Note: To prevent repetition, “FreeBSD disc” in this
context means a FreeBSD CDROM or DVD that you have purchased or
There may be some situations in which you need to create your own FreeBSD
installation media and/or source. This might be physical media, such as a
tape, or a source that sysinstall can use to
retrieve the files, such as a local FTP site, or an
You have many machines connected to your local network, and one
FreeBSD disc. You want to create a local FTP site using the contents of
the FreeBSD disc, and then have your machines use this local FTP site
instead of needing to connect to the Internet.
You have a FreeBSD disc, and FreeBSD does not recognize your CD/DVD
drive, but MS-DOS/Windows®
does. You want to copy the FreeBSD installation files to a DOS partition
on the same computer, and then install FreeBSD using those files.
The computer you want to install on does not have a CD/DVD drive or
a network card, but you can connect a “Laplink-style” serial or parallel
cable to a computer that does.
You want to create a tape that can be used to install FreeBSD.
As part of each release, the FreeBSD project makes available at least
two CDROM images (“ISO images”) per supported architecture. These images
can be written (“burned”) to CDs if you have a CD writer, and then used
to install FreeBSD. If you have a CD writer, and bandwidth is cheap,
then this is the easiest way to install FreeBSD.
Download the Correct ISO Images
ISO images for each release can be downloaded from
or the closest mirror. Substitute
arch and version as
That directory will normally contain the following images:
Table 2-4. FreeBSD 6.X
and 7.X ISO Image Names
Everything you need to boot into a FreeBSD
kernel and start the installation interface. The
installable files have to be pulled over FTP or some
other supported source.
Everything you need to install FreeBSD and a
“live filesystem”, which is used in conjunction with
the “Repair” facility in
As many third-party packages as would fit on the
download one of either the bootonly ISO image (if available), or
the image of disc one. Do not download both of them, since the
disc one image contains everything that the bootonly ISO image
Use the bootonly ISO if Internet access is cheap for you. It
will let you install FreeBSD, and you can then install
third-party packages by downloading them using the
ports/packages system as necessary.
Use the image of disc one if you want to install a FreeBSD
release and want a reasonable selection of third-party packages
on the disc as well.
The additional disc images are useful, but not essential,
especially if you have high-speed access to the Internet.
Write the CDs
You must then write the
CD images to disc. If you will be doing this on another FreeBSD
system then see
Section 18.6 for more information (in particular,
Section 18.6.3 and
If you will be doing this on another platform then you will
need to use whatever utilities exist to control your CD writer
on that platform. The images provided are in the standard ISO
format, which many CD writing applications support.
Note: If you are interested in building a customized
release of FreeBSD, please see the
Release Engineering Article.
a Local FTP Site with a FreeBSD Disc
FreeBSD discs are laid out in the same way as the FTP site. This
makes it very easy for you to create a local FTP site that can be used
by other machines on your network when installing FreeBSD.
On the FreeBSD computer that will host the FTP
site, ensure that the CDROM is in the drive, and mounted on
Create an account for anonymous FTP in
/etc/passwd. Do this by editing
and adding this line:
Ensure that the FTP service is enabled in
Anyone with network connectivity to your machine can now chose a
media type of FTP and type in ftp://your
machine after picking “Other” in the FTP sites menu
during the install.
Note: If the boot media (floppy disks, usually) for
your FTP clients is not precisely the same version as that
provided by the local FTP site, then
sysinstall will not let you complete the installation. If
the versions are not similar and you want to override this, you
must go into the Options menu and
change distribution name to any.
Warning: This approach is OK for a machine that is on
your local network, and that is protected by your firewall.
Offering up FTP services to other machines over the Internet
(and not your local network) exposes your computer to the
attention of crackers and other undesirables. We strongly
recommend that you follow good security practices if you do
If you must install from floppy disk (which we suggest you do
not do), either
due to unsupported hardware or simply because you insist on doing things
the hard way, you must first prepare some floppies for the installation.
At a minimum, you will need as many 1.44 MB floppies as it takes to
hold all the files in the base (base
distribution) directory. If you are preparing the floppies from DOS,
then they must be
formatted using the MS-DOSFORMAT command. If you are using
Windows, use Explorer to format the disks
(right-click on the A: drive, and select
Do not trust
factory pre-formatted floppies. Format them again yourself, just to be
sure. Many problems reported by our users in the past have resulted from
the use of improperly formatted media, which is why we are making a
point of it now.
If you are creating the floppies on another FreeBSD machine, a format
is still not a bad idea, though you do not need to put a DOS filesystem
on each floppy. You can use the bsdlabel and
newfs commands to put a UFS filesystem on them
instead, as the following sequence of commands (for a 3.5" 1.44 MB
Then you can mount and write to them like any other filesystem.
After you have formatted the floppies, you will need to copy the
files to them. The distribution files are split into chunks conveniently
sized so that five of them will fit on a conventional 1.44 MB floppy. Go
through all your floppies, packing as many files as will fit on each
one, until you have all of the distributions you want packed up in this
fashion. Each distribution should go into a subdirectory on the floppy,
a:\base\base.ab, and so on.
Important: The base.inf file
also needs to go on the first floppy of the
base set since it is read by the installation program in
order to figure out how many additional pieces to look for when
fetching and concatenating the distribution.
Once you come to the Media screen during the install process, select
Floppy and you will be prompted for the
Installing from an MS-DOS® Partition
To prepare for an installation from an MS-DOS
partition, copy the files from the distribution into a directory called
freebsd in the root directory of the
partition. For example, c:\freebsd. The
directory structure of the CDROM or FTP site must be partially
reproduced within this directory, so we suggest using the DOS
xcopy command if you are copying it from a CD.
For example, to prepare for a minimal installation of FreeBSD:
Assuming that C: is where you have free
space and E: is where your CDROM is mounted.
If you do not have a CDROM drive, you can download the distribution
ftp.FreeBSD.org. Each distribution is in its own directory; for
example, the base
distribution can be found in the
For as many distributions you wish to install from an
MS-DOS partition (and you have the free
space for), install each one under c:\freebsd
-- the BIN distribution is the only one
required for a minimum installation.
Installing from tape is probably the easiest method, short of an
online FTP install or CDROM install. The installation program expects
the files to be simply tarred onto the tape. After getting all of the
distribution files you are interested in, simply tar them onto the tape:
When you perform the installation, you should make sure that you
leave enough room in some temporary directory (which you will be allowed
to choose) to accommodate the full contents of the tape you have
created. Due to the non-random access nature of tapes, this method of
installation requires quite a bit of temporary storage.
Note: When starting the installation, the tape must be
in the drive before
booting from the boot floppy. The installation probe may
otherwise fail to find it.
Installing over a Network
There are three types of network installations available. Ethernet (a
standard Ethernet controller), Serial port (SLIP or PPP), or Parallel
port (PLIP (laplink cable)).
For the fastest possible network installation, an Ethernet adapter is
always a good choice! FreeBSD supports most common PC Ethernet cards; a
table of supported cards (and their required settings) is provided in
the Hardware Notes for each release of FreeBSD. 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. If
you are installing over a PPP connection and do not have a static IP,
fear not, the IP address can be dynamically assigned by your ISP. 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 want to install
by FTP via a HTTP proxy, you will also need the proxy's address. If you
do not know the answers to all or most of these questions, then you
should really probably talk to your system administrator or ISP
before trying this
type of installation.
The 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 early in the installation
If you use PAP or CHAP to connect your ISP (in other words, if you
can connect to the ISP in Windows without
using a script), then all you will need to do is type in
dial at the ppp
prompt. Otherwise, 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. Please refer to the user-ppp
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 (2.0-R 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
50 kbytes/sec), thus resulting in a quicker installation.
Installing via NFS
The NFS installation is fairly straight-forward. Simply copy the
FreeBSD distribution files you want onto an NFS server and then
point the NFS media selection at it.
If this server supports only “privileged port” (as is generally
the default for Sun workstations), you will need to set the option
NFS Secure 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
NFS Slow flag.
In order for NFS installation to work, the server must support
subdir mounts, for example, if your FreeBSD 7.0 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
In FreeBSD's /etc/exports file, this is
controlled by the -alldirs options.
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