Hidden Wonders


The Simple Steps to Easy Arch Linux



Table of Contents


People are convinced Arch Linux is incredibly unstable and hard to use. This is objectively false, but there are a few things you need to do to avoid breaking your system, and the installation is relatively difficult to a newbie computer user.

Installation Tips[#]

NOTE: This is not a complete guide, but it’s a very helpful set of notes if you also read the wiki at the same time.

  1. If dual booting with Windows, purchase a physically separate drive to put Linux on. It’s not strictly required, but it makes things significantly easier in my experience. Also have an Ethernet connection, with any needed dongles if you’re on a laptop skinny enough to not have the right port: again, not required (you can setup wifi on the install medium), but easier to just used wired Internet.

  2. If unsure of how to do anything involving computers ever (especially when following this guide), go to https://wiki.archlinux.org/. I am not responsible if you do stupid stuff to your computer, read the wiki until you know what you’re doing or else it’s your fault. That said, this guide makes things easy so there’s not much room for error except in the next step.

    I repeat: actually read it if you have a question, don’t just skim.

  3. UPDATE: Do NOT use the archinstall script no matter how tempted you might be. Just install the system by following the instructions and patiently reading the wiki.

    What changed? Well, after using the installer when recently installing Arch on a new desktop, I realized a few things: it’s a buggy mess, for some reason it writes carriage returns into your fstab (which you’re not supposed to do), and if you opt to encrypt only the /home partition it stores a key file on the unencrypted root partition to unlock the disk, defeating the entire point of the encryption in the first place.

    Side story: (I installed Arch with too small a root partition and an encrypted home, so I copied my home into a tar, booted a live environment, deleted the home and expanded the root partition (70GB to be safe this time), and then, when I had everything done properly, I went and updated my system in the chroot, and the kernel updated and broke because I didn’t mount all of my drives properly——root was fine, but I didn’t mount my boot partition! I then had to roll back the package and make sense of very weird error messages. All good though, I learned a lot and now completely understand how to setup encrypted drives on Linux manually).

    Luckily, I have installed Arch manually more than a few times, so I was capable of troubleshooting the issue (see previous paragraph). This is the real reason you should install Arch the “hard” way whether you want to or not: it will save you time in the long run and make you better understand how your system works. If you aren’t comfortable attaining this level of knowledge about your system, an Arch based distro may not be for you, and I’d instead recommend Linux Mint.

  4. Pick a desktop environment. Window managers are fun, but they are not worth the trouble right away. Save fiddling with them for another time after you’re settled in a desktop environment of your choice. KDE or GNOME are the most fully featured so pick them if you want an easy life. I’d recommend trying some others like XFCE once you’re settled, but there’s no issue with liking the easier options. KDE is nice for your main machine, while GNOME is nice for a machine you don’t want to worry about configuring at all (because there’s nothing you could configure even if you wanted to).

  5. You’ve installed Arch Linux! If you can boot into your system, congratulations; if you can’t, you should have read the wiki more. Enjoy your continued Microsoft serfdom, or try again!

Maintenance Tips[#]

  1. You update Arch Linux using the pacman command. pacman -S installs a package. pacman -Sy refreshes the list of available packages to the most recent ones. pacman -Syu updates your system. Pay extra attention when updating certain packages (such as new kernels or new Nvidia drivers), as these may be more likely to break your system.

  2. My secret tip: always check https://archlinux.org/ for the latest news before updating. If something breaks, it will be posted here with advice on what to do to avoid the issue. It’s not like this is actually a secret though, it’s actually what the wiki officially recommends. You can follow an RSS feed at https://archlinux.org/feeds/news/ to easily keep tabs on new updates to the page.

    If the advice given to fix an issue is unclear, first read the wiki. If you can’t find what you need to know (you’re just not looking hard enough, it’s there) check https://bbs.archlinux.org/ to find other newbies like you who are confused and become not-confused. Eventually, you become a not-confused user: this is often referred to as “The Arch Way,” you can read more here.

  3. Don’t install python packages with sudo. This will mess things up a lot. I still find myself needing to manually delete python files when I try to update sometimes, whoops.

  4. Want to install new software? First check at https://archlinux.org/packages/, then check at https://aur.archlinux.org/. For installing and updating stuff from the AUR, it’s easiest to follow the instructions here, but it is possible to use the AUR without an AUR helper (and is actually what Arch Linux recommends).

  5. Getting weird errors when trying to update? Search the error on your search engine of choice, or read the wiki. Oftentimes, you need to do pacman -Sy archlinux-keyring to fix problems with verifying some packages because Arch Linux is a little stupid sometimes and refuses to update that package first.

  6. Downloads too slow? Rank mirrors by speed, and enable parallel downloads.

  7. Getting other sorts of weird errors? If you’ve just updated, it may in some cases be wise to reboot (if those errors seem to indicate a kernel problem and you just updated, for instance). However, with certain other errors it might be wiser to leave the system open so you have a chance to fix it if you messed something up——this said, if worst comes to worst you can always just boot from USB, use arch-chroot, and fix the problem right up. You should be an Arch pro by now with how much you’ve read the wiki.

Closing Thoughts[#]

Nothing really to say, Arch Linux is easy. Read the wiki, learn, become a non-stupid person, and enjoy a good Linux distribution.

Seriously though, read the wiki.

Become enlightened.

One final thought though: there are some people out there who think that me telling someone to read the wiki when they ask a question is toxic. To this I say: if you’re unable to make sense of the wiki and are unwilling to figure things out on your own enough to understand the wiki, then Arch Linux is not for you, and no amount of help will fix that.

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