Why is Arch Linux So Challenging and What are Its Pros & Cons?

Arch Linux is among the most popular Linux distributions and it was first released in 2002, being spear-headed by Aaron Grifin. Yes, it aims to provide simplicity, minimalism, and elegance to the OS user but its target audience is not the faint of hearts. Arch encourages community involvement and a user is expected to put in some effort to better comprehend how the system operates.

Many old-time Linux users know a good amount about Arch Linux but you probably don’t if you are new to it considering using it for your everyday computing tasks. I’m no authority on the distro myself but from my experience with it, here are the pros and cons you will experience while using it.

1. Pro: Build Your Own Linux OS

Other popular Linux Operating Systems like Fedora and Ubuntu ship with computers, same as Windows and MacOS. Arch, on the other hand, allows you to develop your OS to your taste. If you are able to achieve this, you will end up with a system that will be able to do exactly as you wish.

Con: Installation is a Hectic Process

Installing Arch Linux is far from a walk in a park and since you will be fine-tuning the OS, it will take a while. You will need to have an understanding of various terminal commands and the components you will be working with since you are to pick them yourself. By now, you probably already know that this requires quite a bit of reading.

2. Pro: No Bloatware and Unnecessary Services

Since Arch allows you to choose your own components, you no longer have to deal with a bunch of software you don’t want. In contrast, OSes like Ubuntu come with a huge number of pre-installed desktop and background apps which you may not need and might not be able to know that they exist in the first place, before going on to remove them.

To put simply, Arch Linux saves you post-installation time. Pacman, an awesome utility app, is the package manager Arch Linux uses by default. There is an alternative to Pacman, called Pamac.

3. Pro: No System Upgrades

Arch Linux uses the rolling release model and that is awesome. It means that you no longer have to worry about upgrading every now and then. Once you install Arch, say goodbye to upgrading to a new version as updates occur continuously. By default, you will always be using the latest version.

Con: Some Updates Can Break Your System

While updates flow in continuously, you have to consciously track what comes in. Nobody knows your software’s specific configuration and it’s not tested by anyone but you. So, if you are not careful, things on your machine could break.

4. Pro: Arch is Community Based

Linux users generally have one thing in common: The need for independence. Although most Linux distros have less corporate ties, there are still a few you cannot ignore. For instance, a distro based on Ubuntu is influenced by whatever decisions Canonical makes.

If you are trying to become even more independent with the use of your computer, then Arch Linux is the way to go. Unlike most systems, Arch has no commercial influence and focuses on the community.

5. Pro: Arch Wiki is Awesome

The Arch Wiki is a super library of everything you need to know about the installation and maintenance of every component in the Linux system. The great thing about this site is that even if you are using a different Linux distro from Arch, you would still find its information relevant. That’s simply because Arch uses the same components as many other Linux distros and its guides and fixes sometimes apply to all.

6. Pro: Check Out the Arch User Repository

The Arch User Repository (AUR) is a huge collection of software packages from members of the community. If you are looking for a Linux program that is not yet available on Arch’s repositories, you can find it on the AUR for sure.

The AUR is maintained by users who compile and install packages from source. Users are also allowed to vote on packages which give them (the packages i.e.) higher rankings that make them more visible to potential users.

Ultimately: Is Arch Linux for You?

Arch Linux has way more pros than cons including the ones that aren’t on this list. The installation process is long and probably too technical for a non-Linux savvy user, but with enough time on your hands and the ability to maximize productivity using wiki guides and the like, you should be good to go.

Arch Linux is a great Linux distro – not in spite of its complexity, but because of it. And it appeals most to those who are ready to do what needs to be done – given that you will have to do your homework and exercise a good amount of patience.

By the time you build this Operating System from scratch, you would have learned many details about GNU/Linux and would never be ignorant of what’s going on with your PC again.

What are the pros and cons of using Arch Linux in your experience? And on the whole, why is using it so challenging? Drop your comments in the discussion section below.

Divine Okoi is a cybersecurity postgrad with a passion for the open-source community. With 700+ articles covering different topics in IT, you can always trust him to inform you about the coolest tech.

Each tutorial at GeeksMint is created by a team of experienced writers so that it meets our high-quality writing standards.

11 thoughts on “Why is Arch Linux So Challenging and What are Its Pros & Cons?”

  1. Superb distro. My favorite one now. Using it on a Beowulf cluster of a few Xeons to run Molecular Dynamics simulations. A top performer.

  2. I’ve been using Arch for the last 6 years. I can see how the install could be daunting to a newcomer. I came from a strong Linux background and have even built my own LFS(Linux from Scratch) system. After the knowledge gained from LFS, arch was a breeze to setup and you simply can’t beat the wiki and aur.

  3. I recently took the Arch plunge and it’s been awesome. I had to get the courage to take the academic dive and learn what I needed to learn during the installation and configuration, but the Wiki is so damn good it wasn’t that bad. And the end result was my taking control over my computing experience, truly realizing the virtues that drew me to Linux in the first place. It’s not perfect (Steam acts funny and I still haven’t gotten Discord to install) but it’s mine, and without putting in magnitudes more work than with Arch (i.e. building your own distro/OS), you can’t say that about any other operating system.

  4. Arch is great. The main difficulties I’ve had (network related, graphic related) have forced me to learn how things actually work. In the end, I know how and why my system behaves. Going back to another distro, you feel like you have to open up every config files to see what’s what. With Arch, you’ll know, because you’re the one that configured everything. The wiki is very good, and it does lack some things, but compared to any other distro it’s very good. If you have any trouble, check out the IRC channel on freenode, the people are friendly. And if you screw up, you can always reboot the install disk, chroot into your install, and fix it that way.

  5. The philosophy of Arch is probably my favorite aspect. Through the install, you learn more about Linux than you would as an average Linux user. From there, you keep things updated and install extras only as you need them. You can keep the install as light as you want, or build it up and bog it down. It’s just the set up that is daunting… more often than not, a simple break from a package upgrade is an easy search on the forums. If you do need to post on the forums, be sure you post intelligently by providing solid details. I’ve seen a few threads incomplete and closed due to the lack of information provided by the OP.

  6. I found a useful video that walked me through the bare bones of installing Arch on my system. It took me two or three tries to get it right. There was more reading and typing required to get a working desktop. Sally that was a couple years ago and I should have documented things. I’ll be putting a new system together and will have to relearn things.
    Once it was running, I really enjoyed using it. One package broke the DE I was using and hope to use again and another package required me to message the maintainer that there were version issues. He replied promptly and it was straightened out in a few days after his vacation.

  7. Personally, I loved the design of Arch Linux but because the lack of stability and official binary packages (most only have .Deb and .rpm), I moved to Ubuntu and Fedora. But I still love Arch’s blazing speed as a desktop. Hopefully Arch has more support in the future.

      • Debtap cannot natively convert the .Deb into Arch’s .tar.gz package format natively on some occasions. You should compile the source which is not lways available and if you are new to it is not always simple.

  8. Thanks, good article, but …

    I would add that there are alternative installers and arch based distros as Antergos, or even Manjaro that is more like the Ubuntu in the arch world, the arch for human beings and first in distrowatch.

    The arch installer is not a good software for mistakes, it has package incompatibilities listed that are not true, but once you select all your packages you can not go back and unselect them so better follow a guide.

    And if you are following a guide as most people do What is the difference between that and use a template, as Antergos does?.

    Last but not least arch based distros are not Linux – Lignux – from Scratch, http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/lfs/ is.


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