Arch Installation Guide

You must be thinking - yet another installation guide! There is no dearth of Installation guides of Arch on web. So why another one?

With advancements like BTRFS file system, UEFI motherboards and modern in-development desktop environment like Plasma 5; traditional Arch Wiki guide and Arch Beginners’ Guide can only be of a limited help. After I got my new desktop, my goal was to setup it with a modern setup. I decided to go with Arch Linux with btrfs file system and Plasma 5 desktop. Coming from OSX, I just love how far linux has come in terms of looks - quite close to OSX!

Table of Contents

For all of you who love installation videos-

I will cover this in two parts. First in this post, I will install the base system. Then, in a follow up post, I will discuss details of setting up final working Plasma 5 desktop.

Initial Setup

Download the latest iso from Arch website and create the uefi usb installation media. I used my mac to do this on terminal:


$ diskutil list
$ diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk1
$ dd if=image.iso of=/dev/rdisk1 bs=1m
20480+0 records in
20480+0 records out
167772160 bytes transferred in 220.016918 secs (762542 bytes/sec)

$ diskutil eject /dev/disk1

Use this media to boot into your machine. You should boot into UEFI mode if you have a UEFI motherboard and UEFI mode enabled.

To verify you have booted in UEFU mode, run:

$ efivar -l

This should give you a list of set UEFI variables. Please look at the Begineers’ Guide in case you do not get any list of UEFI variables.


Ethernet should have started by default on your machine. If you do not plan to use wifi during installation, you can skip to the next section. If desired later, wifi will still be configurable after you are done with all the installation.

To setup wifi simply run:

$ wifi-menu

This is a pretty straight forward tool and will setup wifi for you for this installation session.

This will also create a file at /etc/netctl/. We will use this file later to enable wifi at the first session after installation.

System Updates

For editing different configurations, I tend to use vim. So we will update our package cache and install vim.

$ pacman -Syy
$ pacman -S vim

Hard Drives

In my desktop, I have three hard drives, one 256 GB solid state drive (SDD), one 1 TB HDD and another 3TB HDD. I set up my drives as follows: -SDD for root(/), /boot, and /home partitions, 1st HDD for /data and the 2nd HDD for /media partitions.

For UEFI machines, we need to use a GPT partition table and /boot partition has to be a fat32 partition with a minimum size of 512 MB. We will format rest other partitions with BTRFS. See this link for benefits of using btrfs partitions.

First list your hard drives with the following:

$ lsblk
$ cat /proc/partitions

Assuming, my setup above, now create gpt partitions and format them.

$ dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1M count=5000
$ gdisk /dev/sda
Found invalid MBR and corrupt GPT. What do you want to do? (Using the
GPT MAY permit recovery of GPT data.)
 1 - Use current GPT
 2 - Create blank GPT

Then press 2 to create a blank GPT and start fresh

$ press x - to go to extended menu
$ press z - to zap
$ press Y - to confirm
$ press Y - to delete MBR

It might now kick us out of gdisk, so get back into it:

$ gdisk /dev/sda

$ Command (? for help): m
$ Command (? for help): n

$ Partition number (1-128, default 1):
$ First sector (34-500118158, default = 2048) or {+-}size{KMGTP}:
$ Last sector (2048-500118, default = 500118) or {+-}size{KMGTP}: 512M
$ Current type is 'Linux filesystem'
$ Hex code or GUID (L to show codes, Enter = 8300): ef00
$ Changed type of partition to 'EFI System'

$ Partition number (2-128, default 2):
$ First sector (34-500118, default = 16779264) or {+-}size{KMGTP}:
$ Last sector (16779264-500118, default = 500118) or {+-}size{KMGTP}:
$ Current type is 'Linux filesystem'
$ Hex code or GUID (L to show codes, Enter = 8300):
$ Changed type of partition to 'Linux filesystem'

$ Command (? for help): p
$ Press w to write to disk
$ Press Y to confirm

Repeat the above procedure for /dev/sdb and /dev/sdc, but create just one partition with all values as default. At the end we will have three partitions: /dev/sda1, /dev/sda2, /dev/sdb1 and /dev/sdc1

Now we will format these partitions.

$ mkfs.vfat -F32 /dev/sda1
$ mkfs.btrfs -L arch /dev/sda2
$ mkfs.btrfs -L data /dev/sdb1
$ mkfs.btrfs -L media /dev/sdc1

Now, we will create btrfs subvolumes and mount them properly for installation and final setup.

$ mount /dev/sda2 /mnt
$ btrfs subvolume create /mnt/ROOT
$ btrfs subvolume create /mnt/home
$ umount /mnt

$ mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt
$ btrfs subvolume create /mnt/data
$ umount /mnt

$ mount /dev/sdc1 /mnt
$ btrfs subvolume create /mnt/media
$ umount /mnt

Now, once the sub-volumes have been created, we will mount them in appropriate locations with optimal flags.

$ HDD_MOUNTS="rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime,space_cache"
$ EFI_MOUNTS="rw,noatime,discard,nodev,nosuid,noexec"
$ mount -o $SSD_MOUNTS,subvol=ROOT /dev/sda2 /mnt
$ mkdir -p /mnt/home
$ mkdir -p /mnt/data
$ mkdir -p /mnt/media
$ mount -o $SSD_MOUNTS,nosuid,subvol=home /dev/sda2 /mnt/home
$ mount -o $HDD_MOUNTS,subvol=data /dev/sdb1 /mnt/data
$ mount -o $HDD_MOUNTS,subvol=media /dev/sdc1 /mnt/media

$ mkdir -p /mnt/boot
$ mount -o $EFI_MOUNTS /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot

Base Installation

Now, we will do the actually installation of base packages.

$ pacstrap /mnt base base-devel btrfs-progs
$ genfstab -U -p /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab

Edit the /mnt/ect/fstab file to add following /tmp mounts.

tmpfs /tmp tmpfs rw,nodev,nosuid 0 0
tmpfs /dev/shm tmpfs rw,nodev,nosuid,noexec 0 0

Wifi at First Boot
Copy our current wifi setup file into the new system. This will enable wifi at first boot. Next, chroot into our newly installed system:
 $cp /etc/netctl/wl* /mnt/etc/netctl/

Finally bind root for installation.

$ arch-chroot /mnt /bin/bash

Basic Setup

Here are some basic commands you need to run to get the installation started.

$ pacman -Syy
$ pacman -S sudo vim
$ vim /etc/locale.gen

# en_SG ISO-8859-1
en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8
# en_US ISO-8859-1

$ locale-gen
$ echo LANG=en_US.UTF-8 > /etc/locale.conf
$ export LANG=en_US.UTF-8
$ ls -l /usr/share/zoneinfo
$ ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/Zone/SubZone /etc/localtime
$ hwclock --systohc --utc
$ sed -i "s/# %wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL/%wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL/" /etc/sudoers
$ HOSTNAME=euler
$ echo $HOSTNAME > /etc/hostname
$ pacman -S dosfstools efibootmgr
$ sed -i 's/^\(HOOKS=.*fsck\)\(.*$\)/\1 btrfs\2/g' /etc/mkinitcpio.conf
$ mkinitcpio -p linux
$ passwd

Wifi Packages
We also need to install following packages for wifi to work at first boot:

  $ pacman -S iw wpa_supplicant 

We will also add hostname to our /etc/hosts file:

$ vim /etc/hosts
...       localhost.localdomain   localhost $HOSTNAME
::1             localhost.localdomain   localhost $HOSTNAME

Bootloader Setup

systemd-boot, previously called gummiboot, is a simple UEFI boot manager which executes configured EFI images. The default entry is selected by a configured pattern (glob) or an on-screen menu. It is included with the systemd, which is installed on an Arch systems by default.

Assuming /boot is your boot drive, first run the following command to get started:

$ bootctl --path=/boot install

It will copy the systemd-boot binary to your EFI System Partition ( /boot/EFI/systemd/systemd-bootx64.efi and /boot/EFI/Boot/BOOTX64.EFI - both of which are identical - on x64 systems ) and add systemd-boot itself as the default EFI application (default boot entry) loaded by the EFI Boot Manager.

Finally to configure out boot loader, we will need the UUID of out root drive (/dev/sda2). You can find that by:

$ lsblk -no NAME,UUID /dev/sda2

Now, make sure that the following two files look as follows, where $UUID is the value obtained from above command:

$ vim /boot/loader/loader.conf
timeout 3
default arch
$ vim /boot/loader/entries/arch.conf

title Arch Linux
linux /vmlinuz-linux
initrd /initramfs-linux.img
options root=UUID=$UUID rw rootfstype=btrfs rootflags=subvol=ROOT

Please note that you will to need manually run bootctl command every time systemd-boot gets updated.

  $ bootctl update 

Network Setup

First setup hostname using systemd:

$ hostnamectl set-hostname $HOSTNAME

Check the “Ethernet controller” entry (or similar) from the lspci -v output. It should tell you which kernel module contains the driver for your network device. For example:

$ lspci -v
04:00.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 11)
        Subsystem: ASUSTeK Computer Inc. Device 859e
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 29
        I/O ports at d000 [size=256]
        Memory at f7100000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=4K]
        Memory at f2100000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=16K]
        Capabilities: <access denied>
        Kernel driver in use: r8169
        Kernel modules: r8169

Next, check that the driver was loaded via dmesg | grep module_name. For example:

$ dmesg | grep r8169
[    3.215178] r8169 Gigabit Ethernet driver 2.3LK-NAPI loaded
[    3.215185] r8169 0000:04:00.0: can't disable ASPM; OS doesn't have ASPM control
[    3.220477] r8169 0000:04:00.0 eth0: RTL8168g/8111g at 0xffffc90000c74000, 78:24:af:d7:1d:3d, XID 0c000800 IRQ 29
[    3.220481] r8169 0000:04:00.0 eth0: jumbo features [frames: 9200 bytes, tx checksumming: ko]
[    3.226949] r8169 0000:04:00.0 enp4s0: renamed from eth0
[    5.128713] r8169 0000:04:00.0 enp4s0: link down
[    5.128713] r8169 0000:04:00.0 enp4s0: link down
[    8.110869] r8169 0000:04:00.0 enp4s0: link up

Proceed if the driver was loaded successfully. Otherwise, you will need to know which module is needed for your particular model. Please follow the Arch Wiki Networking guide for further assistance.

Get current device names via /sys/class/net or ip link. For example:

$ ls /sys/class/net
enp4s0  lo  wlp3s0
$ ip link
2: enp4s0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc fq_codel state UP mode DEFAULT group default qlen 1000
    link/ether 78:24:af:d7:1d:3d brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff

Using this name of the device, we need to configure, enable following two systemd services: systemd-networkd.service and systemd-resolved.service.

For compatibility with resolv.conf, delete or rename the existing file and create the following symbolic link:

$ ln -s /usr/lib/systemd/resolv.conf /etc/resolv.conf

Network configurations are stored as *.network in /etc/systemd/network. We need to create ours as follows.:

$ vim /etc/systemd/network/




Now enable these services:

$ systemctl enable systemd-resolved.service
$ systemctl enable systemd-networkd.service

Your network should be ready for first use!

First Boot

Now we are ready for the first boot! Run the following command:

$ exit
$ umount -R /mnt
$ reboot

Awesome! We are ready to play with our new system. Alas! what you have is just a basic installation without any GUI.

Please see my next post for where to go next!

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