How to Install Arch Linux on VirtualBox [3 Methods]

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VirtualBox is a popular open-source virtualization software that allows you to create and run different virtual machines in your host operating system. This flexibility makes it an ideal environment for experimenting with various operating systems, including lightweight and highly customizable distributions, like Arch Linux, known for its simplicity and minimalism.

This article demonstrates how to install Arch Linux on VirtualBox using the Command Line Interface (CLI) and Graphical User Interface (GUI).

Minimum Requirements to Install Arch Linux on VirtualBox

  • Basic understanding of command line interface (CLI).
  • Active internet connection (Wired preferable).
  • Minimum 512 MB RAM (2 GB+ recommended).
  • Minimum 2 GB free storage (20 GB+ recommended).

What is Arch Linux?

Arch Linux is a lightweight, flexible, and rolling-based open-source Linux distribution. It is known for its simplicity. Specially, it is optimized for the x86-64 architecture. Arch Linux follows a do-it-yourself (DIY) philosophy. This means a user has complete control over the system configuration such as installing app packages or components according to his/her choice. It follows a rolling release system which means it does not have any major version release and regular software update is enough to maintain an up-to-date Arch Linux system.

Features of Arch Linux

  1. Customizability: Tailor your system to your exact needs.
  2. Up-to-date Software: Access the latest packages and updates.
  3. Minimal Bloatware: Build a streamlined, efficient system.
  4. Active Community: Find support and documentation easily.
  5. Educational Value: Learn about Linux from the ground up.

If you want to have an ideal Arch Linux experience using the command line interface (CLI) then follow Method 01: Install Arch Linux on VirtualBox Manually. In case, you want to automate some of the tasks but still want to use the command line interface then follow Method 02: Install Arch Linux on VirtualBox Using the “archinstall” Command. If you prefer the graphical user interface (GUI) then follow Method 03: Install Arch Linux GUI Directly on VirtualBox.

Method 01: Install Arch Linux on VirtualBox Manually

To install Arch Linux on VirtualBox manually using the command line interface (CLI) follow these step-by-step processes:

Step 1: Download Arch Linux ISO Image

Before installing Arch Linux on VirtualBox as a VM you need to download the Arch Linux image first. To download the Arch Linux image:

  1. Visit the Arch Linux official website’s download page.
  2. Select the nearest server from your current location. Then click on the latest release’s ISO file. This will start downloading the iso file in your arch linux iso image This ISO image file will be a foundation for installing Arch Linux on VirtualBox.

Step 2: Create an Arch Linux VM

To create an Arch Linux VM, follow these steps:

  1. First, open VirtualBox, and select Machine > New.create new VM
  2. Then, add a name for your virtual machine, set its installation location, and select Arch Linux Iso image. Click on vm name and iso image
  3. Now, assign base memory (RAM) and CPU cores for your VM. Select Enable EFI in the checkbox if you have a more modern processor. It will boot your OS faster. Then click on Next.set ram and processor cores for VM
  4. After that, allocate storage size for the VM and click on Next.set storage size for VM
  5. Now, revise the Summary and if everything is as you wanted then hit “Finish”. Otherwise, go back and change those settings.virtualbox interface
  6. After finishing this, you will be back to the VirtualBox Manager interface.virtualbox interface

Step 3: Start Arch Linux VM

Select the newly created Arch Linux VM from the VirtualBox manager interface and click on Start. The VM will boot up and lead you to install Arch Linux on the VM.

start the newly created vm

Step 4: Pre-Installation Setup

After booting up, you need to perform some pre-installation setup before installing your base system. Here’s how to complete the pre-installation setup:

  1. Select “Arch Linux install Medium” using the UP arrow and Down arrow from the keyboard and press ENTER. VirtualBox will automatically detect your mouse and arch linux install medium Arch Linux tty will open now.arch linux tty
    In Arch Linux TTY (teletypewriter), at any stage, if you want to clear your screen, press CTRL+L or, run clear
  2. Now, execute ls /usr/share/kbd/keymaps/**/*.map.gz to view all available all available keymapsTo set the keymap according to your preference run loadkeys us.The US is the default keymap. So, if you use US keyfont you can skip this step.all available keymaps
    For better visualization, you can change your font. Run ls /usr/share/kbd/consolefonts/ to check all available fonts. Change the font by running setfont ter-124b. To reset your font run setfont.
  3. After that, check the system boot mode by running cat /sys/firmware/efi/fw_platform_sizecheck uefi boot modeIf this command returns 64 or 32 like the above image then the system will be booted in 64-bit and 32-bit UEFI respectively. Otherwise, it will be booted in BIOS mode. Or, you can also run ls /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/ to check if the system booted in UEFI mode.checking uefi boot modeuefi boot mode available
  4. It is essential to have an active internet connection during the Arch Linux installation. To check your network interface run ip link. Then execute ping -c3 to check your internet network interfaces
  5. Now, run timedatectl set-ntp true to enable NTP (Network Time Protocol) time synchronization and update your system clock. Run timedatectl status to check your time and date.sync time with ntp server
  6. It’s time to create partitions in your disk. First, run fdisk -l  to list information about the partitions in your storage device.display storage partitions Now run cfdisk to view and modify disk partitions interactively. You can create, delete, or resize partitions on a storage device using this tool. Use your keyboard to navigate through this tool.create partition in storage

    Select “gpt” (GUID Partition Table) which is a modern partitioning scheme used for UEFI-based firmware systems.

    select gpt storage label type

    You have to create 3 partitions. To do that, select NEW and press ENTER.

    create new partition

    First, create a partition for the boot drive of 1GB. A minimum of 100MB size is required for the boot drive. If you want to install more than 1 kernel then at least 1GB is recommended.  Type 1G and press ENTER.

    create new 1GB boot partition

    boot partition created

    Scroll down and select Free Space again.

    create new partition

    Create the SWAP partition now. It is the dedicated section of the storage device that serves as virtual memory in a Unix/Linux system. It provides additional memory space for the system when the physical RAM is fully utilized.

    Type 4G and press ENTER.

    create new 4GB swap partition

    swap partition created

    Now, scroll down and select Free Space again.

    create new partition

    The remaining storage should be auto-selected now for the Root drive. So press ENTER.

    create new root/ storage partition

    storage/ root partition created

    Exit from this tool by selecting Quit and pressing ENTER.

    quit from cfdisk disk partition tool

    Now run lsblk to get a structured overview of storage devices and their respective partitions.

    display storage drives and their partitions

    First, format the root partition in “ext4” format which is Linux’s default storage file system format. To format the root partition run mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda3.

    format root directory

    Then, run mkfs.fat -F 32 /dev/sda1 to format the boot partition as the FAT32 file system.

    format boot directory

    You do not need to format the swap partition; you just need to create a swap space on the specified partition. To do that, run mkswap /dev/sda2

    create swap space

  7. Once you have created the partition, run the following commands to mount the partition you have created and formatted into your system:mount /dev/sda3 /mnt to mount the partition located at /dev/sda3 which is the root partition to the /mnt directory.mkdir -p /mnt/boot/efi command to create the directory structure required for the EFI System Partition.mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot/efi to mount the boot partition (/dev/sda1) in that directory.

    swapon /dev/sda2 to activate the swap partition located at /dev/sda2.

    mount root and boot directory and turn on swap partition

    Now, run lsblk again to check whether all partitions have mounted properly.

    all partitions are mounted properly

Step 5: Installing the Base System With Essential Packages

To install the essential packages and set up the base system for Arch Linux run pacstrap /mnt base linux linux-firmware base-devel grub nano efibootmgr networkmanager command:

install essential software packages

package installation started

confirm package installation

This will take some time. So, wait and let the process finish.

package installation going on

Step 6: Post-Installation Configuration of the System

To configure the installed system, follow the below steps:

  1. Run genfstab /mnt to generate and view the contents of the fstab file, which shows the mounted filesystem under the /mnt directory and gives you information about the filesystems that are mounted there.
  2. After that, execute genfstab /mnt > /mnt/etc/fstab to redirect the generated fstab entries to the appropriate configuration file on the target system, this ensures that they will be automatically appropriately mounted at the system startup.
    Note: You can check the contents of the fstab file using cat /mnt/etc/fstab.
    generate fstab file nad properly configure it
  3. Execute arch-chroot /mnt to transition from working within the live environment of the Arch Linux ISO image to directly configuring and customizing the Arch Linux installation on your storage device. You will see a visual change in the formatting after changing the root into the new system.change root into the new system
  4. Set the timezone using ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/Asia/Dhaka /etc/localtime command. Replace “Asia/Dhaka” according to your preference. Then synchronize the hardware clock with the system time using hwclock --systohc. Use the date command to check the updated time and date.set the timezone and sync hardware clock
  5. Now, configure the locale.gen file. This file is important for automatically suiting the language, region, and cultural preferences of the user while displaying content, dates, times, and messages. To configure the locale.gen file, execute nano /etc/locale.gen to open the list of locales that can be used on the system:open locale.gen file Remove “#” from your preferred locale, for example, change “#en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8” to “en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8”. Then press CTRL+O and ENTER to save the changes and CTRL+X to exit from the nano editor.Remove “#” from your preferred locale Now run locale-gen command to generate and update the locale settings on your Arch Linux system.generate and update locale settings

    Open the locale.conf file using nano /etc/locale.conf and then also specify your locale information by adding “LANG=en_US.UTF-8”. Some programs check this file instead.

    add locale information

    Then press CTRL+O and ENTER to save and CTRL+X to exit from the nano editor.

  6. Now, configure the hostname of the Arch Linux system. The hostname will be used to identify your computer on the network. First, open the hostname file using  nano /etc/hostname command:add hostname After that set your preferred hostname for example “Arch Linux” into the file.add hostname Then save the file using CTRL+O and ENTER. Exit from the nano editor by pressing CTRL+X.
  7. After that, set your root password. Execute Passwd command. Then add your root password, re-type it, and press ENTER.create root password
  8. It’s time to add the user account. Run useradd -m -G wheel -s /bin/bash ridoy command to create a user and add the user to the wheel group. Replace “ridoy” with your preferred username. Now add your user password using passwd <the username you used>add new user and passwordFor security reasons, it is better to set the user password differently than the root password.
  9. Execute EDITOR=nano visudo command to open the sudoers file.edit sudoer file Remove the “%” from the “%wheel ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL” line to uncomment it. It will give all members of wheel group the administrative user sudo privilages Then save using CTRL+O and ENTER and exit using CTRL+X from the sudoers file.
  10. Now enable your core services like network managers by running systemctl enable NetworkManagerenable network manager
  11. Run grub-install /dev/sda to install the grub bootloader in your primary storageinstall grub bootloaderExecute grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg command to examine the system for kernels, operating systems, and other boot parameters, and then compile the GRUB configuration file based on this information.generate grub configuration file If you see a warning as shown in the image above it is for dual booting so you can ignore it.

Step 7: Reboot System

Exit from your system using exit and shut down the VM using poweroff command.

exit and shutdown system

At this stage, you have to remove the Arch Linux installation ISO image. To do that select your VM > Settings > Storage > Arch Linux ISO image > disk icon > Remove Disk from Virtual Drive > OK.

open VM settings

remove arch linux iso image from vm

Now start your VM again.

start your vm

Select Arch Linux and press ENTER. If you do not select anything then after some time it will automatically select Arch Linux.

select arch linux

Log in with your username and password that you set previously. You can now use Arch Linux as you want.

log in with your credentials

Note: For better visualization, run setfont -d to make your font double in size. To reset your font run setfont. To check your internet connection run ping -c3

Step 8: Graphical Desktop Environment

To have a better visualization and ease of use you install and set a desktop environment in your Arch Linux system.

Setup Graphical Desktop Environment

Here is a list of all officially and unofficially supported desktop environments from the official Arch Linux wiki. You can select any of those desktop environments. In this demonstration, I will show the GNOME desktop environment.

First, download base GNOME software, additional GNOME software, and GNOME display manager, and then set up the GNOME desktop environment using sudo pacman -S gnome gnome-extra gdm command.

install gnome desktop environment

Provide the sudo password. Press ENTER several times to select packages and press Y to confirm the installation. This will automatically download and set up the GNOME desktop environment in your Arch Linux system.

press Y to confirm installation

Start Desktop Environment

To start the GNOME desktop environment immediately, enable GNOME Display Manager (gdm) with the “now” option by running sudo systemctl enable --now gdm command.

enable gnome display manager

It will open the login screen with the desktop environment. Log in with your user credential.

log in with your credentials

You are now in the GNOME desktop environment.

gnome desktop environments UI

Check system details

To check the details of the installed Arch Linux system, open the terminal and run sudo pacman -S neofetch command to install neofetch. It is an easy-to-use command-line tool for Linux/Unix-based operating systems that shows system info and other info about your computer in an attractive and customizable way. Then, run the neofetch command.

checking system details using neofetch, gnome desktop environment running in arch linux vm

You can see that Arch Linux is running in the Virtualbox host with the GNOME desktop environment.

Note: It is a good practice to update the system packages after installing an OS. Run Sudo pacman -Syu command on the Arch Linux terminal to update your system.

Method 02: Install Arch Linux on Virtualbox Using the “archinstall” Command

The “archinstall” is a command line tool that automates the installation process of Arch Linux in TTY. To install Arch Linux on VirtualBox using the “archinstall” command follow the following processes:

Step 1: Download Arch Linux GUI ISO Image

First, Download the Arch Linux ISO Image, Create an Arch Linux VM, and Start the Arch Linux VM.

Step 2: Setup Arch Linux Installation

Select “Arch Linux install Medium”.

select arch linux install medium

Arch Linux tty will open now.

arch linux tty (CLI)

For better visualization, you can change your font. Run ls /usr/share/kbd/consolefonts/ to check all available fonts. Change the font by running setfont ter-124b. To reset your font run setfont.

Now, run archinstall to open the archinstall tool’s user interface. You have to navigate through the tool using your keyboard.

change fonts and open archinstall tool

Set your preferred language.

set language

Select Mirrors > Mirror region > your nearest region > Back

select your mirror region

select your nearsest location

Then set the Keyboard layout and Locale language according to your preferences. Then select Back and press ENTER.

set your keyboard layout and locale

Select Disk configuration > Use a best-effort default partition layout> ATA VBOX HARDDISK > ext4.

select storage drive

select default partition layout

select "ext4" file format

Select Bootloader > Grub.

select grub bootloader

Make sure Swap is set to True.

set swap to true

Set your preferred hostname for the system.

set your hostname

Type and re-type a password to set the Root Password.

set root password

Select User account > Add a user > enter username > type user password > retype user password > yes > Confirm and exit.

add user and user password

confirm and exit from user settings

Select Profile > Type > Desktop > Gnome (You can choose another desktop environment according to your preference) > Back

To select multiple desktop environments select them with TAB and then press ENTER.

select type from profile

select Desktop environment

select your preferred desktop environment

go back

Set the Audio server according to your preference. I am skipping this in this demonstration.

The default kernel is Linux. If you want to change it select Kernals and set it as you prefer.

Select Network Configuration> Use NetworkManager.

select network manager from network configuration

Select a Timezone according to your location

set your timezone

Here’s the summary of all the settings. Check it and scroll down, select Install, and press ENTER.

after confirming all settings select install

Press ENTER again. “archinstall” will automatically download and install everything. This process will take some time.

press enter

select no in changing root

arch linux installation complete without any error using archinstall command

Step 3: Reboot the VM

Now Reboot your system after removing your Arch Linux ISO image.

shut down your system

After starting your system you will be asked to log in.

login with your user credentials

Log in with your user credentials.

gnome desktop environment in arch linux system

gnome ui in arch linux system

You can now use Arch Linux with the gnome desktop environment.

Method 03: Install Arch Linux GUI Directly on VirtualBox

To install the Arch Linux desktop environment directly follow this step-by-step process:

Step 1: Download Arch Linux GUI ISO Image

Download any variation of the Arch Linux GUI ISO image from SOURCEFORGE.

Step 2: Create Arch Linux GUI VM

Create an Arch Linux VM with the Arch Linux GUI image.

create a new VM

Step 3: Start the Newly Created VM

Now, start your newly created VM.

start your new vm

Select “Arch Linux Installer” using the up-arrow and down-arrow from the keyboard and press ENTER.

select arch linux installer

Arch Linux Live installer GUI will open now.

gnome arch linux live installer started

Step 4: Install Arch Linux

Open the app menu and click on Install Arch Linux.

select and click on "Install Arch Linux"

Set your preferred language and click on Next.

select your preferred language

Adjust your timezone and locale then click on Next.

set your timezone and locale

Set your preferred keyboard layout and click on Next.

set keyboard layout

Select Erase disk. Select Swap (no hibernate) and click on Next.

select your storage device and select erase device. select swap (no hibernate)

Set your user details, user password, and root password. Then click on Next.

add your user, user password and root password

Click on Install.

click on install

The installation process will take some time.

arch linux gnome gui installation going on

After installation is complete click on Done.

arch linux installation complete, click on done

Shut down your system.

shut down your system

Now remove the Arch Linux GUI image ISO file as shown in “Reboot System”. Start your VM, and log in to your system with the login credentials.

log in to your system with the login credentials

gnome arch linux desktop environment started

Arch Linux is now ready to use.

gnome ui in arch linux system

You can Check system details after the installation.


Installing Arch Linux on Virtualbox will open up a world of endless possibilities. This guide has covered all the steps required to install Arch on a virtual machine. Whether you are new to Linux or have been using it for a long time, this guide will provide you with all the information you need about installing Arch Linux on VirtualBox.

People Also Ask

Is there a GUI to install Arch Linux?

Yes, though as of now there is no official GUI installer for Arch Linux, there are some unofficial projects that create GUI installers for Arch Linux. SOURCEFORGE is one of them.

Is 2 GB RAM enough for Arch Linux?

Yes, 2 GB of RAM is generally sufficient to run Arch Linux effectively, especially if you are using it as a lightweight, minimalistic desktop environment or a server. Arch Linux is known for its minimal resource requirements, and it can run on relatively modest hardware.

Is Arch Linux good for beginners?

No, Arch Linux is not typically recommended for complete beginners to Linux, especially those who have no prior experience with Linux operating systems. Arch Linux is known for its minimalistic, do-it-yourself approach, which requires a significant amount of manual configuration and system administration.

Is Arch Linux good for gaming?

Yes, Arch Linux can be a good choice for gaming, especially if you value control and customization of your gaming environment. However, it’s important to note that setting up a gaming environment on Arch Linux may require some technical knowledge and configuration, especially if you plan to run Windows games using compatibility layers.

Why Arch Linux is so popular?

Arch Linux has become popular due to a variety of factors, including:

  1. Streamlined Simplicity: Arch Linux follows the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) way of doing things. It’s got a pretty basic base system, which is great for people who want to have full control over their Linux environment.
  2. Cutting-Edge Updates: Arch Linux is known for its ability to deliver the most recent software updates on time. This is due to its rolling release distribution status, which allows users to enjoy the benefits of software updates without the inconvenience of version upgrades.
  3. Versatile AUR (Arch User Repository): The AUR is a vast library of user-maintained packages, enabling easy access to software not found in official repositories. This expansive ecosystem provides abundant choices.
  4. Exceptional Documentation: Arch Linux is well-known for its extensive documentation, particularly the Arch Wiki, which is a collection of resource-rich guides designed to simplify the process of problem-solving and system configuration.
  5. User Empowerment: Arch Linux takes the guesswork out of system configuration. It lets you create systems that are exactly how you want them to be.
  6. Strong User Community: Because the Arch community is so active and knowledgeable, forums are great places to get help and solutions.
  7. Educational Value: The minimalist nature of Arch Linux encourages you to learn more about Linux and system management, making it an excellent option for those looking to broaden their knowledge.
  8. Adaptability: Arch Linux is highly adaptable and can be tailored to meet a variety of needs, regardless of whether it is used on a server or a desktop.

If you’re just starting with Linux, Arch might not be the best choice for you. It’s a bit of a DIY project, so it can be a bit of a challenge for newbies. But if you’re into the principles and philosophy of Arch, it’s a great platform to use.

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Ridoy Chandra Shil

Hello everyone. I am Ridoy Chandra Shil, currently working as a Linux Content Developer Executive at SOFTEKO. I am a Biomedical Engineering graduate from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. I am a science and tech enthusiast. In my free time, I read articles about new tech and watch documentaries on science-related topics. I am also a big fan of “The Big Bang Theory”. Read Full Bio

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