Install Arch Linux from existing Linux

This document describes the bootstrapping process required to install Arch Linux from a running Linux host system. After bootstrapping, the installation proceeds as described in the Installation guide.

Installing Arch Linux from a running Linux is useful for:

The goal of the bootstrapping procedure is to setup an environment from which the scripts from arch-install-scripts (such as pacstrap and arch-chroot) can be run.

If the host system runs Arch Linux, this can be achieved by simply installing arch-install-scripts. If the host system runs another Linux distribution, you will first need to set up an Arch Linux-based chroot.

Note: This guide requires that the existing host system be able to execute the new target Arch Linux architecture programs. This means it has to be an x86_64 host.
Warning: Please make sure you understand each step before proceeding. It is easy to destroy your system or to lose critical data, and your service provider will likely charge a lot to help you recover.

Backup and preparation

Backup all your data including mails, webservers, etc. Have all information at your fingertips. Preserve all your server configurations, hostnames, etc.

Here is a list of data you will likely need:

  • IP address
  • hostname(s), (note: rootserver are mostly also part of the providers domain, check or save your /etc/hosts before you delete)
  • DNS server (check /etc/resolv.conf)
  • SSH keys (if other people work on your server, they will have to accept new keys otherwise. This includes keys from your Apache, your mail servers, your SSH server and others.)
  • Hardware info (network card, etc. Refer to your pre-installed /etc/modules.conf )
  • Grub configuration files.

In general, it is a good idea to have a local copy of your original directory on your local hard drive.

From a host running Arch Linux

Install the arch-install-scripts package.

Follow Installation guide#Mount the file systems to mount the filesystem that will be used for the root directory as well as all the other needed mount points. If you already use the directory for something else, just create another directory such as and use it as the mount point base for the rest of the installation.

At this stage, Arch Linux can either be installed from scratch or it can mirror the host installation. The two options are described thereafter.

Create a new Arch installation

Follow Installation guide#Installation.

In the procedure, the first step, Installation guide#Select the mirrors, can be skipped since the host should already have a correct mirrorlist.

  • In order to avoid redownloading all the packages, consider following Pacman/Tips and tricks#Network shared pacman cache, or use pacstrap's -c option to use your host machine's package cache.
  • When the grub boot-loader is used, the grub-mkconfig may detect devices incorrectly. This will result in Error:no such device when trying to boot from the stick. To solve this problem, from the host running Arch Linux, mount the newly installed partitions, arch-chroot to the new partition, then install and configure grub. The last step may require disabling lvmetad from /etc/lvm/lvm.conf by setting use_lvmetad=0.

Create a copy of an existing Arch installation

It is possible to replicate an existing Arch Linux installation by copying the host filesystem to the new partition and make some adjustments to it to make it bootable and unique.

The first step is to copy the host files into the mounted new partition, for this, consider using the approach exhibited in rsync#Full system backup.

Then, follow the procedure described in Installation guide#Configure the system with some caveats and additional steps:

If the mirrored Arch installation may be used within a different configuration or with another hardware, consider the following additional operations:

From a host running another Linux distribution

There are multiple tools which automate a large part of the steps described in the following subsections. See their respective homepages for detailed instructions.

The manual way is presented in the following subsections. The idea is to either get pacman working directly on the host system, or to run an Arch system inside the host system, with the actual installation being executed from the Arch system. The nested system is contained inside a chroot.

Using pacman from the host system

Pacman can be compiled on most Linux distributions, and used directly on the host system to bootstrap Arch Linux. The arch-install-scripts should run without issues directly from the downloaded sources on any recent distribution.

Some distributions provide a package for pacman and/or arch-install-scripts in their official repositories which can be used for this purpose. As of July 2020, Void Linux is known to provide the pacman package, and Alpine Linux and Fedora are known to provide both pacman and arch-install-scripts.

Creating a chroot

Two methods to setup and enter the chroot are presented below, from the easiest to the most complicated. Select only one of the two methods. Then, continue at #Using a chroot environment.

Method A: Using the bootstrap tarball (recommended)

Download the bootstrap tarball from a mirror into .

Download the bootstrap tarball signature from the download page and place it in the same directory. Do not download it from a mirror.

Verify the signature with GnuPG.

Extract the tarball:

# tar xzf /path-to-bootstrap-image/archlinux-bootstrap-x86_64.tar.gz --numeric-owner

Take note of the final option, which is important for preserving correct UID and GID numbers of extracted files in case your existing Linux system uses different numbers than Arch Linux.

Select a repository server by editing .

Enter the chroot:

  • If bash 4 or later is installed, and unshare supports the and options:
  • Otherwise, run the following commands:

Method B: Using the LiveCD image

It is possible to mount the root image of the latest Arch Linux installation media and then chroot into it. This method has the advantage of providing a working Arch Linux installation right within the host system without the need to prepare it by installing specific packages.

The root image can be found on one of the mirrors under . The squashfs format is not editable, so we unsquash the root image and mount it.

To unsquash the root image, run

# unsquashfs airootfs.sfs

Select a repository server by editing squashfs-root/etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist.

Before chrooting to the unsquashed root image, we need to set up some mount points and copy the for networking.

# mount --bind squashfs-root squashfs-root
# mount -t proc none squashfs-root/proc
# mount -t sysfs none squashfs-root/sys
# mount -o bind /dev squashfs-root/dev
# mount -o bind /dev/pts squashfs-root/dev/pts  ## important for pacman (for signature check)
# cp -L /etc/resolv.conf squashfs-root/etc  ## this is needed to use networking within the chroot

Now, everything is prepared to chroot into the newly installed Arch environment:

# chroot squashfs-root bash

Using a chroot environment

The bootstrap environment is really barebones (no nano or ). Therefore, we need to set up pacman in order to download other necessary packages.

Initializing pacman keyring

Before starting the installation, pacman keys need to be setup. Before running the following two commands, read pacman-key#Initializing the keyring to understand the entropy requirements:

# pacman-key --init
# pacman-key --populate

Downloading basic tools

Refresh the package lists and install what you need: , etc.

Installation tips

You can now proceed to Installation guide#Mount the file systems and follow the rest of the Installation guide.

Some host systems or configurations may require certain extra steps. See the sections below for tips.


On some Debian-based host systems, pacstrap may produce the following error:

This is because in some versions of Debian, points to while in the Arch-based chroot, does not exist and the link is broken. To correct this error, create a directory :

# mkdir /run/shm

While installing archlinux-2015.07.01-x86_64 from a Debian 7 host, the following error prevented both and arch-chroot from working:

Apparently, this is because these two scripts use a common function. chroot_setup() relies on newer features of , which are incompatible with Debian 7 userland (see ).

The solution for pacstrap is to manually execute its various tasks, but use the regular procedure to mount the kernel filesystems on the target directory ():

# newroot=/mnt
# mkdir -m 0755 -p "$newroot"/var/{cache/pacman/pkg,lib/pacman,log} "$newroot"/{dev,run,etc}
# mkdir -m 1777 -p "$newroot"/tmp
# mkdir -m 0555 -p "$newroot"/{sys,proc}
# mount --bind "$newroot" "$newroot"
# mount -t proc /proc "$newroot/proc"
# mount --rbind /sys "$newroot/sys"
# mount --rbind /run "$newroot/run"
# mount --rbind /dev "$newroot/dev"
# pacman -r "$newroot" --cachedir="$newroot/var/cache/pacman/pkg" -Sy base base-devel ... ## add the packages you want
# cp -a /etc/pacman.d/gnupg "$newroot/etc/pacman.d/"       ## copy keyring
# cp -a /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist "$newroot/etc/pacman.d/"  ## copy mirrorlist

Instead of using arch-chroot for Installation guide#Chroot, simply use:

# chroot "$newroot"

Trying to create LVM logical volumes from an environment on a Debian 7 host resulted in the following error:

(Physical volume and volume group creation worked despite being displayed.)

This could be easily worked around by creating the logical volumes outside the chroot (from the Debian host). They are then available once chrooted again.

Also, if the system you are using has lvm, you might have the following output:

This is because debian does not use lvmetad by default. You need to edit and set to :

use_lvmetad = 0

This will trigger later an error on boot in the initrd stage. Therefore, you have to change it back after the grub generation. In a software RAID + LVM, steps would be the following:

  • After installing the system, double check your Mkinitcpio and your bootloader settings. See Arch boot process#Boot loader for a list of bootloaders.
  • You may need to change your /etc/mdadm.conf to reflect your RAID settings (if applicable).
  • You may need to change your and according to your LVM and RAID requirements: MODULES="dm_mod" HOOKS="base udev mdadm_udev ... block lvm2 filesystems ..."
  • You will most likely need to generate new initrd images with mkinitcpio. See Mkinitcpio#Image creation and activation.
  • Set in .
  • Update your bootloader settings. See your bootloader's wiki page for details.
  • Set in .

Fedora-based host

On Fedora based hosts and live USBs you may encounter problems when using genfstab to generate your fstab. Remove duplicate entries and the "seclabel" option where it appears, as this is Fedora-specific and will keep your system from booting normally.

Things to check before you reboot

Before rebooting, doublecheck a few details in your installation to achieve a successful installation. To do so, first chroot into the newly-installed system, and then:

  • create a user with password, so you can login via ssh. This is critical since root login is disabled by default since OpenSSH-7.1p2.
  • set a root password so that you can switch to root via su later
  • install a ssh solution and enable its server instance to start automatically at boot.
  • set up your network configuration in order to have a connection started automatically at boot.
  • set up a boot loader and configure it to use the swap partition you appropriated earlier as the root partition. You might want to configure your bootloader to be able to boot into your old system; it is helpful to re-use the server's existing partition in the new system for this purpose.

Replacing the existing system without a LiveCD

Find ~700 MB of free space somewhere on the disk, e.g. by partitioning a swap partition. You can disable the swap partition and set up your system there.

Set old swap partition as new root partition

Check , or to find your swap partition. Assuming your hard drive is located on ( will be a number).

Do the following:

Disable the swap space:

# swapoff /dev/sdaX

Create a filesystem on it

# fdisk /dev/sda
(set /dev/sdaX ID field to "Linux" - Hex 83)
# mke2fs -j /dev/sdaX

Create a directory to mount it in

# mkdir /mnt/newsys

Finally, mount the new directory for installing the intermediate system.

# mount -t ext4 /dev/sdaX /mnt/newsys


Install essentials packages and any other package required to get a system with internet connection up and running in the temporary partition, being careful with the limit of ~700 MB space. When specifying packages to be installed with pacstrap, consider adding the -c flag to avoid filling up valuable space by downloading packages to the host system.

Once the new Arch Linux system is installed, fix the bootloader configuration, then reboot into the newly created system, and rsync the entire system to the primary partition.

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