"Quick" and Dirty Guide to an Arch Linux installation

Howdy! Want to install Arch on your UEFI hardware, but find the official documentation a bit over your head?

This is a simple, "quick and dirty" method of install Arch on your UEFI hardware as simply as possible, with any WM/DE of your choice.

Simple, fast, effective - the goal of Arch is to perform well without nonsense, so that's how this guide will be written.


  • Arch iso
  • USB drive or CD
  • UEFI hardware
  • Keyboard, mouse, eyes

First, you need the Arch Linux iso. The same iso file supports both 32 bit and 64 bit installations, so don't worry about it not being the right version. I recommend torrenting it because of the kagillion seeders.

Once you've downloaded it, you need to burn it. Do not use Unetbootin for this - it doesn't show you how to do it the right way, and it doesn't actually work with Arch from the current iso.

Warning - will delete all data on the drive. Please backup if necessary. Formatting is serious shit.

If you're on Linux, then you have a really easy job. Simply open the terminal emulator of your choice, sudo su into root perm, and type:

  • dd if=/path/to/iso of=/dev/sdX

Where the /dev/sdX is your USB drive or location of your CD drive.
If you're on Windows, I recommend Win32 Disk Imager. Select the slowest burn option, select your iso file, your USB drive you wish to format, and you're good to go. It's all GUI, so should be pretty easy to figure out.
Once you've burned your livedisk, reboot the machine, but boot directly into UEFI (usually F2, F11, or Del to force it). Every UEFI is different based on manufacturer and version, but boot into whatever medium you burnt your iso to in UEFI mode. It must not boot into standard BIOS mode, it must be UEFI boot.
There are several options once the livedisk is loaded - default, UEFI shell 1, UEFI shell 2, etc. Just leave it alone and boot into the standard/default selected option. You can boot into UEFI shells 1 or 2, but they pretty much, for all intensive purposes, achieve the same thing.
Once you've booted into UEFI, it's time to get to business. You've been automatically logged into the root account, so don't worry about that.
First of all, we're going to need to format and partition some disks to install your Arch onto. In my case, my SSD I used as my boot drive is /dev/sdb, so I will use that in all commands. To find out your disks names, simply issue the command:
  • fdisk -l
Once you've found the disk(s) you wish to install your system onto, we can proceed to partition them accordingly and format.
In my case, I have a 120GB SSD (my /dev/sdb) and a 2TB HDD (my /dev/sda). I use a partition on my 2TB HDD for storage, but keep my /root and /home partitions on my SSD as a boot drive. You can piece your partitions up however you want, but I like to keep things clean, so they can work off of one disk if need be.
To partition your drive(s) for an Arch installation, you are best off with simply starting with a clean disk, so let's delete all of the existing partitions, setup our own ones, and write to the disk.

To delete the existing partitions, simply issue the command:
  • gdisk /dev/sdb
  • d
Assuming /dev/sdb is your boot drive, simply repeat the d operation with all partitions (starting with 1, increasing onward) until your disk is empty. Now, we need to write new partitions. The most important step of an Arch installation on UEFI is the EFI boot partition. I am going to go ahead and put my /root and /home partitions on here as well.
  • gdisk /dev/sdb
  • N
  • First Sector - Just press enter, so it's at the front of your disk
  • Last sector - +1024M
  • Type - ef00
  • Now, to make the root partition
  • N
  • First sector - Enter
  • Last sector - +30000M
  • Type - Enter
  • And, the last on this disk, the /home partition
  • N
  • First sector - Enter
  • Last sector - Enter
  • Type - Enter
  • Now, if you are ready to delete your partition table and write the new one, just enter the command:
  • w
  • Press enter, and wait for the superblocks to be written.
Note that I didn't include a /swap partition. If you have more than 4GB of memory, you really don't need a swap, but if you really, really want one, I still follow the 1.5 - 2 * rule (total system mem * 1.5 or 2 = swap in GB). It really wastes space on the SSD, though, and adds a lot of writes to the drive, so I don't inculde it.
Although you've written your partition table, you need to format them into the appropriate file system. The EFI /boot partition needs to be Fat32, but the rest can be ext4.
  • mkfs.vfat -s2 -F32 /dev/sdb1
  • mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdb2
Now, we need to mount the partitions so we can install the base system.
  • mount /dev/sdb2 /mnt
  • mkdir /mnt/home
  • mount /dev/sdb3 /mnt/home
  • mkdir -p /mnt/boot
  • mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt/boot
If you're like me, and use a secondary disk as a storage drive, then you will want to mount it now. Using my partition (/dev/sda4) as an example of a storage partiton, it is incredibly simple:
  • mkdir /mnt/data
  • mount /dev/sda4 /mnt/data
That's it, you're done with your disks, you're ready to actually install Arch.
The easiest way to do this is with pacstrap.
  • pacstrap -i /mnt base base-devel
  • Now you wait... And wait... Then it's done
  • Now is a good time to generate your fstab.
  • genfstab -U -p /mnt /mnt/etc/fstab
  • Make sure it generated correctly by simply opening in up with a text editor, such as Vi, Vim, or Nano like such:
  • nano /mnt/etc/fstab
  • If there's shit in there, you're good. CTRL-X to exit.
Now, we need a bootloader. With UEFI on Arch, I do not recommend Grub. Gummiboot and SysLinux are much better options for UEFI, in my honest opinion (opinion based on the fact that they work).
Your efivars should already be mounted, so unmount it using umount.
  • umount /sys/firmware/efi/efivars
Now, you can get to installing a bootloader; we will use Gummiboot in this example.
  • First, you need to chroot before you do anything else.
  • arch-chroot /mnt
  • mount /sys/firmware/efi/efivars
  • pacman -S gummiboot
  • gummiboot install
  • nano /boot/loader/entries/arch.conf
  • title¬†¬†¬† Arch
  • linux¬†¬†¬† /vmlinuz-linux
  • initrd¬†¬† /initramfs-linux.img
  • options¬† root=/dev/sdb2 rw
  • CTRL-O, enter
  • CTRL-X
  • That is assuming your root partition is at /dev/sdb2, of course.
  • Go ahead and umount your partitions:
  • umount /mnt/{boot,home}
  • reboot
That should be all you need to do. It will boot directly into your Arch install without any waiting, but if you wanted, you could change that later on. Topic for another day.
Now, Arch is installed, we can boot into it. Reboot your system, and select your boot drive to boot priority 1 if it isn't already selected. Boot into Arch, and let's configure.
Should be prompted for a login, type in root, press enter, and you're in. There is no root passwd yet, but to set one, type passwd. Enter you desired password, and it is set.
You need to tell Arch a few things. This is a bare-bones installation, so we'll do the bare minimum.
  • First, set your locale.
  • nano /etc/locale.gen
  • Scroll down to your locale (in most cases on this forum, I'd guess en_US or en_UK.UTF-8, but choose the one that fits you)
  • Delete the # in front of it
  • CTRL-O, enter
  • CTRL-X
  • Now you need a locale.conf, so make one with your locale of choice
  • echo LANG=en_US.UTF-8 > /etc/locale.conf
  • export LANG=en_US.UTF-8


  • If you use a non-standard keymap, like DVORAK, then you nede to tell Arch that too. While in the terminal, at any point, you can simply use "loadkeys *" where * is your layout, but to set it permanently, set it in your vconsole.conf
  • nano /etc/vconsole.conf
  • KEYMAP=dvorak
  • FONT=Lat2-Terminus16
  • CTRL-O, enter
  • CTRL-X
  • This will set it to DVORAK with the font Lat2-Terminus16
You also need Arch to know your timezone.
  • To see all available timezones, issue the command:
  • ls /usr/share/zoneinfo
  • When you've determined which zone you are in, you need to specify a sub zone. To view subzones, enter the command:
  • ls /usr/share/zoneinfo/*Zone*
  • To set your timezone, simply issue the command:
  • ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/*Zone*/*SubZone* /etc/localtime
  • You might as well go ahead and set your hardware clock it UTC while you're at it.
  • hwclock --systohc utc
Time to add a user that isn't root.
  • useradd -m -g users¬† -G wheel -s /bin/bash *username*
  • passwd *username*
  • Enter the password.
  • To add that user to the sudoers file, simply type:
  • nano /etc/sudoers
  • Scroll down to where it says root ALL = (ALL)ALL, and add a line below it that reads:
  • *username* ALL = (ALL)ALL
  • CTRL-O, enter
  • CTRL-X
You'll probably want a GUI interface after so much CLI. This is where you start to have lots of options, but for simplicity, let's just assume you want XFCE. Because it's nice 'n stuff.
Before you get a WM or DE, you need X. Good ol annoying X.
  • pacman -S xorg-server xorg-server-utils xorg-xinit
  • pacman -S mesa
  • You should go ahead and install your GPU driver as well. I don't know what card you use, but consult the wiki to find out which package to install.
  • If you use a non-standard keyboard map, you will, again, have to set that manually in the X settings. It's pretty easy, though.
  • For example, to setup your keymap to Dvorak, just nano ~/.xinitrc, and add setxkbmap -layout dvorak BEFORE you initialize your wm/de.;
Test if X is working by typing "startx" to start the default test X WM. Type "exit" in one of the terminal emulators to stop X.
You don't want that ugly piece of shiz, though, you want eyecandy. Here is some documentation on WMs and DEs; you can install WMs ontop of DEs, but for this purpose, we'll use a full-blown DE. I personally just use AwesomeWM, but that is my preference.
  • For demonstrative purposes, let's install XFCE4.
  • pacman -S xfce4
  • Let that install, then edit your bash_profile to start X at startup:
  • nano ~/.bash_profile
  • Scroll to the bottom, add this line:
  • [[ -z $DISPLAY && $XDG_VTNR -eq 1 ]] && exec startx
  • CTRL-O, enter
  • CTRL-X
Almost done, but you are still going to boot into a CLI login, with no sound, but those are two very easy steps.
For GUI logins, I recommend SLiM because it's lightweight, supports tons of WMs/DEs, is very configurable, and is just pretty.
  • pacman -S slim
  • Then, just tell your ~/.xinit to start xfce4 at upon startup
  • nano ~/.xinitrc
  • Scroll to the bottom, and add:
  • exec startxfce4
  • Or whatever WM/DE you're going to use.
  • CTRL-O, enter
  • CTRL-X
Lastly, just unmute the already install Alsa so you have noise.
  • pacman -S alsa-utils
  • alsamixer
  • m
  • CTRL-C

Now, that's it. Reboot, login, and you have Arch. Yay! Up next, spell-checking, the AUR, and pretties :)
Let me know how I can improve this guide, of spelling errors/grammatical mistakes, or anywhere you get stuck.
Enjoy Arch!
Interjection: Got a cleaner copy paste of this guide over here: http://pastebin.com/74DahAfs

Hold on, the quote formatting is terrible. Let me switch over to lists so it's possible to read it.

Wow, even the list formatting is awful. Hmm...

wow that is dirty :3

Dirty enough ;)

Well that's simple. 

I like it dirty.

Your efivars should already be mounted

It was not.

So I tried mounting it.

mount: can't find /sys/firmware/EFI/efivars in /etc/fstab

Temporary gratitude for whoever can help.

I probably borked it when I rebooted just before running pacstrap (though I did re-mount /mnt, /mnt/home, and /mnt/boot before I ran it again). pacstrap itself ran without issue and so did genfstab. As you so elegantly put it, there was shit in fstab when it was done.

Then, "umount /sys/firmware/EFI/efivars" gave me "mountpoint not found". Thus the issue.

Edit: Fuck it, starting over. I only did about 4 things. Took me 15 minutes. Still, curious to know what the issue was.

Were you chrooted when you tried to umount?


No, I wasn't.

Then chroot into /mnt, and type:

mount /sys/firmware/EFI/efivars

I thought the ccommand was "mount efivarfs efivarfs /sys/firmware/EFI/efivars"?

Of course, I installed Grub. Which failed. So I could be wrong.

Found the problem. The directory is /sys/firmware/efi/efivars. No caps.

I should definitely have been able to figure that one out last night on my own.

Edit: Maybe not the whole problem. I umounted it just fine now. Then, in chroot:

"mount /sys/firmware/efi/efivars" says it can't find /sys/.../efivars in fstab.

Phantom's command has too many arguments and mount spits out its help file. Removing what I suspect to be an extra "efivars" from that, I get:

mount: efivars is write-protected, mounting read-only

mount: special device efivars does not exist

I'll change the typo, then. Sorry about that.

You missed the one just below the first typo. In the list of commands for installing the bootloader.

Thanks for the guide and the help, btw. I probably never would have touched arch without it.

Thanks for your help with fixing the guide :)

Glad it helped, don't forget to share your setup in the Arch Club when you are all installed and configured to your liking.

I ran into another issue with this efivars business, added it to my other post.

I hate to not be able to google my own way out of trouble, but I have no idea how EFI works and I wouldn't even know what to look for.

Now that is odd. First, I would reboot, remount your /mnt /mnt/root and /mnt/home, umount your efivars, then arch-chroot into your /mnt. Go ahead and install (or try to) Gummiboot without touching efivars in your chroot.

Then wouldnt the command be "mount efivarfs efivarfs /sys/firmware/efi/efivars /boot"? Be sure you dont do a typo. The first two are "efivarfs" the second is "efivars" 

You don't need all of those arguments, Phantom, it will mount just fine with "mount /sys/firmware/efi/efivars"

I think I know the problem, though. You need to modprobe efivars after you umount.

"modprobe -r efivars

modprobe efivars"

Installing gummiboot copies some stuff to /boot/EFI, then this:

Failed to create EFI Boot variable entry: No such file or directory