First released in March 2002, Arch Linux is a somewhat old Linux distribution. Over time, this distro has become one of the most well-known Linux distros and has built up a huge fan base who loves its “Keep It Simple, Stupid” approach, with minimalism and choice at its core.
I don’t think you’ll ever come across similar Arch Linux installations, which is its main attraction. You should know, this minimalist distribution is not very user-friendly, especially for beginners. Still, if you’re looking to understand what a Linux distribution can do genuinely, then this distro could be for you.
A significant player in the Linux world alongside Ubuntu, in this article, we are going to find out (as you can quickly tell from the title) why it continues to be popular.
As mentioned above, one of the primary reasons people love this distro is the freedom of choice that it provides. Quite literally, the installation ISO doesn’t come with a desktop environment at all. So, when it comes to the look and feel of your desktop, it’s left up to you.
Arch Linux has access to a wide array of desktops environments (12 officially including KDE, Gnome, and XFCE); you can choose any one of them and then change it according to your taste.
If you have a low-powered machine, I’d recommend that you go for a less intensive desktop environment such as XFCE. Installing this desktop environment on Arch takes a few commands at the terminal and some extra configuration after that.
Apart from the official desktop environments, you can also install several more. You can also opt not to install a desktop environment if you don’t need one; this might be the case if you’re considering using Arch for a server build.
Suppose you make a side-by-side comparison of a basic Arch installation to Ubuntu (or any other Linux distro) or Windows. In that case, you’d certainly be impressed with Arch as it doesn’t come with any sort of “unnecessary” software to slow down your system. Its system requirements are very minimum (just 512MB RAM and an x64 CPU).
The performance from an Arch installation will vary depending on the desktop environment that you choose. A heavier one like KDE will slow your PC down compared to a lighter one like XFCE.
Again, the freedom of choice, if there is anything that you think may slow down your distro installation, you can customize and cut it out during installation.
As mentioned above, this Linux distro is not for beginners. The user-friendliness of Arch Linux will vary depending on the software you decide to use with it.
The Arch Linux wiki is the Holy Grail for many Linux users. Now, it may not be ideal for beginners, but it is for Linux pros. It guides you through installation and configuration, but expect a very bumpy ride.
Also, don’t worry if you run into any problems; just go to the Arch Linux forum and paste your problem. The platform is full of other users and developers who will help you solve the issue. Just expect to see “RTFM” (Read The F Manual, and you can guess the F) if you’ve not done your research.
Do you know what the biggest problem is for most of the users looking to install Arch Linux? Well, the answer to this question is ”installation”. For those coming from other Linux distros such as Ubuntu, or Windows for that matter, it’s a total beast.
The Arch Linux ISO has a size of around 600MB. You’ll need to download this first and write it to a USB drive or DVD to install it on your PC.
Don’t expect a graphical installer or anything another graphic, as nothing of this sort is included. It’s a very open-ended process, all the decisions are left to you, and you’ll be required to know how to work with the terminal. You’ll need the Arch wiki installation guide, too, to help you through the process.
You’ll have to manually format the drive partitions, run the installation commands, and then access the post-installation guides to help you set up your user accounts and more.
Packages and Programs
There are several central package repositories of Arch from where you can install your packages and programs. The software required to run a basic Arch installation is included in the official Arch package repositories. A user-maintained repository includes various other packages that trusted Arch users have chosen for inclusion.
You’ll have to use Pacman (Arch’s package manager) and the terminal to install the packages. You pick up packages according to your needs; there is no guide to help you through the process. This Linux distro has a rolling release; in simple words, there are no significant new versions, with minor updates taking place regularly instead.
Considering Arch’s greatest strengths, Arch User Repository (AUR) is an excellent place to look if you need to find software. It’s packed with all sorts of software, including some reasonably obscure things, and allows you to search for packages by keywords. There are also plenty of AUR helpers that will enable you to install applications easily.
Multimedia and Gaming
Arch can easily be considered one of the best Linux distro for multimedia and gaming.
It offers many of the top multimedia applications right in its default repositories, along with many extras and codecs that make for a smooth multimedia experience. I don’t think you will have much trouble finding your favorite music player or media center. For any omissions, the AUR will probably have you covered.
Gaming isn’t much different. Steam works flawlessly here. It also offers simple access to the latest graphics drivers for both NVIDIA and AMD. AMD users will especially love it as it provides the latest versions of Mesa and the Linux kernel. Still, the impact will probably only be noticeable with the absolute latest cards.
Is Arch Linux Your Next Linux Distro?
As mentioned many times before, this is not a user-friendly Linux distro, and it leaves the quality of its appearance up to you (and other developers). If the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” approach appeals to you, where minimalism and choice reign supreme, then give Arch Linux a try.
Arch Linux has spawned a whole family of derivative distributions, which are significant players in their own right, so if you want to make your Arch experience more accessible, you could try one of these instead. These will often come with a better installer and user interface, chosen for you already. I hope all this information will be enough to get you started.