Arch boot process
In order to boot Arch Linux, a Linux-capable boot loader must be set up. The boot loader is responsible for loading the kernel and initial ramdisk before initiating the boot process. The procedure is quite different for BIOS and UEFI systems, the detailed description is given on this or linked pages.
A BIOS or Basic Input-Output System is the very first program (firmware) that is executed once the system is switched on. In most cases it is stored in a flash memory in the motherboard itself and independent of the system storage.
Unified Extensible Firmware Interface has support for reading both the partition table as well as file systems. UEFI does not launch any boot code from the Master Boot Record (MBR) whether it exists or not, instead booting relies on boot entries in the NVRAM.
The UEFI specification mandates support for the FAT12, FAT16, and FAT32 file systems (see UEFI specification version 2.8, section 184.108.40.206), but any conformant vendor can optionally add support for additional filesystems; for example, Apple Macs support (and by default use) their own HFS+ filesystem drivers. UEFI implementations also support ISO-9660 for optical discs.
UEFI launches EFI applications, e.g. boot loaders, boot managers, UEFI shell, etc. These applications are usually stored as files in the EFI system partition. Each vendor can store its files in the EFI system partition under the
/EFI/vendor_name folder. The applications can be launched by adding a boot entry to the NVRAM or from the UEFI shell.
The UEFI specification has support for legacy BIOS booting with its Compatibility Support Module (CSM). If CSM is enabled in the UEFI, the UEFI will generate CSM boot entries for all drives. If a CSM boot entry is chosen to be booted from, the UEFI's CSM will attempt to boot from the drive's MBR bootstrap code.
- System switched on, the power-on self-test (POST) is executed.
- After POST, BIOS initializes the hardware required for booting (disk, keyboard controllers etc.).
- BIOS launches the first 440 bytes (the Master Boot Record bootstrap code area) of the first disk in the BIOS disk order.
- The boot loader's first stage in the MBR boot code then launches its second stage code (if any) from either:
- The actual boot loader is launched.
- The boot loader then loads an operating system by either chain-loading or directly loading the operating system kernel.
- System switched on, the power-on self-test (POST) is executed.
- After POST, UEFI initializes the hardware required for booting (disk, keyboard controllers etc.).
- Firmware reads the boot entries in the NVRAM to determine which EFI application to launch and from where (e.g. from which disk and partition).
- Firmware launches the EFI application.
If Secure Boot is enabled, the boot process will verify authenticity of the EFI binary by signature.
Multibooting in UEFI
Since each OS or vendor can maintain its own files within the EFI system partition without affecting the other, multi-booting using UEFI is just a matter of launching a different EFI application corresponding to the particular operating system's boot loader. This removes the need for relying on chain loading mechanisms of one boot loader to load another OS.
See also Dual boot with Windows.
A boot loader is a piece of software started by the firmware (BIOS or UEFI). It is responsible for loading the kernel with the wanted kernel parameters, and initial RAM disk based on configuration files. In the case of UEFI, the kernel itself can be directly launched by the UEFI using the EFI boot stub. A separate boot loader or boot manager can still be used for the purpose of editing kernel parameters before booting.
/boot. That means it must have support for everything starting from the block devices, stacked block devices (LVM, RAID, dm-crypt, LUKS, etc) and ending with the file system on which the kernel(s) and initramfs image(s) reside.
- As GPT is part of the UEFI specification, all UEFI boot loaders support GPT disks. GPT on BIOS systems is possible, using either "hybrid booting" with Hybrid MBR, or the new GPT-only protocol. This protocol may however cause issues with certain BIOS implementations; see rodsbooks for details.
- Encryption mentioned in file system support is filesystem-level encryption, it has no bearing on block-level encryption.
|Name||Firmware||Partition table||Multi-boot||File systems||Notes|
|EFISTUB||–||Yes||Yes||Yes||–||–||–||–||Inherited from firmware1||–||Kernel turned into EFI executable to be loaded directly from UEFI firmware or another boot loader.|
|Clover||Emulates UEFI||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes2||No||Without encryption||No||Inherited from firmware1||No||Fork of rEFIt modified to run macOS on non-Apple hardware.|
|GRUB||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||On BIOS/GPT configuration requires a BIOS boot partition. |
Supports RAID, LUKS1 and LVM (but not thin provisioned volumes).
|rEFInd||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes2||Without encryption||Without encryption||Without tail-packing feature||Inherited from firmware1||No||Supports auto-detecting kernels and parameters without explicit configuration, and supports fastboot .|
|Syslinux||Yes||Partial||Yes||Yes||Partial||Without: multi-device volumes, compression, encryption||Without encryption||No||Yes||MBR only; without sparse inodes||No support for certain file system features. |
Does not have file system drivers, can only access the file system it was installed to.
|systemd-boot||No||Yes||Manual install only||Yes||Yes2||No||No||No||Inherited from firmware1||No||Cannot launch binaries from partitions other than the ESP or the Extended Boot Loader Partition (XBOOTLDR partition).|
|GRUB Legacy||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||XFS v4 only||Discontinued in favor of GRUB.|
|LILO||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||Without encryption||Yes||Yes||Yes||Discontinued due to limitations (e.g. with Btrfs, GPT, RAID).|
- File system support is inherited from the firmware. The UEFI specification mandates support for the FAT12, FAT16 and FAT32 file systems, but vendors can optionally add support for additional file systems; for example, the firmware in Apple Macs supports the HFS+ file system. If the firmware provides an interface for loading UEFI drivers on startup, then support for additional file systems can be added by loading (independently acquired) file system drivers.
- A boot manager. It can only launch other EFI applications, for example, Linux kernel images built with
See also Wikipedia:Comparison of boot loaders.
The kernel is the core of an operating system. It functions on a low level (kernelspace) interacting between the hardware of the machine and the programs which use the hardware to run. The kernel temporarily stops programs to run other programs in the meantime, which is known as preemption. This creates the illusion of many tasks being executed simultaneously, even on single-core CPUs. The kernel uses the CPU scheduler to decide which program takes priority at any given moment.
After the boot loader loads the kernel and possible initramfs files and executes the kernel, the kernel unpacks the initramfs (initial RAM filesystem) archives into the (then empty) rootfs (initial root filesystem, specifically a ramfs or tmpfs). The first extracted initramfs is the one embedded in the kernel binary during the kernel build, then possible external initramfs files are extracted. Thus files in the external initramfs overwrite files with the same name in the embedded initramfs. The kernel then executes
/init (in the rootfs) as the first process. The early userspace starts.
Arch Linux uses an empty archive for the builtin initramfs (which is the default when building Linux). See mkinitcpio for more and Arch-specific info about the external initramfs.
The purpose of the initramfs is to bootstrap the system to the point where it can access the root filesystem (see FHS for details). This means that any modules that are required for devices like IDE, SCSI, SATA, USB/FW (if booting from an external drive) must be loadable from the initramfs if not built into the kernel; once the proper modules are loaded (either explicitly via a program or script, or implicitly via udev), the boot process continues. For this reason, the initramfs only needs to contain the modules necessary to access the root filesystem; it does not need to contain every module one would ever want to use. The majority of modules will be loaded later on by udev, during the init process.
At the final stage of early userspace, the real root is mounted, and then replaces the initial root filesystem.
/sbin/init is executed, replacing the
/init process. Arch uses systemd as the default init.
init calls getty once for each virtual terminal (typically six of them), which initializes each tty and asks for a username and password. Once the username and password are provided, getty checks them against
/etc/shadow, then calls login. Alternatively, getty may start a display manager if one is present on the system.
A display manager can be configured to replace the getty login prompt on a tty.
In order to automatically initialize a display manager after booting, it is necessary to manually enable the service unit through systemd. For more information on enabling and starting service units, see systemd#Using units.
The login program begins a session for the user by setting environment variables and starting the user's shell, based on
The login program displays the contents of /etc/motd (message of the day) after a successful login, just before it executes the login shell. It is a good place to display your Terms of Service to remind users of your local policies or anything you wish to tell them.
Once the user's shell is started, it will typically run a runtime configuration file, such as bashrc, before presenting a prompt to the user. If the account is configured to Start X at login, the runtime configuration file will call startx or xinit.
GUI, xinit or wayland
xinit runs the user's xinitrc runtime configuration file, which normally starts a window manager. When the user is finished and exits the window manager, xinit, startx, the shell, and login will terminate in that order, returning to getty.