Condensed Arch Linux Installation Guide

December 06, 2019

Considering how often I seem to re-install Arch Linux on various machines and that I can never seem to remember the exact details, I figured I should write up a short installation guide, mainly as future reference for myself. Here we go.

First Steps

Grab an ISO of Arch Linux from here and dd it onto a USB drive. Boot into the live image and change the keymap to maintain sanity during the next steps:

# loadkeys de-latin1-nodeadkeys

Make sure the directory /sys/firmware/efi/efivars exists and is not empty, verifying that we booted in EFI mode. Next, hook up an ethernet cable and request an IP address

# dhcpcd
# ping

Finally, update the system clock via

# timedatectl set-ntp true

Formatting the Disks and Setting up Disk Encryption

Create a UEFI boot partition:

# parted -s --align=optimal /dev/sdX mkpart ESP fat32 1MiB 512MiB
# parted -s --align=optimal /dev/sdX set 1 boot set
# mkfs.fat -F32 /dev/sdX1

Next, create another partition in which we will create our LVM volume group:

# parted -s --align=optimal /dev/sdX mkpart primary ext4 513MiB 100%
# pvcreate /dev/sdX2
# vgcreate main /dev/sdX2
# lvcreate -l 100%FREE -n root main

In case we want to extend the volume group by another block device, run

# vgextend main /dev/sdY

Next up: disk encryption. Run

# cryptsetup luksFormat -c aes-xts-plain64 -s 512 /dev/mapper/main-root
# cryptsetup open /dev/mapper/main-root root
# mkfs.ext4 /dev/mapper/root
# mount /dev/mapper/root /mnt

to encrypt, open, format and mount the root partition. We'll also create a mount point for the boot partition and mount it accordingly:

# mkdir /mnt/boot
# mount /dev/sdX1 /mnt/boot

Before creating an fstab file, we first create and enable the swapfile so genfstab will pick it up when generating /etc/fstab in the next step:

# fallocate -l 1G /mnt/swapfile
# mkswap /mnt/swapfile
# swapon /mnt/swapfile

Bootstrapping the System

Install the base packages, create the fstab file and chroot into the root filesystem:

# pacstrap /mnt base intel-ucode
# genfstab -U /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab
# arch-chroot /mnt

Now set the timezone and update the hardware clock:

# ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Berlin /etc/localtime
# hwclock --systohc

Set the locale:

# echo "en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8" >/etc/locale.gen
# locale-gen
# echo "LANG=en_US.UTF-8" >/etc/locale.conf
# echo "KEYMAP=de-latin1-nodeadkeys" >/etc/vconsole.conf

Set the hostname and append an entry to the hosts file:

# HNAME=bla
# echo $HNAME >/etc/hostname
# echo "\t${HNAME}.localdomain\t${HNAME} >>/etc/hosts"


Before creating the initramfs and installing the bootloader, we'll have to make sure to enable LVM and encryption support in the mkinitcpio config. To that end, change the HOOKS line in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf to

HOOKS=(... keyboard keymap block lvm2 encrypt filesystems ...)

Then run

# mkinitcpio -p linux

to create the initramfs. Now install the bootloader and configure the loader to decrypt the root partition at boot:

# bootctl --path=/boot install
# UUID=$(blkid -s UUID -o value /dev/mapper/main-root)
# cd /boot/loader/entries
# cat <<'EOF' > arch.conf
title Arch Linux
linux /vmlinuz-linux
initrd /intel-ucode.img
initrd /initramfs-linux.img
options cryptdevice=UUID=${UUID}:root root=/dev/mapper/root quiet rw

Let's also set a root password before finally rebooting the system:

# passwd
# exit
# reboot

Graphical User Interface

Let's install the X server, a display manager, a terminal emulator and our window manager:

# pacman -S sudo xorg-server xf86-video-intel lightdm
# pacman -S xterm xfce4-terminal xmonad xmonad-contrib

Create a user, create a system group autologin and add the user:

# useradd -m nik
# passwd nik
# groupadd -r autologin
# gpasswd -a nik autologin

While we're at it, let's also give the user sudo privileges by adding


to the sudoers file via EDITOR=vim visudo.

Add the lines


to the [Seat:*] section in /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf, and enable/start the service:

# systemctl enable --now lightdm

Let's also go ahead and set the keyboard layout for the X server:

# mkdir -p /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d
# cat <<'EOF' > /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-keyboard.conf
Section "InputClass"
  Identifier "keyboard"
  MatchIsKeyboard "yes"
  Option "XkbLayout" "de"
  Option "XkbVariant" "nodeadkeys"

Arch User Repository (AUR)

In order to interface with the AUR, we opt for pacaur. To install it, we first need to grab some AUR packages manually. To that end, we first install a few needed base packages

# pacman -S git make fakeroot pkg-config

Now grab cower and pacaur from the AUR:

# cd /tmp
# for pkg in cower pacaur; do
git clone$pkg.git
cd $pkg && makepkg -si && cd ..

With pacaur set up, let's install a pacman hook to update the bootloader after kernel upgrades, as well as a bunch of other common AUR packages:

# pacaur -S systemd-boot-pacman-hook
# pacaur -S dmenu-xft-mouse-height-fuzzy-history dropbox
# pacaur -S gopass numix-square-icon-theme-git polybar

And that's it!