Are Arch Based Systems Stable?

Inspired from another thread, it dawned on me that I never experienced breaking an Arch based system without messing with it. I don’t count manual interventions, as they more often then not are easily fixed.

“It’s not a question of if an Arch system will crash, but a question of when” is often taken as an absolute truth, but is it really?

I’m having a day off, so this is an extremely scientific attempt to sort this out. :grin:

  • I never experienced breakage without messing with the system
  • It has broken without me doing anything to the system

0 voters

I have never had an Arch system crash.

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Not doing anything to the system means not using it at all :upside_down_face: No one is safe from screwing things up.

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Never a crash - but I have had problems BECAUSE I haven’t messed ENOUGH with the system yet! It takes time and knowledge to configure one right, but once they are configured they are far more stable than they ought to be! Getting the video drivers right is the configuration I have in mind :grin: - and maybe printers…

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The question “Is Arch Linux stable?” is one I see asked on a regular basis with a wide variety of different answers given so here is my response on why there may be many different answers which are all valid.

The issue in part is because the word “stability”, especially as it applied to Linux, means different things to different people.

  1. Some people define stability as a lack of hard crashing. If the system stays up and is running it is stable.
  2. Sometimes stability is defined as a fully functional core system. In other words, the OS boots up and works.
  3. Stability can also be described as every application in the system working 100%. Especially for people who use their desktop for business purposes. i.e. Everything “just works”
  4. The word stability can also be used to refer to package stability. This means that packages that other packages depend on, such as libraries, have a mostly unchanging interface. In other words, if a piece of software runs on a release, it will do so for the life of the release.
  5. As it relates specifically to Arch, stability is often used to describe the update process. Is the update a process clean and not requiring any manual intervention.
  6. Another way the word stability is used, which seems like an odd use of the word to me, is how frequently you need to reinstall the OS to keep it running cleanly.

Here would be my answers to the above:

  1. Is Arch Linux stable?
    • Yes, Arch Linux is very stable
  2. Is Arch Linux stable?
    • Yes, with a couple of caveats
      • Use the LTS kernel. Very new kernels are often not perfect and since the non-LTS kernels have a very short lifespan, the LTS kernel is the way to go if stability is a priority. This doesn’t mean that your system will be a mess if you don’t use the LTS kernel it just means there might me occassional breakage. Most commonly in drivers for specific devices.
      • Things like releases of DEs will often come with minor inconveniences. The standard to be released from testing isn’t perfection so there can be short times after release where something is imperfect with a DE. It will work, but some minor elements may be broken.
  3. Is Arch Linux stable?
    • No, not completely. For a couple of reasons
      • The rapid rolling nature of Arch means that any applications which don’t aggressively keep up with the latest libraries will sometimes become broken for a time until they catch up.
      • The fact that Arch gets very new versions of applications means they are more likely to introduce bugs.
  4. Is Arch Linux stable?
    • No, not even a little
      • Arch has a rapidly rolling base. This means new versions of core components and libraries are introduced regularly. An application that worked yesterday can be broken tomorrow unless it is updated. This is what keeps the Arch package maintainers working so hard, keeping all the applications up-to-date and rebuilt with current libraries.
  5. Is Arch Linux stable?
    • No, because sometimes updates will require manual intervention
      • That being said, it isn’t nearly as bad as it it often portrayed. A very small percentage of updates require manual intervention as long as you do a good job keeping your system up-to-date.
      • If you let your system fall behind and don’t update, the chance of manual intervention increases.
  6. Is Arch Linux stable?
    • Yes, extremely. An Arch install can be kept running for as long as the hardware continues to run and is supported. Even longer if you replace the aging/failed components.

Other considerations:

  • Being stable doesn’t mean it is easy to configure initially. Some hardware drivers can be tough to get working at first.
  • System complexity matters. If you install lots and lots of applications and never remove the ones you don’t need package management gets increasingly complicated.
  • Use the package manager to install software! If you install software via other means, you can absolutely break your system or cause the update process to fail
  • If you are using out of tree driver modules, those drivers may or may not be stable. It depends how well they are maintained.
  • People make mistakes. No OS is perfect. There will always be some degree of human error involved.

Lastly, in most situations, especially for a desktop, stability is hopefully not the only thing that matters when selecting a Linux distribution. It should be weighed against a number of other considerations.

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I’m tempted to mark that as “solution”, but this is a poll. :slightly_smiling_face:

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There’s no “Comprehensive Overview” button? :grin:

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You’re right.
Not even install updates.
I just rembember the mesa update a few weeks ago which screwed up the booting process or that samba update which prevented samba from working properly at least with old configs.
These are the cases I’m referring to in other threads. When you always get the latest versions the risk is quite high, that some update breaks your system or newer versions change the way things are handled.
Although the second case is not really breaking the system a beginner would not be able to solve the problem easily. In the first case he or she might not even be able to fix it at all.
With a stable release things are a little different. openSUSE for example will not lift the mesa version delivered when installing. The same with samba and a lot of other stuff. You just get security and bug fixes. If you want to, you can get more recent versions, but if you know how to get them you’re supposed to know what you are doing.
When installing the next stable release you are supposed to read the release notes and changelog. After doing that, it should be obvious that things have changed and it’s more unlikely to step in those traps.
These differences are, among some others, the reason why Tumbleweed is not recommended for beginners. If you’re interested in reading the recommendations and about problems that might occur, follow this link.

Well, you can always wait for others to update it first and say what’s broken and how to fix it :grin: That plus downgrade plus lts kernel as a fallback and it doesn’t seem that bad actually :slight_smile:

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The word “break” has all the same problems as the word “stable”.

For example, if there is an update to samba that causes it to stop working in certain circumstances, I would not call my system “broken”. On the other hand, I have seen people who are witnessing truly minor issues in a single application refer to their systems as “broken” or “unusable”

It ultimately comes down to expectations. If your expectation is a system where virtually everything works perfectly all of the time, you don’t want to be on a cutting-edge rolling release that frequently gets new software.

If I was to summarize my own experience with Arch-based distros in my own words, I would not describe them as frequently breaking but I would describe them as often introducing application inconsistencies.

The system core of arch is stable as hell!
What brakes sometime is additional to the core in 99% of cases.

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I know. The problem is that things have to be named somehow. These two words are the ones you can always read when it’s up to these topics. I don’t know if the english language has words to describe it more precisely. I was thinking about that for some time but I couldn’t find any. So I continued using them, knowing that they do not exactly express what is intended to be said. I really would appreciate if someone could give me valid alternatives.

I would consider this a two fold question. Are arch based systems stable and are rolling release systems stable? My answer is yes to both. They are as stable as any other Linux based system but there are times that things are going to break or require manual intervention on both sides. We have seen this numerous times as of late from Arch where updating requires overwriting files. Most new users and or users with little terminal experience will have some trouble with that because they don’t understand. There also can be breakage do to users deleting things they shouldn’t or doing something normal such as updating and it goes south. It may be a very minor issue but they don’t know. This is typical of Windows users also.You don’t have be a power user and or a coder but it does take a certain understanding which some users just aren’t willing to spend the time learning. So typically if the distro doesn’t work out of the box those users will bash it…and move to something that works first time.

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I voted for the second alternative now.
According to my definition the example with the mesa update broke the system. Although installing updates is actually not doing nothing.
The reason why I did that is, because it was not an easy thing to fix assuming that one does not know that there is a package named downgrade (which in my opinion is a candidate to be included into the ISO) you can install. And even if one knew that but has his/her pacman cache cleaned, you’re kind of screwed.

Yes i voted for two also. I’m just saying that yes Arch and rolling release are stable but things do break under normal operating conditions whether it’s an update that won’t install or upgrade, or an update causes the system to be broken or you are unable to update because it requires manual intervention. Then there is the other side where you could have hardware issues such as wifi or networking issues which these things also happen on Windows.

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Sorry if I wasn’t clear, my intention was not to imply that your word choice was wrong. It was simply to note that it has different meanings to different people. It is likely that all single word alternatives would have the same problem.

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The only way that Arch broke for me, was when they updated mesa a while back (I have an old NVIDIA video card.) Other than that: it’s been rock stable for me! Of course I visit the ArchLinux page every day to keep up to date on any ‘heads up’ moments before updating, plus visiting the forums here definitely helps also.

Nothing is maintenance free these days - no matter what anyone tells you.

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My question, are Archlinux (based or otherwise) systems Users stable?

I mean…

If Arch isn’t stable, how about the Users who adopt it?

I submit the operating system is more stable than its users.

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This is always a difficult question for me to answer since I’ve experienced less breakage than average while running Arch, but I’ve also become more conscientious about my update procedure instead of blindly applying them and gradually more knowledgeable on how to fix the issues that do come up.

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Printers are the big problem. I have a Canon Pixma TS6150. Some time ago I found the cnijfilter2 driver required on AUR. That plus scangearmp2 when added to the standard cups etc got the printer working. I did a reinstall the other day and the updated cnijfilter2 won’t build. Fortunately, Canon have an equivalent driver available for Debian so I had to convert it using debtap and then it installed OK. But it means that AUR is constantly trying to install the update which I know will fail. Eventually the AUR contributor will update his package.