Arch Linux does not boot: how to fix it

If your Arch Linux does not boot or boot into a black screen, start by switching to another terminal with the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+Alt+F1, Ctrl+Alt+F2, Ctrl+Alt+F3, and so on. If you succeeded and you saw a command prompt to enter your login credentials, then everything is easy – log in and roll back the changes that prevent the system from starting.

But there are more difficult cases, for example, due to the installation of a video driver, bbswitch or similar programs, and it may be impossible to switch to other terminals due to a complete system freeze.

Another example of a difficult situation is completely removing the boot disk (this has happened to me).

Manjaro and other Arch Linux based distributions offer GUI installers for installing the operating system. But if you installed Arch Linux manually (as described in the Arch Linux Installation Guide), you may have noticed that we install packages and configure the system by booting from a Live image. This same trick can be used to fix problems of any complexity – even if your system is completely inoperative and won't boot, it can still be fixed!

Boot into another operating system – for this you can install Linux on a USB flash drive and keep this USB flash drive for such cases. By the way, you can use an old flash drive, less than 1 gigabyte in size, to always keep the Arch Linux Live image on it – especially in case of such a problem.

Start by downloading the Arch Linux image from the official site: https://www.archlinux.org/download/

For burning, use the Etcher program (site https://www.balena.io/etcher/), which works great on any operating system.

How to repair an Arch Linux boot disk

If your boot partition is damaged or deleted, boot the Arch Linux Live image from the USB stick and run the following commands.

Note that instead of nvme0n1p1 you need to specify the name of your boot partition, for example /dev/sdb1. To see a list of all disks, run the command:

sudo fdisk -l

We format the boot partition to FAT32:

mkfs.fat -F32 /dev/nvme0n1p1

We mount partitions:

mount /dev/nvme0n1p2 /mnt
mkdir /mnt/boot
mount /dev/nvme0n1p1 /mnt/boot

Change the root directory to a new one:

arch-chroot /mnt

Installing the bootloader:

bootctl install

Edit the content of the file:

vim /boot/loader/loader.conf

Delete what is there and write there:

default  arch

Create a config file to add an Arch Linux item to the systemd-boot manager:

vim /boot/loader/entries/arch.conf

The content of the file should be as follows:

title  BlackArch
linux  /vmlinuz-linux
initrd  /initramfs-linux.img
options  root=/dev/nvme0n1p2 rw

Pay attention to /dev/nvme0n1p2 – this is the path to my system disk, replace it with your own.

Exit the chroot, unmount the mounted partitions and reboot:

exit
umount -R /mnt/boot
umount -R /mnt
reboot

You can remove the installer disc.

How to remove a program that prevents Arch Linux from booting

Sometimes the booting fails due to an installed program, or vice versa, due to the removal of a required package.

Boot the Arch Linux Live image from a USB stick and run the following commands. Note that instead of nvme0n1p1 and nvme0n1p2, you need to specify the names of your disk's partitions, for example /dev/sdb1 and /dev/sdb2. To see a list of all disks, run the command:

sudo fdisk -l

We mount partitions:

mount /dev/nvme0n1p2 /mnt
mkdir /mnt/boot
mount /dev/nvme0n1p1 /mnt/boot

Change the root directory to a new one:

arch-chroot /mnt

By default, you are the root user, but you can change the user existing on the system we are restoring. This can be useful, since the history of commands of this user will be available to us, and we can easily remember which configuration files we edited and which packages were installed/removed just before the inability to boot.

For example, on a non-working system, the last commands were executed from the user mial, let's log in as this user:

sudo su mial

Now, to install packages, use a command like:

sudo pacman -S PACKAGE

And to remove packages, use a command like:

sudo pacman -R PACKAGE

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