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ArchBang Linux 2012.12 Review – Lightweight Arch

by Rob Zwetsloot

The lightweight Arch-based distro uses Openbox to help make it blazing fast without losing too much functionality

ArchBang is a very specific spin of Arch Linux meant to be simple and light. Due to the rolling release nature of Arch Linux, there isn’t a whole lot new package wise in ArchBang that you’ll have been able to update to from the previous releases – what sets it apart though is the update to the Linux Kernel, moving to Kernel 3.6.8, and other upgrades to Openbox. Even the developers say if you’re fine with your current ArchBang install, you don’t need to worry about upgrading. However, it can pay to be up to date.

Arch Lightweight
ArchBang is a very basic distro

The steps needed to install ArchBang vary greatly in skill level – a great LiveDisc with the same basic packages as the full system can be easily obtained, burned to disc, and accessed via the straightforward boot menu. All very standard stuff. Once you’re in to ArchBang though, the difficulty level jumps up a bit. Right clicking to find the install option on the Openbox menu, a terminal is opened that allows you to set up and customise your system before properly installing.

To be fair, as terminal based installers go, it’s quite nice. It’s well labelled, guiding you to the main operations of partitioning your hard drive, customising your packages, setting up users and the root password, and a bit more. It leaves you very much to your own devices, giving you complete control to rewrite some of the core system files, as well as giving you very little info on what you’re doing with the partitioning.

Arch Lightweight
The installer is a little more involved than most

The installation as mentioned is very lightweight – to begin with, it only needs 2.5 GB with its default settings. Being an Arch derivative, you have full access to the binaries and source via pacman and AUR, so you can immediately begin to customise your experience once you’ve done some maintenance on the repos. The standard packages include an ever present conky to let you know how few resources you’re using, Firefox, archiving tools, and all the other basics so you can actually begin to use ArchBang. There’s no graphical frontend for pacman as standard, but of course you can install one if you wish.

It’s a very hands-on Linux experience, catering to the much more advanced Linux user that likes to totally customise their experience, but at the very least have a starting point they can use rather than build Arch from scratch. In that sense, ArchBang is ridiculously lightweight and fast, and its proud to show this off with an included benchmark tool. Still, Openbox does not conform to the normal desktop metaphor that a lot of other windows managers and desktop environments like to use, which doesn’t make it so ideal for everybody. You can of course change this as you wish, and the repos do have access to the very latest versions of all the major packages, such as desktop environments.

So it’s overall still a very interesting distro, on the one hand giving people a base to start with Arch without having to deal with building from source, and on the other hand it provides purists with the all important lightweight build. It’s still a bit tricky to use though, however this level of supposed difficulty hides much more deep and involved customisation of your personal Linux experience.



A lightweight start to Arch that can be used as is for a lightning fast operating system, or an Arch base to learn more about it. While it’s definitely more suited to the veteran and advanced users, this is because it offers complete customisation over your build.

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    • Due to the moving launch characteristics of Posture A linux systemunix, there is not a whole lot new program sensible in ArchBang that you will have been able to upgrade to from the past produces – what places it apart though is the upgrade to the A linux systemunix Kernel, moving to Kernel 3.6.8, and other improvements to Openbox. Even the designers say if you are fine with your current ArchBang set up, you do not need to fear about improving.

    • Curtis

      “…However it can pay to be up to date.”

      Isn’t that the point of a rolling release distribution? Why would you ever need to reinstall? I think the author misunderstands what a rolling release distribution is. Your packages are always up to date, so as soon as you update your system, you have the latest snapshot. In fact, the repos currently have 3.6.10 and 3.6.11 is awaiting sign off from the real Arch Linux users.

      Honestly, I have to say that if you want a distribution that allows you to learn how your system works, just bit the bullet and install Arch Linux. The learning curve may be steep, but at least you will know exactly what is configured. And then you also won’t be shunned in the Arch Linux forums (which you should not be psoting in if you are seeking ArchBang help, as the two are not equal).

    • Archie Banger

      Thanks for the nice Archbang article/review:

      …, Archbang! allows the “newer” user to instantly have a fully bootable/workable portable “Arch Linux + Openbox” DE, that is ready-to-go, be it on CD, usb, …., wherever you go.
      ArchBang! brings this to the table for the “User”, whereas, “Arch Linux” alone, (unless you put a LOT of work into it), does NOT !

      ArchBang! “helps” rather than hinders the new User’s “steep leaning curve” with Arch.

      … also, It’s the other way ’round, “Archbang forums” are extremely helpful to all Users, new and old alike, whereas again, “Arch Linux” forums are condescending beyond belief !

    • mandog

      The review could have been a lot better. Archbang is a well thought out arch spin its not a distro in its own right as it solely uses arch repositories that said it is a excellent choice to get the feel of arch that is where the similarity ends. You are dictated in what it has to offer at install. Arch on the other hand just gives you a base you choose your desktop you choose your apps you are in control. Also arch is so easy to install the only skill req is to be able to read and follow the excellent beginners guide. The arch forums a excellent if they were not there would not be any posts.The wiki is 2nd to none, The forum rules state they are for the support of arch linux exclusively and goes into detail why they don’t give support to arch spins.

    • sandman6471

      This was a good review, I’m running Archbang on my desktop, Acer One Netbook and an old Dell Inspiron 2200 laptop, they all run great. I love Arch Linux for its rolling release and I love Openbox. Archbang is great simple to use simple to install very lightweight and fast. I don’t see the need to go through the trouble of installing arch and then installing openbox when it’s just easieer to install archbang and be done with it. I always check Arch and Archbang sites before updating system for any known issues to watch out for and the fixes.

      These are both great distros.

    • Atheologian

      Two major problems:
      1: The installer gives language options of English or American; ‘American’!?
      2: The installer does not include an option for setting the keymap.

      While these problems can be solved fairly simply, they can hardly endear ArchBang to people who are neither Canadian nor American, or who have a different keyboard.

      Apart from these, it’s a great little system, & ideal for netbooks.

    • Atheologian

      Correction: this version of ArchBang is ideal for netbooks with US keyboards only.

      After several hours of following forum instructions on how to reset the keyboard for UK/GB locale, it would seem that it is not possible to reset the keyboard to anything other than US.

      Even with a fresh install, configuring the keymap during the later stages makes no difference.

      This is an appaling oversight, which is a pity, because everything else works fine.

      My rating: 1/5

      Oh well, there’s always Absolute Linux.

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    • Luispa

      What about to type “loadkeys uk”?

      In this link you’ll find how to localize Archlinux, I did not install Archbang yet but I guess this wiki would work:'_Guide#Change_the_language

    • great alternative for archbased distro. for who like arch and openbox this should be pleased enough.

    • eric_bratten

      It’s a Canadian project so I think that’s their “rib-punch” jab at Americans.