How To Install Arch Linux On Your Computer [Part 2]

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In Part 1 of this two part series, you were able to download the Arch ISO and install the base Linux system by going through all the steps in the setup. With everything complete from Part 1, you can now work on your base system to install a desktop environment. We will be installing the most used desktop, GNOME, although other options are available.

However, before we get there, we have plenty of other things to do first. Let’s check out the steps :

  • Updating the System: It is always best to update your system before doing anything else, because it’ll reduce the possibility of conflicts with the new packages you’ll be installing. Plus, updates generally provide more features and higher stability.
  • Adding a User: In Part 1, we only set up a root user. You probably don’t want to do everything as root (especially when you can start your graphical desktop), so we need to set up a user account you’ll be using.
  • Sudo Permissions: Sudo is great because it lets you issue commands with root permissions even though you’re not logged in as root. We will be setting this up.
  • Installing Audio and Graphics Servers: You want to see and hear something, right?
  • Installing GNOME: We will finally install the actual desktop environment for you to use.

Updating The System

  • First, boot up into your system and log in as root (the only user configured right now).
  • Once you’re in, you’ll need to refresh your repositories with pacman -Syy.
  • Next you need to update all packages with pacman -Syu. It will tell you that pacman itself needs to be updated first, so hit y for all prompts.
  • Once that completes, you need to run pacman-db-upgrade so that pacman works properly after the new version is installed, as it should tell you once pacman is updated.
  • Finally, run pacman -Syu one more time to install all the other updates that were put aside, and hit y for all changes requested.Then sit back while it downloads and installs.

Adding A User

Next you should add your own user. This can be achieved with adduser. So run that command and fill out the information. Type in your username, and leave the User ID and Initial group blank. For additional groups, you need to add yourself to numerous groups to gain permissions to use each one. To try to get as many as possible, add audio,lp,optical,storage,video,wheel,games,power,scanner. Make double sure that you add wheel, as this is required for the next step. All other fields can remain blank. It will ask you to confirm, then it’ll request other optional information that doesn’t really need to be filled out, and finally your desired password.

Give Sudo Permissions

Sudo is a great tool as it allows you to run commands with root permissions even though you’re not actually logged into the root user account. If you didn’t install sudo in Part 1, you can do so by typing pacman -S sudo. To be able to actually use sudo with your account, you’ll need to enter EDITOR=nano visudo and uncomment the line %wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL. Save, and that’s it. Now you can leave the root account to the side and use sudo in front of all your commands.

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Install The Sound Base

For sound, you need to type pacman -S alsa-utils alsa-plugins. This will install the base system for your audio.

Install The Graphics Stack

Next you need to install your graphics setup. To get the graphical server, run pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit xorg-utils xorg-server-utils mesa xorg-twm xorg-xclock xterm. Afterwards you need to install the driver that works for your system. There is quite a long list, so I’d suggest you look here to find the right one. Remember, pacman -S [package name] will install it. I’d also suggest the same when installing input drivers.

You also need to install a system package called dbus. What it actually does is very hard to explain (something about allowing programs to communicate with each other), but it is required by GNOME, which we will install later. Install it with pacman -S dbus, start it with rc.d start dbus, and add dbus under DAEMONS(..dbus..) in /etc/rc.conf with your favorite editor.

To test out the graphical server, use startx. If all goes well (if you get something like the screenshot), enter exit. If not, you’ll need to troubleshoot by looking here.

Installing GNOME

You’re almost done! Finally we get to install GNOME itself. To do this, run pacman -S gnome gnome-extra gdm. Let all of that install, as it’ll take some time. When it’s all done, you should run modprobe fuse and then add it to /etc/rc.conf as MODULES=(fuse). The FUSE module is another tricky component that is hard to explain, but is highly recommended to set up. In the same config file, you’ll also need to add gdm to the DAEMONS list as you did with dbus. When you’re done, save, and restart. You should now see the GDM loading.


Congratulations! You finally installed a working GNOME system with Arch! There’s still plenty you can do and configure, but everything from here on out is up to you. If you need any help, I highly suggest that you look at Arch’s Wiki, as it’s one of the best of any distro. There is also a forum for Arch users where you can ask any specific questions that you may have.

If you’ve installed GNOME with Arch now, how are you liking it? If not, do you think it’s too complicated to get a working system in order? Let us know in the comments!

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