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The LInux LOader, or LILO for short, is a legacy multi-boot loader for Linux systems. In spite of being the standard choice over the course of several years, it has been slowly phased out thanks to the advent of GRUB, an alternative boot loader offering easier configuration and less chance of rendering systems unbootable. However, many users still prefer the simplicity of LILO and it continues to be actively developed.


LILO is available as liloAUR and lilo-gitAUR (the development version) from the AUR. LILO only works on BIOS systems. ELILO is a version of LILO for UEFI systems and it can be installed from the elilo-efiAUR package in the AUR.

Running the command lilo (as root) will install LILO to the MBR. Before running the lilo command you should edit /etc/lilo.conf to ensure that the root entry points towards the root partition. If your root partition is on /dev/sda1 then the root entry should look like this: root=/dev/sda1. Remember to change the root line for both the 'arch' and the 'arch-fallback' entries.


LILO is configured by editing the /etc/lilo.conf file and running lilo afterwards to apply the new configuration.

As a reminder, consider that LILO needs to be run after every kernel upgrade, otherwise the system is likely to be left in an unbootable state.

More help on setting up LILO can be found in the LILO-mini-HOWTO.

Sample setup

A typical LILO setup:

Tip: If LILO is really slow while loading the bzImage, try adding compact to /etc/lilo.conf's global section, as shown below.
# /etc/lilo.conf

# This line often fixes L40 errors on bootup
# disk=/dev/hda bios=0x80





# End of file

You can use hwinfo --framebuffer to determine what vga modes you can use.

Using an image as background

First prepare the background image:

  • Open it in GIMP.
  • Scale it to 640x480.
  • Change it to indexed mode (Image-->Mode-->indexed).
  • Select "Create optimal palette" and set it to 16 colours. Choose whatever dithering method suits you.
  • Open the "Indexed Palette" dialog. Make note of which colours you want to use for menu text entries, the clock, etc. In your lilo.conf, you refer to the colours by index.
  • Export the image as a bmp in your /boot directory. In Export dialog check option "Do not write color space information"

Now edit lilo.conf. There are a few options that can be set for your graphical menu. See man lilo.conf for more information.

  • bitmap=<bitmap-file> Set this to the file that you saved above.
  • bmp-colors=<fg>,<bg>,<sh>,<hfg>,<hbg>,<hsh>

These are the colours of the entries in the menu. They refer to the foreground, background, and shadow colours respectively, followed by the same for highlighted text. Do not use spaces. The values used are indices into the colour palette that you discovered in the previous step. If you choose, you can leave a value blank (but do not forget the comma). The default background is transparent, the default shadow is to have none.

  • bmp-table=<x>,<y>,<ncol>,<nrow>,<xsep>,<spill> This option specifies where the menu is placed. x and y are the character coordinates. You can also suffix them with a p to specify pixel coordinates.
  • bmp-timer=<x>,<y>,<fg>,<bg>,<sh> This option specifies the coordinates and colour of the timer that counts down the timeout before booting a default entry. It uses colour indices for the colours, and character (or pixel) coordinates.

For example:


Save lilo.conf, run lilo as root, and reboot and see how it looks!


Read write error message whilst booting

This error message is caused by a recent change in mkinitcpio which was in response to this Systemd commit. The change causes partitions to be fsck'ed twice when mounted read only. To fix this error edit /etc/lilo.conf and change the 'read only' line to 'read write' for both arch entries.

See this forum thread (post 6 in particular) for more information.

Devmapper not found error message after kernel upgrade

It is possible that running the lilo command after a kernel upgrade results in a devmapper not found error. If this is the case run modprobe dm-mod before running lilo after a kernel upgrade.

See also