Newcomers Guide

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

Welcome. This self-contained document will guide you through the process of installing and configuring Arch Linux; a simple, agile and lightweight GNU/Linux distribution, UNIX-like operating system. Arch Linux requires a certain level of intimate knowledge of its configuration and of UNIX-like system methodology and for this reason, extra explanatory information is included. This guide is aimed at new Arch users, but strives to serve as a strong reference and informative base for all.

Arch Linux distribution highlights:

  • Simple design and philosophy
  • Community distro targeted at competent GNU/Linux users
  • All packages compiled for i686/x86-64
  • Highly customizable system assembled by the user from the ground up
  • BSD-style init scripts, featuring one centralized configuration file
  • Rolling Release model
  • Pacman package manager is fast, written in C, lightweight and agile, with a very modest memory footprint
  • ABS: The Arch Build System, a ports-like package building system makes it simple to create your own easily installable Arch packages from source, to use and/or share with the community on the AUR
  • AUR: The Arch User Repository, offering many thousands of build scripts for Arch user-provided software packages

Since GNU/Linux Distributions are fundamentally 'modular' by design, the guide is logically divided into 3 main components of a desktop UNIX-like operating system:

Part I: Installing the Base system

Part II: Installing X and configuring ALSA

Part III: Installing a Desktop Environment


The Arch Linux system is assembled by the user, from the shell, using basic command line tools. This is The Arch Way. Unlike the more rigid structures of other distributions and installers, there are no default environments nor configurations chosen for you. From the command line, you will add packages from the Arch repositories using the pacman tool via your internet connection and manually configure your installation until your system is customized to your requirements. This method allows for maximum flexibility, choice, and system resource control from the base up.

Arch Linux is aimed at competent GNU/Linux users who desire minimal 'code separation' from their machine.


Arch Linux, pacman, documentation, and scripts are copyright ©2002-2007 by Judd Vinet, ©2007-2008 by Aaron Griffin and are licensed under the GNU General Public License Version 2.

The Arch Way

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

'Simple', in this context, shall mean 'without unnecessary additions, modifications, or complications'. In short; an elegant, minimalist approach.

Some thoughts to keep in mind:

  • " 'Simple' is defined from a technical standpoint, not a usability standpoint. It is better to be technically elegant with a higher learning curve, than to be easy to use and technically [inferior]." -Aaron Griffin
  • Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem or "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." -Occam's razor. The term razor refers to the act of shaving away unnecessary complications to arrive at the simplest explanation, method or theory.
  • "The extraordinary part of [my method] lies in its simplicity..I always believe that the simple way is the right way." - Bruce Lee

Following this guide closely is essential in order to successfully install a properly configured Arch Linux system, so please read it thoroughly. It is strongly recommended you read each section completely before carrying out the tasks contained.

  • The Arch wiki is an excellent resource and should be consulted for issues first; IRC (freenode #archlinux), and the forums are also available if the answer cannot be found.

Welcome to Arch! Enjoy the installation; take your time and have fun!

Now, let's get started.

Part I: Install the Base System

Obtain the latest Installation media

You can obtain Arch's official archiso media from here. The latest version is 2008.06

You can obtain Tobias Powalowski's 2008.12 archboot media from here.

  • Both the Core installer and the FTP/HTTP-downloads provide only the necessary packages to create an Arch Linux base system. Note that the Base System does not include a GUI. It is mainly comprised of the GNU toolchain, (compiler, assembler, linker, libraries, shell, and a few useful utilities) the Linux kernel, and a few extra libraries and modules.

CD installer

Burn the .iso to a CD with your preferred burner, and continue with Boot Arch Linux Installer Template:Box Note

USB stick

WARNING: This will destroy all data on your USB stick.

Insert an empty or expendable USB stick, determine its path, and dump the .img to the USB stick with the /bin/dd program:

dd if=archlinux-2008.06-[core_or_ftp]-i686.img of=/dev/sdx

where if= is the path to the img file and of= is your USB device. Make sure to use /dev/sdx and not /dev/sdx1.

Check md5sum (optional):

Make a note of the number of records (blocks) read in and written out, then perform the following check:

dd if=/dev/sdx count=number_of_records status=noxfer | md5sum

The md5sum returned should match the md5sum of the downloaded archlinux image file; they both should match the md5sum of the image as listed in the md5sums file in the mirror distribution site.

Continue with Boot Arch Linux Installer

Boot Arch Linux Installer

Insert the CD or USB stick and boot from it. You may have to change the boot order in your computer BIOS or press a key (usually DEL, F1, F2, F11 or F12) during the BIOS POST phase.

Memory requirements:

  • CORE : 160 MB RAM x86_64/i686 (all packages selected, with swap partition)
  • FTP : 160 MB RAM x86_64/i686 (all packages selected, with swap partition)

Choose Boot Archlive or Boot Archlive [legacy IDE] if you have trouble with libata/PATA.

To change boot options press e for editing the boot lines. Many users may wish to change the resolution of the framebuffer, for more readable console output. Append:


to the kernel line, followed by <ENTER>, for a 1024x768 framebuffer.

Hit b to boot.

The system will now boot and present a login prompt. Login as 'root' without quotes.

Changing the keymap

If you have a non-US keyboard layout you can interactively choose your keymap/console font with the command:

# km

or use the loadkeys command:

# loadkeys layout

(replace layout with your keyboard layout such as "fr" or "be-latin1")


The guide you are now reading is available on the live system. Change to vc/2 with <ALT>+F2 and invoke /usr/bin/less:

# less /arch/beginnersguide.txt

less will allow you to page through the document. Change back to vc/1 with <ALT>+F1.

Change back to vc/2 if you need to reference the Beginners' Guide at any time.

Start the Installation

As root, run the installer script from vc/1:

# /arch/setup

Select an installation source

After a welcome screen, you will be prompted for an installation source. Choose the appropriate source for the installer you are using.

  • If you chose the CORE installer, continue below with Prepare Hard Drive.
  • FTP/HTTP only: You shall be prompted to load ethernet drivers manually, if desired. Udev is quite effective at loading the required modules, so you may assume it has already done so. You may verify this by invoking ifconfig -a from vc/3. (Select OK to continue.)

Configure Network (FTP/HTTP)

Available Interfaces will be presented. If an interface and HWaddr (HardWare address) is listed, then your module has already been loaded. If your interface is not listed, you may probe it from the installer, or manually do so from another virtual console.

The following screen will prompt you to Select the interface, Probe, or Cancel. Choose the appropriate interface and continue.

The installer will then ask if you wish to use DHCP. Choosing Yes will run dhcpcd to discover an available gateway and request an IP address; Choosing No will prompt you for your static IP, netmask, broadcast, gateway DNS IP, HTTP proxy, and FTP proxy. Lastly, you will be presented with an overview to ensure your entries are correct.

Wireless Quickstart (If you need wireless connectivity during the installation process)

The wireless drivers and utilities are now available to you in the live environment of the installation media. A good knowledge of your wireless hardware will be of key importance to successful configuration.

If you need wireless functionality from the live installer environment onwards, the basic procedure will be:

  • Switch to a free virtual console, e.g.: <ALT>+F3
  • Identify your wireless card and appropriate module with the /sbin/hwdetect utility. The --show-net switch will list your network lan and wireless chipsets as well as the corresponding driver(s). (Note that hwdetect does not load drivers for you.):
# hwdetect --show-net
  • Ensure udev has loaded the module (listed in the output of hwdetect) with /bin/lsmod:
# lsmod | grep <name_of_module>
  • If not, probe it using /sbin/modprobe:
# modprobe <name_of_module>

Template:Box Note

  • Ensure the driver has created a usable wireless kernel interface with /usr/sbin/iwconfig:
# iwconfig

(Output should show an available wireless interface)

  • Bring the interface up with /sbin/ifconfig <interface> up.

An example, using an atheros card and madwifi driver:

# ifconfig ath0 up

(Remember, your interface may be named something else, depending on your module (driver) and chipset: wlan0, eth1, etc.)

  • Specify the id of the wireless network with iwconfig <interface> essid "<youressid>" key <yourwepkey> (give the essid (the 'network name') of the network in quotes), e.g.:
# iwconfig ath0 essid "linksys" key 0241baf34c
  • Acquire an IP address with /sbin/dhcpcd <interface> . e.g.:
# dhcpcd ath0
  • Ensure you can route using /bin/ping:
# ping -c 3


After the initial Arch installation is complete, you may wish to refer to Wireless Setup to ensure a permanent configuration solution for your system.

Return to vc/1 with <ALT>+F1. Continue with Prepare Hard Drive

Prepare Hard Drive

WARNING: Partitioning hard drives can destroy data. You are strongly cautioned and advised to backup your critical data if applicable.

Verify your current disk identities and layout by invoking /sbin/fdisk with the -l (lower-case L) switch.

Open another virtual console (<ALT>+F3) and enter:

# fdisk -l

Take note of the disk(s)/partition(s) you wish to utilize for your Arch installation.

Switch back to the installation script with <ALT>+F1

Select the first menu entry "Prepare Hard Drive".

  • Option 1: Auto Prepare

Auto-Prepare divides your disk into the following configuration:

  • ext2 /boot partition, default size 32MB. You will be prompted to modify the size to you requirement.
  • swap partition, default size 256MB. You will be prompted to modify the size to you requirement.
  • A Separate / and /home partition, (sizes can also be specified). You may choose from ext2, ext3, reiserfs, xfs and jfs, but note that both / and /home shall share the same fs type if choosing the Auto Prepare option.

Be warned that Auto-prepare will completely erase the chosen hard drive. Read the warning presented by the installer very carefully, and make sure the correct device is about to be partitioned.

  • Option 2: (Recommended) Partition Hard Drives (with cfdisk)

This option will allow for the most robust and customized partitioning solution for your personal needs.

At this point, more advanced GNU/Linux users who are familiar and comfortable with manually partitioning may wish to skip down to Select Packages below.

Partition Hard Drives

Partition Info

Partitioning a hard disk drive defines specific areas (the partitions) within the disk, that will each appear and behave as a separate disk and upon which a filesystem may be created (formatted).

  • There exist 3 types of disk partitions:
  1. Primary
  2. Extended
  3. Logical

Primary partitions can be bootable, and are limited to 4. If a partitioning scheme requires more than 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. If required, a hard disk shall contain only one extended partition; which shall then be sub-divided into logical partitions.

When partitioning a disk, one can observe this numbering scheme by creating primary partitions sda1-3 followed by creating an extended partition, sda4, and subsequently creating logical partition(s) within the extended partition; sda5, sda6, and so on.

Swap Partition

A swap partition is a place on your hard drive where virtual ram resides, allowing the kernel to easily use disk storage for data that does not fit into physical RAM.

Historically, the general rule for swap partition size was 2x the amount of physical RAM. Over time, as computers have gained ever larger memory capacities, this rule has become increasingly deprecated. Generally, on machines with up to 512MB RAM, the 2x rule is usually quite sufficient. On machines with 1GB RAM, generally a 1x rule is adequate. If you have gratuitous amounts of RAM (more than 1024 MB) it may be possible to completely forget a swap partition altogether, though this is not recommended. We will create a 1 GB swap partition in this example. Template:Box Note

Partition Scheme

A disk partitioning scheme is a very personalized preference. Each user's choices will be unique to their own computing habits and requirements.

Filesystem candidates for separate partitions include:

/ (root) The root filesystem is the primary filesystem from which all other filesystems stem; the top of the hierarchy. All files and directories appear under the root directory "/", even if they are stored on different physical devices. The contents of the root filesystem must be adequate to boot, restore, recover, and/or repair the system.

/boot This directory contains the kernel and ramdisk images as well as the bootloader configuration file, and bootloader stages. /boot also stores data that is used before the kernel begins executing userspace programs. This may include saved master boot sectors and sector map files.

/home User data and user specific configuration files for applications are stored in each user's home directory in a file that starts with the '.' character (a "dot file").

/usr While root is the primary filesystem, /usr is the secondary hierarchy, for user data, containing the majority of (multi-)user utilities and applications. /usr is shareable, read-only data. This means that /usr shall be shareable between various hosts and must not be written to, except in the case of system update/upgrade. Any information that is host-specific or varies with time is stored elsewhere.

/tmp directory for programs that require temporary files

/var contains variable data; spool directories and files, administrative and logging data, pacman's cache, the ABS tree, etc. Template:Box Note There are several advantages for using discrete filesystems, rather than combining all into one partition:

  • Security: Each filesystem may be configured in /etc/fstab as 'nosuid', 'nodev', 'noexec', 'readonly', etc.
  • Stability: A user, or malfunctioning program can completely fill a filesystem with garbage if they have write permissions for it. Critical programs, which reside on a different filesystem remain unaffected.
  • Speed: A filesystem which gets written to frequently may become somewhat fragmented. (An effective method of avoiding fragmentation is to ensure that each filesystem is never in danger of filling up completely.) Separate filesystems remain unaffected, and each can be defragmented separately as well.
  • Integrity: If one filesystem becomes corrupted, separate filesystems remain unaffected.
  • Versatility: Sharing data across several systems becomes more expedient when independent filesystems are used. Separate filesystem types may also be chosen based upon the nature of data and usage.

In this example, we shall use separate partitions for /, /var, /home, and a swap partition.

Template:Box Note

How big should my partitions be?

This question is best answered based upon individual needs. If you have little or no experience with partitioning, you may wish to simply create one partition for root, and one partition for swap. Or, follow the example closely, and consider these guidelines to provide a frame of reference:

  • The root filesystem (/) in the example will contain the /usr directory, which can become moderately large, depending upon how much software is installed.
  • The /var filesystem will contain, among other data, the ABS tree and the pacman cache. Keeping cached packages is useful and versatile; it provides the ability to downgrade packages if needed. /var tends to grow in size; the pacman cache can grow large over long periods of time, but can be safely cleared if needed. 6-8 Gigs on a desktop system should therefore be sufficient for /var. Servers tend to have extremely large /var filesystems.
  • The /home filesystem is typically where user data, downloads, and multimedia reside. On a desktop system, /home is typically the largest filesystem on the drive by a large margin.
  • An extra 25% of space added to each filesystem will provide a cushion for unforeseen occurrence, expansion, and serve as a preventive against fragmentation.

From the guidelines above, the example system shall contain a ~15GB root (/) partition, ~6GB /var, 1GB swap, and a /home containing the remaining disk space.


Start by creating the primary partition that will contain the root, (/) filesystem.

Choose New -> Primary and enter the desired size for root (/). Put the partition at the beginning of the disk.

Also choose the Type by designating it as '83 Linux'. The created / partition shall appear as sda1 in our example.

Now create a primary partition for /var, designating it as Type 83 Linux. The created /var partition shall appear as sda2

Next, create a partition for swap. Select an appropriate size and specify the Type as 82 (Linux swap / Solaris). The created swap partition shall appear as sda3.

Lastly, create a partition for your /home directory. Choose another primary partition and set the desired size.

Likewise, select the Type as 83 Linux. The created /home partition shall appear as sda4.


Name    Flags     Part Type    FS Type           [Label]         Size (MB)
sda1               Primary     Linux                             15440 #root
sda2               Primary     Linux                             6256  #/var
sda3               Primary     Linux swap / Solaris              1024  #swap
sda4               Primary     Linux                             140480 #/home

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

Template:Box Note

Set Filesystem Mountpoints

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). At this time, you will be asked to specify the filesystem type.

Filesystem Types

Again, a filesystem type is a very subjective matter which comes down to personal preference. Each has its own advantages, disadvantages, and unique idiosyncrasies. Here is a very brief overview of supported filesystems:

1. ext2 Second Extended Filesystem- Old, reliable GNU/Linux filesystem. Very stable, but without journaling support. May be inconvenient for root (/) and /home, due to very long fsck's. An ext2 filesystem can easily be converted to ext3. Generally regarded as a good choice for /boot/.

2. ext3 Third Extended Filesystem- Essentially the ext2 system, but with journaling support. ext3 is completely compatible with ext2. Extremely stable, mature, and by far the most widely used, supported and developed GNU/Linux FS.

High Performance Filesystems:

3. ReiserFS - Hans Reiser's high-performance journaling FS uses a very interesting method of data throughput based on an unconventional and creative algorithm. ReiserFS is touted as very fast, especially when dealing with many small files. ReiserFS is fast at formatting, yet comparatively slow at mounting. Quite mature and stable. ReiserFS is not actively developed at this time (Reiser4 is the new Reiser filesystem). Generally regarded as a good choice for /var/.

4. JFS - IBM's Journaled FileSystem- The first filesystem to offer journaling. JFS had many years of use in the IBM AIX® OS before being ported to Linux. JFS currently uses the least CPU resources of any GNU/Linux filesystem. Very fast at formatting, mounting and fsck's, and very good all-around performance, especially in conjunction with the deadline I/O scheduler. (See JFS.) Not as widely supported as ext or ReiserFS, but very mature and stable.

5. XFS - Another early journaling filesystem originally developed by Silicon Graphics for the IRIX OS and ported to Linux. XFS offers very fast throughput on large files and large filesystems. Very fast at formatting and mounting. Generally benchmarked as slower with many small files, in comparison to other filesystems. XFS is very mature and offers online defragmentation ability.

A note on Journaling

All above filesystems, except ext2, use journaling. Journaling file systems are fault-resilient file systems that use a journal to log changes before they're committed to the file system to avoid metadata corruption in the event of a crash. Note that not all journaling techniques are alike; specifically, only ext3 offers data-mode journaling, (though, not by default), which journals both data and meta-data (but with significant speed penalty). The others only offer ordered-mode journaling, which journals meta-data only. While all will return your filesystem to a valid state after recovering from a crash, data-mode journaling offers the greatest protection against file system corruption and data loss but can suffer from performance degradation, as all data is written twice (first to the journal, then to the disk). Depending upon how important your data is, this may be a consideration in choosing your filesystem type.

Moving on...

Choose and create the filesystem (format the partition) for / by selecting yes. You will now be prompted to add any additional partitions. In our example, sda2 and sda4 remain. For sda2, choose a filesystem type and mount it as /var. Finally, choose the filesystem type for sda4, and mount it as /home. Return to main menu.

Select Packages

Now we shall select packages to install in our system.

  • Core ISO: Choose CD as source and select the appropriate CD drive if you have more than one.
  • FTP ISO: Select an FTP/HTTP mirror. Note that is throttled to 50KB/s.
  • 2008.06 installation media: Package category BASE is now installed by default.

Package selection is split into two stages. First, you will select the base package category, then you will be presented will the full lists of packages, allowing you to fine-tune your selections. Use the space bar to select and unselect. Choose OK to continue and then choose 'yes' for 'Select all packages by default', for now.

The next screen will present you with the selected packages within your selected categories.

Template:Box Note

Once you're done selecting the packages you need, leave the selection screen and continue to the next step, Install Packages.

Install Packages

Next, choose 'Install Packages'. You will be asked if you wish to keep the packages in the pacman cache. If you choose 'yes', you will have the flexibility to downgrade to previous package versions in the future, so this is recommended (you can always clear the cache in the future). The installer script will now install the selected packages, as well as the default Arch 2.6 kernel, to your system.

  • FTP ISO: The Pacman package manager will now download and install your selected packages. (See vc/5 for output, vc/1 to return to the installer)
  • CORE ISO: The packages will be installed from the CD.

Note: For Arch 2007.08 FTP installation: after 'Install Packages' you have to upgrade pacman (<ALT>+F3, pacman -Sy pacman) and again 'Install Packages'.

Configure the System

Closely following and understanding these steps is of key importance to ensure a properly configured system.

At this stage of the installation, you will configure the primary configuration files of your Arch Linux base system.

The installer will ask if you want to choose hwdetect to gather information for your configuration. Beginners should choose 'yes'.

Advanced users who are thoroughly familiar with their hardware, required modules, and who are able and willing to manually configure /etc/rc.conf, /etc/mkinitcpio, /etc/fstab, and other system-critical configuration files from scratch may wish to choose 'no'. (Needless to say, this option is very involved, beyond the scope of this guide, and therefore is not covered.)

The initramfs

The initial ram filesystem, or initramfs, is a temporary file system used by the kernel during boot. It is used for making preparations, like hardware detection and module loading, before the real root file system can be mounted. Therefore, an initramfs allows for the use of a generic modular kernel for a wide variety of hardware, and without the need to compile a custom kernel for each end user.

You will be prompted by a series of questions related to the configuration of your initramfs. You will be asked if you need support for booting from USB devices, FireWire devices, PCMCIA devices, NFS shares, software RAID arrays, LVM2 volumes, encrypted volumes, and DSDT support. Choose yes if you need it; in our example nothing is needed. Choosing 'yes' for any of the above will cause the installer script to place the appropriate hook(s) within the /etc/mkinitcpio.conf file.

Now you will be asked which text editor you want to use; choose nano or, if you are familiar with it, vim. You will be presented with a menu including the main configuration files for your system.

Template:Box Note

Can the installer handle this more automatically?

Hiding the process of system configuration is in direct opposition to The Arch Way. While it is true that recent versions of the kernel and hardware probing tools offer excellent hardware support and auto-configuration, Arch presents the user all pertinent configuration files during installation for the purposes of transparency and system resource control. By the time you have finished modifying these files to your specifications, you will have learned the simple method of manual Arch Linux system configuration and become more familiar with the base structure, leaving you better prepared to use and maintain your new installation productively.


Arch Linux follows in the *BSD tradition of utilizing /etc/rc.conf as the principal location for system configuration. This one file contains a wide range of configuration information, principally used at system startup. As its name directly implies, it also contains settings for and invokes the /etc/rc* files, and is, of course, sourced by these files.

  • LOCALIZATION section
    • LOCALE=: This sets your system locale, which will be used by all i18n-aware applications and utilities. You can get a list of the available locales by running 'locale -a' from the command line. This setting's default is fine for US English users.
    • HARDWARECLOCK=: Specifies whether the hardware clock, which is synchronized on boot and on shutdown, stores UTC time, or the localtime. UTC makes sense because it greatly simplifies changing timezones and daylight savings time. localtime is necessary if you dual boot with an operating system such as Windows, that only stores localtime to the hardware clock.
    • USEDIRECTISA: Use direct I/O request instead of /dev/rtc for hwclock
    • TIMEZONE=: Specify your TIMEZONE. (All available zones are under /usr/share/zoneinfo/).
    • KEYMAP=: The available keymaps are in /usr/share/kbd/keymaps. Please note that this setting is only valid for your TTYs, not any graphical window managers or X.
    • CONSOLEFONT=: Available console fonts reside under /usr/share/kbd/consolefonts/ if you must change. The default (blank) is safe.
    • CONSOLEMAP=: Defines the console map to load with the setfont program at boot. Possible maps are found in /usr/share/kbd/consoletrans, if needed. The default (blank) is safe.
    • USECOLOR=: Select "yes" if you have a color monitor and wish to have colors in your consoles.
  • HARDWARE section
    • MOD_AUTOLOAD=: Setting this to "yes" will use udev to automatically probe hardware and load the appropriate modules during boot-up, (convenient with the default modular kernel). Setting this to "no" will rely on the user's ability to specify this information manually, or compile their own custom kernel and modules, etc.
    • MOD_BLACKLIST=: This has become deprecated in favor of adding blacklisted modules directly to the MODULES= line below.
    • MODULES=: Specify additional MODULES if you know that an important module is missing, (hwdetect should have filled in the most important modules). Also specify any blacklisted modules by prefixing them with a bang (!). Udev will be forced NOT to load blacklisted modules. In the example, the IPv6 module as well as the annoying pcspeaker are blacklisted.
# Scan hardware and load required modules at boot
# Module Blacklist - Deprecated
MODULES=(e100 eepro100 mii slhc snd-ac97-codec snd-intel8x0 soundcore !net-pf-10 !pcspkr)
  • NETWORKING section
    • HOSTNAME=:Set your HOSTNAME to your liking.
    • eth0=: 'Ethernet, card 0'. Adjust the interface IP address, netmask and broadcast address if you are using static IP. Set eth0="dhcp" if you want to use DHCP
    • INTERFACES=: Specify any/all interfaces here. If you do not use DHCP to configure a device, just keep in mind that the value of the variable (whose name must be equal to the name of the device which is supposed to be configured) equals the line which would be appended to the ifconfig command if you were to configure the device manually in the shell.
    • gateway=: If you are using static IP, set the gateway address. If using DHCP, you can usually ignore this variable, though some users have reported the need to define it.
    • ROUTES=: If you are using static IP, remove the ! in front of 'gateway'. If using DHCP, you can usually leave this variable commented out with the bang (!), but again, some users require the gateway and ROUTES defined. If you experience networking issues with pacman, for instance, you may want to return to these variables.

Example, using DHCP:

#eth0="eth0 netmask broadcast"
gateway="default gw"

Template:Box Note

  • DAEMONS section

This array simply lists the names of those scripts contained in /etc/rc.d/ which are to be started during the boot process, and the order in which they start.

DAEMONS=(@network syslog-ng netfs crond)
  • If a script name is prefixed with a bang (!), it is not executed.
  • If a script is prefixed with an "at" symbol (@), then it will be executed in the background; the startup sequence will not wait for successful completion of each daemon before continuing to the next. (Useful for speeding up system boot).
  • Edit this array whenever new system services are installed, if starting them automatically during boot is desired.

This 'BSD-style' init, is the Arch way of handling what others handle with various symlinks to an /etc/init.d directory.


You do not 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. 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.

Historically, the term daemon was coined by the programmers of MIT's Project MAC. They took the name from Maxwell's demon, an imaginary being from a famous thought experiment that constantly works in the background, sorting molecules. UNIX systems inherited this terminology and created the backronym disk and execution monitor.

  • Tip: All Arch daemons reside under /etc/rc.d/

The fstab (for file systems table) is part of the system configuration listing all available disks and disk partitions, and indicating how they are to be initialized or otherwise integrated into the overall system's filesystem. The /etc/fstab file is most commonly used by the mount command. The mount command takes a filesystem on a device, and adds it to the main system heirarchy that you see when you use your system. mount -a is called from /etc/rc.sysinit, about 3/4 of the way through the boot process, and reads /etc/fstab to determine which options should be used when mounting the specified devices therein. If noauto is appended to a filesystem in /etc/fstab, mount -a will not mount it at boot.

An example /etc/fstab:

# <file system>        <dir>        <type>        <options>                 <dump>    <pass>
none                   /dev/pts     devpts        defaults                       0         0
none                   /dev/shm     tmpfs         defaults                       0         0
#/dev/cdrom            /media/cdrom   auto        ro,user,noauto,unhide          0         0
#/dev/dvd              /media/dvd     auto        ro,user,noauto,unhide          0         0
#/dev/fd0              /media/fl      auto        user,noauto                    0         0
/dev/disk/by-uuid/0ec-933.. /          jfs        defaults,noatime               0         1
/dev/disk/by-uuid/7ef-223.. /home      jfs        defaults,noatime               0         2
/dev/disk/by-uuid/530-1e-..  swap     swap        defaults                       0         0
/dev/disk/by-uuid/4fe-110.. /var     reiserfs     defaults,noatime,notail        0         2

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  • The first field, <file system>, describes the block device or remote filesystem to be mounted. For regular mounts, this field will contain a link to a block device node (as created by mknod which is called by udev at boot) for the device to be mounted; for instance, '/dev/cdrom' or '/dev/sda1'. Instead of giving the device explicitly, the Arch installer indicates the filesystem that is to be mounted by its UUID by default.

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ls -lF /dev/disk/by-uuid/

Will list all partitions by uuid.

  • The second field, <dir>, describes the mount point for the filesystem. For swap partitions, this field should be specified as 'swap'; (Swap partitions are not actually mounted.)
  • The third field, <type>, describes the type of the filesystem. The Linux kernel supports many filesystem types. (For the filesystems currently supported by the running kernel, see /proc/filesystems). An entry 'swap' denotes a file or partition to be used for swapping. An entry 'ignore' causes the line to be ignored. This is useful to show disk partitions which are currently unused.
  • The fourth field, <options>, describes the mount options associated with the filesystem. It is formatted as a comma separated list of options. It contains at least the type of mount plus any additional options appropriate to the filesystem type. For documentation on the available options for non-nfs file systems, see mount(8).
  • The fifth field, <dump>, is used for these filesystems by the dump(8) command to determine which filesystems need to be dumped. dump is a backup utility. If the fifth field is not present, a value of zero is returned and dump will assume that the filesystem does not need to be backed up. Note that dump is not installed by default.
  • The sixth field, <pass>, is used by the fsck(8) program to determine the order in which filesystem checks are done at boot time. The root filesystem should be specified with a <pass> of 1, and other filesystems should have a <pass> of 2 or 0. Filesystems within a drive will be checked sequentially, but filesystems on different drives will be checked at the same time to use parallelism available in the hardware. If the sixth field is not present or zero, a value of zero is returned and fsck will assume that the filesystem does not need to be checked.
  • If you plan on using hal to automount media such as DVDs, you may wish to comment out the cdrom and dvd entries in preparation for hal, which will be installed later in this guide.

Expanded information available in the Fstab wiki entry.


Editing this configuration is unnecessary at this point; this information is provided for explanation.

This file allows you to fine-tune the initial ram filesystem (also commonly referred to as the initial ramdisk or "initrd") for your system. The initrd is a gzipped image that is read by the kernel during boot. The purpose of the initrd is to bootstrap the system to the point where it can access the root filesystem. This means it has to load any modules that are required for devices like IDE, SCSI, or SATA drives (or USB/FW, if you are booting off a USB/FW drive). Once the initrd loads the proper modules, either manually or through udev, it passes control to the Arch system and your boot continues. For this reason, the initrd only needs to contain the modules necessary to access the root filesystem. It does not need to contain every module you would ever want to use. The majority of your everyday modules will be loaded later on by udev, during the init process.

mkinitcpio is the next generation of initramfs creation. It has many advantages over the old mkinitrd and mkinitramfs scripts.

  • It uses klibc and kinit which are developed by Linux kernel devs to provide a small and lightweight base for early userspace.
  • It can use udev for hardware autodetection at runtime, thus prevents you from having tons of unnecessary modules loaded.
  • Its hook-based init script is easily extendable with custom hooks, which can easily be included in pacman packages without having to modifiy mkinitcpio itself.
  • It already supports lvm2, dm-crypt for both legacy and luks volumes, raid, swsusp and suspend2 resuming and booting from usb mass storage devices.
  • Many features can be configured from the kernel command line without having to rebuild the image.
  • The mkinitcpio script makes it possible to include the image in a kernel, thus making a self-contained kernel image is possible.
  • Its flexibility makes recompiling a kernel unnecessary in many cases.

mkinitcpio was developed by Aaron Griffin and Tobias Powalowski with some help from the community.


It is unnecessary to configure this file at this time.

  • modprobe.conf can be used to set special configuration options for the kernel modules
/etc/resolv.conf (for Static IP)

The resolver is a set of routines in the C library that provide access to the Internet Domain Name System (DNS). One of the main functions of DNS is to translate domain names into IP addresses, to make the Web a friendlier place. The resolver configuration file, or /etc/resolv.conf, contains information that is read by the resolver routines the first time they are invoked by a process.

  • If you are using DHCP, you may safely ignore this file, as by default, it will be dynamically created and destroyed by the dhcpcd daemon. You may change this default behavior if you wish. (See Network]).

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. An example, using OpenDNS:


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 /etc/resolv.conf, using your router's IP (which is also your gateway from /etc/rc.conf), e.g.:


If using DHCP, you may also specify your DNS servers in the router, or allow automatic assignment from your ISP, if your ISP is so equipped.


This file associates IP addresses with hostnames and aliases, one line per IP address. For each host a single line should be present with the following information:

<IP-address> <hostname> [aliases...]

Add your hostname, coinciding with the one specified in /etc/rc.conf, as an alias, so that it looks like this:   localhost.localdomain   localhost yourhostname

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If you use a static IP, add another line using the syntax: <static-IP> <> <hostname> e.g.:  yourhostname
  • TIP: For convenience, you may also use /etc/hosts aliases for hosts on your network, and/or on the Web, e.g.:   g   media   data

The above example would allow you to access google simply by typing 'g' into your browser, and access to a media and data server on your network by name and without the need for typing out their respective IP addresses.

/etc/hosts.deny and /etc/hosts.allow

Modify these configurations according to your needs if you plan on using the ssh daemon. The default configuration will reject all incoming connections, not only ssh connections. Edit your /etc/hosts.allow file and add the appropriate parameters:

  • let everyone connect to you
sshd: ALL
  • restrict it to a certain ip
  • OR restrict for an IP range

If you do not plan on using the ssh daemon, leave this file at the default, (empty), for added security.


The /usr/sbin/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, correctly displaying regional monetary values, time and date formats, alphabetic idiosyncrasies, and other locale-specific standards. The ability to setup a default locale is a great built-in privilege of using a UNIX-like operating system.

By default /etc/locale.gen is an empty file with commented documentation. Once edited, the file remains untouched. 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

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.

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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.


Choose a mirror repository for pacman.

  • is throttled, limiting downloads to 50KB/s

Return to the main menu.

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 provided GRUB configuration (/boot/grub/menu.lst) should be sufficient, but verify its contents to ensure accuracy (specifically, ensure that the root (/) partition is specified by UUID on line 3). You may want to alter the resolution of the console by adding a vga=<number> kernel argument corresponding to your desired virtual console resolution. (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/disk/by-uuid/0ec1-9339.. ro vga=773
initrd /boot/kernel26.img

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Line 1: title: A printed menu selection. "Arch Linux (Main)" will be printed on the screen as a menu selection.

Line 2: root: GRUB's root; the drive and partition where the kernel (/boot) resides, according to system BIOS. (More accurately, where GRUB's stage2 file resides). NOT necessarily the root (/) file system, as they can reside on separate partitions. GRUB's numbering scheme starts at 0, and uses an hdx,x format regardless of IDE or SATA, and enclosed within parentheses.

The example indicates that /boot is on the first partition of the first drive, according to BIOS, or, (hd0,0).

Line 3: kernel: This line specifies:

  • The path and filename of the kernel relative to GRUB's root.

In the example, /boot is merely a directory residing on the same partition as / and vmlinuz26 is the kernel filename; /boot/vmlinuz26. If /boot were on a separate partition, the path and filename would be simply /vmlinuz26, being relative to GRUB's root.

  • The root= argument to the kernel statement specifies the partition containing the root (/) directory in the booted system, (more accurately, the partition containing /sbin/init). If not already specified, you should enter the name of the partition, according to the UUID numbering scheme, using the /dev/disk/by-uuid/xxxx-xxxx-xxxx format. This UUID was found in the previous section regarding configuration of /etc/fstab.
  • An easy way to distinguish the 2 appearances of 'root' in /boot/grub/menu.lst is to remember that the first root statement informs GRUB where the kernel resides, whereas the second root= kernel argument tells the kernel where the root filesystem (/) resides.
  • Kernel options.

In our example, ro mounts the filesystem as read only during startup, and the "vga=773" argument will give a 1024x768 framebuffer with 256 color depth.

Line 4: initrd: (For Initial RAM disk) The path and filename of the initial RAM filesystem relative to GRUB's root. Again, in the example, /boot is merely a directory residing on the same partition as / and kernel26.img is the initrd filename; /boot/kernel26.img. If /boot were on a separate partition, the path and filename would be simply /kernel26.img, being relative to GRUB's root.

Install the GRUB bootloader to the master boot record, (sda in our example).


That's it; You have configured and installed your Arch Linux base system. Exit the install, and reboot:

# reboot

(Be sure to remove the installer CD)

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!

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.

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

Configuring the network (if necessary)

  • This section will assist you in configuring most types of networks, if your network configuration is not working for you.

If you properly configured your system, 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 properly 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

# ifconfig -a

All interfaces will be listed. You should see an entry for eth0, or perhaps eth1.

  • Static IP

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>

Verify that /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 above for static IP.

  • DHCP

If you have a DHCP server/router in your network try:

# dhcpcd eth0

If this is working, adjust /etc/rc.conf as described above, for dynamic IP.

Wireless LAN

  • Ensure the driver has created a usable interface:
# iwconfig
  • Bring the interface up with ifconfig <interface> up. e.g.:
# ifconfig ath0 up
  • (Optional) Scan for available access points:
# iwlist ath0 scan | less
  • Specify the id of the wireless network with iwconfig <interface> essid <youressid>. Or, if using WEP; iwconfig <interface> essid <youressid> key <yourwepkey>, e.g.:
# iwconfig ath0 essid linksys key 0241baf34c
  • Request an IP address with dhcpcd <interface>. e.g.:
# dhcpcd ath0
  • Ensure you can route:
$ ping -c 3


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 will not 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, and put a ! before the network entry, since the network is handled by adsl now.

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 designed from the ground up to be lightweight with a very modest memory footprint, fast, simple, and versatile. 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. Arch uses the .tar.gz package format, which further enhances pacman's speed; Gzipped tarballs, though slightly larger, are decompressed many times faster than their Bzipped counterparts, and are therefore installed much more expediently.

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 base system into whatsoever you please.

Configuring pacman

Package Repositories and /etc/pacman.conf

Arch currently offers the following 4 repositories readily accessible through pacman:


The simple principle behind [core] is to provide only one of each necessary tool for a base Arch Linux system; The GNU toolchain, the Linux kernel, one editor, one command line browser, etc. (There are a few exceptions to this. For instance, both vi and nano are provided, allowing the user to choose one or both.) It contains all the packages that MUST be in perfect working order to make sure your system continues to run. These are the absolute system-critical packages. Developer maintained.

  • The Core installation media simply contains an installer script, and a snapshot of the core repository at the time of release.


The [extra] repository contains all Arch packages that are not themselves necessary for a base Arch system, but contribute to a more full-featured environment. X, KDE, and Apache, for instance, can be found here. Developer maintained.


The [testing] repository contains packages that are candidates for the [core] or [extra] repositories. New packages go into [testing] if:

  • they are expected to break something on update and need to be tested first
  • they require other packages to be rebuilt. In this case, all packages that need to be rebuilt are put into [testing] first and when all rebuilds are done, they are moved back to the other repositories. Developer maintained.

[testing] is the only repository that can have name collisions with any of the other official repositories.

*If enabled, [testing] must be the first repo listed in your pacman.conf file.

WARNING: Your system may break after you update with [testing] enabled. Only experienced users should use it.


The [community] repository is maintained by the Trusted Users (TUs) and is part of the Arch User Repository (AUR). It contains binary packages from the AUR that have enough votes and were adopted by a TU. Like all repos listed above, [community] may be readily accessed by pacman.

The AUR also contains the unsupported branch, which cannot be accessed directly by pacman*. [unsupported] contains more than eight thousand PKGBUILD scripts for building packages from source, that may be unavailable through the other repos.

* AUR Helpers can help you seamlessly access AUR.


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 /etc/pacman.conf


# /etc/pacman.conf
# See the pacman.conf(5) manpage for option and repository directives

# The following paths are commented out with their default values listed.
# If you wish to use different paths, uncomment and update the paths.
#RootDir     = /
#DBPath      = /var/lib/pacman/
#CacheDir    = /var/cache/pacman/pkg/
#LogFile     = /var/log/pacman.log
HoldPkg     = pacman glibc
# If upgrades are available for these packages they will be asked for first
SyncFirst   = pacman
#XferCommand = /usr/bin/wget --passive-ftp -c -O %o %u
#XferCommand = /usr/bin/curl %u > %o

# Pacman won't upgrade packages listed in IgnorePkg and members of IgnoreGroup
#IgnorePkg   =
#IgnoreGroup =

#NoUpgrade   =
#NoExtract   =

# Misc options (all disabled by default)
#   - can be defined here or included from another file
#   - pacman will search repositories in the order defined here
#   - local/custom mirrors can be added here or in separate files
#   - repositories listed first will take precedence when packages
#     have identical names, regardless of version number
#   - URLs will have $repo replaced by the name of the current repo
# Repository entries are of the format:
#       [repo-name]
#       Server = ServerName
#       Include = IncludePath
# The header [repo-name] is crucial - it must be present and
# uncommented to enable the repo.

# Testing is disabled by default.  To enable, uncomment the following
# two lines.  You can add preferred servers immediately after the header,
# and they will be used before the default mirrors.
#Include = /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist

# Add your preferred servers here, they will be used first
Include = /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist

# Add your preferred servers here, they will be used first
Include = /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist 

# Add your preferred servers here, they will be used first
Include = /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist

# An example of a custom package repository.  See the pacman manpage for
# tips on creating your own repositories.
#Server = file:///home/custompkgs

Enable all desired repositories (remove the # in front of the 'Include =' and '[repository]' lines).

  • When choosing repos, be sure to uncomment both the repository header lines in [brackets] as well as the 'Include =' lines. Failure to do so will result in the selected repository being omitted! This is a very common error.

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

Edit /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist:

# nano /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist

Remove all mirrors which are not on your continent, or are extremely distant. (Using nano, you may use CTRL-K to cut each unneeded line.)

Edit /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist by placing the best mirror at the top of the list. (Recall that is throttled to 50KB/s). If using nano, you can cut a line with CTRL-K and paste with CTRL-U.

After changing mirrors, issue the following command:

# pacman -Syy

Passing two --refresh or -y flags forces a refresh of all package lists even if they are considered by pacman to be up to date. Issuing pacman -Syy whenever a mirror is changed, is good practice and will avoid possible headaches.

Ignoring packages

When you execute the command "pacman -Syu", your entire system will be updated. It is possible that you want to prevent a package from being upgraded. An example could be the kernel (kernel26) or a package for which an upgrade may prove problematic for your system. In this case, you have two options; indicate the package(s) you want to skip in the pacman command line using the --ignore switch (do pacman -S --help for details) or permanently indicate the package(s) you want to skip in your /etc/pacman.conf file :

IgnorePkg = openoffice-base wine awesome 

The typical way to use Arch is to use pacman to install all packages unless there is no package available, in which case you can build your own package using ABS. Many user-contributed package build scripts are also available in the AUR.

You are expected to keep your system up to date with pacman -Syu, rather than selectively upgrading packages. You may diverge from this typical usage as you wish; just be warned that there is a greater chance that things will not work as intended and that it could break your system. The majority of complaints happen when selective upgrading, unusual compilation or improper software installation is performed. Use of IgnorePkg in /etc/pacman.conf is therefore discouraged, and should only be used sparingly, if you know what you are doing.

Ignoring Configuration Files

In the same vein, you can also "protect" your configuration/system files from being overwritten during "pacman -Su" using the following option in your /etc/pacman.conf

NoUpgrade = etc/lilo.conf boot/grub/menu.lst

Update System

You are now ready to upgrade your entire system. Before you do, read through the news (and optionally the announce mailing list). Often the developers will provide important information about fixes for known issues. Consulting these pages before any upgrade is good practice.

Sync, refresh, and upgrade your entire new system with:

# pacman -Syu

you may also use:

# pacman --sync --refresh --sysupgrade

pacman will now download a fresh copy of the master package list from the server(s) defined in pacman.conf(5) 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.)

Reboot if a kernel upgrade has occurred.

Template:Box Note

If the messages go by too fast to read, you can look at them later at /var/log/pacman.log.

See Package Management FAQs for answers to frequently asked questions regarding updating and managing your packages.

The beauty of the Arch rolling release model

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. Reboot if a kernel upgrade has occurred.

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(8) 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

UNIX is a multi-user environment. 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, non-root user account using the /usr/sbin/useradd program:

# useradd -m -G [groups] -s [login_shell] [username] 
  • -m Creates user home directory as /home/username. Within their home directory, a user can write files, delete them, install programs, etc. Users' home directories shall contain their data and personal configuration files, the so-called 'dot files' (their name is preceded by a dot), which are 'hidden'. (To view dotfiles, enable the appropriate option in your file manager or run ls with the -a switch.) If there is a conflict between user (under /home/username) and global configuration files, (usually under /etc/) the settings in the user file will prevail. Dotfiles likely to be altered by the end user include .xinitrc and .bashrc files. The configuration files for xinit and Bash respectively. They allow the user the ability to change the window manager to be started upon login and also aliases, user-specified commands and environment variables respectively. When a user is created, their dotfiles shall be taken from the /etc/skel directory where system sample files reside.
  • -G A list of supplementary groups which the user is also a member of. Each group is separated from the next by a comma, with no intervening spaces. The default is for the user to belong only to the initial group (users).
  • -s The name of the user´s login shell. Leaving this field blank will cause the system to select the default login shell.

Useful groups for your non-root user include:

  • audio - for tasks involving sound card and related software
  • floppy - for access to a floppy if applicable
  • lp - for managing printing tasks
  • optical - for managing tasks pertaining to the optical drive(s)
  • storage - for managing storage devices
  • video - for video tasks and 3d acceleration
  • wheel - for using sudo/su
  • power - used w/ power options (ie. shutdown w/ off button)

A typical example, adding a user named "archie" specifying bash as the login shell:

# useradd -m -G users,audio,lp,optical,storage,video,wheel,power -s /bin/bash archie

Next, add a password for your new user using /usr/bin/passwd.

An example for our user, 'archie':

# passwd archie

(You will be prompted to provide the new UNIX password.)

Your new non-root user has now been created, complete with a home directory and a login password.

Alternative method, using /usr/sbin/adduser:

Alternatively, you may use adduser, an interactive user adding program which will prompt you for the above data:

# adduser

See the Groups article and check the man pages for usermod(8) and gpasswd(8) for further information.

In the event of error, or if you wish to delete this user account in favor of a different name or for any other reason, use /usr/sbin/userdel:

# userdel -r [username]
  • -r Files in the user´s home directory will be removed along with the home directory itself and the user´s mail spool.

Install and setup Sudo (Optional)

To install Sudo:

# pacman -S sudo

To add a user as a sudo user (a "sudoer"), the visudo command must be run as root. If you do not know how to use vi, you may set the EDITOR environment variable to the editor of your choice before running visudo. e.g.:

# EDITOR=nano visudo

If you are comfortable using vi, issue the visudo command without the EDITOR=nano variable:

# visudo

This will open the file /etc/sudoers in a special session of vi. visudo copies the file to be edited to a temporary file, edits it with an editor, (vi by default), and subsequently runs a sanity check. If it passes, the temporary file overwrites the original with the correct permissions.

WARNING: Do not edit /etc/sudoers directly with an editor; Errors in syntax can cause annoyances (like rendering the root account unusable). You must use the visudo command to edit /etc/sudoers.

To give the user full root privileges when he/she precedes a command with "sudo", add the following line:


where USER_NAME is the username of the individual.

For more information, such as sudoer <TAB> completion, see Sudo

Part II: Install X and configure ALSA

Configure sound 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. Template:Box Note Template:Box Note

The alsa-utils package contains the alsamixer userspace tool, which will allow us to configure the sound device from the console. (You may also run alsamixer from an X environment later.)

By default the kernel ships with snd_pcsp, the alsa pc speaker module. snd_pcsp is usually loaded before your "actual" sound card module. In most cases, it will be more convenient if this module is loaded last, as it will allow alsamixer to correctly control the desired sound card.

To have snd_pcsp load last, add the following to /etc/modprobe.conf:

options snd-pcsp index=2

Alternatively, if you do not want snd_pcsp to load at all, blacklist it by adding the following to /etc/rc.conf:

MODULES=(... !snd_pcsp)

Template:Box Note

Install the alsa-utils package:

 # pacman -S alsa-utils

Did you add your normal user to the audio group? If not, use /usr/bin/gpasswd. As root do:

# gpasswd -a yourusername audio

As normal, non-root user, invoke /usr/bin/alsamixer:

# su - yourusername 
$ alsamixer

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.) Some machines, (like the Thinkpad T61), have a Speaker channel which must be unmuted and adjusted as well. Leave alsamixer by pressing ESC.

Sound test

Ensure your speakers are properly connected, and test your sound configuration as normal user using /usr/bin/aplay:

$ aplay /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Front_Center.wav

You should hear a very eloquent woman say, "Front, center."

Exit your normal user shell and run /usr/bin/alsactl as root:

$ exit
# 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 by reading /etc/asound.state. It is separate from the alsa audio library (and kernel level API).

Expanded information available in the ALSA wiki entry.

Install 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.

X is so named because it was preceded by the W Window System, originally developed at Stanford University.

Template:Box Note

# 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

With newer versions of xorg, it is suggested (and possibly necessary in most cases) to install the input driver evdev, which should be installed as a dependency for xorg-server, but many seem to be lacking somehow:

# pacman -S xf86-input-evdev

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.

You will need knowledge of which video chipset your machine has. If you do not know, use the /usr/sbin/lspci program:

# lspci | grep VGA

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

# pacman -Ss xf86-video | less

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

  • xf86-video-apm Alliance ProMotion video driver
  • xf86-video-ark ark video driver
  • xf86-video-ati ATI(AMD) 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 VIA S3 Unichrome video drivers
  • xf86-video-v4l v4l video driver
  • xf86-video-vesa vesa video driver
  • xf86-video-openchrome (testing) via video driver (currently in testing, try openchrome in the meantime)
  • xf86-video-vga VGA 16 color 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.)

Configure X

What is the xorg.conf file?

/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, Module, 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, or if your laptop has a trackpoint as well as a mouse.

By default, you will not have an Xorg config file, as the newest versions of Xorg feature autodetection. If the autodetection works satisfactorily and you do not need to specify special features such as aiglx, compositing and so forth, you may forgo creating an xorg.conf file.

Create /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Advanced users may wish to manually create their own xorg.conf file. You may also use the /usr/bin/Xorg program with the -configure option to generate a basic config file; As root, do:

# Xorg -configure

This will create a config file at /root/

Input hotplugging

Input hotplugging is enabled in the 1.5.x series of the xorg-server package, which is now included in the extra repo. When input hotplugging is enabled, X will purge any devices setup in xorg.conf that are using the kbd and mouse driver. This may result in X appearing to freeze and result in your not being able to move your mouse or use your keyboard.

There are two options to correct this:

1) Configure input hotplugging by installing the xf86-input-evdev driver and configuring HAL to use the kbd/mouse drivers. Start the hal daemon before anything related to X.Org is started:

/etc/rc.d/hal start

Add the hal daemon to the DAEMONS array in /etc/rc.conf to start it at every boot. See the article on Xorg input hotplugging for full details.

2) Disable input hotplugging by adding Option "AutoAddDevices" "False" to ServerFlags in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. This will skip devices detected by hal and will use your keyboard/mouse configuration from xorg.conf

# nano /root/

and add the following

Section "ServerFlags"
    Option "AutoAddDevices" "False"

Test X

To test the X server, run:

# X -config /root/

X should start with the white hollow vector X in the center of the screen, which should respond to mouse, trackpoint or touchpad movement. Use CTRL-Alt-Backspace to exit X.

In case of errors

Inspect your config file:

# nano /root/

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"

Add the following section, if you wish to enable eye candy which requires the composite extension:

Section "Extensions"
 	Option "Composite" "Enable"

Try your config again, after modifying:

# X -config /root/

Ensure an X session opens, without errors, and copy or move the generated config file to /etc/X11/:

# cp /root/ /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Detailed instructions in the Xorg article.

Alternative xorg.conf generation

  • Note that if your machine has a successfully configured xorg.conf under another distribution and with the same Xorg version, you may easily copy it over to your current Arch system.
  • If Xorg -configure is not generating a usable xorg.conf, you may alternatively use the /usr/bin/hwd tool. Install with:
# pacman -S hwd

And run with

# hwd -xa

Template:Box Note

  • You may also try the /usr/bin/xorgcfg script:
# xorgcfg 
  • Lastly, you may choose /usr/bin/xorgconfig, which will interactively prompt you for hardware information to create a basic xorg.conf:
# xorgconfig

Continue with Simple baseline X test

Set the keyboard layout

When input hotplugging is disabled

Add option lines in the "InputDevice" section of the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file specifying the keyboard layout and variant:

Option "XkbLayout" "be"
Option "XkbVariant" ""
When input hotplugging is enabled
# cp /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/10osvendor/10-keymap.fdi /etc/hal/fdi/policy/
# nano /etc/hal/fdi/policy/10-keymap.fdi

Edit the "input.xkb.layout" key and possibly the "input.xkb.variant" key in this file. Restart hal:

# /etc/rc.d/hal restart

For more info see the article on Xorg input hotplugging.

Using a proprietary video 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 good quality, and offer 3D performance, whereas the open source nv driver offers only 2d support at this time.

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

Template:Box Note Template:Box Note

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

2. nvidia-173xx Geforce FX series cards

3. nvidia newest GPUs after the GF FX

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.

Select and install the appropriate NVIDIA driver for your card, e.g.:

# pacman -S nvidia-96xx

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

# nvidia-xconfig

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"
# I can't see those 2 following options in recent nvidia driver README.
# what are there for ? What do they do ? Do they still work ? Are they usefull ?
       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 using /sbin/depmod:

# depmod -a

(A reboot may be necessary.) 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.

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. Template:Box Note 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, to ensure your ability to successfully start X from the command line before installing a complete desktop environment, you can do so by configuring ~/.xinitrc to invoke 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. More advanced users who are comfortable with X configuration may choose to skip this optional step.

Configure ~/.xinitrc

One of the main functions of this file is to dictate what X Window client is invoked with the /usr/bin/startx and/or /usr/bin/xinit program on a per-user basis. (The startx script is merely a front end to the more versatile xinit command.) There are vast amounts of additional configurable specifications and commands that may also be added to ~/.xinitrc as you further customize your system. Template:Box Note

startx/xinit will start the X server and clients. To determine the client to run, startx/xinit will first look to parse a .xinitrc file in the user's home directory. In the absence of file ~/.xinitrc, it defaults to the global xinitrc in the xinit library directory; /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc, which defaults to using the TWM window manager. (Hence, if you invoke startx without a ~/.xinitrc file, a TWM session will start.) Further details in the .xinitrc wiki entry.

Switch to your normal, non-root user:

# su - yourusername
  • /etc/skel/ contains files and directories to provide sane defaults for newly created user accounts. The name skel is derived from the word skeleton, because the files it contains form the basic structure for users' home directories.
  • If you installed from a fresh (Core) install, it does not include the X window manager, so .xinitrc does not exist in /etc/skel. Instead, use the sample provided here.

Copy the sample xinitrc file from /etc/skel/ to your home directory:

$ cp /etc/skel/.xinitrc ~/

Edit the file:

$ 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

Template:Box Note Below, we shall edit this file again to specify the appropriate desktop environment/window manager of your choice.

Perform the test

Test your configurations by starting X as normal, non-root user, with:

$ startx


$ xinit

You should have an xterm session open up. You can test your keyboard and its layout in it.

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.

If you prove a properly configured /etc/X11/xorg.conf by successfully running the test, you can be assured that your DE/WM of choice will work smoothly.

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

Part III: Installing and configuring a Desktop Environment

While The X Window System provides the basic framework for building a graphical user interface (GUI), a Desktop Environment (DE), works atop and in conjunction with X, to provide a completely functional and dynamic GUI. A DE typically provides a window manager, icons, applets, windows, toolbars, folders, wallpapers, a suite of applications and abilities like drag and drop. The particular functionalities and designs of each DE will uniquely affect your overall environment and experience. Therefore, choosing a DE is a very subjective and personal decision. 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
  • Xfce is generally perceived as similar to GNOME, but lighter and less demanding on system resources, yet still visually pleasing and providing a very complete environment.
  • LXDE is a minimal DE based on the Openbox window manager. It provides most things you need for a modern desktop while keeping relatively low system resource usage. LXDE is a good choice for those who want a quick way of setting up a pre-configured Openbox system.

If you desire a lighter, less demanding GUI to configure manually, you may choose to simply install a Window Manager, or WM. A WM controls the placement and appearance of application windows in conjunction with the X Window System but does NOT include such features as panels, applets, icons, applications, etc., by default.

  • Lightweight floating WM's include: Openbox, Fluxbox, fvwm2, Windowmaker, Pekwm, and TWM.
  • If you need something completely different, try Awesome, ion, wmii, dwm, or xmonad.

Install Fonts

At this point, you may wish to save time by installing visually pleasing, true type fonts, before installing a desktop environment/window manager. Dejavu and bitstream-vera are good, general-purpose font sets. You may also want to have the Microsoft font sets, which are especially popular on websites.

Install with:

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

~/.xinitrc (again)

As non-root user, edit your /home/username/.xinitrc to specify the DE you wish to use. This will allow you to use startx/xinit from the shell, in the future, to open your DE/WM of choice:

$ nano ~/.xinitrc

Uncomment or add the 'exec ..' line of the appropriate desktop environment/window manager. Some examples are below:

For the Xfce4 desktop environment:

 exec startxfce4 

For the KDE desktop environment:

 exec startkde

A startkde or startxfce4 command starts the KDE or Xfce4 desktop environment. This command does not finish until you logout of the DE. Normally the shell would wait for KDE to finish, then run the next command. The "exec" prefix to this command tells the shell that this is the last command, so the shell does not need to wait to run a subsequent command.

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

Continue below, installing the DE/WM of your choice.



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 base GNOME environment with:

# pacman -S gnome

Additionally, you can install the extras:

# pacman -S gnome-extra

It's safe to choose all packages shown in the extra package.


Recall from above that a daemon is a program that runs in the background, waiting for events to occur and offering services. Some users prefer to use the hal daemon. 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 can 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.

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 at boot:

# 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, leave out gdm.)

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

As root:

# pacman -S gdm

As normal user, start X:

$ startx


$ xinit

If ~/.xinitrc is not configured for GNOME, you may always start it with xinit, followed by the path to GNOME:

$ xinit /usr/bin/gnome-session

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

Congratulations! Welcome to your GNOME 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.

Eye Candy

By default, GNOME does not come with many themes and icons. You may wish to install some more attractive artwork for GNOME:

A nice gtk (gui widget) theme engine (includes themes) is the murrine engine. Install with:

# pacman -S gtk-engine-murrine

Once it has been installed, select it with System -> Preferences -> Appearance -> Theme tab.

The Arch Linux repositories also have a few more nice themes and engines. Install the following to see for yourself:

# pacman -S gtk-engines gtk2-themes-collection gtk-aurora-engine gtk-candido-engine gtk-rezlooks-engine

You can find many more themes, icons, and wallpapers 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.


Choose one of the following, then continue below with Useful KDE DAEMONS:

1. The package kde is the official and complete vanilla KDE 4.1 residing under the Arch [extra] repo.

Install this before:

# pacman -S zlib shared-mime-info

Install with pacman:

# pacman -S kde

2. Alternatively, there exists a project called KDEmod (recently referred to collectively as the Chakra project). It is an Arch Linux exclusive, community-driven system, designed for modularity and offers a choice between KDE 3.5.10 or 4.x.x. KDEmod can be installed with pacman, after adding the proper repository to /etc/pacman.conf. The project website, including complete installation instructions, can be found at


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. Some users prefer to use the hal daemon. 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. 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

Template:Box Note Edit your DAEMONS array in /etc/rc.conf:

# nano /etc/rc.conf

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

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

Template:Box Note

  • 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, leave out kdm, or comment it out with a bang, ( ! ).

Now try starting your X Server as normal user:

$ startx


$ xinit

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

The cholesterol-free X environment. Xfce, like GNOME or KDE, is a desktop environment, but aims to be fast and lightweight while remaining visually appealing and easy to use. It contains a suite of apps like a root window app, window manager, file manager, panel, etc. Xfce is written using the GTK2 toolkit (like GNOME) 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 fast. Xfce is great for older hardware, and will perform excellently on newer machines as well.


Install Xfce:

# pacman -S xfce4 

You may also wish to install themes and extras:

# pacman -S xfce4-goodies gtk2-themes-collection

Note: xfce4-xfapplet-plugin (a plugin that allows the use of GNOME applets in the Xfce4 panel) is part of the xfce4-goodies group and depends on gnome-panel, which in turn depends on gnome-desktop. You may wish to take this into consideration before installing, since it represents a significant number of extra dependencies.

If you wish to admire 'Tips and Tricks' on login, install the fortune-mod package:

# pacman -S fortune-mod


Recall from above that a daemon is a program that runs in the background, waiting for events to occur and offering services. Some Xfce users prefer to use the hal daemon. 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. The hal and fam packages are installed when you install Xfce, but must be invoked to become useful.

Start hal and fam:

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

Template:Box Note Edit your DAEMONS array in /etc/rc.conf:

# nano /etc/rc.conf

Add hal and fam to your DAEMONS array, to invoke them at boot.

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

If you wish to install one, see Adding a login manager (KDM, GDM, or XDM) to automatically boot on startup. Otherwise you can login in via the console and run:

 $ startxfce4

Congratulations! Welcome to your Xfce desktop environment on your new Arch Linux system! You may also be interested in the Post Installation Tips wiki article.


About LXDE

LXDE, (for Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment), is a new project focused on providing a modern desktop environment which aims to be lightweight, fast, intuitive and functional while keeping system resource usage low. LXDE is quite different from other desktop environments, since each component of LXDE is a discrete and independent application, and each can be easily substituted by other programs. This modular design eliminates all unnecessary dependencies and provides more flexibility. Details and screenshots available at:

LXDE provides:

  1. The OpenBox windowmanager
  2. PCManFM File manager
  3. LXpanel system panel
  4. LXSession session manager
  5. LXAppearance GTK+ theme switcher
  6. GPicView image viewer
  7. Leafpad simple text editor
  8. XArchiver: Lightweight, fast, and desktop-independent gtk+-based file archiver
  9. LXNM (still under development): Lightweight network manager for LXDE supporting wireless connections

These lightweight and versatile tools combine for quick setup, modularity and simplicity.

Install LXDE with:

# pacman -S lxde


exec startlxde

to your ~/.xinitrc and start with startx or xinit

Further information available at the LXDE wiki 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

Additional configuration tools are also available, if desired:

# pacman -S obconf obmenu

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

# su - yourusername
$ mkdir -p ~/.config/openbox/
$ cp /etc/xdg/openbox/rc.xml ~/.config/openbox/
$ cp /etc/xdg/openbox/menu.xml ~/.config/openbox/

rc.xml is the main configuration file for OpenBox. It may be manually edited, (or you can use OBconf). menu.xml configures the right-click menu.

You may log into OpenBox via graphical login using KDM/GDM, or from the shell using startx, in which case you will need to edit your ~/.xinitrc (as non-root user) and add the following:

exec openbox-session

You may also start OpenBox from the shell using xinit:

$ xinit /usr/bin/openbox-session
  • Openbox may also be used as the window manager for GNOME, KDE, and Xfce.

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

Some useful, lightweight 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 (also provides simple icons)
  • PcmanFM a lightweight but versatile file manager (also provides desktop icon functionality)
  • iDesk (available in AUR) for providing 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.

Browser, Codecs, Video Player & Useful Applications

Web Browser

The ever-popular Firefox web browser is available through pacman, although it does not have its official branding. Therefore, the program appears as its development codename, Gran Paradiso, when opened.

Install with:

pacman -S firefox


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

pacman -S flashplugin mplayer codecs

For newbies: if you install the x86_64 version of Arch Linux don`t use the option flashplugin in pacman, like above, or you will get an error. Adobe now offers a 64 bit version of flash plugin. Please see Install_Flash_on_Arch64

  • Note I was only able to get plugins working by soft linking everything in '/usr/lib/mozilla/plugins' to '~/.mozilla/plugins', specifically running 'mkdir ~/.mozilla/plugins && ln -s /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/* ~/.mozilla/plugins'

(The codecs package contains most codecs, including those for Win32, Quicktime and Realplayer9 content.)

Gecko Media Player

A good replacement of the now aging mplayer-plugin, is Gecko Media Player. More stable combined with MPlayer 1.0RC2. (No more crashes with Apple Trailers.)

pacman -S gecko-mediaplayer

(Note! Be sure to remove mplayer-plugin if it is already installed.)


VLC Player is a versatile multimedia player which can handle many different formats, from a disc or file. It also provides the ability to stream multimedia over a lan. Install with:

pacman -S vlc

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

pacman -S libdvdcss

Useful Applications

For more apps, see Useful Applications.


See Beginners Guide Appendix