, and we will need to tell the OS that.

Scroll to “type” and select “82 – Linux swap / Solaris”

Image showing the different partition type options using cfdisk, a tool used in arch linux

You may now scroll to “write” to make the changes, and then quit cfdisk by selecting “quit”. (You were smart enough to figure that last part out yourself, right..?)

6 – Creating the filesystem and swap space

This step is a lot shorter. we’re going to use the ext4 file system in this guide. To create the file system, use the following command:

mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdYOURDRIVEHERE1

In my case, I would do “mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda1

To create the swap space, we must do:

mkswap /dev/sdYOURDRIVEHERE2

7 – Mounting the space

Since both of the partitions have been created, we now need to “activate them”. Use the following commands:

mount /dev/sdYOURDRIVEHERE1 /mnt
swapon /dev/sdYOURDRIVEHERE2

I used sda1 and sda2 on my systems.

8 – Installing the base system

Finally, the actual installing part of an installation tutorial.

Now, we’re going to use “pacstrap” to install the main components needed.

pacstrap /mnt base base-devel

This will probably take a while, go make a cup of tea or do stuff while you wait.

Output of the command

9 – Create the fstab file

This step is very simple, run the following command:

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

10 – Chroot into the newly installed system

It’s time to enter arch Linux, chroot into Arch Linux by typing:

arch-chroot /mnt

And Voilia! You are in Arch Linux, you’ve successfully installed it! But we’re not done yet. It’s time to start configuring the system.

Stage 3: Configuring Arch Linux

Like I said before – It’s a DIY system, here are the bare basics of things we need to configure.

1 – Set the time zone

Figure out where you live, and then do:

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

Replace the REGION and CITY with your respective area.

Now update the clock with:

hwclock --systohc
Arch linux configing

2 – Generating the locale file

To generate the locale file, you must first edit the /etc/locale.gen file. This can be done with nano

nano /etc/locale.gen

Un-comment the locale relevant to you, as well as en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8. On my first time, I didn’t uncomment those and I had a bundle of errors.

For example, you’ll need to change

#en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8

to this:

en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8
I’ve uncommented en_AU as well because I live in Australia and felt like doing so

Use your arrow keys to navigate. Then do Ctrl+X, then the Y key, and then the enter key to save the changes. Once that is complete, do:

locale-gen

3 – Create the configuration file for locales

Nice and simple, type in this command and we’ll be set.

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

4 – Setting the hostname

Just like naming a baby, you get to name your computer! Do the following command, replacing HOSTNAME with a name of your choice

echo "HOSTNAME" > /etc/hostname

5 – Enable DHCP

This is important for LAN stuff, do:

systemctl enable dhcpcd
Excuse my typo

6 – Set the root password

To stop annoying siblings and script kiddies, it’s best to set a password. Use the command:

passwd

Anything you type won’t show up – don’t worry, this is normal for Linux.

7 – Install GRUB (The bootloader!)

When we turn a computer on, we expect it to load things (gasp!). In this tutorial (and probably a few others) we’re going to use GRUB.

In the nature of Arch Linux… We need to install that ourselves! (Woo). Use the package manager pacman to do this.

pacman -S grub os-prober

After that, it’s time to install it into the system.

grub-install /dev/sdYOURDRIVEHERE

I used sda, same as earlier in the tutorial.

Now we must configure it (are you noticing a pattern here?):

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

You’re nearly there!

8 – Finishing up

We’ve pretty much finished, exit the arch-chroot environment with

exit

and then you can reboot the system with the command:

reboot

You totally wouldn’t have guessed the command, right? You can now pack up the USB stick, throw the tissues you used while waiting for things to load away, and freshen up a bit.

The system will boot and show you the grub menu, hit enter and you ‘ll be in!

That’s it! You’ve installed Arch Linux! You’re not as useless as you think!

Now go and tell every single person you meet that you use Arch Linux.

Once you’ve done that, do these 9 things to make your Arch Linux installation useful.

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