Arch Linux - Sway by step installation guide

Lets do this

Following is the more less complete process of installing Arch Linux with Sway on a Lenovo T480 laptop. The Arch Linux wiki contains a vast amounts of information and giudes on th instalation process, however the amount of information might be sligthly overwhelming. While the Arch installation itself is quite straightforward the remaining configuration tasks might be a little more challenging.

Network setup

Burn the Arch linux ISO onto the USB drive. The T480 came with preinstalled Windows so enable legacy UEFI support in BIOS. Plug in the USB drive with the Arch ISO.

The T480 comes with an Eth port so you can plug it into a router. I did not have an access to a router so i had to use WiFi access.

Connect to Wifi using:

wpa_supplicant -B -i wlan0 -c <(wpa_passphrase <SSID> <KEY>)

Specify correct SSID and KEY to access the WiFi. To make sure youre connected type: In my case the WiFi interface on T480 was wlan0. You can find out what it is with: ip link.

Command iw dev wlan0 link should state that you are connected. If not validate if SSID and KEY are correct. So we are now conncted to the WiFi but the network stack is still down. So if you try to ping i.e. you wont be able to.

Command ip address show will confirm that there is in fact no IP assigned to the interface. You can assign a static IP to the interface but since you are already on WiFi there is a DHCP server running on the router. Use dhclient wlan0 to obtain IP through DHCP. At this stage you should be able to ping Make sure you can resolve DNS by trying to ping If you cannot ping it then the quickest way to get DNS resolution working is to add: nameserver to the '/etc/resolv.conf' file - should now be pingable.

Follow the Arch wiki guide and configure the time:

Set up partitions

I want to set up following partitions:

  • /boot (sda1)
  • swap (sda2)
  • / (sda3)
  • /home (sda4)

When creating the boot partition make sure to specify the EFI boot type. Then create the file systm for EFI boot partition:

mkfs.fat -F32 /dev/sda1

Its sda1 since its the first partition created. Create the file system on remaining partions and initialize swap:

mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda3
mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda4
mkswp /dev/sda2
swapon /dev/sda2

Now mount all the partitions in this order:

mount /dev/sda3 /mnt
mount /dev/sda4 /mnt/home

Configure the system

At this stage install any package you might need. For me it was enough to install the following:

pacstrap /mnt base linux linux-firmware iproute2 vim dhclient networkmanager man 

Now generate the /etc/fstab file:

genfstab -U /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab

And change your root directory into /mnt:

arch-root /mnt

Set time zone, since i'm in Poland my time zone is: ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Warsaw /etc/localtime

Create the /etc/locale.conf file, and set the LANG variable accordingly: LANG=en_US.UTF-8

In /etc/hostname specify a name that is going to be your latops hostname: facehugger.

Then in /etc/hosts	localhost
::1		localhost	facehugger.localdomain	facehugger

Set up the root password with passwr. This password will be the one you will use to log in after reboot.

Install bootloader

I will use Grub bootloader for this. Since we decided to use UEFI we also need efibootmgr. Install them both:

pacman -S grub efibootmgr

Create the boot directory:

mkdir /boot/efi

Install the EFI application and generate the grub config thats qoing to be used during boot:

grub-install --target=x86_64-efi --efi-directory=/boot/efi --bootloader-id=GRUB
grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

Any further changes to the GRUB setting will requre the grub.cfg to be generated again. We should be now ready to reboot the system. When the laptop starts again it shlod be booting the system from the SSD since thats your Arch linux up and running.

After reboot

You are greeted with just a black screen with a login prompt. Not really impressive but at least it means your installation was succesfull. Login as root and the password you specified earlier. You most likely dont want to operate the system as root so create a user for your day to day tasks. Install the sudo utility:

pacman -S sudo

Then create a user who is a member of the wheel group:

useradd -m -G wheel kris

Members of wheel group are allowed to elevate their priviledges with sudo.


For a long time i really wanted to try out Wayland so thats what i will use for this setup. Since Wayland is just a protocol we need an actual compositor. Currently the only realistic choice is between Weston and Sway. We will use Sway as in my my understanding Weston is not really fit into day to day usage.


Install Sway along with few other usefull modules:

pacman -S sway i3status swayidle swaylock alacritty
  • sway - is of course the copositor
  • i3status - is the replacement staus bar to the default swaybar (you can skip that if you wish)
  • swayidle and swaylock - are tools that will disable and lock your display when maxhine becomes idle.
  • Alacritty - is a Wayland native terminal written in Rust. Its great it comes as the default terminal as i have been using it for quite some time and loving it.

Once installed you should be able to run sway in console to start the UI. There wont be much there initialy until we adjust the configuration file.

To quit sway press Logo key + Shift + e because Sway uses the Logo key as its modifier by default (you can change it later to whatever else you want).

Sway allows you to use your existing i3 configuration file if you were using i3. I'm moving from MacOS so i have no existing i3config. We will copy Sway example config file from /etc/sway/config into ~/.confg/sway/config (as recommended on Sway wiki) and will modify it as we need it.


In my setup i have another external monitor so we need to tell sway what mode we want to display it in. My monitor is hanging on an arm and its actually rotate 180 degrees to fit better on my desk.

You can find plenty of info in 'man 5 sway' and 'man 5 sway-output'.

Show available displays: swaymsg -t get_outputs

Output eDP-1 'Chimei Innolux Corporation 0x14C9 0x00000000' (focused)
  Current mode: 1920x1080 @ 60.007999 Hz
  Position: 0,0
  Scale factor: 1.000000
  Scale filter: nearest
  Subpixel hinting: unknown
  Transform: normal
  Workspace: 1
  Max render time: off
  Available modes:
    1920x1080 @ 60.007999 Hz

Output HDMI-A-2 'Samsung Electric Company C24F390 H4ZM913536'
  Current mode: 1920x1080 @ 60.000000 Hz
  Position: 1920,0
  Scale factor: 1.000000
  Scale filter: nearest
  Subpixel hinting: unknown
  Transform: 180
  Workspace: 2
  Max render time: off
  Available modes:
    720x400 @ 70.082001 Hz
    640x480 @ 59.939999 Hz
    640x480 @ 60.000000 Hz
    640x480 @ 66.667000 Hz
    640x480 @ 72.808998 Hz
    720x480 @ 59.939999 Hz
    720x480 @ 59.939999 Hz
    720x480 @ 60.000000 Hz
    720x480 @ 60.000000 Hz
    720x576 @ 50.000000 Hz
    720x576 @ 50.000000 Hz
    800x600 @ 56.250000 Hz
    800x600 @ 60.317001 Hz
    800x600 @ 72.188004 Hz
    1024x768 @ 60.004002 Hz
    1024x768 @ 70.069000 Hz
    1280x720 @ 50.000000 Hz
    1280x720 @ 50.000000 Hz
    1280x720 @ 59.939999 Hz
    1280x720 @ 60.000000 Hz
    1280x720 @ 60.000000 Hz
    1280x800 @ 59.910000 Hz
    1440x900 @ 59.901001 Hz
    1280x1024 @ 60.020000 Hz
    1600x900 @ 60.000000 Hz
    1680x1050 @ 59.882999 Hz
    1920x1080 @ 50.000000 Hz
    1920x1080 @ 59.939999 Hz
    1920x1080 @ 60.000000 Hz
    1920x1080 @ 60.000000 Hz

Above is the output of the command with my external monitor plugged in. So from the output the laptop display config becomes:

output eDP-1 {
	resolution 1920x1080 
	position 0,0

for the default display and:

output HDMI-A-2 {
	resolution 1920x1080 
	position 1920,0
	transform 180

for my external monitor. Notice the position starting at 1920. This makes the external monitor to be on the right. The transform 180 option rotates the picture by 180 degrees because of how i mounted the monitor on my desk.

Idle settings

Uncomment the following section to configure the idle locking:

 exec swayidle -w \
          timeout 300 'swaylock -f -c 000000' \
          timeout 600 'swaymsg "output * dpms off"' \
               resume 'swaymsg "output * dpms on"' \
          before-sleep 'swaylock -f -c 000000'

You can adjust the timouts values as you see fit.


This is the easiest step. All that was needed here was to install:

pacman -S pulseaudio pulseaudio-alsa alsa-utils

After installation and a reboot the stuff just worked so i did not have to mess with this at all

Function buttons

Lenovo T480 comes with a bunch of function keys that control the display brightness and Volume. Lets tell Sway what to do when they are pressed:

    # Add volume control
    bindsym XF86AudioMute exec amixer -q sset Master toggle
    bindsym XF86AudioLowerVolume exec amixer -q sset Master 3%-
    bindsym XF86AudioRaiseVolume exec amixer -q sset Master 3%+

    # Add brigthness control
    bindsym XF86MonBrightnessUp exec light -A 20
    bindsym XF86MonBrightnessDown exec light -U 20

This tells Sway to execute those programs whenever corresponding buttons are pressed. You can validate what key codes those are with xev. You also need to install light for controlling the backlight. amixer should already be present as it comes within the alsa-utils pacakge.

pacman -S light


Sway comes with a basic clipboard manager. There is also native Wayland wl-clipboard that you can integrate with vim. Just add the following to your .vimrc:

noremap <leader>c :w !wl-copy <cr><cr>
noremap <leader>v :read !wl-paste <cr><cr>

So with your leader key being the Space key you can easily copy and paste with Space+c/Space+v

X11 compatibility

The downside of Sway is that no X11 program will run. So if you will install Firefox and try to run it it will die with an error: Cannot open display. You can install a Xwayland which allows you to run X11 programs under Sway.


There is nothing out of the box in sway to handle notifications. What i found to be working wel enough for me is mako.

sudo pacman -S mako

Wrapping up

At this stage you should have a more less complete Arch linux installation with a Wayland based UI. So far the experience is quite enjoyable. There is however plenty of config changes and customisations to be made. The sway configuration files list overwhelming number of different configuration options. Also one could configure Sway to start at boot. I do not need this yet as i might want to install Xserver and would like to select if i want to run it or Sway. One might potentialy add a login screen.