Arch Linux is a great Linux distribution but infamously complicated to install. EndeavourOS provides the closest thing to a plain-vanilla Arch installation—without the pain. Let’s look at how it differs and how to install it.
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Arch Linux and EndeavourOS
Arch Linux is famous for being its own thing, done in its own way. Most distributions are built on other distributions. Ubuntu is based on Debian, Manjaro is based on Arch, and Fedora is based on RedHat Linux.
Arch Linux isn’t based on anything. It was built from the ground up using the Linux kernel, the GNU utilities, its own package manager, and so on. Arch Linux lets the user decide exactly what they want to include or leave out of their operating system and applications. It’s the polar opposite of bloat. It’s just about the skinniest Linux you can get.
Including only what you want results in a lightweight, fast operating system. Why install stuff that isn’t going to be of any use to you, just to have it taking up disk space? The fewer moving parts the better. But the granularity of the installation process is off-putting—if not downright intimidating—for many users. It’s not for newbies.
Ironically, one of the driving principles of Arch Linux is KISS. Keep it sweet and simple, yet I know people who have spent weeks trying to get Arch Linux fully functional and stable on a laptop. You learn a lot by installing and maintaining and fixing Arch, but a lot of users don’t come to Linux for that. They want “it just works.”
Distributions like Manjaro try to bridge the gap. Manjaro is Arch-based, uses the same package manager as Arch Linux, and uses a rolling release model. There’s no big update once or twice a year with Arch Linux, it is continually updated as application and operating system patches become available. Manjaro does this too, but with a delay in the patch roll-out process. The delay gives the developers time to fix any bugs that have been spotted in the Arch Linux updates.
Manjaro is Arch-based but it isn’t Arch Linux. If you really want to run Arch Linux but can’t face or fathom the Arch Linux installation, what can you do? That’s where EndeavourOS comes in. EndeavourOS delivers as close to plain-vanilla Arch as you can get, without hand-assembling Arch Linux the hard way.
EndeavourOS uses the well-known Calamares installer. It asks you a set of questions—what is your keyboard layout, which desktop environment do you want, which timezone are you in—and installs Arch Linux the way you want it. In 30 or 40 minutes you have a fully-functional Arch Linux installation, with a few EndeavourOS-specific management tools on top.
This puts Arch Linux within the reach of everyone.
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How to Install EndeavourOS
Download the EndeavourOS installation ISO and either burn it to a DVD or make a bootable USB drive.
Boot your computer from the install media. You’ll see a menu. Tellingly, the menu title is “Arch Linux.” If you have a recent NVIDIA graphics card select the second option, otherwise select the top option. The top option also supports NVIDIA, but the second option includes proprietary drivers for the most recent cards.
Your computer will boot into the EndeavourOS live environment. From the “Welcome” dialog select the “Start the Installer” button.
EndeavourOS has two types of installations. The online version—which requires internet connectivity, obviously—lets you choose your desktop environment. The offline method doesn’t need internet connectivity but it doesn’t give you a choice of desktop environments. It only installs the Xfce desktop environment.
While the installation is running a terminal window will display either the installation log or the log from
pacman, the Arch Linux installation package manager. The terminal window sits behind the main installation screens. You won’t see it unless you bring it to the front with Alt+Tab. For most people, it won’t matter which of the two checkboxes is selected. I thought it’d be interesting to see the
pacman log, so that’s what I selected.
The online installation offers the most options and is going to be the best option unless you’re stuck somewhere without internet access. Click the “Online” button.
The information-gathering portion of the installation starts. The first step lets you select your language from a dropdown menu.
Select your language and click “Next” to proceed.
Click the map to select your timezone and location. Click “Next” to move on.
Choose your keyboard layout and other characteristics, then click “Next.”
You can manually partition your disks or let EndeavourOS pick sane defaults. We were wiping the entire disk and letting EndeavourOS decide on the partitioning, so we selected the “Erase Disk” radio button.
We selected the “Swap (no hibernation)” option, and selected “Btrfs” as the file system. You can also choose to have no swap, swap to a file, or swap and hibernation. The file system options are “ext4” or “Btrfs.” Click “Next” when you’ve made your choices.
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The next screen lets you pick your desktop environment and a few other options. Make sure the first checkbox is selected. If you want to have a Long Term Support kernel installed as well as the latest version of the kernel, select the second checkbox.
Choose your desktop environment. The options are:
- Xfce-4 Desktop
- KDE Desktop
- Gnome Desktop
- i3 Window Manager
- Mate Desktop
- Cinnamon Desktop
- Budgie Desktop
- LXQT Desktop
Not sure which to pick? Our guide to Linux desktop environments covers some of the options here.
If you want printing support—and you probably do—select the “Printing Support” checkbox. If you need HP scanner and printing support or accessibility tools, select those options. Click “Next” when you’re ready to move on.
On the next screen, provide details about yourself, choose a name for your computer, and set a password. Make sure “Log In Automatically Without Asking for a Password” is not selected. It’s usually more convenient to use the same password for the root account, so select the final check box. Click “Next” to proceed.
You’re shown a summary of what you’ve requested. To go ahead and make the changes and install EndeavourOS, click the “Install” button.
You’re given the chance to back out or to proceed.
If you click the “Install Now” button the hard drive partitioning and file copying processes commence.
The progress bar can pause for a little while here and there, but just sit tight and it’ll move again when it’s ready. You can use the Alt+Tab key-combination to bring the terminal window to the front if you want to verify that something is happening behind the scenes. On one installation, the progress bar stopped at 14% for quite a while then jumped to 39%, and carried on from there.
When the installation finishes, select the “Restart Now” check box and click the “Done” button.
You’ll reboot into an EndeavourOS-themed Arch Linux.
EndeavourOS, First Boot
When you boot in EndeavourOS you’ll see the Welcome application.
This application makes it easy for the newcomer to do some of the things you usually want to do after a fresh install of Linux, such as checking for updates and refreshing the contents of the package manager mirrors.
Endeavour follows the Arch Linux principle of delivering you a working, naked, system. It’s like a new house. You need to decorate it and furnish it the way you like. The EndeavourOS GNOME 40 version came with the Tweaks application installed. Using Tweaks, the main GNOME settings application, and the GNOME Extensions manager, you can configure your desktop to your liking.
Then all you need to do is decide which applications you’d like to install. The Welcome application has a tabbed interface. Some of the buttons and tabs provide information, some of them will carry out actions. The “Add More Apps” tab lets you easily install some popular applications such as the LibreOffice office productivity suite, the Chromium browser, and a firewall.
The applications are installed from the official Arch Linux repository, or from the AUR, the community-run Arch User Repository. There is an EndeavourOS repository too, but it’s only used for the EndeavourOS-specific applications like the Welcome application, and some theme-related resources.
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Life on the Edge
EndeavourOS is the easiest way to get a cutting-edge installation of Arch Linux on your hardware. The Calamares installer makes it as easy as installing Ubuntu. So should everybody hop over to EndeavourOS?
Not quite. Any rolling release model can introduce instabilities. With Arch Linux, instabilities and other software regressions are always addressed in a very short time and new patches are rolled out within a day or so. But, in the short interim, you might experience some operational issues. Those who choose to use Arch Linux need to make an informed decision and understand this. The bleeding-edge isn’t a place for the faint-hearted.
That’s why Arch-based distributions like Manjaro are one step back from the edge. They have a safety net delay between the release of new updates and issuing those updates to users. They’re held back long enough so that any significant gotchas are spotted and resolved.
But, if you understand the risks and benefits of using an Arch-based distribution, or you want to play about with Arch Linux on a non-critical computer, EndeavourOS is the easiest way to get a 99.9% plain-vanilla Linux Arch installation up and running without the tears.
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