ArcoLinux Review – A Bloated Arch Linux-Based Distribution

Arcolinux Review Featured Image

ArcoLinux is a distribution based on Arch Linux that was created with the aim of educating people on how to use Linux. It is also a functional distribution that you can install on your machine and use for daily work. This ArcoLinux review talks about how it works, who it is for, and whether it is recommended.

Confusing ArcoLinux

Many distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora have different flavors (mainly different desktop environments) of the same Linux core. ArcoLinux, on the other hand, has three different versions – ArcoLinux, ArcoLinuxB and ArcoLinuxD – which serve different needs. The main ArcoLinux comes with all the GUI and niceties, while both ArcoLinuxB and ArcoLinux D are minimal distributions that either come with one desktop or none. They are more similar to Arch Linux and are designed to help users learn more about Linux so that they’re able to handle a more command-line based experience in Arch Linux.

This ArcoLinux review focuses on the ArcoLinux ISO.


The ArcoLinux ISO is 2.1 GB in size. It is not a small ISO and requires a 4GB USB disk (if you are creating a Linux Live USB).

Usually, with Arch Linux, you will have to be comfortable using the command line since you have to carry out all of the steps from the command line.

With ArcoLinux, the entire installation process is carried out with Calamares, a universal installer framework.

Arcolinux Installation 1

Following the instruction on the screen, click “Run GParted” to erase and create your partitions. You are expected to know how to use GParted, though, as there are no instructions on how to resize your hard disk. Once you are done with the partitioning, exit GParted to return to the main screen and click “Run Calamares” to start the installation of ArcoLinux.

Arcolinux Calamares Installation 1

The first step of the installation is your choice of kernel. There are various kernels to choose from, and you should select according to your GPU chipset.

Arcolinux Calamares Installation Kernel 1

Next, it prompts you to select the Communication tool you want to include in the Desktop. Software like Slack, Skype, Teamviewer, Zoom, etc., are available.

Arcolinux Calamares Installation Communication 1

The next few screens are selections of software from different categories. There are just too many options that it can be overwhelming for a beginner.

The last few screens involve selecting your location, keyboard layout, and partitioning. If you are not sure what to do in the GParted screen earlier on, this partitioning screen provides options on how to manage your partition.

Arcolinux Calamares Installation Partition 1

Generally, the installation process is easy and smooth, but there are a little too many options when choosing which components and applications you want to have installed. It’s convenient but was a bit overwhelming for me.

I feel like if it’s easier to just install the basic things and then worry about installing more applications after the installation is done.

Included Desktops and Programs

The default installation of ArcoLinux comes with Xfce, Openbox and i3. You can select the desktop environment/window manager to boot into.

Arcolinux Desktop Manager Session 1

ArcoLinux includes several applications by default. For instance, Conky displays information such as CPU stats and your battery status on the desktop.

Arcolinux Conky

Plank is the default dock in Elementary OS.

Arcolinux Plank Dock

It’s also easy to install any additional software you may need. Just go to Settings and from there select “Add/Remove Software.”

Arcolinux Add Remove Software


Judging the performance of a Linux distribution is tricky, as it is highly dependent on your hardware and the underlying software. All Xfce, Openbox and i3 are known for being lightweight, so it is not surprising to see that ArcoLinux uses only around nine percent of the available memory and five percent of the CPU during idle.

Arcolinux Performance 1

With multiple videos playing, the memory usage was at 31 percent, and the CPU usage hovered around 50 percent. I was still able to use Inkscape comfortably, but it could have been tricky if I had tried to do much more, since I noticed that the CPU spiked to 90 percent.

Just to clarify, I installed ArcoLinux on a virtual machine with 4GB RAM, 1 CPU, and 15GB of storage space. This is consistent with the requirements you need for comfortable performance.

User Friendliness and Appearance

In general, ArcoLinux has a dark theme by default. It comes across as modern and looks slick and streamlined. You can also spice things up by displaying widgets with Conky, which installs with ArcoLinux.

Arcolinux Appearance

Final Thoughts

ArcoLinux’s aim of “educating users about Linux” is mainly about installation of software and packages, not the usage of the desktop. I would appreciate it more if they would provide on-screen tutorials on how to use Xfce, Openbox or i3. While the ability to select (tons of) applications during installation is good, it can be overwhelming for beginners.

Meanwhile, you can check out some of the best Arch Linux-based distros out there.

William Elcock William Elcock

William has been fiddling with tech for as long as he remembers. This naturally transitioned into helping friends with their tech problems and then into tech blogging.


  1. “Confusing ArcoLinux”
    Do a little research before installing ANY distro.

    “I would appreciate it more if they would provide on-screen tutorials on how to use Xfce, Openbox or i3.”
    Does Windows provide any on-screen tutorials?

    “it (Arco) can be overwhelming for beginners.”
    Arco, like many other distros, are not targeted at beginners. Beginners, especially those switching from Windows, should stick to Ubuntu, Zorin, elementaryOS or Mint, distros that have an automatic install option.

  2. Distro’s name sounds like an Oil Tanker. Presently number 18 on Distro Watch, I guess it’s somewhat popular. I like the learning concept and ability to spin your own flavor later on. How many newbies migrating from Windows will really get the concept of different desktops not just being themes and layouts without being confused, IDK. Few, I’d expect.

    As someone who has been using Linux for less than a year, tried dozens of distros from the three main branches and developed a good feel for the differences, Arco’s learning path is very confusing, not laid out in a linear fashion. Agree completely with the author. If you don’t already have a reasonable grasp of Linux, it’s hard to imagine even a successful install.

    At this point, I’m sure I could play with all of Arco’s features. Months ago, when Mint was the first install I did, no way!

  3. I think it’s obvious that Arco isn’t the best choice for most people’s first distro – a little hand-holding in the beginning is a good thing so spending a month or two living in something like Mint or Manjaro is ideal for getting used to how things are done.

    Arco Linux is aimed at people who actively want to learn linux. All the information is presented clearly although it will not be spoon-fed because that isn’t how learning works.

    Online tutorials ARE available! When we go via “Start Here” a well defined learning path is presented with links to appropriate learning materials for each level mainly provided through gently paced youtube videos (not sure how you missed that when picking up the iso)

    ArcoLinux is by no means perfect – if the website was just a little easier to navigate (ie. not wordpress) it would make everything so much easier for total novices to dive right into but very few linux distros do marketing well – just look at Linux Mint, a brilliant distro for new users but their website doesn’t exactly inspire trust.

    I’m genuinely disappointed at how sloppy and ill thought out this review is. Meanwhile, the linked article on the best arch-based distros actually presents an accurate representation, letting users know it’s more of a challenge, but tutorials are provided to help.

Comments are closed.