How to install Arch Linux on VirtualBox or PC

Arch Linux is another Linux distribution that is free and open source based on the x86-64 architecture. It is a highly customizable Linux distro which comes with a minimal base system for installation to allow users to install their favourite desktop environment and perform customization. Arch Linux is based on KISS  principle design means  Keep It Simple and Stupid.  Also, because of lightweight, it can be installed on older and low configuration systems.

It uses the Pacman package manager to install various software packages. Arch Linux provides documentation in the form of a community wiki called ArchWiki, which is often up-to-date with specific topics and is widely recognized by the Linux community. If you want to learn Linux from scratch, Arch Linux is one of the best options.

So, if you want to try it without compromising your existing Windows 10/8/7 or Linux system then VirtualBox or Vmware workstation player are few of the best options to try Arch Linux virtually.  Here we will show you how to download and install Arch Linux on VirtualBox which would not be much different than installing it on real PC.

Minimum Hardware Requirements to install Arch Linux on the Real system:

  • 64-bit support CPU
  • 512 MB of RAM minimum, however, 2GB is recommended
  • Hard disk space is required minimum 1GB but 20 GB is recommended
  • Internet connection (necessary)

Download and install Arch Linux on VirtualBox or PC

The steps of installing Arch Linux on VirtualBox will the same for Windows 10/8/7, Linux and MacOS.

Step 1: Download Arch Linux ISO file

To install Arch Linux on Virtual box, the first thing we need is the ISO file. For that we have to visit the official website of Arch, here is the link. On the download page scroll down and either click on the torrent link or direct HTTP links, those are given there to download this Linux distro.

arch linux download torrent

Note: [alert-warning]For physical PC installation you have to create an Arch Linux bootable pen drive or CD drive after that move to Step 5 of this article.[/alert-warning]

Step 2: Install VirtualBox

If you already have the VirtualBox then skip this step otherwise go to www.virtualbox.org and download it according to your host system. For windows, it is very easy to install like any other application, however, for Debian based such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint you can simply type sudo apt-get install virtualbox, to know more about it see: how to install Virtualbox on Ubuntu.

Step 3: Create an Arch Linux Virtual machine

1. Open VirtualBox and Click on New button given in the Menu.

Create Arch Linux virtual machine

2. Name and Operating system 

In the Name section, type Arch Linux and VirtualBox will automatically select Type and Version. Or else you have to do it manually.

Select Arch linux in Virtualbox

3. Assign RAM to Arch Linux

Now, use the slider to set amount of RAM you would like to assign it. The recommended is 2GB or more depending on what kind of applications you want to run on it and how much does your host can offer to it.

Assign RAm to Arch Linux on Virtual Box

4. Create Virtual Hard disk to Arch Linux

Leave the default option “Create a Virtual Disk right now” and click on Create option. On the next screen, you will get three types of virtual disk options VDI, VHD and VMDK. You can choose any of them, however, by default it will be VDI, and you can leave it as it is and click on NEXT button.

Now, what kind of hard disk space allocation pattern you would like to have, here also you can leave the default option “Dynamic allocated” as it is and click on NEXT option.

File allocation and size.

The minimum storage space required by the Arch Linux to install minimal base is 1GB, however, if you are planning to install GUI Linux environment with other software packages then assign at least 10 GB. Here we are giving it 30GB. Finally, click on the Create button.

 

file allocation for Arch Linux

Step 4: Assign Arch Linux ISO file to VirtualBox

Now on your VirtualBox screen, you will see your newly created Arch Linux Virtual Machine on the left side panel. Select that and then click on the Settings button.

Create Arch Linux virtual machine

Under settings click on Storage. Then form Storage Devices select EMPTY CD icon and then from Attributes again select CD icon which will give you a pop-up option from where the thing which you have to select is “Choose Virtual Optical File…” option.  And select the downloaded Arch Linux ISO image.

Arch Linux ISO file in Virtual Box

After selecting the Arch ISO image file it will show under the Storage device, now just click on the OK button.

Select teh Arch Linux ISO image

Step 5: Boot Arch Linux on VirtualBox

Here we are doing Arch Linux legacy installation on VirtualBox, select your created Arch Linux VM and click on Start button given in the menu section. It will automatically show you the Arch Linux boot menu, select Boot Arch Linux (x86_64)  and press Enter button.

Note: For PC installation simply boot it with your bootable Arch Linux USB or CD drive and then follow the below steps.

Boot Arch Linux on Virtualbox

Step 6: Arch Linux partition tutorial on VirtualBox

After booting Arch Linux you will get a screen with root access. Now what we need to do first is the creation of partition of the hard disk, so that we can install Arch Linux into it. We need three basic partitions for root, home and Swap.

So type:

fdisk /dev/sda

Partitioning the disks of Arch Linux

Type ‘n‘ for creating a new partition and then ‘p‘ for primary partitions. Press Enter button and for the first sector again press Enter key and the define the amount of size you want to give your first partition using + sign followed by the amount along with size in K, M, G, T, P ( Kilobyte, Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte and petabyte).

For example, here we have total 30GB of hard disk for Arch Linux and we are going to create three partitions. The first partition is of 10GB, so for that, we can define it with +10G.

Arch Linux partition tutorial on VirtualBox

Repeat the same steps we used above to create other partitions; press‘n‘ and then ‘p‘ after that two times Enter key and the size of partitions. So, we have created two more partitions one is of 18GB for home and 1GB for Swap.  We have only 30GB of the hard drive that’s why we have created the main partitions of 10 and 18 GB, you can add more size if you have storage space.

Important: After creating all partitions type w to write the partitions to the hard disk.

Arch Linux partition

See all partitions created on Arch Linux

So, after creating partitions its time to see them for that type:

lsblk

You can see in the below image that we have three partitions named sda1,sda2,sda3, let’s see in the next step how to format and mount them for installation purpose of Arch Linux.

show the created partions of Arch Linux

Step 7: Format Arch Linux partitions

First, we format our regular two partitions one is for root and other for the home directory: sda1 and sda2.

mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda1
mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda2

Format partions to create them on Arch Linux

After formatting and creating the above two partitions, let’s create a SWAP one. The minimum swap space needed is 512M and for better performance more, that’s why we have given 1 GB.

mkswap /dev/sda3
swapon /dev/sda3

create swap partition for Arch Linux

Now, mount the sda1 for root and sda2 for the home directory. For that use the below commands

Mount root partition to /mnt:

mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

Create Home Directory and mount sda2 for it.

mkdir /mnt/home
mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/home

Step 8: Start the Arch Linux Installation

In this step, we use pacstrap script (Arch Linux install-script) to install the base package group. The base package along with base-devel (x86_64) contains all packages that necessary to set up and make Arch Linux work. It contains tools which we need after that installation such as Bash shell, compression tools, system utilities, Linux kernel m text editor, USB device, system and service manager, C library and more.

So run the following command to begin the installation process:

pacstrap /mnt base base-devel

Note: Make sure you have internet connection in working condition for VirtualBox or Physical system where you are installing the Arch Linux.

Step 9: Configure the system- Fstab

Generate a fstab file which is the configuration file for a system which holds all the crucial information that is necessary to make the system to automatically mount all partitions. Otherwise, we have to do it manually. This file commonly found at  /etc/fstab on Unix and Unix-like computer systems.

genfstab -U /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab

Step 10: Change root into the new system

A chroot is an operation that changes the apparent root directory for the current running process and their children. In such environment running applications can access the cannot access files and commands outside that environmental directory tree. This modified environment is called a chroot jail.

arch-chroot /mnt

exit

Step 11: Configure Time-Zone on Arch Linux

Now we set the time zone of our Arch Linux:

Type below command and follow the interactive method to configure time according to your country on Arch.

tzselect

Configure the time zone in Arch Linux

To check the current zone defined for the system use the below command:

timedatectl status

Optional step: You can also set the time zone manually using below commands:

timedatectl list-timezones
timedatectl set-timezone Zone/SubZone

For example: timedatectl set-timezone Asia/Kolkata

Run hwclock command to set the hardware clock 

hwclock --systohc --utc

Step 12: Local settings and system language configuration of Arch Linux

Before setting up language and other localization settings for Arch Linux, we need to uncomment the language which we need from the file /etc/locale.gen. It contains all the languages supported by the Arch Linux.

Note: By default, US English – en_US.UTF-8 UTF 8 is already enabled for the system. So, in case you don’t want any other language, you can move to the next Step 13:.

To open the local.gen use the below command:

vi /etc/locale.gen

Use the arrow key to navigate the language list, when you find the one you want to select for your system uncomment or remove the hash given before that language name. After that save your selection to file by typing :qw and pressing enter button.

locale-gen file of Arch Linux

So, after uncommenting the language define that in locale.conf file using below command;

There are two methods of doing this one is using editor and second by command, both are given below:

#1: Using editor

vi /etc/locale.conf

Type the Variable of that language in the format:

LANG=variable

Note: Change the variable with language variable that you have uncommented above.

After defining the language that you uncommented and type :qw for save and exit the file. You can see below screenshot for an idea.

set language in Arch Linux

#2: Using purely commands:

If you don’t want to use the editor to define language in locale.conf then you can use alternatively the below commands:

In this you don’t need to open editor, you can directly push your language to /etc/locale.conf

echo LANG =variable >/etc/locale.conf
export LANG= variable

For example, I want to push some language then simply note its variable that you uncommented and then use that with this command:

echo LANG=en_US.UTF-8 > /etc/locale.conf
export LANG=en_US.UTF-8

Step 13: Set hostname

Create the hostname file – /etc/hostname and add the name you want to assign to you Arch Linux host.

For that use the following command and replace the green colour text with your hostname

echo h2smedia > /etc/hostname

Now add following entries to your hosts file:

echo 127.0.1.1 h2smedia.localdomain h2smedia > /etc/hosts

Note: Replace h2smedia with your hostname, you set above.

Step 14: Set Grub bootloader for Arch Linux

Note: Users those are getting error “/usr/bin/grub-probe: error: failed to get canonical path of ‘airootfs‘.” Can also follow the below steps to install grub bootloader on Arch Linux.

Switch to chroot 

Note: If you already in chroot then move to the next step of this step.

arch-chroot /mnt /bin/bash

Install the grub package inside the chroot.

pacman -S grub

Note: If the above command gives an error that Core, extra, community… packages for this are not installed then use the command:

pacman -Sy grub

Now install the Grub

grub-install /dev/sda
grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

Install Grub bootloader on Arch Linux

Step 15: Set Root password

Finally, secure your root user by adding a password to it.

passwd

Step 16: Finally Update your Arch Linux System

As Arch Linux developed by a very active community, so even after downloading the latest ISO file there are very many chances to have some new updates for the system. Thus, run the following Arch Linux system update command:

pacman -Syu

Now, if you are on VirtualBox then move to next otherwise simply reboot your system.

Step 17: Remove the Arch Linux ISO form VirtualBox

Now, before restarting our Virtualbox installed Arch Linux VM, we need to remove inserted ISO file of that. For that just click on the Devices option given in the menu of VirtualBox and then Optical Drives->Arch Linux ISO file. VirtualBox will give you a pop-up that asks you would like to forcefully unmount the ISO file, Yes, go for Force UnMount option.

Remove the ISO Disk and reboot the PC

Step 18: Reboot Arch Linux system

Finally, reboot your system, the command is:

reboot

After rebooting the first boot screen of Arch Linux will appear like shown in the below screenshot. Select Arch Linux and login as root.

Boot Arch Linux on VirtualBox first time

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