The Friendliest Arch Linux Installation Guide on the Interwebs

I’ve had a few friends that wanted to try out Arch Linux but have given up after the grueling installation process. In this post I demonstrate, with screenshots, how I usually perform a fresh Arch Linux installation.

This guide (like most Arch installation guides) is really just a simplified version of what’s on the wiki here, so consider referring to it as well.


Download an Arch Linux ISO (I’m using archlinux-2016.12.01-dual.iso for this tutorial).

I then use dd to make a bootable USB drive. You can view a guide on how to do this in your OS here.


Boot and check internet

Boot the Arch Linux image.

Select Boot Arch Linux (x86_64).

You’ll be automatically logged in on a console, as root

Make sure your internet connection is working:

ping -c 4

If it’s not working you’ll need to fix this before continuing.

If you’re using wifi, you’ll need to configure a connection to it. First, we’ll use wifi-menu to create a connection profile.

wifi-menu -o

Follow the prompts.

That should have established a connection (test with ping If not, follow the steps below.

List your profiles using

netctl list

Once you have identified the name of your newly created profile, establish a connection

netctl start wpl1s0-myconnection

Partition the hard drive

Check your current partitions with

fdisk -l

Each hard drive is assigned to a block device such as /dev/sda, /dev/sdb, /dev/sdc etc.

You can ignore /dev/loop0 - it’s used to mount the image that we just booted from (so its files can be accessed).

I’ll be installing Arch on /dev/sda, an 8GB hard drive.

I like to use cfdisk to create the partitions


You can also use other tools such as fdisk or parted, etc.

Select dos as the label type
Choose gpt for harddisks bigger than 2 TB and machines using UEFI (instead of BIOS) - otherwise, just choose dos.

I’m only going to create 1 partition for the root directory (/)
It’s optional to create a separate partition for swap space, but I don’t because I hardly use swap (my PC’s have lots of ram - 12GB+) and thus don’t mind having sub-optimal swap file performance (you can still create a swap file on your root parition, its just slightly less efficient than allocating a partition to it)
There are many more complicated partitioning schemes for varying purposes which you can explore on the Arch Wiki partitioning page

At this point, you may have to delete/modify some of your old partitions first, remember to be careful when doing this.

Select New

Enter the partition size. I assign the entire free space for this partition.

Make the partition primary - you can only boot an operating system from a primary partition

Select bootable to make this partition a bootable partition.

Select write to write the partition changes

Type Yes

Select Quit to exit the partition manager

Verify the partitions using fdisk -l

Note that hard drive partitions are represented by an additional number on the block device, i.e. the 1st partition on the drive is /dev/sda1, 2nd partition is /dev/sda2 etc.

Format (create filesystem on) the primary partition using

mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda1

Install Arch Linux base system

Mount the primary partition that we just created to /mnt

mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

Select the mirrors that the Arch base packages will be downloaded from. This step isn’t mandatory but highly recommended.

Using nano, find all the mirrors from your country and move them to the top of the list

nano /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist

Note that nano displays some handy commands at the bottom such as “Where Is” and “Cut Text”. The ^ symbol refers to the Ctrl key.

Now install the Arch Linux base packages

pacstrap /mnt base base-devel

This will automatically download and install all the required packages

Configure system

Generate fstab

Create an fstab file

genfstab /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab

Short for ‘file system table’ it describes how your partitions should be automatically mounted in the filesystem. In our case its just mounting the partition /dev/sda1 to the root, /, dir.

Manually verify the fstab entries

cat /mnt/etc/fstab

If you notice something wrong with it (such as duplicate entries from running genfstab twice), then just edit the fstab file and correct it.


Switch to the newly installed system (starts a new interactive shell with /mnt as the root dir)

arch-chroot /mnt /bin/bash

Set the time zone

First list the available timezones

ls /usr/share/zoneinfo/

My time region is Africa/Johannesburg

Now set the timezone

ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Africa/Johannesburg /etc/localtime

Generate /etc/adjtime

hwclock --systohc

Configure locale (system language)

Edit /etc/locale.gen and uncomment en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8

nano /etc/locale.gen

Generate locales


Create /etc/locale.conf and add LANG=en_US.UTF-8

nano /etc/locale.conf


Set your hostname

nano /etc/hostname

Set the same hostname in /etc/hosts

nano /etc/hosts


Make network connections persistent (runs on startup)

systemctl enable dhcpcd

If you’re using wifi install the following packages so you can connect to the wifi after rebooting.

pacman -S iw wpa_supplicant dialog

Root password

Set the root password


Install the boot loader (GRUB)

Install GRUB. If you have more than 1 OS on your machine, os-prober will take care of that and automatically add the other OS’s to your grub menu.

pacman -S grub os-prober
grub-install /dev/sda

Generate a GRUB configuration file

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


Finally, exit from the chroot, unmount the partitions and reboot your Arch Linux. Make sure you have removed the installation media too.

umount /mnt

Select Arch Linux from the boot menu

Log in to your newly installed Arch system as root user and password that you made during installation.

Post installation

Wifi connection

If you’re using wifi, you’ll need to establish a connection again using the same method as earlier (wifi-menu, netctl etc.).

Package management

Enable multilib repository. This is necessary to run 32-bit applications on our 64-bit installation of Arch Linux.

nano /etc/pacman.conf


Include = /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist

Then update the package list and upgrade with pacman -Syu

Users and groups

Create a new normal user

useradd -m -g users -G wheel,storage,power -s /bin/bash michael

And set the password for the account

passwd michael

Check that you have sudo installed so our normal user can perform administrative tasks (it should have already been installed from the base-devel package group which we installed earlier)

pacman -S sudo

Add the new user michael to the sudoers group

EDITOR=nano visudo


%wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL

Now all users in wheel group can use sudo (thats why we added michael to wheel earlier)

Install desktop environment (kde)

Install Xorg first (this is a display server required for kde, and pretty much any GUI application)

pacman -S xorg xorg-xinit

The package group xorg installs a bunch of video drivers so you don’t have to worry about manually finding yours.

Install kde plasma 5

pacman -S plasma

Start SDDM on startup. SDDM is a display manager installed from the plasma package group. It is a login GUI displayed at the end of the boot process.

systemctl enable sddm

Edit the SDDM theme to look like plasma

SDDM doesn’t look great in KDE. However you can easily fix that by changing the theme

nano /etc/sddm.conf

Set the following parameters


Install kde base applications - konsole, dolphin etc.

pacman -S kde-meta-kdebase

Finally, reboot and use your password to login


If everything looks good, make SDDM auto-login (I like to do this, but you don’t have to)

Open konsole (alt+space, type konsole, press enter)

sudo nano /etc/sddm.conf

Note: sudo is required now because we’re logged in as michael, not root



Reboot and now the SDDM greeter should be skipped.


Install sound drivers

ALSA is already included with the linux kernel and is recommended because usually it works out of the box (it just needs to be unmuted).

Unmute audio and test if sound works

OSS is a viable alternative in case ALSA does not work.

Add an AUR helper

The Arch User Repository is a community-driven repository of packages. Some packages include spotify, skype and dropbox. The easiest way to install packages from the AUR is by using an AUR helper and the one I like to use is called packer. Other AUR helpers do exist.

To install packer, you have to download and build it manually. I’ve made a shell script that does this automatically which you can run using:

curl -s | bash

Use packer in the same way as pacman (packer -S <package>). Don’t use sudo in front of packer, if it needs administrative permissions it will ask you to enter the root password.

Shorten grub timeout

I like to reduce the GRUB timeout from 5 seconds down to 2 seconds.

sudo nano /etc/default/grub



Then run

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

Get config files from github

I store a few of my config files on github, such as my bash config (~/.bashrc). To retrieve them, I simply cd to my home directory and clone the repo. There are many benefits to storing your config on github, but it’s really up to you.


There are many post-installation configurations that one could do - see this page on the Arch wiki for other ideas.

Random Tips

Every week or two you’ll want to run sudo pacman -Syu and packer -Syu to keep your packages up to date.

To remove a package I usually use pacman -Rs package_name. The Rs means: remove the package and its dependencies which are not required by any other installed package.