System installation

Overview: A Real Challenge

Well, it took me a whole week to fully understand the boot process and different partition tables and their partition requirements. As the intel Z87 motherboard is still shining new for the world, there is almost no documentation I can find nor any useful blog articles out in the net. Therefore, I’ve tried all combinations that I can to get the system installed and partition the disk as I need. In one word, the road to this goal was not easy at all.

Here is the result:

Here are some time saving tips that may help you, these are all wrong routes that I took when I was building the system, these tips will save you a lot of time, especially if you are a novice user and just bought the latest hardware to test your skills:

Asus Z87 Motherboard’s Linux Support

Partition and Bootloader Tips

Detailed Boot Process

It is extremely important for you to understand how the system work if you want to correctly install everything all by yourself using a system like Arch Linux. Therefore here I summarize the boot process here and hopefully it will help you debug your boot process.

Overall environment: (please notice that the environment is really important, because different environment may have completely different process)

How it works:

  1. System boot up, Legacy BIOS looks for the first boot device’s information. This will go to the /dev/sda to load Grub2, if you have this step wrong, your system will tell you no bootable device found, or go keep looking for the next device in the boot order.
  2. Grub loaded, this step you will see the Grub2 menu with different options. If you don’t see this menu, go check whether you have the boot device right.
  3. Choose the OS in the menu, this will find the Linux image in /boot folder, which is generated by mkinitcpio -p linux command if you are using Arch Linux. If you cannot load the Linux kernel, make sure that your Grub is looking for the right file in the right directory. Check the /boot/grub/grub.cfg may help, and pay attention to the UUIDs. If you changed anything on the RAID system, especially your /boot or / file system’s information, please use grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg to re-generate the configuration file.
  4. The loaded Linux kernel will try to start the RAID arrays in order to get the file system. This process is using the configuration file /etc/mdadm.conf. However, you have to use this file to generate the kernel file, instead of updating it after the kernel has been generated. In other words, this file is used to generate the kernel, not a file for the kernel to reference to after the system has been loaded, because if the RAID does not work, you will not even see the file system. In order to make the mkinitcpio work correctly, you have to edit /etc/mkinitcpio.conf, add correct HOOKS (normally mdadm or mdadm_udev) and MODULES (normally ext4 and raid456), generate the correct mdadm.conf file using mdadm --examine --scan, and then run the mkinitcpio -p linux command.

After all these steps, your system should have booted successfully and is running.

Quick Summary

Things changed so fast in the computers and technologies. When I did the installation, a lot of things have changed. Grub is now version 2, Linux is now 3.9.X, and many things now are not working as they used to be, as which way people have discussed for a long time and used for a long time. Therefore, when you are using a new system with a new hardware, please do read the documentation and man pages of the packages you are using, and when you are doing a Google search, do pay attention to the date of the article you are reading as well as what version they were using.

Finally my system is up and running, here is some information get from my system.