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Installing Arch Linux on a Thinkpad T420 with system encryption July 22, 2012

Posted by Rich in laptop, linux.
Tags: , , , ,

I completed a basic install of Arch Linux over the weekend on my new Thinkpad T420. As mentioned in my previous post, I converted to UEFI mode and partitioned the hard drive in GPT format. I wanted to install Arch Linux for UEFI/GPT while using full system encryption using LUKS. Since it took a few tries to get all of the steps right, I’m posting what I did here in tutorial form.

Note: be wary of copying-and-pasting my commands for your configuration, since my drive letters and such won’t necessarily be typical.

The 2011-08-19 Arch installation media is rather out-of-date, so I elected to choose a more recent testing ISO. Word on the mailing lists indicates that they’ll release an updated official installation ISO soonish, but I don’t have the patience to wait for that. So, I used the one here and downloaded this iso. For BIOS systems, it’s easy to copy the ISO to a USB flash drive for installation purposes by doing something like dd if=archlinux.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=4M. A UEFI system requires a bit more than this. So, as per this README, I performed the following steps to get my USB media bootable for UEFI:

  1. Install gptfdisk on my desktop to get access to GPT partitioning utilities
  2. Create a GPT setup on the USB drive: sudo gdisk /dev/sdc, then o to create a blank GPT, n to create a new partition. I used the default size (whole disk) and set the type to ef00, an EFI system partition. I checked that it looks right with p to print the partition table, then w to write and quit.
  3. Create a FAT32 filesystem: sudo mkfs.vfat -F 32 -n ARCH_201207 /dev/sdc1 Note: It’s important that the EFI FAT32 partition is named ARCH_201207 otherwise the installer fails to boot.
  4. Mount the new filesystem: sudo mount /dev/sdc1 /media/sdc1 or pmount /dev/sdc1 if you use pmount
  5. Extract the ISO to the filesystem: bsdtar -x --exclude=isolinux/ --exclude=arch/boot/syslinux/ -f ~/Downloads/archlinux-2012.07.21_04-00-02-netinstall-dual.iso -C /media/sdc1
  6. Extract the contents of the EFI boot image: mcopy -s -i /media/sdc1/EFI/archiso/efiboot.img ::/EFI /media/sdc1/
  7. Remove the unneeded boot image: rm /media/sdc1/EFI/archiso/efiboot.img
  8. Unmount the USB: umount /media/sdc1 or pumount /dev/sdc1

And now the USB installation media is ready and we’re ready to boot.

Once booted into the Arch installation environment, the first thing to do is set up dm-crypt with LUKS. I’m using this page as my reference for this step. This is what I did:

  1. Create the boot partition: I used cgdisk /dev/sda to create a new partition. The boot partition doesn’t have to be big, so I opted for a 128 MiB partition with GPT partition type 8300, a Linux filesystem partition. GPT lets you use fancy partition names, so I opted for Arch boot partition. With the three previous partitions for Windows 7, this means that /dev/sda4 is my boot partition.

  2. Create the LUKS partition in the remaining free space of the disk: Still in cgdisk /dev/sda, I created a partition to fill the rest of the disk. I couldn’t find anything online to indicate what partition type/GUID to set, so I used 8e00, Linux LVM. I named the partition Arch Linux LUKS partition. This partition is now /dev/sda5.

  3. Securely erase the LUKS partition by filling it with random data: badblocks -c 10240 -wvst random /dev/sda5. This took a couple hours, but is much faster than using /dev/random or /dev/urandom as an input to dd.

  4. Setup dm-crypt/LUKS: It’s possible to use a keyfile and/or a passphrase. I opted for the passphrase only and the cipher suggested by the wiki page I’m following. The command is cryptsetup -c aes-xts-plain -y -s 512 luksFormat /dev/sda5

  5. Unlock the LUKS partition so we can install Arch on it: cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda5 arch-luks. Now the unlocked LUKS partition is accessed using device-mapper, /dev/mapper/arch-luks

  6. Now to create the LVM partitions. With a 238 GiB volume group, I opted for the following:

    • 15 GiB for the root partition
    • 8 GiB for the var partition
    • 4 GiB for the swap partition (I have 8 GiB RAM, so will probably never need swap, but I want hibernation support. Apparently the RAM is compressed before saving in the swap partition upon hibernation, so 40% of RAM should be sufficient). If I need to adjust, I can do so later.)
    • 200 GiB for the home partition
    • This leaves 11 GiB un-allocated. If/when I need it in the future to extend any of the three above partitions, then I can do so with some LVM and ext4 resizing magic.

    Here are the steps to create the LVM partitions:

    1. Initialize the LUKS partition to be an LVM physical volume: pvcreate /dev/mapper/arch-luks, check with pvdisplay
    2. Add this LVM physical volume to a volume group: vgcreate amonkira_lvm /dev/mapper/arch-luks, check with vgdisplay. I named the volume group amonkira_lvm, which is used later on.
    3. Create the logical volumes from the volume group: lvcreate -L 15G amonkira_lvm -n root, lvcreate -L 8G amonkira_lvm -n var, lvcreate -C y -L 4G amonkira_lvm -n swap, lvcreate -L 200G amonkira_lvm -n home. The LVM physical extents making up the swap partition are forced to be contiguous with -C y, whereas we aren’t so picky about the other volumes. We can check the logical volumes with lvdisplay. The logical volumes are accessed in /dev/mapper/<volume_group_name>-<volume_name> or /dev/<volume_group_name>/<volume_name>.
  7. Now we’re ready to format the partitions. I used ext4 for the non-boot partitions and added optional filesystem labels. I now have GPT partition names, LVM logical volume names, and filesystem labels.

    • Boot partition: This is not on LVM, so it’s mkfs.ext2 -L arch-boot /dev/sda4
    • / partition: mkfs.ext4 -L arch-root /dev/amonkira_lvm/root
    • /home partition: mkfs.ext4 -L arch-home /dev/amonkira_lvm/home
    • /var partition: mkfs.ext4 -L arch-var /dev/amonkira_lvm/var
    • Swap partition: mkswap -L arch-swap /dev/amonkira_lvm/swap

    I reduce or eliminate the number of reserved blocks for the filesystems (it’s 5% by default):

    • tune2fs -m 1.0 /dev/amonkira_lvm/root
    • tune2fs -m 1.0 /dev/amonkira_lvm/var
    • tune2fs -m 0.0 /dev/amonkira_lvm/home
  8. Now we have all of our partitions ready and can continue with the installation. Mount the partitions under /mnt for arch-install-scripts (these aren’t all strictly needed for installation, but it will make generating /etc/fstab easier later on):

    1. mount /dev/amonkira_lvm/root /mnt
    2. mkdir /mnt/var && mount /dev/amonkira_lvm/var /mnt/var
    3. mkdir /mnt/home && mount /dev/amonkira_lvm/home /mnt/home
    4. mkdir /mnt/boot && mount /dev/sda4 /mnt/boot
    5. swapon /dev/amonkira_lvm/swap
  9. Since this is a netinstall, I need to be connected to the Internet. I’ll bring up the wireless interface and connect to a WPA2 network using wpa_supplicant:

    1. My wireless drivers were working out-of-the-box, as confirmed with iwconfig
    2. Bring up the interface with ip link set wlan0 up
    3. Save old wpa_supplicant config: mv /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf.original
    4. Add network name/password to new config: wpa_passphrase linksys "my_secret_passkey" > /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf
    5. Load wpa_supplicant to associate with the network: wpa_supplicant -B -Dwext -i wlan0 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf
    6. Request an IP address: dhcpcd wlan0
    7. Test connection: ping -c 3 http://www.google.com
  10. Install the base system: pacstrap /mnt base base-devel

  11. Install the boot loader: I’m going to install GRUB2, even though I could use the EFISTUB method to bypass GRUB entirely. Maybe I’ll switch to EFISTUB booting another day.

    1. Mount the UEFI system partition: mkdir /mnt/boot/efi && mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot/efi
    2. Install GRUB: pacstrap /mnt grub-efi-x86_64
  12. Configure the system

    1. Generate the /etc/fstab: genfstab -p /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab. I found I had to edit it since /dev/mapper/amonkira_lvm-swap didn’t show up.
    2. Secure /etc/fstab: I changed the following mount options to my devices for /mnt/etc/fstab:
      • <device> /boot ext2 defaults,nodev,nosuid,noexec,noatime 0 2
      • <device> / ext4 defaults,noatime 0 1
      • <device> /var ext4 defaults,nodev,nosuid,relatime 0 2
      • <device> /home ext4 defaults,nodev,nosuid,relatime 0 2
    3. chroot into the new system: arch-chroot /mnt
    4. Set up /etc/rc.conf and set USELVM to YES
    5. Set up /etc/locale.gen, then run locale-gen to generate locales
    6. Configure /etc/mkinitcpio.conf, add “encrypt” and “lvm2” to hooks (in that order) before “filesystem” entry, add “ext4” to MODULES; run mkinitcpio -p linux
    7. Configure GRUB
      1. Install GRUB UEFI application to the UEFI system partition and the GRUB modules to the boot partition:
        1. Outside the chroot (in another TTY, for example), run modprobe efivars
        2. grub-install --directory=/usr/lib/grub/x86_64-efi --target=x86_64-efi --efi-directory=/boot/efi --bootloader-id=arch_grub --boot-directory=/boot --recheck --debug
        3. mkdir -p /boot/grub/locale
        4. cp /usr/share/locale/en\@quot/LC_MESSAGES/grub.mo /boot/grub/locale/en.mo
      2. Add some command-line kernel arguments in /etc/default/grub: for GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX, add root=/dev/mapper/amonkira_lvm-root for LVM and cryptdevice=/dev/sda5:arch-luks for LUKS and resume=/dev/mapper/amonkira_lvm-swap for hibernation
      3. I decided to add Windows 7 to the Grub menu. I followed this and added it to /etc/grub.d/40_custom.
      4. Create the GRUB config file: grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg
    8. Set root password: passwd
  13. Clean up

    1. exit out of the chrooted filesystem
    2. umount /mnt/{boot/efi,boot,var,home} && umount /mnt
  14. Reboot and hopefully everything works! It did for me. 🙂

Now a basic and minimal Arch installation is done. Next post will be the post-installation configuration steps.



1. faceless47 - July 27, 2012

Thank you very much. This has saved me a lot of reading, after they changed the installer script.

Rich - July 27, 2012

You’re welcome. It’s funny, like the day after I made this post, they released a new official ISO, so the stuff about using a testing release could be replaced with using the official release.

2. DJM - August 9, 2012

Thanks for the write up! Just wondering where sda1 came from in this line: “Mount the UEFI system partition: mkdir /mnt/boot/efi && mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot/efi”?

Rich - August 9, 2012

This was previously created when I installed Windows 7 (see my previous post). For UEFI/GPT on a blank disk, Windows 7 creates three partitions:

* /dev/sda1 is the EFI boot partition. It’s FAT32 and 100 MiB big
* /dev/sda2 is some Microsoft system parition. 128 MiB big
* /dev/sda3 is the main Windows 7 parititon. NTFS and 60 GiB large in my case.

We need this partition mounted because grub installs some stuff there. Hope that helps!

DJM - August 10, 2012

Thanks! About 5 minutes after I posted that I realized you had mentioned you had Windows installed first. So, I ended up creating the boot partition (since I don’t have Windows installed). Odd thing is everything seems to work, however now I I end up hanging at “Loading initial ramdisk” as someone else has blogged about. I have a T430 and am wondering if maybe I should try installing Windows on part of the disk first… Going to see if there’s EFI updates as well, but it *almost* works for me.

Rich - August 10, 2012

I’m not sure what the problem is, but I kinda doubt installing Windows would help. Have you asked on the forums or on the archlinux subreddit?

3. Configuring Arch Linux on a Thinkpad T420 « Onions are delicious - August 21, 2012

[…] is a follow-on post to last time where I did a basic install of Arch linux on my Thinkpad […]

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