The Arch Diaries: (1) Installation

After some quality time with Crunchbang and Mint 13 XFCE I was looking for a little more adventure again. Manjaro, despite a brilliant Live experience, wouldn’t boot after installation on my Asus 1215N, so I decided to quickly set up Arch over the weekend, only to discover that the installer is gone !! My first reaction was to write an angry post to the Arch forum, but in the end I delete it and decided accept the challenge. We’re here to learn something after all, right ?

The documentation on the USB image is by no means sufficient, so you either have to print out half of Arch Wiki before starting, or even better have a second internet device ready to read some documentation (starting from the official Installation Guide - would be really cool if the install media included arch-wiki-lite or a text based browser like links to avoid this necessity). Anyway, here’s a short log of what I had to do to install Arch (with the 2012-10 hybrid setup image) to my Asus 1215N laptop.

  1. Burn the ISO to USB using dd, e.g. dd if=archlinux-2012.10.06-dual.iso of=/dev/sdb (don’t just copy this line, but CAREFULLY CHECK THE DEVICE NAME, so you don’t accidentally erase a harddrive)
  2. The Arch install media supports wireless networking – run wifi-menu to connect to wireless network (cable DHCP should connect automatically)
  3. Keyboard layout can be set with e.g. loadkeys de
  4. I didn’t want to change the partitioning, and if I did I would do it before installing Arch with a PartedMagic CD / USB.
  5. The next step is formatting the root and swap partition. To show the partition table, use lsblk  and/or fdisk -l, then simply format the root partition with e.g.  mkfs -t ext4 /dev/sda7 and the swap partition with mkswap /dev/sda8 (numbers will be different on your system). ATTENTION ! THIS IS THE POINT OF NO RETURN, it will obviously destroy your old Linux installation in /dev/sda7 !!
  6. Now you can install packages. Mount the root partition to /mnt. Then check /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist and then run  pacstrap /mnt base base-devel wireless_tools grub-bios dmenu wpa_supplicant links - this will give you the base system with dev packages (for AUR install), a bootloader, wifi-menu and the links console browser
  7. Now create the fstab with genfstab -p /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab
  8. Now chroot into the installed system: arch-chroot /mnt - the next steps have to be executed in the context of your new system, and NOT on the install media
  9. Write a hostname into /etc/hostname (something like “arch-yourname”)
  10. Symlink your timezone, e.g. ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Berlin /etc/localtime.
  11.  If you dual boot with Windows you should set the clock to local time instead of UTF by entering LOCAL at the end of /etc/adjtime
  12. Uncomment the locale in of your choice in /etc/locale.gen and enter the same name in /etc/locale.conf (e.g. “en_US.UTF-8″), then generate locale-gen.
  13. Console keyboard layout is defined in /etc/vconsole.conf (e.g. “KEYMAP=de-latin1-nodeadkeys”)
  14. Create the boot image with mkinitcpio -p linux (configuration can be changed in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf, but defaults were working fine for me)
  15. Install the bootloader with grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg and install with grub-install
  16. Set a root password with passwd
  17. Finally, exit chroot, unmount (umount /mnt) and reboot

After these steps you are now at the point where you would have been after running the old Arch text installer, i.e. you should be able to boot into your brand new Arch install with root and start further configuration. This will take you between 1-2 hours, remember that in case of an error you can always go back to the install media and mount / chroot into your installation to correct errors.

This concludes the 1st part of the log of my first Arch “From Scratch” install from November 2012, on an Asus Eee PC 1215N. In part 2 I’m going to point out how to turn that empty Arch system into an operating system by installing X, a browser, packer (to install stuff from the AUR), Bumblebee Nvidia Optimus support. In part 3 JWM will be added as a simple desktop environment.


  1. karol says:

    17. should say ‘exit chroot’, not chmod.