Newcomers Guide

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See Arch FAQs for newbies


For more information on the jargon used in Arch, look at this article.

Everything you ever wanted to know about installing Arch, but were afraid to ask

This document will guide you through the process of installing and configuring Arch Linux. It is aimed at new Arch users, but strives to serve as a strong reference for all. While this guide intends to show you how to gain a fully configured Arch Linux system (graphical desktop environment, watching DVDs, browsing the internet, working with emails, listening to music), it is impossible to show (or even anticipate) all possibilities and options. By design, this guide has to focus on some critically useful steps; you may want to dig deeper using the Arch Linux Wiki or the Arch Linux Forums. You may also be interested in reading The Arch Way, which outlines the underlying principles of the Arch Linux distribution.

The article is broken up into 3 main parts:

Part I: Installing the Base system

Part II: Installing X and configuring ALSA

Part III: Installing a Desktop Environment


Please realize that the Arch Linux installation procedure may be very different from other GNU/Linux distros you have tried, especially if you are a beginner. The Arch Linux system is built by the user from the ncurses installer and base system with nothing more than a bash shell and basic system tools. From the command line, you will add packages from the Arch repositories using the pacman tool via your internet connection, until your system is customized to your requirements. This allows for maximum flexibility, choice, and system resource control. Because you build it, you will invariably know the nuts and bolts of your system, and become familiar with what is under the hood.

The Arch Linux system is configured by editing text files. It offers no such GUI tools and will not hold your hand during setup and customization- nor will it get in your way by design. Remember also, that Arch Linux is aimed at competent GNU/Linux users as well as users who are willing to invest the time to learn about the mechanics of the system.

The design principles behind Arch are aimed at keeping it simple.

Note that 'simple' does not mean 'easy' nor 'user-friendly' in this context, but rather, 'without unnecessary additions, modifications, or complications'. In short; an elegant, minimalist approach.

If you feel that something important is missing or not working, drop me a note at <freigeist [at]>. Feel free to include the fix or whatever it was you originally needed (this is the main idea of a wiki :)). There is also an Arch forum thread devoted to beginners.

  • If you would like to add to this wiki, please include the "Why" as well as the "How", where appropriate. The best documentation teaches us how, as well as why!

Welcome to Arch! Now let's get started.

Part I: Install the Base System

Obtain the latest Core ISO

You can obtain Arch's latest official snapshot from

It is recommended to choose the core-iso since this guide is geared toward the core installation process.

The core-iso contains only the necessary packages to create a minimal GNU/Linux base system. Note that a minimal Base System does not include a GUI. The rest of the Arch Linux system, including a Graphical User interface is built from the command line using i686-binary packages and configuration files. The process is covered in detail below.

Burn the ISO to CD. Generally, using a maximum speed of no more than 16x is recommended for reliable burns.

Boot Arch Linux CD

As you follow these directions, you may find the Official Arch Linux Install Guide helpful as well. In addition, a printable copy is available.

Insert the CD into your CD-ROM drive and boot from it. You may have to change the boot order in your computer BIOS or press a key (usually F11 or F12) during the BIOS phase.

Some useful options when booting off the Arch Linux CD:

  • ide-legacy if you have trouble with IDE drives
  • noapic acpi=off pci=routeirq nosmp if your system hangs during the boot process
  • memtest86+ if you want to check your memory for errors
  • lowmem is useful for older machines. It requires only 96MB of system RAM vs 256MB for the normal install

Choose "Arch Linux Installation / Rescue System". If you need to change the boot options press e for editing the boot lines. The system will now boot and present a welcome text with some explanations when ready.

Changing the keymap

Press enter at the welcome screen. If you have a non-US keyboard layout type


at the prompt and choose the appropriate keymap.

Example(norwegian) for illustrative purposes:

In console keymap screen select


In console font screen select


Choosing "default8x16.psfu.gz" for console font is a safe choice.

Start the Installation



to start the installation.

Select an installation source

You will be prompted for an installation source. Choose CD if you are using a core ISO, or choose FTP if you are using the FTP ISO.

Prepare Hard Drive

Select the first menu entry "Prepare Hard Drive". Beware that "Auto-Prepare" may not be a safe choice because it will erase the entire hard drive. Here we will manually partition the hard drive. Choose "2. Partition Hard Drives", select the hard drive you want (/dev/sdx), and create some partitions. You may find it easier to do this graphically with the GParted Live CD

At this point, more advanced GNU/Linux users may wish to skip down to Select Packages below.

Partition Info

A partition is a section of hard disk space that will appear as a separate disk, and can be added to your Arch Linux file system. Partitions are broken up into "Primary", "Extended", and "Logical". Primary partitions can be bootable, and are limited to 4. For example, if you are using a PC with a single SATA drive, the first primary partition will be referred to as sda1. The second primary will be referred to as sda2, then sda3, and sda4. Beyond 4 partitions, we are forced to use an extended partition which will contain logical partitions.

Extended partitions are not usable by themselves; they are merely a "container" for logical partitions. Logical partitions must be contained within this extended partition. When partitioning a disk, one can see this numbering scheme by creating primary partitions sda1-3 followed by creating an extended partition, sda4, and then creating logical partition(s) within the extended partition; sda5, sda6, and so on.)

Root, Home and Swap

Everyone has a different opinion on how best to partition the disk. What you need at the least is one primary partition which contains the root Filesystem ( / ) and one for swap. Other candidates for separate partitions are /boot (which mainly contains the kernel) and /home (which contains the user data). It is good practice to have / and /home on separate partitions. This makes it possible to reinstall Arch Linux (or even another distro) for any reason, while keeping your data, music, pictures, and desktop environment preferences.

In this example guide, we will stick with one partition for /, one partition for /home, and a swap partition.

Swap Partition

A swap partition is a place on your hard drive where "virtual ram" resides. If your processes need more RAM than is physically available, Linux can't fulfill the request and an error occurs. A swap partition helps in this situation by supplementing the physical RAM with virtual RAM. Linux uses the space on the hard disk to store the information that won't fit into the physical RAM any more (it's actually a bit more complex because Linux tries to put information into the swap space that isn't frequently used). Because a hard disk is very slow compared to physical RAM, this is only a makeshift.

Ask two people about a swap partition and you will get four different answers. If you have plenty of RAM (more than 1024 MB) it may be possible to not use a swap partition at all. Some people suggest using twice the amount of physical RAM, while others recommend not using more than 1024 MB. I believe keeping the swap size between 512 MB and 1 GB is a good choice. Therefore, we will create a 1 GB swap space in this example.

Partition it

Let's start creating the primary partition that will contain the root filesystem. Choose New -> Primary and enter the size you want (something between 4 and 8 GB is a good choice for a full-featured Linux system). Put the partition at the beginning of the disk. Select the newly created partition and choose "Bootable" to make this partition bootable. Add another partition for your home directory. Choose another primary partition and set the size to a value you like. The size really depends on what your users store in their home directories, so I cannot make any suggestions. The size may vary between a few hundred megabytes for some office documents up to hundreds of gigabytes for videos and MP3s. If you want to use the whole space on your hard disc, use the remaining space minus 512 MB - 1 GB for the size. At last we create a third partition for swap. Select a size between 512 MB and 1 GB and change the type to 82 (Linux swap / Solaris).

This is what your Layout should look like (size may vary depending on your decisions):

Name    Flags  Part Type   FS Type         [Label]         Size (MB)
sda1        Boot        Primary     Linux                           (4096 - 8192)
sda2                       Primary     Linux                           (> 100)
sda3                       Primary     Linux swap / Solaris     (512 - 1024)

Choose Write and type yes. Beware that this operation may destroy data on your disk if you deleted partitions. Choose Quit to leave the partitioner. Choose Done to leave this menu and continue with "Set Filesystem Mountpoints".

Set File system Mountpoints

A few brief words about filesystems and "file systems":

Technically, and for accuracy, a filesystem is a data format, for information throughput, whereas a "file system" (notice the space) is a term referring to the layout of all files and directories on a given system. Therefore, when you are asked if you want to create a filesystem, you are being asked if you want to format the particular partition... but when you are asked for mount points, you are providing where the given partition will reside in your Arch Linux "file system".

Let's begin.

Filesystem Types

First you will be asked for your swap partition. Choose the appropriate partition (sda3 in this example). You will be asked if you want to create a swap filesystem; select yes. Next, choose where to mount the / (root) directory (sda1 in the example). You will be asked what kind of filesystem you want.

Again, ask two people which filesystem to choose and you will get five different answers. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Here is a very brief overview of supported filesystems.

1. ext2 - Old, reliable GNU/Linux filesystem. Very stable, but without journaling support. May be inconvenient due to very long fsck's. An ext2 filesystem can easily be converted to ext3.

2. ext3 - Essentially the ext2 system, but with journaling support. Generally perceived as slightly slower than other filesystems, but extremely stable and the most widely used, supported and developed GNU/Linux FS.

3. ReiserFS - Hans Reiser's high-performance journaling FS uses a very interesting method of data throughput. ReiserFS is fast, especially when dealing with many small files. ReiserFS is very slow at mounting. Quite well established and stable. ReiserFS isn't actively developed at this time (Reiser4 is the new Reiser filesystem).

4. JFS - IBM's Journaled FileSystem. JFS is very fast and uses the least CPU resources of any filesystem. Very fast at mounting. Very fast at fsck. It has been reported on the JFS mailing-list that it could suffer from fragmentation over time. Excellent all-around performance.

5. XFS - Very fast journaling filesystem which is best suited for large files, while it is significantly slower with small files. Very fast at mounting. May also be prone to fragmentation over time. Not an ideal choice for the /var partition, since pacman deals with many small files.

A major difference is journaling (something similar to transaction logs in database environments). All filesystems except ext2 use journaling. ext3 is completely compatible with ext2, so you can mount it even with very-old rescue CDs. A safe choice for the root partition is ext3. ReiserFS, XFS, and JFS are also OK to use because GRUB (the boot manager which we will install later) can boot from them too. Create the filesystem (format the partition) by selecting yes. You will now be prompted to add any additional partitions. In our example, only sda2 is remaining. Choose a filesystem type and mount it as /home. Again, create the filesystem and choose Done. Return to main menu.

Select Packages

Now we shall select packages to install in our system. Choose CD as source and select the appropriate CD drive if you have more than one. Choose the base category (keeping all base packages selected is a safe choice). If you are sure you will not be needing certain packages (for instance, a filesystem type you don't need, PCMCIA, ISDN, or PPPoE support), feel free to remove them from the base package selection.

As of Arch 2007.08-2, you may now add packages from the Lib, Devel and Support categories at this point.

Choosing all, none, or some packages from these categories are all safe choices, but skim them nonetheless. Beginners may wish to simply choose everything.

Install Packages

The installer script will now install the selected packages to your system. The packages are binary i686-optimized and total only ~100MB for the base system, so they install quite expediently.

Configure The System

You will be asked if you want to choose hwdetect to gather some information for your configuration. This is recommended so you should choose this option. Now you will be asked if you need support for booting from USB devices, FireWire devices, PCMCIA devices, NFS shares, software RAID arrays, LVM2 volumes, and encrypted volumes. Choose yes if you need it; in our example nothing is needed. Now you will be asked which text editor you want to use; choose nano if you are not familiar with vi/vim. You will now get a menu with most important config files for your system. We will do only some minor tweaks at this time. If you want to look up the available options as stated in rc.conf just press Alt+F2 to get a shell, look it up, and switch back to the installer with Alt+F1.

  • Change your LOCALE if needed (e.g. "de_DE.utf8") (This locale must coincide with /etc/locale.gen, see below.)
  • Change your TIMEZONE if needed (e.g. "Europe/Berlin")
  • Change your KEYMAP if needed (e.g. "de-latin1-nodeadkeys")
  • Specify MODULES if you know that an important module is missing (hwdetect should have filled in the most important modules)
  • Set your HOSTNAME
  • Edit your Network settings:
    • Adjust the IP address, netmask and broadcast address if you are using static IP, otherwise leave this information commented out.
    • Set eth0="dhcp" if you want to use DHCP
    • If you are using static IP, set the gateway address to the one of your router and remove the ! in front of the ROUTES entry. (Leave this entry alone, if using DHCP.)

You don't have to change the daemons line at this time, but it is useful to explain what daemons are, because we need them later in this guide. Analogous to a Windows service, a daemon is a program that runs in the background, waiting for events to occur and offering services. A good example is a webserver that waits for a request to deliver a page or an SSH server waiting for someone trying to log in. While these are full-featured applications, there are daemons whose work is not that visible. Examples are a daemon which writes messages into a log file (e.g. syslog, metalog), a daemon which lowers your CPU's frequency if your system has nothing to do (e.g.:cpufreq), and a daemon which offers you a graphical login (e.g.: gdm, kdm). All these programs can be added to the daemons line and will be started when the system boots. Useful daemons will be presented during this guide.

Use Ctrl+X to leave the editor.


Add the desired hostname (the one you set in rc.conf before) so that it looks like this:   localhost.localdomain   localhost yourhostname

This format, including the 'localhost' entries, is required for program compatibility! Errors in this syntax will cause programs to open very slowly. This is a very common error for beginners.

For most users, simply adding the yourhostname entry to the end of the default line will work, however, some users recommend using the following syntax: localhost.localdomain   localhost  yourhostname

If you use a static IP, add another line using the syntax: <static-ip> hostname, e.g.:  yourhostname
/etc/fstab, mkinitcpio.conf and modprobe.conf

We shouldn't need to edit mkinitcpio.conf, or modprobe.conf at this point. mkinitcpio configures the ramdisk (e.g. booting from RAID, encrypted volumes) and modprobe can be used to set some special config options for the modules).

If you are planning on using the hal daemon to automate the mounting of disks, optical drives, usb drives, etc., you may wish to edit /etc/fstab by commenting out the entries for cdrom, floppy, and dvd.

/etc/resolv.conf (for Static IP)

If you use a static IP, set your DNS servers in /etc/resolv.conf (nameserver <ip-address>). You may have as many as you wish.

If you are using a router, you will probably want to specify your DNS servers in the router itself, and merely point to it from your resolv.conf, using your router's IP (which is also your gateway from /etc/rc.conf), e.g.:


Alternatively, add your preferred servers one by one, e.g.:


The locale-gen command reads from /etc/locale.gen to generate specific locales. They can then be used by glibc and any other locale-aware program or library for rendering "peculiar" text. By default /etc/locale.gen is an empty file with commented documentation. Once edited, the file won't get touched again. Locale-gen runs on every glibc upgrade, generating all the locales specified in /etc/locale.gen.

Choose the locale(s) you need (remove the # in front of the lines you want), e.g.:

en_US ISO-8859-1

(Your locale(s) must coincide with the one specified in /etc/rc.conf above.)

The installer will now run the locale-gen script, which will generate the locales you specified. You may change your locale in the future by editing /etc/locale.gen and subsequently running locale-gen as root.

Note that if you do not choose your locale, this will lead to a "The current locale is invalid..." error. This is perhaps the most common mistake by new Arch users, and also leads to the most commonly asked questions on the forum.

Root password

Finally, set a root password and make sure that you remember it later. Return to the main menu and continue with installing bootloader.

Install Bootloader

Because we have no secondary operating system in our example, we will need a bootloader. GNU GRUB is the recommended bootloader. Alternatively, you may choose LILO. The shown GRUB configuration (/boot/grub/menu.lst) should be sufficient. The only thing you may want to alter is the resolution of the console. Add a vga=<number> to the first kernel line. (A table of resolutions and the corresponding numbers is printed in the menu.lst.)

title  Arch Linux (Main)
root   (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz26 root=/dev/sda1 ro vga=773
initrd /boot/kernel26.img

The "vga=773" argument will give a 1024x768 framebuffer with 256 color depth.

Exit the install and type reboot.

If everything goes well, your new Arch Linux system will boot up and finish with a login prompt (you may want to change the boot order in your BIOS back to booting from hard disk).

Congratulations, and welcome to your shiny, new Arch Linux base system!

Configuring the Base System

Your new Arch Linux base system is now a functional GNU/Linux environment ready for customization. From here, you may build this elegant set of tools into whatever you wish or require for your purposes.

Let's begin.

Login with your root account. We will configure pacman and update the system as root, then add a normal user.

Configuring the network (if necessary)

This section will assist you in configuring most types of networks, if the installer script auto-configurations are not working for you.

If everything went fine, you should have a working network. Try to ping to verify this.

ping -c 3

If you have successfully established a network connection, continue with Update, Sync and Upgrade the system with pacman.

If, after trying to ping, you get an "unknown host" error, you may conclude that your network is not configured. You may choose to double-check the following files for integrity and proper settings:

/etc/rc.conf # Specifically, check your HOSTNAME= and NETWORKING section for typos and errors.

/etc/hosts # Double-check your format. (See above.)

/etc/resolv.conf # If you are using a static IP. If you are using DHCP, this file will be dynamically created and destroyed by default, but can be changed to your preference. (See Network.)

Advanced instructions for configuring the network can be found in the Network article.

Wired LAN

Check your Ethernet with


where you should see an entry for eth0. If required, you can set a new static IP with

ifconfig eth0 <ip address> netmask <netmask> up 

and the default gateway with

route add default gw <ip address of the gateway>

Check to see if /etc/resolv.conf contains your DNS server and add it if it is missing. Check your network again with ping If everything is working now, adjust /etc/rc.conf as described in section 2.6 (static IP). If you have a DHCP server/router in your network try

dhcpcd eth0

If this is working, adjust /etc/rc.conf as described in section 2.6 (dynamic IP).

Wireless LAN

Detailed setup guide: Wireless Setup

Analog Modem

To be able to use a Hayes-compatible, external, analog modem, you need to at least have the ppp package installed. Modify the file /etc/ppp/options to suit your needs and according to man pppd. You will need to define a chat script to supply your username and password to the ISP after the initial connection has been established. The manpages for pppd and chat have examples in them that should suffice to get a connection up and running if you're either experienced or stubborn enough. With udev, your serial ports usually are /dev/tts/0 and /dev/tts/1. Tip: Read Dialup without a dialer HOWTO.

Instead of fighting a glorious battle with the plain pppd, you may opt to install wvdial or a similar tool to ease the setup process considerably. In case you're using a so-called WinModem, which is basically a PCI plugin card working as an internal analog modem, you should indulge in the vast information found on the LinModem homepage.


Setting up ISDN is done in three steps:

  1. Install and configure hardware
  2. Install and configure the ISDN utilities
  3. Add settings for your ISP

The current Arch stock kernels include the necessary ISDN modules, meaning that you won't need to recompile your kernel unless you're about to use rather odd ISDN hardware. After physically installing your ISDN card in your machine or plugging in your USB ISDN-Box, you can try loading the modules with modprobe. Nearly all passive ISDN PCI cards are handled by the hisax module, which needs two parameters: type and protocol. You must set protocol to '1' if your country uses the 1TR6 standard, '2' if it uses EuroISDN (EDSS1), '3' if you're hooked to a so-called leased-line without D-channel, and '4' for US NI1.

Details on all those settings and how to set them is included in the kernel documentation, more specifically in the isdn subdirectory, and available online. The type parameter depends on your card; a list of all possible types can be found in the README.HiSax kernel documentation. Choose your card and load the module with the appropriate options like this:

modprobe hisax type=18 protocol=2

This will load the hisax module for my ELSA Quickstep 1000PCI, being used in Germany with the EDSS1 protocol. You should find helpful debugging output in your /var/log/everything.log file, in which you should see your card being prepared for action. Please note that you will probably need to load some USB modules before you can work with an external USB ISDN Adapter.

Once you have confirmed that your card works with certain settings, you can add the module options to your /etc/modprobe.conf:

alias ippp0 hisax
options hisax type=18 protocol=2

Alternatively, you can add only the options line here, and add hisax to your MODULES array in the rc.conf. It's your choice, really, but this example has the advantage that the module will not be loaded until it's really needed.

That being done, you should have working, supported hardware. Now you need the basic utilities to actually use it!

Install the isdn4k-utils package, and read the manpage to isdnctrl; it'll get you started. Further down in the manpage you will find explanations on how to create a configuration file that can be parsed by isdnctrl, as well as some helpful setup examples. Please note that you have to add your SPID to your MSN setting separated by a colon if you use US NI1.

After you have configured your ISDN card with the isdnctrl utility, you should be able to dial into the machine you specified with the PHONE_OUT parameter, but fail the username and password authentication. To make this work add your username and password to /etc/ppp/pap-secrets or /etc/ppp/chap-secrets as if you were configuring a normal analogous PPP link, depending on which protocol your ISP uses for authentication. If in doubt, put your data into both files.

If you set up everything correctly, you should now be able to establish a dial-up connection with

isdnctrl dial ippp0

as root. If you have any problems, remember to check the logfiles!


These instructions are relevant to you only if your PC itself is supposed to manage the connection to your ISP. You do not need to do anything but define a correct default gateway if you are using a separate router of some sort to do the grunt work.

Before you can use your DSL online connection, you will have to physically install the network card that is supposed to be connected to the DSL-Modem into your computer. After adding your newly installed network card to the modules.conf/modprobe.conf or the MODULES array, you should install the rp-pppoe package and run the pppoe-setup script to configure your connection. After you have entered all the data, you can connect and disconnect your line with

/etc/rc.d/adsl start


/etc/rc.d/adsl stop

respectively. The setup usually is rather easy and straightforward, but feel free to read the manpages for hints. If you want to automatically dial in on boot-up, add adsl to your DAEMONS array.

Update, Sync and Upgrade the system with pacman

Now we will update the system using pacman.

What is pacman ?

Pacman is the package manager of Arch Linux. Pacman is written in C and is fast, simple, and extremely powerful. It manages your entire package system and handles installation, removal, package downgrade (through cache), custom compiled package handling, automatic dependency resolution, remote and local searches and much more. We will use pacman to download software packages from remote repositories and install them onto your system.

Pacman is the most important tool in your Arch Linux toolbox for building the core system into whatsoever you please.

Configuring pacman


pacman will attempt to read /etc/pacman.conf each time it is invoked. This configuration file is divided into sections, or repositories. Each section defines a package repository that pacman can use when searching for packages. The exception to this is the options section, which defines global options.

nano -w /etc/pacman.conf


# Add your preferred servers here, they will be used first
#Server =
Include = /etc/pacman.d/core
# Add your preferred servers here, they will be used first
#Server =
Include = /etc/pacman.d/extra
# Add your preferred servers here, they will be used first
#Server =
#Include = /etc/pacman.d/unstable
# Add your preferred servers here, they will be used first
#Server =
Include = /etc/pacman.d/community

Ensure the [community] repo is enabled (remove the # in front of the "Include = /etc/pacman.d/community" and "[community]" lines). Arch's community repository offers many useful applications.

The "Server =" lines, if uncommented, will force the specified server to be searched first and foremost. Further configuration for repos are under /etc/pacman.d/


Faster mirrors will dramatically improve pacman performance, and your overall Arch Linux experience.

Use the rankmirrors script supplied with the latest pacman package, which will rank the mirrors automatically by their speed. For example, to rank the mirrors in the core repository, you would have to run as root:

rankmirrors /etc/pacman.d/core

Repeat as necessary for all desired repositories.

Alternatively, you may choose to manually Edit the files in /etc/pacman.d/ (community, core, extra) and move the mirrors which are located nearest to you to the top of the list. (if you use nano, Alt+A starts selecting an area, cursor down marks the lines, Ctrl+K cuts the selected area and Ctrl+U uncuts it). Repeat this for all files in /etc/pacman.d/. You may want to return to these configuration files to experiment with various mirrors. Choose wisely.

Update System

Update, sync, and upgrade your entire new system with:

pacman -Syu

pacman will now fetch the latest information about available packages and perform all available upgrades. (You may be prompted to upgrade pacman itself at this point. If so, say yes, and then reissue the pacman -Syu command when finished.)

The beauty of the rolling release

Keep in mind that Arch is a rolling release distribution. This means there is never a reason to reinstall or perform elaborate system rebuilds to upgrade to the newest version. Simply issuing pacman -Syu periodically keeps your entire system up-to-date and on the bleeding edge. At the end of this upgrade, your system is completely current.

Get familiar with pacman

Pacman is the Arch user's best friend. It is highly recommended to study and learn how to use the pacman tool. Try:

man pacman

Check out the bottom of this article, and look up the pacman wiki entries at your leisure.

Add a user and setup groups

You should not do your everyday work using the root account. It is more than poor practice; it is dangerous. Root is for administrative tasks. Instead, add a normal user account using:


While most default options are safe to use, you may want to add storage, audio, video, optical, and wheel to your additional groups- especially if you are planning on having a full-featured desktop environment.

Groups and users thereof are defined in /etc/group.

They include:

  • audio - for tasks involving sound card and related software
  • wheel - for using sudo
  • storage - for managing storage devices
  • video - for video tasks and 3d acceleration
  • optical - for managing tasks pertaining to the optical drive(s)
  • floppy - for access to a floppy if necessary
  • lp - for managing printing tasks

See the Groups article to understand what groups you need to be a member of. You may also add your user to the desired groups like so, (as root):

usermod -aG audio,video,floppy,lp,optical,network,storage,wheel USERNAME

Check the man pages for usermod and gpasswd for more information.

Part II: Install X and configure ALSA

Configure the audio card with alsamixer

The Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (known by the acronym ALSA) is a Linux kernel component intended to replace the original Open Sound System (OSS) for providing device drivers for sound cards. Besides the sound device drivers, ALSA also bundles a user space library for application developers who want to use driver features with a higher level API than direct interaction with the kernel drivers. The alsa-utils package contains alsamixer, which will allow us to configure the sound device from the console. (You may also run alsamixer from an X environment later.)

Your audio card should already be working, but you can't hear anything because it is muted by default.

Install the alsa-utils package:

 pacman -S alsa-utils

Did you add your normal user to the audio group? If not, now would be a good time. As root do:

gpasswd -a yourusername audio

As normal user, do:


Unmute the Master and PCM channels by scrolling to them with cursor left/right and pressing M. Increase the volume levels with the cursor-up key. (70-90 Should be a safe range.) Leave alsamixer by pressing ESC.

Sound Test

Test your sound configuration as normal user using aplay:

aplay /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Noise.wav

You should hear a few seconds of white noise.

Then run alsactl as root:

alsactl store

This will create '/etc/asound.state', saving the alsamixer settings.

Also, add the alsa daemon to your DAEMONS section in /etc/rc.conf to automatically restore the mixer settings on boot-up.

nano /etc/rc.conf
DAEMONS=(syslog-ng network crond alsa)

Note that the alsa daemon merely restores your volume mixer levels on boot up. It is separate from the alsa audio library (and kernel level API).

Expanded information available in the ALSA wiki entry.

Installing and configuring X

The X Window System (commonly X11, or just simply X) is a networking and display protocol which provides windowing on bitmap displays. It provides the standard toolkit and protocol to build graphical user interfaces (GUIs) on Unix-like operating systems.

X provides the basic framework, or primitives, for building GUI environments: drawing and moving windows on the screen and interacting with a mouse and/or keyboard. X does not mandate the user interface — individual client programs handle this.

  • Note: If you plan on using an open-source video driver, and need 3d acceleration, it is recommended to install the libgl library before installing Xorg:
pacman -S libgl

(Proprietary video drivers provide their own gl library implementations.)

Now we will install the base Xorg packages using pacman. This is the first step in building a GUI.

pacman -S xorg

3d utilities such as glxgears are included in the mesa package:

pacman -S mesa

Now we have the base packages we need for running the X Server. You should add the driver for your graphics card now (e.g. xf86-video-<name>). The easiest way to configure is by installing the correct driver packages first, and then generating /etc/X11/xorg.conf using an autoconfiguration script, like Xorg -configure.

If you need a list of all open-source video drivers, do:

pacman -Ss xf86-video | less

If you don't know what graphics card you are using, do:

lspci | grep VGA

Here is a list of open source drivers, and corresponding video chipsets.

  • xf86-video-apm Alliance ProMotion video driver
  • xf86-video-ark ark video driver
  • xf86-video-ati ati video driver
  • xf86-video-chips Chips and Technologies video driver
  • xf86-video-cirrus Cirrus Logic video driver
  • xf86-video-dummy dummy video driver
  • xf86-video-fbdev framebuffer video driver
  • xf86-video-glint GLINT/Permedia video driver
  • xf86-video-i128 Number 0 i128 video driver
  • xf86-video-i740 Intel i740 video driver
  • xf86-video-i810 Intel i810/i830/i9xx video drivers (deprecated - use -intel)
  • xf86-video-intel Newer Version of Intel i810/i830/i9xx video drivers
  • xf86-video-imstt Integrated Micro Solutions Twin Turbo vidoe driver
  • xf86-video-mga mga video driver (Matrox Graphics Adapter)
  • xf86-video-neomagic neomagic video driver
  • xf86-video-nv nvidia nv video driver
  • xf86-video-rendition Rendition video driver
  • xf86-video-s3 S3 video driver
  • xf86-video-s3virge S3 Virge video driver
  • xf86-video-savage savage video driver
  • xf86-video-siliconmotion siliconmotion video driver
  • xf86-video-sis SiS video driver
  • xf86-video-sisusb SiS USB video driver
  • xf86-video-tdfx tdfx video driver
  • xf86-video-trident Trident video driver
  • xf86-video-tseng tseng video driver
  • xf86-video-unichrome Unichrome video drivers
  • xf86-video-v4l v4l video driver
  • xf86-video-vesa vesa video driver
  • xf86-video-vga VGA 16 color video driver
  • xf86-video-via via video driver
  • xf86-video-vmware vmware video driver
  • xf86-video-voodoo voodoo video driver
  • Note that the vesa driver is the most generic, and should work with almost any modern video chipset. If you cannot find a suitable driver for your video chipset, vesa should work.
  • If you have an nVIDIA or ATI video adapter, you may wish to install the proprietary nVIDIA or ATI drivers. Installing proprietary video drivers is covered below.

Use pacman to install the appropriate video driver for your video card/onboard video. e.g.:

pacman -S xf86-video-savage

(for the Savage driver.)

  • If you still don't know which video driver to install, you may install the whole video driver group package, and allow the Xorg -configure script to specify the driver in xorg.xonf:
pacman -S xorg-video-drivers

Create /etc/X11/xorg.conf

What is /etc/X11/xorg.conf?

/etc/X11/xorg.conf is the main configuration file for your X Window System, the foundation of your Graphical User Interface. It is a plain text file ordered into sections and subsections. Important sections are Files, InputDevice, Monitor, Modes, Screen, Device, and ServerLayout. Sections can appear in any order and there may be more than one section of each kind, for example, if you have more than one monitor, say a video projector and an on board LCD of a notebook.

By default, you will not have an Xorg config file, and with the newest versions of Xorg, you don't need one if the autodetection works satisfactorily and you don't need to turn on features such as aiglx and so on.

Most people will still find that they need to generate a config file, however.

  • Use the Xorg -configure script to make a basic config file:
Xorg -configure

Move the generated config file to /etc/X11:

mv /root/ /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Inspect your config file:

nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Ensure the Xorg -configure script has correctly specified your video driver. e.g.:

Section "Device"
Driver  "savage"

Ensure there are horizontal sync and vertical refresh specs under section "Monitor". If not, add them:

Section "Monitor"
       Identifier   "Monitor0"
       VendorName   "Monitor Vendor"
       ModelName    "Monitor Model"
       HorizSync     30.0 - 130.0 # Safe for LCD's
       VertRefresh   50.0 - 100.0 # Safe for LCD's and most CRT's.

(If you do not know these specs, consult your monitor's documentation.)

Specify your default color depth under section "Screen":

Section "Screen"
       Identifier "Screen0"
       Device     "Card0"
       Monitor    "Monitor0"
       DefaultDepth 24

(Typically, this will be set to 24 for true color.)

Also add your desired Modes to your "Display" subsection, at least under the Depth 24 header, e.g.:

 SubSection "Display"
               Viewport   0 0
               Depth     24
               Modes "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

Continue with Simple baseline X test, or refer to following sections for proprietary driver guidelines.

Using proprietary Graphics Driver (nVIDIA, ATI)

You may choose to use the proprietary video drivers from nVIDIA or ATI.

nVIDIA Graphic Cards

The nVIDIA proprietary drivers are generally considered to be of excellent quality, and offer superior 3D performance.

Before you configure your Graphics Card you will need to know which driver fits. Arch currently has 3 different drivers that each match a certain subset of Cards:

1. nvidia-71xx for very old Cards like TNT and TNT2

2. nvidia-96xx slightly newer cards up to the GF 4

3. nvidia newest GPUs after the GF 4

Consult the nVIDIA-Homepage to see which one is for you. The difference is only for the installation; Configuration works the same with every driver.

Install the appropriate nvidia driver, e.g.:

pacman -S nvidia 

The nVIDIA package has a utility for updating your existing /etc/X11/xorg.conf for use with the nVIDIA driver:


It also has several options which will further specify the contents and options of the xorg.conf file. For example,

nvidia-xconfig --composite --add-argb-glx-visuals

For more detailed information, see nvidia-xconfig(1).

Some useful tweaking options in the device section are (beware that these may not work on your system):

       Option          "RenderAccel" "true"
       Option          "NoLogo" "true"
       Option          "AGPFastWrite" "true"
       Option          "EnablePageFlip" "true"

Make sure all instances of DRI are commented out:

#    Load        "dri"

Double check your /etc/X11/xorg.conf to make sure your default depth, horizontal sync, vertical refresh, and resolutions are acceptable.

Update kernel module dependencies:

depmod -a

Advanced instructions for nvidia configuration can be found in the NVIDIA article.

Continue with Simple baseline X test

ATI Graphic Cards

ATI owners have two options for drivers. If you are unsure which driver to use, please try the open-source one first. The open-source driver will suit most needs along with being generally less problematic.

Install the proprietary ATI Driver with

pacman -S catalyst

Use the aticonfig tool to modify the xorg.conf. Note: The proprietary driver does not support AIGLX. To use Compiz or Beryl with this driver you would need to use XGL.

Install the open-source ATI Driver with

pacman -S xf86-video-ati

Currently, the performance of the open-source driver is not on par with that of the proprietary one. It also lacks TV-out, dual-link DVI support, and possibly other features. On the other hand, it supports Aiglx and has better dual-head support.

Advanced instructions for ATI configuration can be found in the ATI wiki.

Simple baseline X test

At this point, you should have xorg installed, with a suitable video driver and an /etc/X11/xorg.conf configuration file. If you want to test your configuration quickly, before installing a complete desktop environment, do so by invoking xterm. Xterm is a very simple terminal emulator which runs in the X Server environment; it is installed as part of the base xorg packages. Xterm will allow us to effectively test if your video driver and /etc/X11/xorg.conf are properly configured. (Alternatively, you may wish to test if the X autodetection works satisfactorily, in the absence of /etc/X11/xorg.conf.)

pacman -S xterm

Edit your /home/username/.xinitrc file, as normal user, to dictate which X Server event is invoked with the 'startx' command:

su yourusername
nano ~/.xinitrc

and add:

exec xterm

So that it looks like this:

# ~/.xinitrc
# Executed by startx (run your window manager from here)
exec xterm
# exec wmaker
# exec startkde
# exec icewm
# exec blackbox
# exec fluxbox

Be sure to have only one uncommented exec line in your ~/.xinitrc

If you do not have ~/.xinitrc, simply create one with the above information, or copy the sample file from /etc/skel/ to your home directory:

cp /etc/skel/.xinitrc ~/
  • NOTE: In the absence of file ~/.xinitrc, /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc will be used as a fallback, which defaults to using TWM and Xterm.

Start X Server as normal user, with:


You should have an xterm session open up. You can exit the X Server with Ctrl+Alt+Backspace, or by typing "exit". If you have problems starting X, you can look for errors in the /var/log/Xorg.0.log file and on the console output of the console you started X from.

Advanced instructions for Xorg configuration can be found in the Xorg article.

Part III: Installing and configuring a Desktop Environment

If you ask two people what the best Desktop Environment or Window Manager is, you will get six different answers. Choose the best environment for your needs.

  • If you want something full-featured and similar to Windows and Mac OSX, KDE is a good choice
  • If you want something slightly more minimalist, which follows the K.I.S.S. principle more closely, GNOME is a good choice
  • Xfce4 is generally perceived as similar to GNOME, but lighter and less demanding on system resources, yet still providing a very complete environment.
  • If you need something even lighter, openbox, fluxbox or fvwm2 may be right (not to mention all other lightweight window managers like windowmaker and twm).
  • If you need something completely different, try ion, wmii, or dwm.

Install Fonts

At this point, you may want to install some good-looking fonts, before installing a desktop environment/window manager. Dejavu and bitstream-vera are nice font sets. For websites, you may want to have the Microsoft fonts too. Install with:

pacman -S ttf-ms-fonts ttf-dejavu ttf-bitstream-vera



The GNU Network Object Model Environment. The GNOME project provides two things: The GNOME desktop environment, an intuitive and attractive desktop for end-users, and the GNOME development platform, an extensive framework for building applications that integrate into the rest of the desktop.


Install the complete GNOME environment with:

pacman -S gnome gnome-extra

It's safe to choose all packages shown. Alternatively, you may wish to install a more basic, stripped-down GNOME:

pacman -S gnome

Recall from above that a daemon is a program that runs in the background, waiting for events to occur and offering services. The hal daemon, among other things, will automate the mounting of disks, optical drives, and USB drives/thumbdrives for use in the GUI. The fam daemon will allow real-time representation of file alterations in the GUI, allowing instant access to recently installed programs, or changes in the file system. Both hal and fam make life easier for the GNOME user. The hal and fam packages are installed when you install GNOME, but must be invoked to become useful.

You may want to install a graphical login manager. For GNOME, the gdm daemon is a good choice. Install gdm with

pacman -S gdm

You will almost certainly want the hal and fam daemons.

Start hal and fam:

/etc/rc.d/hal start
/etc/rc.d/fam start

Add them to your /etc/rc.conf DAEMONS section, so they will be invoked on bootup:

nano /etc/rc.conf
DAEMONS=(syslog-ng network crond alsa hal fam gdm)

(If you prefer to log into the console and manually start X in the 'Slackware tradition', leave out gdm.)


This configuration file controls what occurs when you type 'startx'.

Switch to normal user:

su yourusername

Edit your /home/username/.xinitrc to utilize GNOME:

nano ~/.xinitrc

Uncomment the 'exec gnome-session' line so that it looks like this:

# ~/.xinitrc
# Executed by startx (run your window manager from here)
#exec xterm
#exec wmaker
# exec startkde
exec gnome-session
# exec icewm
# exec blackbox
# exec fluxbox

If you do not have ~/.xinitrc, simply create one with the above information, or copy the sample file from /etc/skel/ to your home directory:

cp /etc/skel/.xinitrc ~/

Remember to have only one uncommented exec line in your ~/.xinitrc.

As normal user, start X:


You may want to install a terminal and an editor. I would recommend gnome-terminal (part of the group gnome-extra) and geany:

pacman -S geany gnome-terminal

Advanced instructions for installing and configuring GNOME can be found in the Gnome article.

Eye Candy

You may find the default GNOME theme and icons not very attractive. A nice gtk theme is murrine. Install it with

pacman -S gtk-engine-murrine

and select it with System->Preferences->Theme. You can find more themes, icons, and wallpaper at Gnome Look.


About KDE

The K Desktop Environment. KDE is a powerful Free Software graphical desktop environment for GNU/Linux and UNIX workstations. It combines ease of use, contemporary functionality, and outstanding graphical design with the technological superiority of UNIX-like operating systems.


Arch offers several versions of kde: kde, kdebase, and KDEmod. Choose one of the following, and continue below with "Useful KDE DAEMONS":

1.) Package kde is the complete, vanilla KDE, ~300MB.

pacman -S kde

2.) Package kdebase is a slimmed-down version with less applications, ~80MB.

pacman -S kdebase

3.) Lastly, KDEmod is an Arch Linux exclusive, community-driven system which is modified for extreme performance and modularity. The KDEmod project website can be found at KDEmod is extremely fast, lightweight and responsive, with a pleasing, customized theme.


KDE will require the hal (Hardware Abstraction Layer) and fam (File Alteration Monitor) daemons. The kdm daemon is the K Display Manager, which provides a graphical login, if desired.

Recall from above that a daemon is a program that runs in the background, waiting for events to occur and offering services. The hal daemon, among other things, will automate the mounting of disks, optical drives, and USB drives/thumbdrives for use in the GUI. The fam daemon will allow real-time representation of file alterations in the GUI, allowing instant access to recently installed programs, or changes in the file system.. Both hal and fam make life easier for the KDE user. The hal, fam and kdm packages are installed when you install KDE, but must be invoked to become useful.

Start hal and fam:

/etc/rc.d/hal start
/etc/rc.d/fam start
  • NOTE: The hal daemon will automatically start the dbus daemon.

Edit your DAEMONS section in /etc/rc.conf:

nano /etc/rc.conf

Add hal and fam to your DAEMONS section, to invoke them on bootup. If you prefer a graphical login, add kdm as well:

DAEMONS=(syslog-ng network crond alsa hal fam kdm)
  • This method will start the system at runlevel 3, (/etc/inittab default, multiuser mode), and then start KDM as a daemon.
  • If you prefer to log into the console at runlevel 3, and manually start X in the 'Slackware tradition', leave out kdm, or comment it out with an exclamation. ( ! )

This configuration file controls what occurs when you type 'startx'.

Switch to normal user:

su yourusername

Edit your /home/username/.xinitrc to utilize KDE:

nano ~/.xinitrc

Uncomment the 'exec startkde' line so that it looks like this:

# ~/.xinitrc
# Executed by startx (run your window manager from here)
#exec xterm
#exec wmaker
exec startkde
# exec gnome-session
# exec icewm
# exec blackbox
# exec fluxbox

If you do not have ~/.xinitrc, simply create one with the above information, or copy the sample file from /etc/skel/ to your home directory:

cp /etc/skel/.xinitrc ~/

Remember to have only one uncommented exec line in your ~/.xinitrc.

Now try starting your X Server as normal user:


Advanced instructions for installing and configuring KDE can be found in the KDE article.

Congratulations! Welcome to your KDE desktop environment on your new Arch Linux system! You may wish to continue by viewing Tweaks and finishing touches, or the rest of the information below. You may also be interested in the Post Installation Tips wiki article.


About Xfce

Xfce is a Desktop Environment, like GNOME or KDE. It contains a suite of apps like a root window app, window manager, file manager, panel, etc. Xfce is written using the GTK2 toolkit and contains its own development environment (libraries, daemons, etc) similar to other big DEs. Unlike GNOME or KDE, Xfce is lightweight and designed more around CDE than Windows or Mac. It has a much slower development cycle, but is very stable and extremely fast. Xfce is great for older hardware.


Install xfce with

pacman -S xfce4 xfce4-goodies 

If you use kdm or gdm a new xfce session should have appeared. Alternatively, you can use


Advanced instructions for installing and configuring Xfce can be found in the Xfce article.



Fluxbox © is yet another windowmanager for X. It's based on the Blackbox 0.61.1 code. Fluxbox looks like blackbox and handles styles, colors, window placement and similar things exactly like blackbox (100% theme/style compability).

Install Fluxbox using

pacman -S fluxbox fluxconf

If you use gdm/kdm a new fluxbox session will be automatically added. Otherwise, you should modify your user's .xinitrc and add this to it:

exec startfluxbox 

More information is available in the Fluxbox article.


Openbox is a standards compliant, fast, light-weight, extensible window manager.

Openbox works with your applications, and makes your desktop easier to manage. This is because the approach to its development was the opposite of what seems to be the general case for window managers. Openbox was written first to comply with standards and to work properly. Only when that was in place did the team turn to the visual interface.

Openbox is fully functional as a stand-alone working environment, or can be used as a drop-in replacement for the default window manager in the GNOME or KDE desktop environments.

Install openbox using

pacman -S openbox obconf obmenu

Once openbox is installed you will get a message to move menu.xml & rc.xml to ~/.config/openbox/ in your home directory:

mkdir -p ~/.config/openbox/
cp /etc/xdg/openbox/rc.xml ~/.config/openbox/
cp /etc/xdg/openbox/menu.xml ~/.config/openbox/

In the file "rc.xml" you can change various settings for Openbox (or you can use OBconf). In "menu.xml" you can change your right-click menu.

To be able to log into openbox you can either go via graphical login using KDM/GDM or startx, in which case you will need to edit your ~/.xinitrc (as user) and add the following:

exec openbox

For KDM there is nothing left to do; openbox is listed in the sessions menu in KDM.

Useful programs for openbox are:

  • PyPanel or LXpanel if you want a panel
  • feh if you want to set the background
  • ROX if you want a simple file manager and desktop icons

More information is available in the Openbox article.


FVWM is an extremely powerful ICCCM-compliant multiple virtual desktop window manager for the X Window system. Development is active, and support is excellent.

Install fvwm2 with

pacman -S fvwm 

fvwm will automatically be listed in kdm/gdm in the sessions menu. Otherwise, add

exec fvwm 

to your user's .xinitrc.

Note that this stable version of fvwm is a few years old. If you want a more recent version of fvwm, there is a fvwm-devel package in the unstable repo.

Tweaks/Finishing touches


Since you have now installed a desktop environment, and if you did not do so earlier, now would be a good time to also install HAL. HAL allows plug-and-play for your mobile phone, your iPod, your external HD's, etc. It will mount the device and make a nice visual icon on your desktop and/or in 'My Computer', allowing you to access the device after you have plugged it in instead of having to manually configure the /etc/fstab file or udev rules for each and every new device.

KDE, GNOME and XFCE all use HAL.

The installation procedure is described in the HAL article. Some information can also be found at Wikipedia.

Backgrounding DAEMONS on startup

To speed up system start up procedure, background your DAEMONS in /etc/rc.conf by prefixing them with a '@' e.g.:

DAEMONS=(@syslog-ng @network crond @alsa @hal @fam @kdm)

This will enable daemons to load in the background, without waiting for the preceding daemon to load first.

Prefix any daemons which you do not need with a bang (!) e.g.:

DAEMONS=(@syslog-ng @network !crond @alsa @hal @fam @kdm)

Beautifying Fonts for LCD's

See Here

Adjusting Mouse for scroll wheel

While your mouse should be working out of the box, you may want to use your scroll wheel. Add this to your Input Section (mouse0):

       Option      "ZAxisMapping" "4 5 6 7"


If you have a modern USB mouse with several thumb buttons and/or functions, you may want to install the evdev mouse driver, which will allow you to exploit the full functionality of your mouse:

pacman -S xf86-input-evdev

Load the driver:

modprobe evdev

Find your mouse name by entering the following, exactly:

cat /proc/bus/input/devices | egrep "Name"

Using the mouse name, configure your /etc/X11/xorg.conf InputDevice section accordingly, e.g.:

Section "InputDevice"
 Identifier      "Evdev Mouse"
 Driver          "evdev"
 Option          "Name" "Logitech USB-PS/2 Optical Mouse"
 Option          "CorePointer"

You must have only one "CorePointer" device specified in /etc/X11/xorg.conf, so be sure to comment out any other mouse entries until you feel safe removing the old, unused entries.

Also edit the ServerLayout section to include Evdev Mouse as the CorePointer, e.g.:

Section "ServerLayout"
   Identifier     "Layout0"
   Screen      0  "Screen0"
   InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"
   InputDevice    "Evdev Mouse" "CorePointer"

Adjusting Keyboard Layout

You may want to change your keyboard layout. To do this edit your /etc/X11/xorg.conf and add these lines in the Input Section (keyboard0) (the example shows a German keyboard layout with no dead keys; alter this to fit your needs).

       Option          "XkbLayout"     "de"
       Option          "XkbVariant"    "nodeadkeys"

Additional tweaks for laptops

ACPI support is needed if you want to use some special functions on your notebook (e.g. sleep, sleep when lid is closed, special keys...). Install acpid

pacman -S acpid

and add it to the daemons in /etc/rc.conf (acpid). Start it with

/etc/rc.d/acpid start

More-specific information about Arch Linux on various Laptops can be found at Category:Laptops (English)

Configuring CPU frequency scaling

Modern processors can decrease their frequency and voltage to reduce heat and power consumption. Less heat leads to a quieter system; Laptop users will definitely want this, but even a desktop system will benefit from it. Install cpufrequtils with

pacman -S cpufrequtils

and add cpufreq to your daemons in /etc/rc.conf. Edit the config file /etc/conf.d/cpufreq and change


which dynamically increases the CPU frequency if needed (which is a safe choice on desktop systems too). Alter min_freq and max_freq to match your system's CPU spec. If you don't know the frequencies, run cpufreq-info after loading one of the frequency scaling modules. You can also comment out or delete the min_freq and max_freq lines: things will work automatically. Add the frequency scaling modules to your /etc/rc.conf modules line. Most modern notebooks and desktops can simply use the acpi-cpufreq driver, however other options include the p4-clockmod, powernow-k6, powernow-k7, powernow-k8, and speedstep-centrino drivers. Load the module with

modprobe <modulname> 

and start cpufreq with

/etc/rc.d/cpufreq start

For more details, see Cpufrequtils

Useful Applications

This section will never be complete. It just shows some good applications for the everyday user.

KDE users NOTE: Since KDE resides in /opt, you will most likely have to log out and in after initial installation to update your PATH before these programs can be used.



The ever-popular Firefox web browser is available through pacman. Install with:

pacman -S firefox

Be sure and install 'flashplugin', 'mplayer', 'mplayer-plugin', and the 'codecs' packages for a complete web experience:

pacman -S flashplugin mplayer mplayer-plugin codecs

(The codecs package contains codecs for Quicktime and Realplayer content.)

Thunderbird is useful for managing your emails. If you are using GNOME you may want to take a look at Epiphany and Evolution; if you are using KDE Konqueror and KMail could be your choice. If you want something completely different you can still use Opera. Finally, if you are working on the system console - or in a terminal session - you could use various text-based browsers like ELinks, Links and Lynx, and manage your emails with Mutt. Pidgin (previously known as Gaim) and Kopete are good instant messengers for GNOME and KDE, respectively. PSI and Gajim are perfect if you are using only Jabber or Google Talk.


OpenOffice is a complete office suite (similar to Microsoft Office). Abiword is a good, small alternative word processor, and Gnumeric an Excel replacement for the GNOME desktop. KOffice is a complete office suite for the KDE Desktop. GIMP (or GIMPShop) is a pixel-based graphics program (similar to Adobe Photoshop), while Inkscape is a vector-based graphics program (like Adobe Illustrator). And, of course, Arch comes with a full set of LaTeX Programs: tetex has been popular for many years and still works, and its successor Texlive is available from the AUR repository.


Video Player


VLC Player is a multimedia player for Linux. To install it, simply type the code below.

pacman -S vlc

(TODO) Instructions for VLC mozilla plug-in


MPlayer is a multimedia player for Linux. To install it, simply type the code below.

pacman -S mplayer

It also has a Mozilla plug-in for videos and streams embedded in web pages. To install it, simply type the code below.

pacman -S mplayer-plugin

If you use KDE, KMplayer is a better choice. It comes with a plug-in for videos and streams embedded in web pages, which works with Konqueror. To install it, simply type the code below.

pacman -S kmplayer

(TODO) GMPlayer instructions


Xine is an excellent player, especially for DVD's.

pacman -S xine-ui

The libdvdcss library provides DVD decoding for encrypted DVD's. Ensure the legality of using libdvdcss in your country before installing!

pacman -S libdvdcss



Totem is the official movie player of the GNOME desktop environment based on xine-lib or GStreamer (gstreamer is the default which installs with the arch totem package). It features a playlist, a full-screen mode, seek and volume controls, as well as keyboard navigation. It comes with added functionality such as:

  • Video thumbnailer for the file manager
  • Nautilus properties tab
  • Epiphany / Mozilla (Firefox) plugin to view movies inside your browser
  • Webcam utility (in development)

Totem-xine is still the better choice if you want to watch DVDs.

Totem is part of the gnome-extra group; the Totem webbrowser plugin isn't.

To install separately:

pacman -S totem

To install the Totem webbrowser plugin:

pacman -S totem-plugin



Kaffeine is a good option for KDE users. To install it, simply type the code below.

pacman -S kaffeine

Audio Player



Exaile is a music player written in Python that makes use of the GTK+ toolkit.


Rhythmbox is an integrated music management application, originally inspired by Apple's iTunes. It is free software, designed to work well under the GNOME Desktop, and based on the powerful GStreamer media framework.

Rhythmbox has a number of features, including:

  • Easy-to-use music browser
  • Searching and sorting
  • Comprehensive audio format support through GStreamer
  • Internet radio support
  • Playlists

To install rhythmbox:

pacman -S rhythmbox

Other good audio players are: Banshee, Quodlibet, and Listen. See Gnomefiles to compare them.



Amarok is one of the best audio players and music library systems available for KDE. To install it, simply type the code below.

pacman -S amarok-base


Moc is a ncurses-based audio player for the console; another good choice is mpd.

Another excellent choice is cmus.

Other X-based

(TODO) Xmms, audacious, bmpx.

Codecs and other multimedia content types


You can use xine-ui, totem-xine, mplayer or kaffeine (just to name three of the big ones) to watch DVDs. The only thing you may miss is libdvdcss. Beware that using it may be illegal in some countries.


Install the flash plugin using

pacman -S flashplugin

to enable Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash in your browser.


Quicktime codecs are contained in the codecs package. Just type

pacman -S codecs

to install them.


The codec for Realplayer 9 is contained in the codecs package. Just type

pacman -S codecs

to install them. Realplayer 10 is available as a binary package for Linux. You can get it from AUR here.

CD and DVD Burning



Brasero is an application that burns CDs/DVDs for the GNOME Desktop. It is designed to be as simple as possible and has some unique features to enable users to create their discs easily and quickly.

To install:

pacman -S brasero



K3b (from KDE Burn Baby Burn) is a free software CD and DVD authoring application for GNU/Linux and other Unix-like operating systems designed for KDE. As is the case with most KDE applications, K3b is written in the C++ programming language and uses the Qt GUI toolkit. K3b provides a graphical user interface to perform most CD/DVD burning tasks like creating an Audio CD from a set of audio files or copying a CD/DVD, as well as more advanced tasks such as burning eMoviX CD/DVDs. It can also perform direct disc-to-disc copies. The program has many default settings which can be customized by more experienced users. The actual disc recording in K3b is done by the command line utilities cdrecord or wodim, cdrdao, and growisofs. As of version 1.0, K3b features a built-in DVD ripper.- licensed under the GPL.

K3b was voted's Multimedia Utility of the Year (2006) by the majority (70%) of voters.

To install:

pacman -S k3b

(Todo) cdrecord, graveman...

Most CD burners are wrappers for cdrecord:

pacman -S cdrkit

If you install packages for CD/DVD burning applications like Brasero or K3B it also installs the CD/DVD burning library for it, like libburn or cdrkit.

A good command-line DVD-burning tool is growisofs:

pacman -S dvd+rw-tools


There are several things to do if you want to watch TV under (Arch) Linux. The most important task is to find out which chip your tuner is using. However, quite a bunch is supported. Be sure to check at a Hardware Database to be sure (see this list, for example). Once you know your Model, there are just a few steps ahead to get you going.

In most cases, you will need to use the bttv-drivers (other drivers exist, like V4L) together with the I2C-modules. Configuring those is the hardest task. If you are lucky, a

modprobe bttv

will autodetect the card (check dmesg for results). In that case, you need only to install an application to watch TV. We will look at that later, though. If the autodetection did not work, you will need to check the file CARDLIST, which is included in the tarball of bttv to find out the right parameters for your card. A PV951 without radio support would need this line:

modprobe bttv card=42 radio=0

Some cards need the following line to produce sound:

modprobe tvaudio

However, that varies. So just try it out. Some other cards demand the following line:

modprobe tuner

This is object to trial-and-error, too.

TODO: clarify the installation-procedure

To actually watch TV, install the xawtv-package with

pacman -S xawtv 

and read its manpage.

TODO: clarify some possible problems and procedures. Introduction to XAWTV on another page?

Digital Cameras

Most newer digital cameras are supported as USB mass storage devices, which means that you can simply plug it in and copy the images. Older cameras may use the PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol) which requires a "special driver". gPhoto2 provides this driver and allows a shell-based transfer of the images; digikam (for KDE) and gthumb (for GNOME, gtkam would be another choice) use this driver and offer a nice GUI.

USB Memory Sticks / Hard Disks

USB Memory Sticks and hard disks are supported out of the box with the USB mass storage device driver and will appear as a new SCSI device (/dev/sdX). If you are using KDE or GNOME you should use dbus and hal (add them to your daemons in /etc/rc.conf), and they will be automatically mounted. If you use a different Desktop Environment you may have a look at ivman.

Maintaining the system


Pacman is both a binary and source package manager which is able to download, install, and upgrade packages from both remote and local repositories with full dependency handling, and has easy-to-understand tools for crafting your own packages too.

A more-detailed description of Pacman can be found in its article.

Useful commands

To synchronize and update the local packages database with the remote repositories (it is a good idea to do this before installing and upgrading packages):

pacman -Sy

To upgrade all packages on the system:

pacman -Su

To sync, update, and upgrade all the packages on the system with one command:

pacman -Syu

To install or upgrade a single package or list of packages (including dependencies):

pacman -S packageA packageB

You can also sync, update the package database, and install packages in one command:

pacman -Sy packageA packageB

To remove a single package, leaving all of its dependencies installed:

pacman -R package

To remove a package and all of the package's dependencies which aren't used by any other installed package:

pacman -Rs package

To remove all of the package's now unneeded dependencies and also delete config files:

pacman -Rsn package

To search the remote (repo) package database for a list of packages matching a given keyword:

pacman -Ss keyword

To list all packages on your system

pacman -Q

To search (query) the local (your machine) package database for a given package:

pacman -Q package 

To search (query) the local (your machine) package database for a given package and list all pertinent information:

pacman -Qi package

To defragment pacman's cache database and optimize for speed:


To count how many packages are currently on your system:

pacman -Q | wc -l

To install a package compiled from source using ABS and makepkg:

pacman -U packagename.pkg.tar.gz

Note: There are countless additional pacman functions and commands. Try man pacman and consult the pacman wiki entries.

Polishing & Further information

For further information and support you can go to the homepage, search the wiki, the forums, the IRC channel, and the mailing lists.

Where to go from here? You may also be interested in:

Post Installation Tips

Get All Mouse Buttons Working

Improve Pacman Performance

Kernel Compilation



Eye Candy