systemd-boot - BASIC - installation

Yet another CLI guide

But what if you requirements are simple? And you want the installation to be as simple as possible? Plain and simple no fuzz - boot Manjaro - that's it.

systemd-boot is a bootloader which do not get much attention on Manjaro - since most Manjaro installations is created using Calamares installer which in turn installs grub. I recall a setting for an iso-profile setting the efi_bootloader="grub" - but it didn't work very well so I decided to learn how to implement systemd-boot the most simple way - later create a merge request to the tools.

Before you begin

First - I am assuming you know your device path - for the safety of less experienced readers - I am using a device path /dev/sdy you most likely do not find on your system.

Second - I am assuming you are using a root TTY as no commands is prefixed with sudo.

TIP: Don't use a graphical environment - switch to TTY - because the live system may lock screen and other unpleasant thing while you are using the terminal - thus breaking what ever you were doing.

Third - I will be using command line partitioning - no menu interfaces - pure command line.

Fourth - This guide will work for any device - it be internal, removable USB or otherwise attached to your system. To ease the pain of writing the same device over and over I made use of an environment variable - I assume you set the same too.

TIP If your circumstances allows for it - you can use [ssh] to install remotely using another device on your network.

Let's begin

If you have not done so already open a root TTY and set the device variable - remember it only exist in the current shell

# INS="/dev/sdy"

Ensure your device is not mounted anywhere

# umount -f "$INS"

Now to the serious stuff

The stuff that needs disclaimers - you are on your own kind of stuff.

Clean the disk's partition tables

# sgdisk --zap-all "$INS"

Create a new GPT partition table

# sgdisk --mbrtogpt "$INS"

Create the $esp partition

# sgdisk --new 1::+512M --typecode 1:ef00 --change-name 1:"EFI System" "$INS"

Create the root partition

# sgdisk --new 2::: --typecode 2:8304 --change-name 2:"Linux x86-64 root" "$INS"

Wipe everything from the partitions

# wipefs -af "$INS"1
# wipefs -af "$INS"2

Format the partitions

Format $esp partition using FAT32

# mkfs.vfat -vF32 "$INS"1

Format the the root partition using your preferred filesystem- If your device is flash based you can use f2fs which is created for flash or you can use ext4 which is a defacto standard for Linux.

# mkfs.f2fs "$INS"2


Mount your root partition on the systems temporary mountpoint

# mount "$INS"2 /mnt

Then create the folder for booting systemd ($esp)

# mkdir /mnt/boot

And mount the $esp partition

# mount "$INS"1 /mnt/boot

Installing a base Manjaro system

This article is only scratching the surface of the new system. We only install a basic bootable system using the base meta package, filesystem tools for f2fs along with kernel and some required tools - and don't forget network connectivity

# basestrap /mnt base f2fs-tools linux55 nano mkinitcpio bash-completion networkmanager systemd-boot-manager

Configuring the base system

Configuring the system is the tedious - extremely boring - but crucial part, usually abstracted by tools like Manjaro Architect.


Chroot into the mountpoint

# manjaro-chroot /mnt /bin/bash


The vconsole.conf file contains information about the type of keymap you are using - in this case a danish keymap - but it could us for a default US english keymap.

# echo KEYMAP=dk > /etc/vconsole.conf

The hostname file contains the name of your computer on a network - this must be unique - you can of course select another name

# echo manjaro > /etc/hostname

The hosts file contains information local to your system. The is almost empty - edit the file and append below IP addresses and the hostname from your hostname file

# nano /etc/hosts localhost manjaro.localdomain manjaro

The ever important system time - the example is for Denmark but it could be Europe/Paris if you live in that area.

# ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Copenhagen

Unix systems expects the hardware clock to run in UTC and the system then corrects the clock using the timezone information - this is a point where Windows and Linux disagree causing trouble for dual-booters - which we are not.

# hwclock --systohc

Enable the network and timesync (don't use --now in chroot, it will fail)

# systemctl enable NetworkManager systemd-timesyncd

Now we create a locale configuration - this configuration defines system messages and how time, date and other units are displayed.

# nano /etc/locale.gen

Uncomment the locales you want to use - e.g. using English for messages and German for date and time uncomment both. In this example - again for Denmark.

en_DK.UTF-8 UTF-8

To actually use preferences the necessary files needs generated - this is done using the locale-gen command

# locale-gen

The locale.conf file contains a reference to the locale files just created. Please see the Arch Wiki page on locales for additional entries you can add.

# echo LANG=en_DK.UTF-8 > /etc/locale.conf

And finally set the root password

# passwd


systemd-boot on Arch Wiki

This is the interesting part you have worked yourself down to.


Use the mkinicpio command to generate the initramfs - it will copy the files to the boot ($esp) partition.

# mkinitcpio -P


Now install the systemd bootloader to the boot ($esp) partition

# bootctl --path=/boot install

The rest of the configuration can be done outside chroot - necessary to write a boot entry to your EFI firmware

# exit

For the bootloader to actually load we need create a configuration file to specify the kernel, initrd.

To avoid typos - use ls to list the content of boot folder and pipe the output to the boot configuration

# ls /mnt/boot/init* /mnt/boot/vmlinuz* > /mnt/boot/loader/entries/manjaro.conf

Now open the file using nano

# nano /mnt/boot/loader/entries/manjaro.conf

Amend the file to look like this (the order of the lines are not important)

title   Manjaro
linux   /vmlinuz-5.5-x86_64
initrd  /initramfs-5.5-x86_64.img 

This new configuration file is then added to the file loader.conf

# nano /mnt/boot/loader/loader.conf
default manjaro


This article does not take into account the amd/intel microcode and maintenance due to kernel upgrades or booting different kernels.

To learn more - read up on systemd-boot on the Arch Wiki.

Just a few things worth noting.

  • With systemd-boot, we also need to handle microcode loading by hand in the entries
  • It is probably worth pointing out that these entries will need to be added/updated as new kernels are installed and removed
  • Lastly, systemd-boot-manager will handle both those things for you in an automated fashion. It can automate the installation of systemd-boot, the creation and removal of entries, the addition of microcode updates and has options setting defaults automatically. It has full support for luks/lvm/btrfs/zfs/etc. -- @dalto


Unmount your devices

# umount -R /mnt

If you are installing to an USB device - sync device before removing it

# sync

And reboot

# reboot


You have only scratched the surface and there is work to be done - installing xorg, applications, themes - what ever you fancy - it's really up to you how this adventure ends.

Have fun - I did.