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Installing Arch Linux with Full Disk Encryption (LVM on LUKS)

Installing Arch Linux with Full Disk Encryption

If you're aiming for a seamless Arch Linux installation in UEFI mode, follow along as this guide will walk you through the process step by step. We'll be using LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup) and LVM (Logical Volume Manager) partitions on LUKS to achieve full disk encryption.

Note: I have updated this doc for UEFI mode. For those with BIOS/MBR systems, you can refer to the previous version, but keep in mind that it might be outdated and no longer accurate.

If you're only interested in installing Linux and not setting up dual boot with Windows, feel free to skip the Windows-related sections.

Prepare the System

Before we dive into the installation process, let's ensure that your system is ready:

  • Data Backup: Make sure you've backed up all your important data. We're about to make significant changes, and it's always wise to have a safety net.
  • UEFI Mode: In your system's BIOS settings, set the boot mode to UEFI.

Prepare the USB Drive

  • Ventoy Installation: Start by installing Ventoy on your USB drive. Ventoy is a versatile tool that allows you to easily create a multi-boot USB drive.
  • Download Arch ISO: Head to Arch Linux's official website and download the Arch ISO image. Copy it to your USB drive.
  • Optional Windows 11: If you plan to set up a dual boot with Windows 11, download the Windows 11 ISO image and also copy it to your USB drive.

Disk Partition Structure

Here is an example to give you a clear picture of what the final disk partition structure will look like. If you're not interested in installing Windows, you can simply ignore the green parts.

Disk Partitions

For better flexibility, I do not reuse the Windows EFI for Linux. Instead, I create a distinct EFI partition dedicated solely to Linux, resulting in the presence of two EFI partitions. I also use separate partitions for EFI and Boot.

In the context of this guide, I've designated the disk device and Linux partitions with names according to the table below. Please be aware that these names should be substituted with the actual device paths relevant to your system configuration:

Device In this Doc Examples
Disk Device /dev/<your-disk> /dev/sda, /dev/nvme0n1
EFI Partition /dev/<your-disk-efi> /dev/sda5, /dev/nvme0n1p5
Boot Partition /dev/<your-disk-boot> /dev/sda6, /dev/nvme0n1p6
LUKS Partition /dev/<your-disk-luks> /dev/sda7, /dev/nvme0n1p7

Install Windows (Optional)

  1. Boot from the Windows 11 ISO and install Windows. If you want to use BitLocker for disk encryption, ensure that you install the Windows Pro version.
  2. In Windows, open the start menu and search for "BitLocker". Open the BitLocker settings and enable BitLocker for the C drive.
  3. Important: Store the BitLocker recovery key in a safe place. You will need it later.

Install Arch Linux

  1. Connect the USB drive and boot from the Arch Linux ISO.

  2. Make sure the system is booted in UEFI mode. The following command should display the directory contents without error.

    ls /sys/firmware/efi/efivars
  3. Connect to the internet. A wired connection is preferred since it's easier to connect. More info

  4. Run fdisk to create Linux partitions.

    fdisk /dev/<your-disk>

    If you have installed Windows, you already have a GPT partition table. Otherwise, create an empty GPT partition table using the g command. (WARNING: This will erase the entire disk.)

    # WARNING: This will erase the entire disk.
    Command (m for help): g
    Created a new GPT disklabel (GUID: ...).

    Create the EFI partition (/dev/<your-disk-efi>):

    Command (m for help): n
    Partition number: <Press Enter>
    First sector: <Press Enter>
    Last sector, +/-sectors or +/-size{K,M,G,T,P}: +100M
    Command (m for help): t
    Partition type or alias (type L to list all): uefi

    Create the Boot partition (/dev/<your-disk-boot>):

    Command (m for help): n
    Partition number: <Press Enter>
    First sector: <Press Enter>
    Last sector, +/-sectors or +/-size{K,M,G,T,P}: +512M
    Command (m for help): t
    Partition type or alias (type L to list all): linux

    Create the LUKS partition (/dev/<your-disk-luks>):

    Command (m for help): n
    Partition number: <Press Enter>
    First sector: <Press Enter>
    Last sector, +/-sectors or +/-size{K,M,G,T,P}: <Press Enter>
    Command (m for help): t
    Partition type or alias (type L to list all): linux

    Print the partition table using the p command and check that everything is OK:

    Command (m for help): p

    Write changes to the disk using the w command. (Make sure you know what you're doing before running this command).

    Command (m for help): w
  5. Format the EFI and Boot Partitions.

    mkfs.fat -F 32 /dev/<your-disk-efi>
    mkfs.ext4 /dev/<your-disk-boot>
  6. Set up the encrypted partition. You can choose any other name instead of cryptlvm.

    cryptsetup --use-random luksFormat /dev/<your-disk-luks>
    cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/<your-disk-luks> cryptlvm
  7. Create an LVM volume group. You can choose any other name instead of vg0.

    pvcreate /dev/mapper/cryptlvm
    vgcreate vg0 /dev/mapper/cryptlvm
  8. Create LVM partitions (logical volumes).

    Update: I don't create swap volume on disk anymore. Instead, I create a zram device as swap space.

    We create logical volumes for swap, root (/), and home (/home). Leave 256MiB of free space in the volume group because the e2scrub command requires the LVM volume group to have at least 256MiB of unallocated space to dedicate to the snapshot.

    lvcreate --size 8G vg0 --name swap
    lvcreate --size 100G vg0 --name root
    lvcreate -l +100%FREE vg0 --name home
    lvreduce --size -256M vg0/home
  9. Format logical volumes.

    mkswap /dev/vg0/swap
    mkfs.ext4 /dev/vg0/root
    mkfs.ext4 /dev/vg0/home
  10. Mount new filesystems.

    mount /dev/vg0/root /mnt
    mount --mkdir /dev/<your-disk-efi> /mnt/efi
    mount --mkdir /dev/<your-disk-boot> /mnt/boot
    mount --mkdir /dev/vg0/home /mnt/home
    swapon /dev/vg0/swap
  11. Install the base system. We also install some useful packages like git, vim, and sudo.

    pacstrap -K /mnt base linux linux-firmware openssh git vim sudo
  12. Generate /etc/fstab. This file can be used to define how disk partitions, various other block devices, or remote filesystems should be mounted into the filesystem.

    genfstab -U /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab
  13. Enter the new system.

    arch-chroot /mnt /bin/bash
  14. Set TimeZone.

    # See available timezones:
    ls /usr/share/zoneinfo/
    # Set timezone:
    ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Asia/Tehran /etc/localtime
  15. Run hwclock(8) to generate /etc/adjtime.

    hwclock --systohc
  16. Set Locale.

    vim /etc/locale.gen (uncomment en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8)
    echo LANG=en_US.UTF-8 > /etc/locale.conf
  17. Set hostname.

    echo yourhostname > /etc/hostname
  18. Create a user.

    useradd -m -G wheel --shell /bin/bash yourusername
    passwd yourusername
    # ---> Uncomment "%wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL"
  19. Configure mkinitcpio with modules needed to create the initramfs image.

    pacman -S lvm2
    vim /etc/mkinitcpio.conf
    # ---> Add 'encrypt' and 'lvm2' to HOOKS before 'filesystems'

    Recreate the initramfs image:

    mkinitcpio -P
  20. Setup GRUB.

    pacman -S grub efibootmgr
    grub-install --target=x86_64-efi --efi-directory=/efi --bootloader-id=GRUB

    In /etc/default/grub edit the line GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX as follows. Don't forget to replace /dev/<your-disk-luks> with the appropriate path.

    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="cryptdevice=/dev/<your-disk-luks>:cryptlvm root=/dev/vg0/root"

    If you have installed Windows and want to add Windows to the GRUB menu, edit /etc/grub.d/40_custom:

    exec tail -n +3 $0
    # This file provides an easy way to add custom menu entries.  Simply type the
    # menu entries you want to add after this comment.  Be careful not to change
    # the 'exec tail' line above.
    if [ "${grub_platform}" == "efi" ]; then
      menuentry "Windows 11" {
        insmod part_gpt
        insmod fat
        insmod search_fs_uuid
        insmod chain
        # After --set=root, add the Windows EFI partition's UUID.
        # (can be found with "blkid" command)
        search --fs-uuid --set=root $FS_UUID
        chainloader /EFI/Boot/bootx64.efi

    In the above script, replace $FS_UUID with Windows EFI partition UUID. You can find this UUID using lsblk command. It should be something like 8E12-69DD.

    Now generate the main GRUB configuration file:

    grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg
  21. Install networkmanager package and enable NetworkManager service to ensure you have Internet connectivity after rebooting.

    pacman -S networkmanager
    systemctl enable NetworkManager
  22. Exit new system and unmount all filesystems.

    umount -R /mnt
    swapoff -a

    Arch is now installed 🎉. Reboot.

  23. Open BIOS settings and set GRUB as first boot priority. Save and exit BIOS settings. After booting the system, you should see the GRUB menu.

  24. If you have installed Windows, select "Windows 11" in GRUB menu. If you have previously enabled Bitlocker, BitLocker will ask for your recovery key when you try to boot Windows through GRUB for the first time. Enter your BitLocker recovery key.

  25. Reboot again and log in to Arch linux with your username and password.

  26. Check internet connectivity.

  27. If you want to use Gnome desktop, install gnome and gdm packages:

    sudo pacman -S gnome gdm

    And enable gdm service:

    sudo systemctl enable gdm
  28. Reboot!


Backup LUKS Header

It is important to make a backup of LUKS header so that you can access your data in case of emergency (if your LUKS header somehow gets damaged).

Create a backup file:

sudo cryptsetup luksHeaderBackup /dev/<your-disk-luks> --header-backup-file luks-header-backup-$(date -I)

Store the backup file in a safe place, such as a USB drive. If something bad happens, you can restore the backup header:

sudo cryptsetup luksHeaderRestore /dev/<your-disk-luks> --header-backup-file /path/to/backup_header_file

Disable Windows Hibernate and Fast Startup

If you want to use the same NTFS drive in both Windows and Linux (for example an NTFS partition on your internal disk or external hard drive), consider disabling "Hibernate" and "Fast Startup" features in Windows.

You can check the current settings on Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options > System Setting > Choose what the power buttons do. The box Turn on fast startup should either be disabled or missing.

More info


Take a look at my dotfiles repo.

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Would you recommend the Encrypt an entire system: TPM2 and Secure Boot or do you have to rebuilt this more often?

Planning to use a Yubikey for this one as well.

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@brenthl88 I would ask the author of the parent gist. I just forked this to make sure it never goes away for me.

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