Arch Linux is a distribution of Linux, or a distro for short. It’s designed to be used by experienced Linux/ Unix users but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn by playing around on it. If you are new to this, try this Introduction to Linux as your Desktop course. Linux distributions are just different versions of Linux tailored to fit certain user needs or wants. Distributions are community developed, easily updatable and much less expensive (often free) than other types of operating systems. A distribution would be like Windows 98 versus Windows 8, same operating system (Windows) but different versions. Arch Linux is a lightweight distro with a friendly installation process. Here we go.
Get Arch. In order to begin the install process, you will need to acquire the latest release of the Arch distro. You can do this by going to their website and downloading the file, or going to Softpedia and downloading the ISO. Now just downloading the file isn’t going to be enough to install it on your computer. You will need to either transfer the files to a USB or burn them to a CD-ROM. If you aren’t sure if your computer can boot from a USB, burn Arch to a disc to be on the safe side. Newer computers will typically allow boot from USB options. Once you’ve selected your option, move to step 2.
Either plug in the USB drive or put the disc with Arch into your CD-ROM drive. Restart your computer. If you are using a USB drive you are going to have to get into your BIOS menu on startup to change the first boot option from CD-ROM to USB. Get into BIOS by hitting F2, F8 or F11 – depending on your BIOS system – during your computer manufacture logo screen. Change the option to USB drive.
If you are using a CD-ROM, the computer should bring you to the following screen (or something very similar). Use your arrows as indicated in the instructions to select the Boot ArchLive option, the first option. Hit Enter to begin the Arch install process.
Once finished, you will be running Arch Linux from your USB or CD-ROM. This means that it is not installed on your computer, which also means, you can still access your original operating system by shutting down the computer without the media plugged in.
You will be prompted to enter some login information. Don’t worry about the password, you won’t need that. Just type in root as your archiso login name.
Okay, now you can go ahead and run the installation script. The script is: /arch/setup. Hit enter. You will now be brought to a menu screen called Source Selection. Learn more about the command line and how to master it!
In source selection you can use the arrows to choose your installation method. If you are installing by CD-ROM or USB choose CD-ROM or OTHER SOURCE. Hit OK.
After selecting your source you should be brought to a menu. Let’s configure your date and time. Select Set Clock , set your time zone, the date and the time format you prefer. Hit OK when you are done.
Now it’s time to really install Arch Linux. Click on Prepare Hard Drive. Here is where you need to decide if you would like to do a full install on a clean operating system, or if you would like to partition your hard drive. If you partition your hard drive you can keep your existing operating system and also install Arch so you can choose which OS to run when you start your computer up. This is nice if you aren’t totally sure if you want to use Linux full time. Step A is for a full install. Step B is for a partition.
For a full install, select Auto-Prepare. This will erase everything on your computer. Make sure you want this option before going through with it – or you will be really disappointed! Skip down to Step 8.
1. Use your arrows to navigate to option 2, Manually Partition Hard Drives. Hit OK.
2. Now you should be given a screen that shows your current existing hard drive. Typically, there will only be one option here so that will make it really easy to choose. Select one and hit OK.
3 Welcome to cfdisk. Don’t freak out, it’s not as intimidating as it may look. Here is where you get to partition the drive. You should see this screen now:
Select Write at the bottom of your screen. This will write these partition table to MMR.
4. Next, you need to manually configure the files systems and mount points. So select choice 3, Manually Configure block devices, filesystems and mount points.
5. Choose the first option directly by /dev/*. Hit OK.
6. The partitions have been created, but no mount point or filesystem has been indicated. If you don’t know what you are doing here, use this example to situate your partitions. Naming the partition the same as the mount point just makes it easier to identify what is what. Hit OK.
If you want to install a package, you can. Go to Select Packages from the main menu and thumb through the options. If you don’t want to install any packages – ignore this step. You can get basic additional tools by selecting basic tools. Hit Install Packages to install the scripts. This could take a while so just be patient.
Now it’s time to configure the system. Really, you’re just going to select a password here and make any changes to the default system that you want. Most importantly: password. Don’t forget it. If you don’t know what any of the other configuration files are just don’t bother them right now.
Now that you’ve configured your files and set your password, you can select Install Bootloader from the main menu. Choose GRUB (unless you know what you’re doing then choose which ever bootloader your prefer). If you partitioned your hard drive you will need to make changes. If you did the auto-prepare option, you do not need to make changes.
For the partitioned hard drive you will need to make sure the Windows entry is not commented out. To do this, remove the # in front of each line. If you want Windows (or your current OS) to be the default operating system to boot up – make sure you change the default. When you are prompted to select the boot device select the entry without the number at the end. Like: /dev/sda.
Got all that?
Exit the installer and reboot your computer! To log-in to the Arch Linux system use the login: root and password: your chosen password. If all of this is way over your head, try checking out this Linux crash course. It can help you become more familiar with the idea of the command line, root directories and partitioning your hard drive. Good luck!