Arch Linux Installation Guide

September 08, 20195 minutes

This is my personal guide that I've used to install Arch on my various systems. Your mileage may vary when using this guide, always refer to the official documentation if you get stuck.

Much of this guide is based on this amazing gist by njam.

Getting Started Links

  1. Download Arch Linux
  2. USB flash installation media
  3. Installation Guide
  4. GitHub Gist

Step 1: Get the system ready

After booting into archiso, set a large font to see what you're doing. This is especially useful for the tiny XPS display.

setfont latarcyrheb-sun32

If this is a device with wifi, connect to the internet now

wifi-menu

Set the time

timedatectl set-ntp true

At this point we need to create some partitions.

Step 2: Partitions

First we need to create some partitions on our disk, I prefer to use fdisk.

fdisk /dev/<devName>

Partition tables

The following table should be used. Partition 1 is the boot partition, partition 2 will enable full disk encryption.

partition mount point type size
1 /boot ef00 512M
2 / 8300 rest of disk

Create filesystems

After partitioning is done, create the boot filesystem on the first partition

mkfs.fat -F32 /dev/<devName>p1

Next, create the LUKs container using btrfs on the main partition and open it for use

cryptsetup luksFormat --type=luks2 /dev/<devName>p2
cryptsetup open /dev/<devName>p2 luks
mkfs.btrfs -L luks /dev/mapper/luks

Next you can create the btrfs subvolumes that are required for system installation

mount -t btrfs /dev/mapper/luks /mnt
btrfs subvolume create /mnt/@root
btrfs subvolume create /mnt/@var
btrfs subvolume create /mnt/@home
btrfs subvolume create /mnt/@swap # if using swap

Mounting partitions

Finally we need to mount our subvolumes and boot partition

umount /mnt
mount -o subvol=@root /dev/mapper/luks /mnt
mkdir /mnt/{var,home,swap}
mount -o subvol=@var /dev/mapper/luks /mnt/var
mount -o subvol=@home /dev/mapper/luks /mnt/home
mount -o subvol=@swap /dev/mapper/luks /mnt/swap # if using swap

Create an 8G swapfile if you're using swap (requires linux 5+, check this guide for more details)

truncate -s 0 /mnt/swap/swapfile
chattr +C /mnt/swap/swapfile
dd if=/dev/zero of=/mnt/swap/swapfile bs=1M count=8192 status=progress
chmod 600 /mnt/swap/swapfile
mkswap /mnt/swap/swapfile
swapon /mnt/swap/swapfile

Mount boot partition

mkdir /mnt/boot
mount /dev/<devName>p1 /mnt/boot

Step 3: Install the system

Order the mirrorlist file how you like, I'll be putting Australian mirrors first

vim /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist

Next, install the base system with some additional packages. For a more complete list of packages that I typically install see my dotfiles.

pacstrap /mnt base base-devel btrfs-progs zsh vim git sudo efibootmgr networkmanager network-manager-applet

If this system has wifi, also include these: wpa_supplicant dialog iw

Finally, generate an /etc/fstab file and make recommended adjustments

genfstab -L /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab

# For all btrfs filesystems consider:
# - Change "relatime" to "noatime" to reduce wear on SSD
# - Adding "discard" to enable continuous TRIM for SSD

Step 4: Configure the system

Enter the new system with chroot

arch-chroot /mnt

Set the timezone and sync it to the system clock

rm /etc/localtime
ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Australia/Melbourne /etc/localtime
hwclock --systohc

Generate the required locales

vim /etc/locale.gen	# Uncomment desired locales, e.g. "en_US.UTF-8", "en_AU.UTF-8"
locale-gen

Set the desired locale

echo 'LANG=en_AU.UTF-8' > /etc/locale.conf

Set desired keymap and font

echo 'KEYMAP=us' > /etc/vconsole.conf
echo 'FONT=latarcyrheb-sun32' >> /etc/vconsole.conf

Set a hostname

echo '<hostname>' > /etc/hostname

Add that hostname to /etc/hosts

127.0.0.1 localhost
::1       localhost
127.0.1.1 <hostname>.localdomain <hostname>

Set a root password

passwd

Add a real user

useradd -m -g users -G wheel -s /bin/zsh <username>
passwd <username>

Allow this user to use sudo by uncommenting the wheel group line after running the visudo command

%wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL

Configure mkinitcpio with modules needed for the initrd image

vim /etc/mkinitcpio.conf
# Change: HOOKS=(base systemd autodetect modconf block keyboard sd-vconsole sd-encrypt filesystems)

Regenerate initrd image

mkinitcpio -p linux

Enable the NetworkManager service for networking support on boot

systemctl enable NetworkManager.service

Step 5: Install the bootloader

Install systemd-boot in your /boot partition

bootctl --path=/boot install

Enable microcode updates for your systems architecture

pacman -S amd-ucode # or intel-ucode

Get the luks-uuid

cryptsetup luksUUID /dev/<devName>p2

Use the luks-uuid to create the bootloader entry in /boot/loader/entries/arch.conf

title   Arch Linux
linux   /vmlinuz-linux
initrd  /amd-ucode.img # or /intel-ucode.img
initrd  /initramfs-linux.img
options rw luks.uuid=<uuid> luks.name=<uuid>=luks root=/dev/mapper/luks [email protected]

An quick way to do this without clipboard support is to use the :r! cryptsetup luksUUID /dev/<devName>p2 command within vim

Set default bootloader entry and options in /boot/loader/loader.conf

default	arch
timeout 3 # if needed

Finally, reboot!

exit
reboot

At this point you should have a working Arch Linux installation and any desktop customisations are up to you. See my dotfiles or Desktop Experience for info on how I set up my system.

If you liked this post or just spotted an annoying error, I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on Twitter. I promise I'm not scary 😬