While Arch Linux is great, installing it is a show stopper for many people. But now there is a simple GUI based installer for Arch. And you already know how to use it.
Arch Linux Catch-22
Arch Linux is a lean, mid-range Linux distribution. Most people consider this to be the first rolling release distribution. Instead of new releases once or twice a year, it has frequent, small updates that keep your PC up to date.
Arch comes completely free. No bloat from unwanted packages. There are no distribution-specific tweaks or management tools. It’s just plain old vanilla Linux. For some, this is an attractive proposition. You choose step-by-step how you want to set up your computer.
But this is the essence of the problem. The detail. Being able to choose in detail how you want Linux to be installed means you need to understand that level of detail. Or follow ArchWiki many carefully.
A standard Arch installation requires you to download one of their monthly ISOs. This loads at the Arch Linux command line prompt. In order to get a working version of Arch on your computer, you have to go through a number of steps on the command line. It’s easy to miss a step or make a choice that you later realize was wrong.
After all, you have a bare-bones Arch installation. You still need to install a desktop environment like KDE or GNOME, as well as all the programs you want to use. It’s not like installing Ubuntu, where you pre-select your desktop environment, and the installation process includes a wide selection of software. After installing Arch, it’s common to struggle with things like Wi-Fi settings or graphics drivers.
Installing a working version of Arch is an achievement and a milestone for those running it. There are those who believe that if you can’t install Arch “the right way”, you shouldn’t be using it. This is a balloon. Others say you should because you’ll learn a lot about Linux and how your operating system works. It’s true, you learn a lot. But the best part is that the items you take will never be used until the next time you install Arch.
Installing a distribution is the user’s first interaction with it. With Arch, the first hurdle is too high for many people, even with managed scripts like archinstall, archfi, and Anarchy.
What about Arch-Based Distributions?
There are many Arch based distributions like Manjaro, ArcoLinux, Garuda and EndeavorOS. These often provide graphical installation procedures based on the well-known Calamares installer. They set up the network and Wi-Fi and install the desktop environment of your choice.
All of this is fantastic, and to varying degrees – you end up with a very simple Arch Linux. But it’s not simple Arch Linux. Some of the differences are big and some are small. But there are differences.
For example, Manjaro purposefully holds back updates until testing. When confidence is high that updates are safe, they are released to their user base. This is the basic principle of distribution. Manjaro provides an Arch-based rolling release distribution with some added risk management. Manjaro fulfills this particular need. There’s a reason why it’s so popular.
All other Arch-based distributions are included anything to the mixture, in greater or lesser quantities. They’re all great distros, but if you’re looking for vanilla Arch Linux, these distros will only get you so close.
Arch Linux GUI
Arch Linux is not a GUI distribution. It simply provides an easy-to-use installer for Arch Linux.
Their website offers versions with GNOME, KDE Plasma, XFCE, Cinnamon and i3 window manager. Apart from the i3, these are offered in ‘pure’ or ‘themed’ variants.
Here is the pure edition: untouched Arch Linux. The themed options come with some lightweight desktop themes and a few packages you might want to install anyway, like print services or Bluetooth.
But for this exercise, we want everything to be as pure as driven snow. So we will install the GNOME Pure version.
Arch Linux GUI installation
Download the version you want to install and create a bootable USB drive. Boot your computer from the USB drive. When you see the Arch Linux logo and menu, select the first option labeled “Arch Linux Installer (x86_64, BIOS)”.
This will boot your computer from the installation media in a “Live ISO” session. No changes are made to your computer at this stage. Soon you will see a generic GNOME desktop.
The installer is bundled with other programs. Click the dotted “Show apps” icon in the dock. A list of applications appears. The installer has the Arch Linux logo as its icon and the description “Install Arch Linux”.
Click the icon to start the installation. The look and feel of the Calamares installer will be familiar to many. It is used by many Linux distributions.
If you want the installer to run in another language, select it from the drop-down menu. Note that this does not set the language of your Arch installation. This is for Calamares screens only. Click Next when you are ready to continue.
The location screen appears. You can tell the installer where you live by selecting from the “Region” and “Zone” drop-down menus or by clicking on the screen.
This is the step that defines the language, numbers, and dates that Arch will use. Click “Next” to move to the next screen.
You need to select your keyboard layout and language, then click “Next”. The partition options screen appears.
The usual partition options are available. You can erase the entire drive and let the installer partition it automatically, or you can specify a custom partition manually. If the operating system is already installed on the target computer (which was not the case on our test machine), you can choose to install Arch alongside it.
You can also choose the file system you want to use and whether or not you want to use swap.
Make your selections and click Next.
You are asked if you want to use the same password for your name, username, password, computer name, and user account and root.
Complete the form and click Next to display the summary screen.
If you want to change any of your options, press the Back button until you see the option you want to change and set it to your preferred value. When you are satisfied with all the settings, click the Install button to start the installation process.
As the installation takes place, the progress bar will scroll from left to right and various pieces of information will be displayed in the main part of the Calamares window.
When the installation is complete, check the “Restore now” box and click the “Done” button.
Your computer will restart to the initial installation of Arch Linux. When you log in, you will see the generic GNOME desktop.
Updating Your System
Although the Arch Linux GUI project releases new ISOs at the beginning of each month, due to the distributive nature of Arch Linux and the offline nature of the installation, there will almost always be updates that you can apply.
Open a terminal window and type:
sudo pacman -Syyu
pacman is a package manager for Arch. Here are the options we use:
- S: Synchronize (install) packages.
- century: Force the local packages database to be updated by downloading package databases from remote repositories. Using it twice updates all databases, even the most up-to-date ones. Since this is the first time we’ve updated this setup, it makes doubly sure that everything that can be updated is updated.
- u: Upgrade all outdated packages.
Arch Linux compares the software versions on your computer with the versions in the repositories and displays a list of packages that can be updated.
Press “Enter” to accept the default “Y” answer to continue the installation. Depending on which packages are being updated, you may need to do the same several times during updates.
ArchWiki is Your Friend
One of the best parts of using Arch Linux is the ArchWiki. This might just be the most comprehensive collection of Linux knowledge on the web.
If you want to know everything About Arch, see the wiki. Because Arch is such a clean and bare-bones Linux, people use it to troubleshoot problems or get an idea of other Linux distributions.
It also covers specific packages such as Arch
pacman A package manager that you will use to install the packages you want to complete your new installation to your liking.
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