I’ve heard it said that installing and using Arch Linux is analogous to building with Lego. You start with an idea, build on top of a simple base and then create pretty much anything your imagination (or you operating system needs) can conjure up. With the Arch Linux Summer 2019 Challenge currently underway, I can happily confirm that. There is a learning curve to pay attention to, but thankfully the Arch community has built a variety of tools to aid in the installation process. Here are two I’ve personally used that make the typical command-line based installation easier.
WAIT: Do This First!
Before you attempt these alternative Arch installation methods, I highly recommend installing Arch the traditional way: from the command line, step-by-step, using the classic Arch ISO. Why? Because you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your hardware and what goes into installing a desktop Linux operating system. As a result, you’ll appreciate these relatively unattended methods even more, and have a stronger grasp of what they’re actually doing.
A classic Arch install isn’t as crazy difficult as you think. There’s an official, exhaustive guide on the Arch Linux Wiki, and our challenge community has created this excellent document full of tips and tricks. Give it a spin inside a Virtual Machine first, then try it for real!
Before we jump in, one quick word of warning: The Arch Linux Wiki’s Installation Guide is the only officially supported method for installing Arch. Move forward at your own risk, and don’t rely on the developers of these projects for help.
Method 1: Arch Linux Installation Script
Created by pico.dev, this method of installing Arch does precisely what the name implies. It’s a bash script for installing a customized Arch Linux system that automates the entire process after you’ve edited the configuration file with your preferences. The project’s GitHub page even has a short but informative video walkthrough.
In summary, the steps look like this:
- Download the official current release of Arch Linux and boot into it.
- Download the script with curl.
- Load your preferred keymap with the command loadkeys [keymap] — for example loadkeys us.
- Edit the alis.conf script with vim or nano (for example vim alis.conf). This controls every aspect of the installation, from root password and disk formatting, to locale and software packages.
- Execute the script with ./alis.sh.
Of course that’s simplifying things a bit. However, the script’s installation guide is complete enough that there’s no need to add many additional tips. But I do have a few pointers:
- Run this in a Virtual Machine first to get the hang of things
- Check this Arch Wiki page for help displaying available keymaps (keyboard configurations)
- Take note of your drives and existing partitions with the command fdisk -l
- For the best experience, use a wired internet connection. Alternately, take note of your WiFi network’s SSID and password
- Pay careful attention to what you’re doing in the configuration script. By default, most of the options and software packages are commented out with the “!” symbol. To enable these, simply remove the exclamation point
- Remember to change the default root and created user passwords from “archlinux” to your secure password of choice
- If you get stuck, jump into our Arch Linux community Telegram group (t.me/archchallenge) and politely ask for help
After finally nailing the traditional Arch installation after three attempts, I discovered this gem of a script and haven’t looked back. As always, your mileage may vary but it’s a useful tool if you want to install Arch on multiple machines.
Method 2: Zen GUI Installer
So you’ve mastered the classic Arch install and want to hit the easy button? The Zen Installer provides a full point-and-click environment for installing Arch. It features UEFI support, Nvidia GPU detection (and offers to install drivers), multiple desktops (Gnome, KDE, MATE, Xfce, Budgie, Cinnamon and LXDE), AUR support and a lot more. it also seems to be regularly updated which is an important consideration.
With this method you’ll boot into a live desktop environment and be asked a series of questions. Progress through them step by step
The Zen GUI installer isn’t the flashiest, most intuitive GUI installer around (that honor goes to Pop!_OS and Deepin) but it does the job, and for less experienced users may be faster than a traditional install via command line, whether we’re talking manually or with a script like the one mentioned above.
The Zen GUI video embedded above serves as a sufficient walkthrough, and the installer itself does a great job explaining what to do with each step. I just have a couple tips to add:
- The Zen installer comes with 4 possible kernels: linux, linux-grsec, linux-lts and linux-zen kernel. The latter is a “kernel replacement” and represents a collaborative effort among kernel hackers to produce a kernel that delivers an optimal experience for everyday desktop uses. I haven’t used it personally, so please don’t install before researching it here and here. Note, however, that the linux-zen kernel is officially supported by Arch.
- If you install both the Xfce4 and Xfce-goodies packages, your system will automatically boot into Kodi.
I hope you find some value in these alternative methods for installing Arch.
Feel free to join our Telegram community (t.me/archchallenge) if you need a helping hand, want to share some of your own Arch tips, or just feel like chatting with hundreds of like-minded, distro-hopping Linux enthusiasts.
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