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FreeBSD Handbook : Installing FreeBSD
Previous: About the Current Release
Next: Supported Configurations

2. Installing FreeBSD

So, you would like to try out FreeBSD on your system? This section is a quick-start guide for what you need to do. FreeBSD can be installed from a variety of media including CD-ROM, floppy disk, magnetic tape, an MS-DOS partition and, if you have a network connection, via anonymous ftp or NFS.

Regardless of the installation media you choose, you can get started by creating the installation disk as described below. Booting your computer into the FreeBSD installer, even if you aren't planning on installing FreeBSD right away, will provide important information about compatibility between FreeBSD and your hardware which may, in turn, dictate which installation options are even possible. It can also provide early clues to any compatibility problems which could prevent FreeBSD running on your system at all. If you plan on installing via anonymous FTP then this installation disk is all you need to download (the installation will handle any further required downloading itself).

For more information on obtaining the latest FreeBSD distributions, please see Obtaining FreeBSD in the Appendix.

So, to get the show on the road, follow these steps:

  1. Review the supported configurations section of this installation guide to be sure that your hardware is supported by FreeBSD. It may be helpful to make a list of any special cards you have installed, such as SCSI controllers, Ethernet adapters or sound cards. This list should include relevant configuration parameters such as interrupts (IRQ) and IO port addresses.

  2. If you're installing FreeBSD from CDROM media then you have several different installation options:

  3. If you don't have a CDROM distribution then simply download the installation boot disk image file to your hard drive, being sure to tell your browser to save rather than display the file. Note: This disk image can only be used with 1.44 megabyte 3.5 inch floppy disks.

  4. Make the installation boot disk from the image file:

  5. With the installation disk in the A: drive, reboot your computer. You should get a boot prompt something like this:

    >> FreeBSD BOOT ...
    Usage: [[[0:][wd](0,a)]/kernel][-abcCdhrsv]
    Use 1:sd(0,a)kernel to boot sd0 if it is BIOS drive 1
    Use ? for file list or press Enter for defaults
    If you do not type anything, FreeBSD will automatically boot with its default configuration after a delay of about five seconds. As FreeBSD boots, it probes your computer to determine what hardware is installed. The results of this probing is displayed on the screen.

  6. When the booting process is finished, The main FreeBSD installation menu will be displayed.

If something goes wrong...

Due to limitations of the PC architecture, it is impossible for probing to be 100 percent reliable. In the event that your hardware is incorrectly identified, or that the probing causes your computer to lock up, first check the supported configurations section of this installation guide to be sure that your hardware is indeed supported by FreeBSD.

If your hardware is supported, reset the computer and when the Boot: prompt comes up, type -c. This puts FreeBSD into a configuration mode where you can supply hints about your hardware. The FreeBSD kernel on the installation disk is configured assuming that most hardware devices are in their factory default configuration in terms of IRQs, IO addresses and DMA channels. If your hardware has been reconfigured, you will most likely need to use the -c option at boot to tell FreeBSD where things are.

It is also possible that a probe for a device not present will cause a later probe for another device that is present to fail. In that case, the probes for the conflicting driver(s) should be disabled.

In the configuration mode, you can:

While at the config> prompt, type help for more information on the available commands. After adjusting the kernel to match how you have your hardware configured, type quit at the config> prompt to continue booting with the new settings.

After FreeBSD has been installed, changes made in the configuration mode will be permanent so you do not have to reconfigure every time you boot. Even so, it is likely that you will want to build a custom kernel to optimize the performance of your system. See Kernel configuration for more information on creating custom kernels.

2.1. Supported Configurations

2.1.1. Disk Controllers
2.1.2. Ethernet cards
2.1.3. Miscellaneous devices

2.2. Preparing for the Installation

2.2.1. Before installing from CDROM
2.2.2. Before installing from Floppy
2.2.3. Before installing from a MS-DOS partition
2.2.4. Before installing from QIC/SCSI Tape
2.2.5. Before installing over a network

2.3. Installing FreeBSD

2.4. MS-DOS User's Questions and Answers

FreeBSD Handbook : Installing FreeBSD
Previous: About the Current Release
Next: Supported Configurations
Updated July 7, 1998