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FreeBSD Handbook : Installing FreeBSD : Preparing for the Installation : Before installing over a network
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2.2.5. Before installing over a network

You can do network installations over 3 types of communications links:

Serial port


Parallel port

PLIP (laplink cable)


A standard ethernet controller (includes some PCMCIA).

SLIP support is rather primitive, and limited primarily to hard-wired links, such as a serial cable running between a laptop computer and another computer. The link should be hard-wired as the SLIP installation does not currently offer a dialing capability; that facility is provided with the PPP utility, which should be used in preference to SLIP whenever possible.

If you are using a modem, then PPP is almost certainly your only choice. Make sure that you have your service provider's information handy as you will need to know it fairly soon in the installation process. You will need to know how to dial your ISP using the ``AT commands'' specific to your modem, as the PPP dialer provides only a very simple terminal emulator. If you're using PAP or CHAP, you'll need to type the necessary ``set authname'' and ``set authkey'' commands before typing ``term''. Refer to the user-ppp handbook and FAQ entries for further information. If you have problems, logging can be directed to the screen using the command set log local ....

If a hard-wired connection to another FreeBSD (2.0R or later) machine is available, you might also consider installing over a ``laplink'' parallel port cable. The data rate over the parallel port is much higher than what is typically possible over a serial line (up to 50k/sec), thus resulting in a quicker installation.

Finally, for the fastest possible network installation, an ethernet adaptor is always a good choice! FreeBSD supports most common PC ethernet cards, a table of supported cards (and their required settings) is provided in Supported Hardware. If you are using one of the supported PCMCIA ethernet cards, also be sure that it is plugged in before the laptop is powered on! FreeBSD does not, unfortunately, currently support hot insertion of PCMCIA cards during installation.

You will also need to know your IP address on the network, the netmask value for your address class, and the name of your machine. Your system administrator can tell you which values to use for your particular network setup. If you will be referring to other hosts by name rather than IP address, you will also need a name server and possibly the address of a gateway (if you are using PPP, it is your provider's IP address) to use in talking to it. If you do not know the answers to all or most of these questions, then you should really probably talk to your system administrator first before trying this type of installation.

Once you have a network link of some sort working, the installation can continue over NFS or FTP. Preparing for NFS installation

NFS installation is fairly straight-forward: Simply copy the FreeBSD distribution files you want onto a server somewhere and then point the NFS media selection at it.

If this server supports only ``privileged port'' access (as is generally the default for Sun workstations), you will need to set this option in the Options menu before installation can proceed.

If you have a poor quality ethernet card which suffers from very slow transfer rates, you may also wish to toggle the appropriate Options flag.

In order for NFS installation to work, the server must support subdir mounts, e.g., if your FreeBSD 2.2.6 distribution directory lives on: ziggy:/usr/archive/stuff/FreeBSD Then ziggy will have to allow the direct mounting of /usr/archive/stuff/FreeBSD, not just /usr or /usr/archive/stuff.

In FreeBSD's /etc/exports file, this is controlled by the ``-alldirs'' option. Other NFS servers may have different conventions. If you are getting `Permission Denied' messages from the server then it is likely that you do not have this enabled properly. Preparing for FTP Installation

FTP installation may be done from any mirror site containing a reasonably up-to-date version of FreeBSD 2.2.6. A full menu of reasonable choices from almost anywhere in the world is provided by the FTP site menu.

If you are installing from some other FTP site not listed in this menu, or you are having troubles getting your name server configured properly, you can also specify your own URL by selecting the ``Other'' choice in that menu. A URL can also be a direct IP address, so the following would work in the absence of a name server:

There are two FTP installation modes you can use:

FTP Active

For all FTP transfers, use ``Active'' mode. This will not work through firewalls, but will often work with older ftp servers that do not support passive mode. If your connection hangs with passive mode (the default), try active!

FTP Passive

For all FTP transfers, use ``Passive'' mode. This allows the user to pass through firewalls that do not allow incoming connections on random port addresses.

Note: Active and passive modes are not the same as a `proxy' connection, where a proxy FTP server is listening and forwarding FTP requests!

For a proxy FTP server, you should usually give name of the server you really want as a part of the username, after an @-sign. The proxy server then 'fakes' the real server. An example: Say you want to install from, using the proxy FTP server, listening on port 1234.

In this case, you go to the options menu, set the FTP username to, and the password to your e-mail address. As your installation media, you specify FTP (or passive FTP, if the proxy support it), and the URL
/pub/FreeBSD from is proxied under, allowing you to install from _that_ machine (which fetch the files from as your installation requests them).

FreeBSD Handbook : Installing FreeBSD : Preparing for the Installation : Before installing over a network
Previous: Before installing from QIC/SCSI Tape
Next: Installing FreeBSD
Updated July 7, 1998