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FreeBSD Installation and Configuration Tutorial
There are a variety of ways to obtain and install freeBSD. This tutotial describes the procedure for obtaining and installing freeBSD that is probably the most convenient and least expensive for most users.  It assumes that you have an Intel Pentium processor compatible PC and that you have the capability to write CDs and boot your computer from a CD.  If you do not have these capabilities you can use one of the other installation procedures described later.

Step 1: Obtaining the installation CD

  • Copy the following URL into the address field of your web browser and hit return:  ftp://ftp.freebsd.org/pub/FreeBSD/ISO-IMAGES-i386/4.8

ftp site with ISO images

You should see the files shown in the screen shot above.
  • Download the file  4.8-RELEASE-i386-disk1.iso  by clicking on it and following the instructions.  Note in which folder this file was saved and make sure it has the extension .iso (if there is another extension after the .iso, delete the extra extension).
  • Copy this iso file to a blank CD using the "ISO Image" copy mode of your CD write software (the Help facility of your CD write software may provide specific instructions on how to copy an ISO image). After copying the CD should have the following content:

CD1 content

Step 2: Booting from the installation CD

  • Insert the CD obtained in Step1 into the bootable CD ROM drive of your computer.
  • Restart your computer.  You should see output on your screen similar to this:

    Verifying DMI Pool Data ........
    Boot from ATAPI CD-ROM :
    1. FD 2.88MB System Type-(00)
    Uncompressing ... done

    BTX loader 1.00 BTX version is 1.01
    Console: internal video/keyboard
    BIOS drive A: is disk0
    BIOS drive B: is disk1
    BIOS drive C: is disk2
    BIOS drive C: is disk3
    BIOS 639kB/261120kB available memory

    FreeBSD/i386 bootstrap loader, Revision 0.8

    /kernel text=0x277391 data=0x3268c+0x332a8 |

    Hit [Enter] to boot immediately, or any other key for command prompt.
    Booting [kernel] in 9 seconds... _

Step 3: Kernel configuration

  • The kernel configuration menu should come up.  It is recommended that new users choose the Start kernel configuration full-screen visual mode option (use arrow keys to select, and hit [ENTER] to proceed).  The system attempts to choose the correct settings, but, depending on your hardware configuration, you may have to make adjustments to resolve conflicts. In this mode you can enter a question mark ('?') to obtain help on how to complete a screen.

kernel configuration

Step 4: Selecting installation options using 'sysinstall'

After saving the kernel configuration in the previous step, the following sysinstall main menu should come up:

sysinstall main menu

Use the arrow keys to select the standard installation option as indicated in the figure above and hit [RETURN] to proceed.

Step 5: Disk space allocation

Choosing the standard installation option in sysinstall will lead you to this message:

In the next menu, you will need to set up a DOS-style ("fdisk")
partitioning scheme for your hard disk. If you simply wish to devote
all disk space to FreeBSD (overwriting anything else that might be on
the disk(s) selected) then use the (A)ll command to select the default
partitioning scheme followed by a (Q)uit. If you wish to allocate only
free space to FreeBSD, move to a partition marked "unused" and use the
(C)reate command.
[ OK ]
[Press enter or space]

Press [ENTER]. If you have more than one hard disk you will be given the option so select the hard disk on which you want to install freeBSD. Then you will be shown the "FDisk" main screen that should look similar to the following screen shot:

FDisk main

  • The FDisk screen has three sections:
      1. The first section (the first two lines of the display) shows details about the currently selected disk, including its FreeBSD name, the disk geometry, and the total size of the disk.
      2. The second section shows the slices that are currently on the disk, where they start and end, how large they are, the name FreeBSD gives them, and their description and sub-type. This example shows one unused slice and a WindowsNT partition (NTFS).  If  you have installed freeBSD before, it will also show a freebsd partition.
      3. The third section shows the commands that are available in FDisk.
  • To delete a previous freeBSD installation, select the freebsd slice and hit 'D'.
  • Now select a sufficiently large unused slice and select "Create" by entering 'C'.
  • A dialog window will ask you how big the slice should be; it should be at least 500 Megabytes, the more the better.  Use the Backspace key to delete the default and enter 500M (better to enter much more; e.g., 20000M).
  • Next it will ask you for the type of partition you want to create; simply hit return to use the default (165).
  • Enter 'Q' to finish this section.

Step 5: Install a Boot Manager

  • The next screen will give you the option to install a boot manager. You should choose to install the FreeBSD boot manager if:
    • You have more than one drive, and have installed FreeBSD onto a drive other than the first one;
    • You have installed FreeBSD together with another operating system on the same disk, and you want to choose whether to start FreeBSD or the other operating system when you start the computer;

bootmanager selection

Press [ENTER] after you make you selection.

Step 6: Create partitions

  • You can now create the partitions using sysinstall. The following message box will come up:

Now, you need to create BSD partitions inside of the fdisk
partition(s) just created. If you have a reasonable amount of disk
space (200MB or more) and don't have any special requirements, simply
use the (A)uto command to allocate space automatically. If you have
more specific needs or just don't care for the layout chosen by
(A)uto, press F1 for more information on manual layout.
[ OK ]
[ Press enter or space ]

Press [ENTER] to start the FreeBSD partition editor, called Disklabel.

Next you should see the a screen resembling the following:

label editor

The display is divided in to three sections.

The first few lines show the name of the disk, and the slice that contains the partitions you are creating. It also shows the amount of free space within the slice.

The middle of the screen shows the partitions that have been created, the name of the filesystem that each partition contains, their size, and some options relevant for the creation of the filesystem.

The bottom third of the screen shows the valid keystrokes.

Select option 'A' to automatically define default partitions and assign the default partition sizes.

Press 'Q' to finish this section.

Step 7: Choose distribution

  • Next a screen presented allows you select the part of the operating system you want to install.  Use the arrow keys and the [ENTER] key to make your selections (the first time you may want to select the "minimal" distribution to reduce the probability of complications due to insufficient disk space).


  • Go the Exit option (scoll up to the first line) and press [ENTER] to proceed.

Step 8: Finish installation and configuration

  • On the next screen you select the installation media.  Use the first option if you are installing from a CD ROM
  • If you have more than one CD ROM drive you will be asked to specify which one you want to use for installation.
  • On the next screen you are asked to confirm if you want to proceed with the installation.  After confirming, you will see various messages and processes taking place.  If all goes well, it will end with a message
    "Congratulation!  You have now freeBSD installed on your system. "
  • There will be a few more configuration questions (the first time you can press "N" for most options).
  • You will be given the option to create user accounts (simply follow the instructions; use the [TAB] key to move to different fields on a form).
  • You will be given the option to change the root password ("root" refers to a user account that has maximum privileges).

Finally you come back to the sysinstall main menu:

sysinstall main menu

  • At this point you can use the [TAB] key to select [Exit Install].
  • Press [RETURN] to exit.
  • A message will appear to confirm if you want to reboot.  You are now finished with the installation!

Step 9: Testing the FreeBSD installation

  • Remove the CD from the bootable CD drive before the system reboots.
  • If you installed a boot manager and have multiple operating systems installed you will be able to select which one you want to start (select freeBSD to test your installation). 
  • Log in and try some basic unix commands.
  • To properly shutdown the operating system, first become a superuser by typing su at the command line and entering the root password (if the user is not a member of the wheel group, logout using the "exit" command, and login as root).
  • Type shutdown -h now to shut the operating system down.
  • It is safe to turn off the power of the computer after you see
The operating system has halted.
Please press any key to reboot.

  • If you press any key at this point instead of turning off the power switch, the system will reboot. You can also reboot with the Ctrl- Alt-Del key combination, but this is generally not recommended.

~ Juergen Haas
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