I want to learn how to install and configure Arch Linux on my MacBook.

Since I'm just barely an intermediate Linux user (but with an intense desire to learn more), I will probably need a lot of trying/failing. Therefore I want to test out how to set up Arch Linux in VirtualBox (wireless cards, speaker drivers, function buttons, etc.).

If I am able to do this properly in the VirtualBox VM, will the procedure be the same as if I tried to install it for real? (Ignoring that I would need to partition my drive and boot an USB instead of just loading the Arch Linux image in VirtualBox.)

If not, what are the differences going to be?

I intend to try and follow the same procedure and install Arch for real when I get it right in the VM.

  • Mostly. The details will depend on your hardware. Your graphics card and network cards will probably be presented as something different to the VM. Most things will be the same though and it's worth doing this way.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 5, 2014 at 13:02
  • See also this.
    – user44370
    Commented Jul 5, 2014 at 13:47

3 Answers 3


For the most part, yes it is the same. The real differences you'll encounter when doing this as a host OS (compared to a client VM OS) is that VMs emulate very common hardware. If you real machine uses less common hardware you may need to install drivers which aren't usually needed in a VM. The other difference is going to be your hard drive setup. In a VM you usually just create a virtual drive specifically for your new OS. In real machines, doing this will often involve moving\resizing your old partitions and whatnot. Aside from those two things it is very similar and far safer to use a VM.


I would sum it up this way : the base procedure will be exactly the same, though the results may differ. Here's where you may find the most significant changes :

  • Drives configuration : your physical drive does not use the same technology, and does not have the same properties (size, ...) as the virtual one. Still, partitioning, formatting and mounting are performed the very same way.

  • Graphic card : this is the tricky part on pretty much all installations. You'll need to configure your graphic card, which is not necessary on a VM. You'll probably want to install a proper driver (open-source or proprietary, see here for NVIDIA or here for ATI).

  • Sound management : for the same reasons. See here about sound systems.

Now, if you have other specific pieces of hardware such as wireless or Bluetooth adapters, those will also require a little bit of your time to get ready. The procedures are not complicated, especially if you read the Wiki correctly, it just takes some time.

If you have successfully set up a virtual guest where you can :

  • boot
  • successfully log in
  • access the network (I would advice Ethernet only during the installation)
  • start an X session (shall you need one)

... then you're probably good to go. Here are a few things you may forget during the arch-chroot session (I do...), just as a reminder :

  • Set a root password (can't remember how many times I forgot to do that, and couldn't log in)
  • Set your locale and your keyboard layout in /etc/locale.conf (you'll run into less trouble if you're using a standard qwerty keyboard, but that may not be the case).
  • Enable the dhcpcd service (systemctl enable interface@dhcpcd). You'll find the names of your interfaces in /sys/class/net.

Once, I also forgot to install GRUB! The installation on the real thing might make you more nervous but keep this in mind : if you have correctly backed up your data, there's very little chance you'll do something horrible and irreversible. You might have to reinstall once or twice before it's perfect but well... it'll give you some more experience!

Good luck, and welcome into the Arch community!


Installing an operating system in VirtualBox would be the same experience as launching the installer on a computer without anything else installed. If you're going to install it on your MacBook, it's going to be insanely difficult as it is a completely different hardware set up then a normal PC. Even loading the installer was difficult for me.

  • 1
    I think "insanely difficult" is an overstatement
    – drs
    Commented Jul 5, 2014 at 20:34

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