Install Arch Linux on ZFS

From ArchWiki

This article details the steps required to install Arch Linux onto a ZFS root filesystem.

Note: Blindly copying and pasting this wiki will not work. It is necessary to take the time to understand the boot process, and what is done when creating the pool and datasets. Here are some useful links:

Since ZFS kernel modules are out-of-tree (i.e. not included in the mainline kernel) and Arch Linux is a rolling release distribution, there will often be brief periods when the kernel-specific packages in the external repository are not in sync with those in the Arch repositories. This can sometimes result in the ZFS modules (DKMS packages) failing to compile with the latest kernel. If you always want to use the most recent kernel packages, installing Arch on ZFS might not be ideal.

See ZFS#Installation for possible solutions.


To install Arch Linux on ZFS, you need to use an installation medium with the ZFS modules. You can either add the modules to the official ISO or create a custom image.

Get ZFS module on archiso system

A script to easily install and load the ZFS module on running archiso system. It should work on any archiso version.

See eoli3n/archiso-zfs.

Embedding ZFS module into custom archiso

To build a custom archiso, see ZFS#Create an Archiso image with ZFS support.

Partition the destination drive

ZFS supports GPT and MBR partition tables. See Partitioning#Choosing between GPT and MBR for information on determining the partition table type to use.

ZFS manages its own partitions, so only a basic partition table scheme is required. The partition that will contain the ZFS filesystem should be of the type bf00, or "Solaris Root".

Partition scheme

Here is an example of a basic partition scheme that could be employed for your ZFS root install on a BIOS/MBR installation using GRUB:

Part     Size   Type
----     ----   -------------------------
   1     XXXG   Solaris Root (bf00)

Using GRUB on a BIOS (or UEFI machine in legacy boot mode) machine but using a GPT partition table:

Part     Size   Type
----     ----   -------------------------
   1       2M   BIOS boot partition (ef02)
   2     XXXG   Solaris Root (bf00)

Using Syslinux with zfsbootmenuAUR on a BIOS boot mode and GPT or MBR partition table:

Part     Size   Type
----     ----   -------------------------
   1     512M   XBOOTLDR partition (ea00)
   2     XXXG   Solaris Root (bf00)

Another example, this time using a UEFI-specific boot loader (such as rEFInd) with an GPT partition table:

Part     Size   Type
----     ----   -------------------------
   1       1G   EFI system partition (ef00)
   2     XXXG   Solaris Root (bf00)

ZFS does not support swap files. If you require a swap partition, see ZFS#Swap volume for creating a swap ZVOL.

Tip: Boot loaders with support for ZFS are described in #Install and configure the boot loader.
Warning: Several GRUB bugs (bug #42861, zfsonlinux/grub/issues/5) complicate installing it on ZFS partitions, see #Install and configure the boot loader for workarounds.

Example parted commands

This article or section is being considered for removal.

Reason: Out of scope. (Discuss in Talk:Install Arch Linux on ZFS)

Here are some example commands to partition a drive for the second scenario above ie using BIOS/legacy boot mode with a GPT partition table and a (slightly more than) 1MB BIOS boot partition for GRUB:

# parted /dev/sdx
(parted)mklabel gpt
(parted)mkpart non-fs 0% 2
(parted)mkpart primary 2 100%
(parted)set 1 bios_grub on
(parted)set 2 boot on

You can achieve the above in a single command like so:

# parted --script /dev/sdx mklabel gpt mkpart non-fs 0% 2 mkpart primary 2 100% set 1 bios_grub on set 2 boot on

If you are creating an EFI system partition then that should have the boot flag set instead of the root partition.

Format the destination disk

If you have opted for a boot partition as well as any other non-ZFS system partitions then format them. Do not do anything to the Solaris partition nor to the BIOS boot partition. ZFS will manage the first, and your boot loader the second.

Setup the ZFS filesystem

Warning: Do not use '-' in the names of your datasets. (see this "feature")

First, make sure the ZFS modules are loaded,

# modprobe zfs

Create the root zpool

Create your pool and set all default dataset options. All dataset created on the zpool will inherit of each -O set at the zpool creation. Default options are detailed in Debian Buster Root on ZFS. Step 2: Disk Formatting.

Note: Use -o ashift=9 for disks with a 512 byte physical sector size or -o ashift=12 for disks with a 4096 byte physical sector size. See lsblk -S -o NAME,PHY-SEC to get the physical sector size of each SCSI/SATA disk. Remove -S if you want the same value from all devices. For NVMe drives, use nvme id-ns /dev/nvmeXnY -H | grep "LBA Format" to get which LBA format is in use. Most NVMe drives ship with 512-byte sectors, see OpenZFS: NVMe low level formatting to switch to 4096-byte sectors.
Warning: Keep in mind that most modern devices use a 4096 byte physical sector size, even though some report 512. This is especially true for SSDs. Selecting ashift=9 on a 4096 byte sector size (even if it reports 512) will incur a performance penalty. Selecting ashift=12 on a 512 byte sector size may incur in a capacity penalty, but no performance penalty. If in doubt, for a modern drive, err on the side of ashift=12, or research your particular device for the appropriate value. Refer to OpenZFS issue #967 for a related discussion, and OpenZFS issue #2497 for a consequence of a higher ashift value.
# zpool create -f -o ashift=12         \
             -O acltype=posixacl       \
             -O relatime=on            \
             -O xattr=sa               \
             -O dnodesize=legacy       \
             -O normalization=formD    \
             -O mountpoint=none        \
             -O canmount=off           \
             -O devices=off            \
             -R /mnt                   \
             zroot /dev/disk/by-id/id-to-partition-partx

Compression and native encryption

This will enable compression and native encryption by default on all datasets:

# zpool create -f -o ashift=12         \
             -O acltype=posixacl       \
             -O relatime=on            \
             -O xattr=sa               \
             -O dnodesize=legacy       \
             -O normalization=formD    \
             -O mountpoint=none        \
             -O canmount=off           \
             -O devices=off            \
             -R /mnt                   \
             -O compression=lz4        \
             -O encryption=aes-256-gcm \
             -O keyformat=passphrase   \
             -O keylocation=prompt     \
             zroot /dev/disk/by-id/id-to-partition-partx
  • Always use id names when working with ZFS, otherwise import errors will occur.
  • Instead of by-id, consider using by-partuuid or by-uuid, as these will stay consistent even if an internal drive is moved into a USB enclosure or vice-versa (this is only possible if ZFS is used with a partition, not with a whole disk)
  • GRUB users should keep in mind that the zpool-create command normally enables all features, some of which may not be supported by GRUB. See: ZFS#GRUB-compatible pool creation.

Create your datasets

Instead of using conventional disk partitions, ZFS has the concept of datasets to manage your storage. Unlike disk partitions, datasets have no fixed size and allow for different attributes, such as compression, to be applied per dataset. Normal ZFS datasets are mounted automatically by ZFS whilst legacy datasets are required to be mounted using fstab or with the traditional mount command.

One of the most useful features of ZFS is boot environments. Boot environments allow you to create a bootable snapshot of your system that you can revert to at any time instantly by simply rebooting and booting from that boot environment. This can make doing system updates much safer and is also incredibly useful for developing and testing software. In order to be able to use a boot environment manager such as beadm, zectlAUR (systemd-boot), or zedenvAUR (GRUB) to manage boot environments, your datasets must be configured properly. Key to this are that you split your data directories (such as /home) into datasets that are distinct from your system datasets and that you do not place data in the root of the pool as this cannot be moved afterwards.

You should always create a dataset for at least your root filesystem and in nearly all cases you will also want /home to be in a separate dataset. You may decide you want your logs to persist over boot environments. If you are a running any software that stores data outside of /home (such as is the case for database servers) you should structure your datasets so that the data directories of the software you want to run are separated out from the root dataset.

With these example commands, we will create a basic boot environment compatible configuration comprising of just root and /home datasets. It inherits default options from zpool creation.

# zfs create -o mountpoint=none zroot/data
# zfs create -o mountpoint=none zroot/ROOT
# zfs create -o mountpoint=/ -o canmount=noauto zroot/ROOT/default
# zfs create -o mountpoint=/home zroot/data/home

You can also create your ROOT dataset without having to specify mountpoint to / since GRUB will mount it to / anyway. That gives you possibility to boot into some old versions of root just by cloning it and putting as menuentry of GRUB. In such, you can create ROOT with the following command:

# zfs create -o mountpoint=/roots/default zroot/ROOT/default

You can store /root in your zroot/data/home dataset.

# zfs create -o mountpoint=/root zroot/data/home/root

You will need to enable some options for datasets which hold specific directories:

Options required by specific directories
Directory Dataset option Details
/ canmount=noauto
/var/log/journal acltype=posixacl systemd#systemd-tmpfiles-setup.service fails to start at boot

System datasets

To create datasets for system directories, use canmount=off.

For some examples, please read Debian-Buster-Root-on-ZFS#step-3-system-installation.

Note: Consider using zfs-mount-generator instead of zfs-mount.service if you mount a dataset, e.g. zroot/var/log, to /var/log. It fixes the filesystem mount ordering as described in Step 5.7 of Debian Buster Root on ZFS.
# zfs create -o mountpoint=/var -o canmount=off     zroot/var
# zfs create                                        zroot/var/log
# zfs create -o mountpoint=/var/lib -o canmount=off zroot/var/lib
# zfs create                                        zroot/var/lib/libvirt
# zfs create                                        zroot/var/lib/docker

Export/Import your pools

To validate your configurations, export then reimport all your zpools.

Warning: Do not skip this, otherwise you will be required to use -f when importing your pools. This unloads the imported pool.
Note: This might fail if you added a swap partition. You need to turn it off with the swapoff command.
# zpool export zroot
# zpool import -d /dev/disk/by-id -R /mnt zroot -N
Note: -d is not the actual device ID, but the /dev/by-id directory containing the symbolic links.

If this command fails and you are asked to import your pool via its numeric ID, run zpool import to find out the ID of your pool then use a command such as:

# zpool import 9876543212345678910 -R /mnt zroot

If you used native encryption, load zfs key.

# zfs load-key zroot

Manually mount your rootfs dataset because it uses canmount=noauto, then mount all others datasets.

# zfs mount zroot/ROOT/default
# zfs mount -a

The ZFS filesystem is now ready to use.

Configure the root filesystem

If you used legacy datasets, it must be listed in /etc/fstab.

Set the bootfs property on the descendant root filesystem so the boot loader knows where to find the operating system.

# zpool set bootfs=zroot/ROOT/default zroot

If you do not have /etc/zfs/zpool.cache, create it:

# zpool set cachefile=/etc/zfs/zpool.cache zroot

Be sure to bring the zpool.cache file into your new system. This is required later for the ZFS daemon to start.

# mkdir -p /mnt/etc/zfs
# cp /etc/zfs/zpool.cache /mnt/etc/zfs/zpool.cache

Install and configure Arch Linux

Follow the following steps using the Installation guide. It will be noted where special consideration must be taken for ZFSonLinux.

  • First mount any legacy or non-ZFS boot or system partitions using the mount command.
  • Install the base system.
  • The procedure described in Installation guide#Fstab is usually overkill for ZFS. ZFS usually auto mounts its own partitions, so we do not need ZFS partitions in fstab file, unless the user made legacy datasets of system directories. To generate the fstab for filesystems, use:
# genfstab -U -p /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab
# arch-chroot /mnt
  • Edit the /etc/fstab:
  • If you chose to create legacy datasets for system directories, keep them in this fstab!
  • Comment out all non-legacy datasets apart from the swap file and the EFI system partition. It is a convention to replace the swap's uuid with /dev/zvol/zroot/swap.
  • When creating the initial ramdisk, first edit /etc/mkinitcpio.conf. Add zfs to MODULES:

Then in HOOKS, add zfs before filesystems. Also, move keyboard hook before zfs so you can type in console if something goes wrong. You may also remove fsck (if you are not using Ext3 or Ext4). Your HOOKS line should look something like the following:

HOOKS=(base udev autodetect microcode modconf kms keyboard keymap consolefont block zfs filesystems)
  • When using systemd in the initrd, you need to install mkinitcpio-sd-zfsAUR and add the sd-zfs hook after the systemd hook instead of the zfs hook. Keep in mind that this hook uses different kernel parameters than the default zfs hook, more information can be found at the project page.
  • sd-zfs does not support native encryption yet dasJ/sd-zfs/issues/4.
  • If you are using a separate dataset for /usr and have followed the instructions below, you must make sure you have the usr hook enabled after zfs, or your system will not boot.
  • When you generate the initramfs, the zpool.cache is copied into the initrd. If you did not generate it before, or needed to regenerate it, remember to regenerate the initramfs again.
  • You can also use legacy mountpoint to let fstab mount it

Install and configure the boot loader

In principle, the boot loader configuration does not differ that much if the kernel and initrd resides on a non-zfs partition. Once the kernel has the zfs module and initrd has been built with the hook, and the kernel cmdline has the zfs kernel parameter, the system can boot. For example, zfs=zroot/ROOT/default rw or even just zfs=zroot rw (in case bootfs parameter has been set up correctly as per this page) should work for most cases. You do not need a root parameter as zfs will mount the root. See your boot loader documentation on how to set kernel parameters.

However if you need to load the kernel image and/or initrd from the zfs, you need to use a boot loader which can read zfs and configure your boot loader properly.

Considering the above, configuring your boot loader should be quite straightforward. Here are some examples, but this list is by no means conclusive.


For EFISTUB, you can manually add an entry to your UEFI boot menu:

# efibootmgr --create --disk your_esp_disk --part your_esp_partition_number --label "Arch Linux (ZFS)" --loader /vmlinuz-linux --unicode 'zfs=zroot/ROOT/default rw initrd=\initramfs-linux.img'

Using an unified kernel image

Using an Unified kernel image (UKI) is quite straightforward. Just make sure you have the zfs parameter somewhere in /etc/cmdline.d. Configure the mkinitcpio modules and hook as per this document and otherwise as you would do a regular UKI. For example:

zfs=zroot/ROOT/default rw

Possibly zfs=zroot is enough (untested), as zfs should mount root automatically. Just remember to re-run mkinitcpio whenever you have made changes.

Using GRUB

If you use GRUB, you can store your /boot on a zpool. Please read Debian-Buster-Root-on-ZFS#step-3-system-installation.

Install GRUB onto your disk as instructed here: GRUB#BIOS systems or GRUB#UEFI systems. The GRUB manual provides detailed information on manually configuring the software which you can supplement with GRUB and GRUB/Tips and tricks.

bug: broken root pool detection

Because of a known bug, grub-mkconfig will fail to detect the root pool and omit in /boot/grub/grub.cfg. Until this is fixed, there are two possible workarounds:

  • Workaround A: Modify code for rpool detection in /etc/grub.d/10_linux. Replace
rpool=`${grub_probe} --device ${GRUB_DEVICE} --target=fs_label 2>/dev/null || true`
rpool=`zdb -l ${GRUB_DEVICE} | grep " name:" | cut -d\' -f2`
This usually can detect the correct root pool name and write working path to /boot/grub/grub.cfg any time grub-mkconfig is used.
  • Workaround B: If the above solution cannot detect the correct path, you can hardcode it in /etc/grub.d/10_linux. Replace
linux   ${rel_dirname}/${basename} root=${linux_root_device_thisversion} rw ${args}
linux   ${rel_dirname}/${basename} root=ZFS=zroot/ROOT/default rw ${args}

error: failed to get canonical path of

grub-mkconfig fails to properly generate entries for systems hosted on ZFS.

# grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg
/usr/bin/grub-probe: error: failed to get canonical path of `/dev/bus-Your_Disk_ID-part#'
grub-install: error: failed to get canonical path of `/dev/bus-Your_Disk_ID-part#'

To work around this you must set this environment variable: ZPOOL_VDEV_NAME_PATH=1. For example:

# ZPOOL_VDEV_NAME_PATH=1 grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

error: unknown filesystem

GRUB tools like grub-probe or grub-install may fail with the error unknown filesystem when filesystem detection fails. This may happen due to the filesystem not being supported by GRUB, or in the case of ZFS, unsupported features may be present (refer to ZFS#GRUB-compatible pool creation for appropriate features to include in a boot zpool.)

In order to troubleshoot the error, understand which filesystem it is failing to identify (e.g. run grub-probe on the suspects, like grub-probe / or grub-probe /boot). An example interaction follows:

# grub-probe /boot

# grub-probe /
grub-probe: error: unknown filesystem.

After identifying the problem filesystem, run grub-probe -vvvv / and scan the output for the filesystem it was expected to identify. In this case, ZFS was expected, but the following output was generated:

grub-probe -vvvv /
grub-core/kern/fs.c:56: Detecting zfs...
grub-core/osdep/hostdisk.c:420: opening the device `/dev/sda4' in open_device()
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1199: label ok 0
grub-core/osdep/hostdisk.c:399: reusing open device `/dev/sda4'
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1014: check 2 passed
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1025: check 3 passed
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1032: check 4 passed
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1042: check 6 passed
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1050: check 7 passed
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1061: check 8 passed
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1071: check 9 passed
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1093: check 11 passed
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1119: check 10 passed
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1135: str=com.delphix:hole_birth
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1135: str=com.delphix:embedded_data
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1144: check 12 passed (feature flags)
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1884: zio_read: E 0: size 4096/4096
grub-core/osdep/hostdisk.c:399: reusing open device `/dev/sda4'
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name = com.delphix:extensible_dataset, value = 18, cd = 0
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name = com.datto:bookmark_v2, value = 0, cd = 0
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name = com.datto:encryption, value = c, cd = 0 # <------------------
grub-core/kern/fs.c:78: zfs detection failed.  # <----------------------------------------------------
grub-core/kern/fs.c:56: Detecting xfs...
grub-core/fs/xfs.c:931: Reading sb
grub-core/fs/xfs.c:270: Validating superblock
grub-core/kern/fs.c:78: xfs detection failed.
grub-core/kern/fs.c:56: Detecting ufs2...
grub-core/kern/fs.c:56: Detecting affs...
grub-core/kern/fs.c:78: affs detection failed.
grub-probe: error: unknown filesystem.

This shows that ZFS detection went well until the com.datto:encryption feature was detected. Since ZFS Native Encryption is not supported by GRUB (as of August 2021), detection of ZFS failed. A second, GRUB-compatible zpool may be appropriate to boot into an encrypted system - as of August 2021, this is the recommended approach (refer to the relevant OpenZFS project page).

A successful execution of grub-probe on a GRUB-compatible zpool looks like this:

grub-probe -vvvv /boot
grub-core/osdep/hostdisk.c:399: reusing open device `/dev/sda3'
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name = com.delphix:extensible_dataset, value = 0, cd = 0
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name = com.delphix:embedded_data, value = 1, cd = 0
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name = com.delphix:hole_birth, value = 1, cd = 0
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name =, value = 0, cd = 0
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name = org.illumos:lz4_compress, value = 1, cd = 0
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name = , value = 0, cd = 0
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2117: zap: name = , value = 0, cd = 0
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:3285: alive
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:1906: endian = 1
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:597: dva=8, 20008
grub-core/fs/zfs/zfs.c:2697: alive

Booting your kernel and initrd from ZFS

You may skip this section if you have your kernel and initrd on a separate /boot partition using something like ext4 or vfat.

Otherwise grub needs to load your kernel and initrd are from a ZFS dataset the kernel and initrd paths have to be in the following format:


Example with Arch installed on the root dataset:

set timeout=5
set default=0

menuentry "Arch Linux" {
    search -u UUID
    linux /@/boot/vmlinuz-linux zfs=zroot rw
    initrd /@/boot/initramfs-linux.img

Example with Arch installed on a nested dataset:

set timeout=5
set default=0

menuentry "Arch Linux" {
    search -u UUID
    linux /ROOT/default/@/boot/vmlinuz-linux zfs=zroot/ROOT/default rw
    initrd /ROOT/default/@/boot/initramfs-linux.img

Booting your kernel and initrd from separate boot partition

Example with a separate non-ZFS /boot partition and Arch installed on a nested dataset:

set timeout=5
set default=0

menuentry "Arch Linux" {
    search -u UUID
    linux /vmlinuz-linux zfs=zroot/ROOT/default rw
    initrd /initramfs-linux.img

Using systemd-boot

systemd-boot only supports UEFI and cannot open ZFS zpools: you must store your /boot on a separated VFAT or ext4 partition.

Note: To be able to manage your Boot Environments with zectlAUR, follow zectl/docs/plugins/

Install systemd-boot on your EFI system partition by following systemd-boot#Installing the UEFI boot manager.

Create a boot entry:

title   Arch Linux
linux   /vmlinuz-linux
initrd  /initramfs-linux.img
options zfs=zroot/ROOT/default rw

Using rEFInd

To use an EFISTUB and rEFInd for the UEFI boot loader, the kernel parameters in refind_linux.conf for ZFS should include zfs=bootfs or zfs=zroot so the system can boot from ZFS. The root and rootfstype parameters are not needed.

Using ZFSBootMenu

Install zfsbootmenuAUR.

Note: Compiling with an AUR helper (or makepkg if building from the directory in which the PKGBUILD was cloned from the AUR) requires a patch.[1]


Install efibootmgr. When using ZFSBootMenu you need to have your /boot directory located on your root filesystem. See Boot Environments and You: A Primer and UEFI Booting for further information.

Tip: Using zfsbootmenu-efi-binAUR instead of zfsbootmenuAUR allows you to skip the configuration of ZFSBootMenu and the generation of the ZFSBootMenu image.

Mount your ESP if it is not already done, then configure ZFSBootMenu:

  ManageImages: true
  BootMountPoint: path_to_your_ESP
  DracutConfDir: /etc/zfsbootmenu/dracut.conf.d
  PreHooksDir: /etc/zfsbootmenu/generate-zbm.pre.d
  PostHooksDir: /etc/zfsbootmenu/
  InitCPIO: true
  InitCPIOConfig: /etc/zfsbootmenu/mkinitcpio.conf
  ImageDir: path_to_your_ESP/EFI/zbm
  Versions: 3
  Enabled: false
    Config: /boot/syslinux/syslinux.cfg
    Enabled: false
  ImageDir: path_to_your_ESP/EFI/zbm
  Versions: false
  Enabled: true
  CommandLine: ro quiet loglevel=0

Generate a ZFSBootMenu image:

# generate-zbm

Configure zfs boot commandline arguments:

# zfs set org.zfsbootmenu:commandline="rw" zroot/ROOT
Note: Before adding ZFSBootMenu, verify the efivarfs file system is mounted, otherwise the system will not start.

Add a ZFSBootMenu entry to EFI boot manager:

# efibootmgr --create --disk your_esp_disk --part your_esp_partition_number --label "ZFSBootMenu" --loader '\EFI\zbm\vmlinuz-linux.EFI' --unicode
Tip: When using zfsbootmenu-efi-binAUR, use '\EFI\zbm\zfsbootmenu-release-vmlinuz-x86_64.EFI' for the --loader option.


As with UEFI, if you use ZFSBootMenu the /boot folder will need to be part of the zroot pool. But instead of the efi folder you will need a syslinux folder, as it relies on Syslinux.

Mount your partition on syslinux folder.

Note: The following instructions assume you are using the partition scheme shown for Syslinux and ZFSBootMenu in #Partition scheme.

Install syslinux package and gptfdisk for GPT table support.

Copy all .c32 file on syslinux folder:

# cp /usr/lib/syslinux/bios/*.c32 /your_location/syslinux

Now install the boot loader:

# extlinux --install /your_location/syslinux

After this, proceed to install the Syslinux bootstrap code appropriate for the partition table:

Configure zfs boot commandline:

# zfs set org.zfsbootmenu:commandline="rw" zroot/ROOT

Setting up image creation of ZFSBootMenu by editing:

  ManageImages: true
  BootMountPoint: path_to_your_syslinux_folder
  PreHooksDir: /etc/zfsbootmenu/generate-zbm.pre.d
  PostHooksDir: /etc/zfsbootmenu/
  InitCPIO: true
  InitCPIOConfig: /etc/zfsbootmenu/mkinitcpio.conf
  ImageDir: path_to_your_syslinux_folder/zfsbootmenu
  Versions: false
  Enabled: true
  CommandLine: ro quiet loglevel=0

Now generate ZFSBootMenu image:

# generate-zbm
Note: If you want a backup image, then two entries on syslinux to enter ZFSBootMenu generate the images twice

Edit the file below by replacing the contents with the following:

UI menu.c32


DEFAULT zfsbootmenu

LABEL zfsbootmenu
  KERNEL /zfsbootmenu/vmlinuz-linux-bootmenu
  INITRD /zfsbootmenu/initramfs-bootmenu.img
  APPEND zfsbootmenu quiet

# The following for the backup entry
LABEL zfsbootmenu-backup
  MENU LABEL ZFSBootMenu (Backup)
  KERNEL /zfsbootmenu/vmlinuz-linux-bootmenu-backup
  INITRD /zfsbootmenu/initramfs-bootmenu-backup.img
  APPEND zfsbootmenu quiet

The factual accuracy of this article or section is disputed.

Reason: Why rebuild the initramfs? (Discuss in Talk:Install Arch Linux on ZFS)

To wrap up regenerate the initramfs.

Configure systemd ZFS mounts

For your system to be able to reboot without issues, you need to enable the to auto mount the pools and set the hostid.

Note: The instructions in this section assume you are still in arch-chroot

For each pool you want automatically mounted execute:

# zpool set cachefile=/etc/zfs/zpool.cache pool


In order to mount zfs pools automatically on boot you need to enablezfs-import-cache.service, zfs-mount.service and

When running ZFS on root, the machine's hostid will not be available at the time of mounting the root filesystem. There are two solutions to this. You can either place your spl hostid in the kernel parameters in your boot loader. For example, adding spl.spl_hostid=0x00bab10c, to get your number use the hostid command.

The other, and suggested, solution is to make sure that there is a hostid in /etc/hostid, and then regenerate the initramfs image which will copy the hostid into the initramfs image. To write the hostid file safely you need to use the zgenhostid command.

To use the libc-generated hostid (recommended):

# zgenhostid $(hostid)

To use a custom hostid (must be hexadecimal and 8 characters long):

# zgenhostid deadbeef

To let the tool generate a hostid:

# zgenhostid

Do not forget to regenerate the initramfs.

Unmount and restart

We are almost done! If you have a legacy boot partition:

# umount /mnt/boot


# zfs umount -a
# zpool export zroot

Now reboot.

Warning: If you do not properly export the zpool, the pool will refuse to import in the ramdisk environment and you will be stuck at the busybox terminal.

Loading password from USB-Stick

It is possible to store password on usb-stick and load it when booting:

Save password on first bytes of usb-stick:

# dd if=your_password_file bs=32 count=1 of=/dev/disk/by-id/usb_stick

To create partition zfs partition you can either use previous described method with password prompt or pipe with dd:

# dd if=/dev/disk/by-id/usb_stick bs=32 count=1 | zfs create -o encryption=on -o keyformat=passphrase zroot/ROOT

Next step is modyfing zfs hook. By default zfs prompts for password. You have to change it to have it piped with dd from your pendrive. In order to do so modify /usr/lib/initcpio/hooks/zfs and change line:

# ! eval zfs load-key "${encryptionroot}"; do


# ! eval dd if=/dev/disk/by-id/usb_stick bs=32 count=1 | zfs load-key "${encryptionroot}"; do

You are modifying your zfs hook so do not forget to regenerate the initramfs. Now zfs should load password from your usb-stick on boot.


System fails to boot due to: cannot import zroot: no such pool available

You can try the following steps and see if they can help.

  • Use the kernel modules from the archzfs repo instead of the dkms version. You can go back to the dkms version after a sucessfull boot.
  • Remove the /etc/zfs/zpool.cache and run:
# zpool set cachefile=none zroot

See also