Keeping Your Sanity While Installing Arch Linux

With the installation complete, you can log in to your Arch Linux desktop.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Arch Linux is one of the last Linux distributions I would ever suggest to new users. Although using Arch Linux isn’t all that difficult, installing it is another issue altogether. Unlike most Linux distributions, Arch Linux doesn’t have a user-friendly GUI installer. It’s all text-based and installation can be a challenge, even for people with plenty of experience using Linux.

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Recently, I discovered Arch Linux has a built-in installer script that was created to make the installation less challenging. I gave the script a go and found the claim of simplifying the task to be spot on. No, it’s not as simple as, say, installing Ubuntu Linux (or any distribution with a GUI installer), but it’s not the sanity-challenging task it once was.

Let me show you how to install Arch Linux.

How to install Arch Linux with archinstall

What you’ll need: The only things you’ll need for this task are a computer (or virtual machine) to install Arch Linux and a downloaded ISO image to use for the installation. I’ll demonstrate this with a virtual machine, running on VirtualBox, which is the route I would recommend for testing purposes.

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With those two things at the ready, let’s install. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get this installtion done.

The first thing to do is boot the ISO image. Of course, if you’re installing to a computer (also called “bare metal”), you’ll need to burn the ISO image to a bootable USB drive. Let the boot finish and you should find yourself on the root bash prompt.

From the root bash prompt, type archlinux and hit Enter on your keyboard. This will start the installation script. When you see Set/Modify the below options, you’re ready to configure the installation.

This is where you run the archlinux command.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

You’ll have to go through and set several options. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate the text-based menu. I won’t walk you through each option, but I will explain what areas you’ll need to configure. Follow along with these instructions and you’ll understand what to do:

  • Mirrors — Select the closest mirror region to you. Find the location, hit the space bar to select it, and then hit Enter on your keyboard. Navigate to Back and hit Enter again.
  • Disk configuration — Select Use a best-effort default partition layout. Make sure to select the drive you want to install Arch Linux on (again, using the arrow keys to navigate.”

I’ve gone through and configured the installation using the archlinux comand.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Once you’ve taken care of the above options, navigate to Install and hit Enter on your keyboard. You’ll be prompted to hit Enter again and the installation countdown will begin. This process should take about five minutes to complete. You’ll then be asked if you want to chroot into the newly created installation and perform post-install configurations. Select no and hit Enter, which will return you to the root bash prompt. 

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