FreeBSD Handbook

The FreeBSD Documentation Project

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FreeBSD is a registered trademark of the FreeBSD Foundation.

3Com and HomeConnect are registered trademarks of 3Com Corporation.

3ware is a registered trademark of 3ware Inc.

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Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.

LSI Logic, AcceleRAID, eXtremeRAID, MegaRAID and Mylex are trademarks or registered trademarks of LSI Logic Corp.

Microsoft, IntelliMouse, MS-DOS, Outlook, Windows, Windows Media and Windows NT are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

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MATLAB is a registered trademark of The MathWorks, Inc.

SpeedTouch is a trademark of Thomson.

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Mathematica is a registered trademark of Wolfram Research, Inc.

XFree86 is a trademark of The XFree86 Project, Inc.

Ogg Vorbis and Xiph.Org are trademarks of Xiph.Org.

Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this document, and the FreeBSD Project was aware of the trademark claim, the designations have been followed by the or the ® symbol.

Last modified on 2015-09-06 by wblock.

Welcome to FreeBSD! This handbook covers the installation and day to day use of FreeBSD 9.3-RELEASE and FreeBSD 10.2-RELEASE. This manual is a work in progress and is the work of many individuals. As such, some sections may become dated and require updating. If you are interested in helping out with this project, send email to the FreeBSD documentation project mailing list. The latest version of this document is always available from the FreeBSD web site (previous versions of this handbook can be obtained from It may also be downloaded in a variety of formats and compression options from the FreeBSD FTP server or one of the numerous mirror sites. If you would prefer to have a hard copy of the handbook, you can purchase one at the FreeBSD Mall. You may also want to search the handbook.

[ Split HTML / Single HTML ]

Table of Contents
I. Getting Started
1. Introduction
1.1. Synopsis
1.2. Welcome to FreeBSD!
1.3. About the FreeBSD Project
2. Installing FreeBSD
2.1. Synopsis
2.2. Minimum Hardware Requirements
2.3. Pre-Installation Tasks
2.4. Starting the Installation
2.5. Using bsdinstall
2.6. Allocating Disk Space
2.7. Committing to the Installation
2.8. Post-Installation
2.9. Troubleshooting
2.10. Using the Live CD
3. UNIX Basics
3.1. Synopsis
3.2. Virtual Consoles and Terminals
3.3. Users and Basic Account Management
3.4. Permissions
3.5. Directory Structure
3.6. Disk Organization
3.7. Mounting and Unmounting File Systems
3.8. Processes and Daemons
3.9. Shells
3.10. Text Editors
3.11. Devices and Device Nodes
3.12. Manual Pages
4. Installing Applications: Packages and Ports
4.1. Synopsis
4.2. Overview of Software Installation
4.3. Finding Software
4.4. Using pkg for Binary Package Management
4.5. Using the Ports Collection
4.6. Building Packages with Poudriere
4.7. Post-Installation Considerations
4.8. Dealing with Broken Ports
5. The X Window System
5.1. Synopsis
5.2. Terminology
5.3. Installing Xorg
5.4. Xorg Configuration
5.5. Using Fonts in Xorg
5.6. The X Display Manager
5.7. Desktop Environments
5.8. Installing Compiz Fusion
5.9. Troubleshooting
II. Common Tasks
6. Desktop Applications
6.1. Synopsis
6.2. Browsers
6.3. Productivity
6.4. Document Viewers
6.5. Finance
7. Multimedia
7.1. Synopsis
7.2. Setting Up the Sound Card
7.3. MP3 Audio
7.4. Video Playback
7.5. TV Cards
7.6. MythTV
7.7. Image Scanners
8. Configuring the FreeBSD Kernel
8.1. Synopsis
8.2. Why Build a Custom Kernel?
8.3. Finding the System Hardware
8.4. The Configuration File
8.5. Building and Installing a Custom Kernel
8.6. If Something Goes Wrong
9. Printing
9.1. Quick Start
9.2. Printer Connections
9.3. Common Page Description Languages
9.4. Direct Printing
9.5. LPD (Line Printer Daemon)
9.6. Other Printing Systems
10. Linux® Binary Compatibility
10.1. Synopsis
10.2. Configuring Linux® Binary Compatibility
10.3. Advanced Topics
III. System Administration
11. Configuration and Tuning
11.1. Synopsis
11.2. Starting Services
11.3. Configuring cron(8)
11.4. Managing Services in FreeBSD
11.5. Setting Up Network Interface Cards
11.6. Virtual Hosts
11.7. Configuring System Logging
11.8. Configuration Files
11.9. Tuning with sysctl(8)
11.10. Tuning Disks
11.11. Tuning Kernel Limits
11.12. Adding Swap Space
11.13. Power and Resource Management
12. The FreeBSD Booting Process
12.1. Synopsis
12.2. FreeBSD Boot Process
12.3. Configuring Boot Time Splash Screens
12.4. Device Hints
12.5. Shutdown Sequence
13. Security
13.1. Synopsis
13.2. Introduction
13.3. One-time Passwords
13.4. TCP Wrapper
13.5. Kerberos
13.6. OpenSSL
13.7. VPN over IPsec
13.8. OpenSSH
13.9. Access Control Lists
13.10. Monitoring Third Party Security Issues
13.11. FreeBSD Security Advisories
13.12. Process Accounting
13.13. Resource Limits
14. Jails
14.1. Synopsis
14.2. Terms Related to Jails
14.3. Creating and Controlling Jails
14.4. Fine Tuning and Administration
14.5. Updating Multiple Jails
14.6. Managing Jails with ezjail
15. Mandatory Access Control
15.1. Synopsis
15.2. Key Terms
15.3. Understanding MAC Labels
15.4. Planning the Security Configuration
15.5. Available MAC Policies
15.6. User Lock Down
15.7. Nagios in a MAC Jail
15.8. Troubleshooting the MAC Framework
16. Security Event Auditing
16.1. Synopsis
16.2. Key Terms
16.3. Audit Configuration
16.4. Working with Audit Trails
17. Storage
17.1. Synopsis
17.2. Adding Disks
17.3. Resizing and Growing Disks
17.4. USB Storage Devices
17.5. Creating and Using CD Media
17.6. Creating and Using DVD Media
17.7. Creating and Using Floppy Disks
17.8. Backup Basics
17.9. Memory Disks
17.10. File System Snapshots
17.11. Disk Quotas
17.12. Encrypting Disk Partitions
17.13. Encrypting Swap
17.14. Highly Available Storage (HAST)
18. GEOM: Modular Disk Transformation Framework
18.1. Synopsis
18.2. RAID0 - Striping
18.3. RAID1 - Mirroring
18.4. RAID3 - Byte-level Striping with Dedicated Parity
18.5. Software RAID Devices
18.6. GEOM Gate Network
18.7. Labeling Disk Devices
18.8. UFS Journaling Through GEOM
19. The Z File System (ZFS)
19.1. What Makes ZFS Different
19.2. Quick Start Guide
19.3. zpool Administration
19.4. zfs Administration
19.5. Delegated Administration
19.6. Advanced Topics
19.7. Additional Resources
19.8. ZFS Features and Terminology
20. Other File Systems
20.1. Synopsis
20.2. Linux® File Systems
21. Virtualization
21.1. Synopsis
21.2. FreeBSD as a Guest on Parallels for Mac OS® X
21.3. FreeBSD as a Guest on Virtual PC for Windows®
21.4. FreeBSD as a Guest on VMware Fusion for Mac OS®
21.5. VirtualBox™ Guest Additions on a FreeBSD Guest
21.6. FreeBSD as a Host with VirtualBox
21.7. FreeBSD as a Host with bhyve
22. Localization - i18n/L10n Usage and Setup
22.1. Synopsis
22.2. Using Localization
22.3. Finding i18n Applications
22.4. Locale Configuration for Specific Languages
23. Updating and Upgrading FreeBSD
23.1. Synopsis
23.2. FreeBSD Update
23.3. Updating the Documentation Set
23.4. Tracking a Development Branch
23.5. Synchronizing Source
23.6. Rebuilding World
23.7. Tracking for Multiple Machines
24. DTrace
24.1. Synopsis
24.2. Implementation Differences
24.3. Enabling DTrace Support
24.4. Using DTrace
IV. Network Communication
25. Serial Communications
25.1. Synopsis
25.2. Serial Terminology and Hardware
25.3. Terminals
25.4. Dial-in Service
25.5. Dial-out Service
25.6. Setting Up the Serial Console
26. PPP
26.1. Synopsis
26.2. Configuring PPP
26.3. Troubleshooting PPP Connections
26.4. Using PPP over Ethernet (PPPoE)
26.5. Using PPP over ATM (PPPoA)
27. Electronic Mail
27.1. Synopsis
27.2. Mail Components
27.3. Sendmail Configuration Files
27.4. Changing the Mail Transfer Agent
27.5. Troubleshooting
27.6. Advanced Topics
27.7. Setting Up to Send Only
27.8. Using Mail with a Dialup Connection
27.9. SMTP Authentication
27.10. Mail User Agents
27.11. Using fetchmail
27.12. Using procmail
28. Network Servers
28.1. Synopsis
28.2. The inetd Super-Server
28.3. Network File System (NFS)
28.4. Network Information System (NIS)
28.5. Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)
28.6. Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
28.7. Domain Name System (DNS)
28.8. Apache HTTP Server
28.9. File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
28.10. File and Print Services for Microsoft® Windows® Clients (Samba)
28.11. Clock Synchronization with NTP
28.12. iSCSI Initiator and Target Configuration
29. Firewalls
29.1. Synopsis
29.2. Firewall Concepts
29.3. PF
29.4. IPFW
30. Advanced Networking
30.1. Synopsis
30.2. Gateways and Routes
30.3. Wireless Networking
30.4. USB Tethering
30.5. Bluetooth
30.6. Bridging
30.7. Link Aggregation and Failover
30.8. Diskless Operation with PXE
30.9. IPv6
30.10. Common Address Redundancy Protocol (CARP)
V. Appendices
A. Obtaining FreeBSD
A.1. CD and DVD Sets
A.2. FTP Sites
A.3. Using CTM
A.4. Using Subversion
A.5. Using rsync
B. Bibliography
B.1. Books Specific to FreeBSD
B.2. Users' Guides
B.3. Administrators' Guides
B.4. Programmers' Guides
B.5. Operating System Internals
B.6. Security Reference
B.7. Hardware Reference
B.8. UNIX® History
B.9. Periodicals, Journals, and Magazines
C. Resources on the Internet
C.1. Websites
C.2. Mailing Lists
C.3. Usenet Newsgroups
C.4. Official Mirrors
D. OpenPGP Keys
D.1. Officers
FreeBSD Glossary
List of Figures
2.1. FreeBSD Boot Loader Menu
2.2. FreeBSD Boot Options Menu
2.3. Welcome Menu
2.4. Keymap Selection
2.5. Selecting Keyboard Menu
2.6. Enhanced Keymap Menu
2.7. Setting the Hostname
2.8. Selecting Components to Install
2.9. Installing from the Network
2.10. Choosing a Mirror
2.11. Partitioning Choices on FreeBSD 9.x
2.12. Partitioning Choices on FreeBSD 10.x and Higher
2.13. Selecting from Multiple Disks
2.14. Selecting Entire Disk or Partition
2.15. Review Created Partitions
2.16. Manually Create Partitions
2.17. Manually Create Partitions
2.18. Manually Create Partitions
2.19. ZFS Partitioning Menu
2.20. ZFS Pool Type
2.21. Disk Selection
2.22. Invalid Selection
2.23. Analysing a Disk
2.24. Disk Encryption Password
2.25. Last Chance
2.26. Final Confirmation
2.27. Fetching Distribution Files
2.28. Verifying Distribution Files
2.29. Extracting Distribution Files
2.30. Setting the root Password
2.31. Choose a Network Interface
2.32. Scanning for Wireless Access Points
2.33. Choosing a Wireless Network
2.34. WPA2 Setup
2.35. Choose IPv4 Networking
2.36. Choose IPv4 DHCP Configuration
2.37. IPv4 Static Configuration
2.38. Choose IPv6 Networking
2.39. Choose IPv6 SLAAC Configuration
2.40. IPv6 Static Configuration
2.41. DNS Configuration
2.42. Select Local or UTC Clock
2.43. Select a Region
2.44. Select a Country
2.45. Select a Time Zone
2.46. Confirm Time Zone
2.47. Selecting Additional Services to Enable
2.48. Enabling Crash Dumps
2.49. Add User Accounts
2.50. Enter User Information
2.51. Exit User and Group Management
2.52. Final Configuration
2.53. Manual Configuration
2.54. Complete the Installation
30.1. PXE Booting Process with NFS Root Mount
List of Tables
2.1. Partitioning Schemes
3.1. Utilities for Managing User Accounts
3.2. UNIX® Permissions
3.3. Disk Device Names
3.4. Common Environment Variables
5.1. XDM Configuration Files
7.1. Common Error Messages
9.1. Output PDLs
12.1. Loader Built-In Commands
12.2. Kernel Interaction During Boot
13.1. Login Class Resource Limits
16.1. Default Audit Event Classes
16.2. Prefixes for Audit Event Classes
22.1. Common Language and Country Codes
22.2. Defined Terminal Types for Character Sets
22.3. Available Console from Ports Collection
22.4. Available Input Methods
25.1. RS-232C Signal Names
25.2. DB-25 to DB-25 Null-Modem Cable
25.3. DB-9 to DB-9 Null-Modem Cable
25.4. DB-9 to DB-25 Null-Modem Cable
28.1. NIS Terminology
28.2. Additional Users
28.3. Additional Systems
28.4. DNS Terminology
29.1. Useful pfctl Options
30.1. Commonly Seen Routing Table Flags
30.2. Station Capability Codes
30.3. Reserved IPv6 Addresses
List of Examples
2.1. Creating Traditional Split File System Partitions
3.1. Install a Program As the Superuser
3.2. Adding a User on FreeBSD
3.3. rmuser Interactive Account Removal
3.4. Using chpass as Superuser
3.5. Using chpass as Regular User
3.6. Changing Your Password
3.7. Changing Another User's Password as the Superuser
3.8. Adding a Group Using pw(8)
3.9. Adding User Accounts to a New Group Using pw(8)
3.10. Adding a New Member to a Group Using pw(8)
3.11. Using id(1) to Determine Group Membership
3.12. Sample Disk, Slice, and Partition Names
3.13. Conceptual Model of a Disk
5.1. Set Screen Resolution in a File
5.2. Manually Setting Monitor Frequencies
5.3. Setting a Keyboard Layout
5.4. Setting Multiple Keyboard Layouts
5.5. Enabling Keyboard Exit from X
5.6. Setting the Number of Mouse Buttons
11.1. Sample Log Server Configuration
11.2. Creating a Swap File on FreeBSD 10.X and Later
11.3. Creating a Swap File on FreeBSD 9.X and Earlier
12.1. boot0 Screenshot
12.2. boot2 Screenshot
12.3. Configuring an Insecure Console in /etc/ttys
13.1. Create a Secure Tunnel for SMTP
13.2. Secure Access of a POP3 Server
13.3. Bypassing a Firewall
14.1. mergemaster(8) on Untrusted Jail
14.2. mergemaster(8) on Trusted Jail
14.3. Running BIND in a Jail
17.1. Using dump over ssh
17.2. Using dump over ssh with RSH Set
17.3. Backing Up the Current Directory with tar
17.4. Restoring Up the Current Directory with tar
17.5. Usingls and cpio to Make a Recursive Backup of the Current Directory
17.6. Backing Up the Current Directory with pax
18.1. Labeling Partitions on the Boot Disk
25.1. Configuring Terminal Entries
28.1. Reloading the inetd Configuration File
28.2. Mounting an Export with amd
28.3. Mounting an Export with autofs(5)
28.4. Sample /etc/ntp.conf
30.1. LACP Aggregation with a Cisco® Switch
30.2. Failover Mode
30.3. Failover Mode Between Ethernet and Wireless Interfaces


Intended Audience

The FreeBSD newcomer will find that the first section of this book guides the user through the FreeBSD installation process and gently introduces the concepts and conventions that underpin UNIX®. Working through this section requires little more than the desire to explore, and the ability to take on board new concepts as they are introduced.

Once you have traveled this far, the second, far larger, section of the Handbook is a comprehensive reference to all manner of topics of interest to FreeBSD system administrators. Some of these chapters may recommend that you do some prior reading, and this is noted in the synopsis at the beginning of each chapter.

For a list of additional sources of information, please see Appendix B, Bibliography.

Changes from the Third Edition

The current online version of the Handbook represents the cumulative effort of many hundreds of contributors over the past 10 years. The following are some of the significant changes since the two volume third edition was published in 2004:

Changes from the Second Edition (2004)

The third edition was the culmination of over two years of work by the dedicated members of the FreeBSD Documentation Project. The printed edition grew to such a size that it was necessary to publish as two separate volumes. The following are the major changes in this new edition:

  • Chapter 11, Configuration and Tuning has been expanded with new information about the ACPI power and resource management, the cron system utility, and more kernel tuning options.

  • Chapter 13, Security has been expanded with new information about virtual private networks (VPNs), file system access control lists (ACLs), and security advisories.

  • Chapter 15, Mandatory Access Control is a new chapter with this edition. It explains what MAC is and how this mechanism can be used to secure a FreeBSD system.

  • Chapter 17, Storage has been expanded with new information about USB storage devices, file system snapshots, file system quotas, file and network backed filesystems, and encrypted disk partitions.

  • A troubleshooting section has been added to Chapter 26, PPP.

  • Chapter 27, Electronic Mail has been expanded with new information about using alternative transport agents, SMTP authentication, UUCP, fetchmail, procmail, and other advanced topics.

  • Chapter 28, Network Servers is all new with this edition. This chapter includes information about setting up the Apache HTTP Server, ftpd, and setting up a server for Microsoft® Windows® clients with Samba. Some sections from Chapter 30, Advanced Networking were moved here to improve the presentation.

  • Chapter 30, Advanced Networking has been expanded with new information about using Bluetooth® devices with FreeBSD, setting up wireless networks, and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) networking.

  • A glossary has been added to provide a central location for the definitions of technical terms used throughout the book.

  • A number of aesthetic improvements have been made to the tables and figures throughout the book.

Changes from the First Edition (2001)

The second edition was the culmination of over two years of work by the dedicated members of the FreeBSD Documentation Project. The following were the major changes in this edition:

Organization of This Book

This book is split into five logically distinct sections. The first section, Getting Started, covers the installation and basic usage of FreeBSD. It is expected that the reader will follow these chapters in sequence, possibly skipping chapters covering familiar topics. The second section, Common Tasks, covers some frequently used features of FreeBSD. This section, and all subsequent sections, can be read out of order. Each chapter begins with a succinct synopsis that describes what the chapter covers and what the reader is expected to already know. This is meant to allow the casual reader to skip around to find chapters of interest. The third section, System Administration, covers administration topics. The fourth section, Network Communication, covers networking and server topics. The fifth section contains appendices of reference information.

Chapter 1, Introduction

Introduces FreeBSD to a new user. It describes the history of the FreeBSD Project, its goals and development model.

Chapter 2, Installing FreeBSD

Walks a user through the entire installation process of FreeBSD 9.x and later using bsdinstall.

Chapter 3, UNIX Basics

Covers the basic commands and functionality of the FreeBSD operating system. If you are familiar with Linux® or another flavor of UNIX® then you can probably skip this chapter.

Chapter 4, Installing Applications: Packages and Ports

Covers the installation of third-party software with both FreeBSD's innovative Ports Collection and standard binary packages.

Chapter 5, The X Window System

Describes the X Window System in general and using X11 on FreeBSD in particular. Also describes common desktop environments such as KDE and GNOME.

Chapter 6, Desktop Applications

Lists some common desktop applications, such as web browsers and productivity suites, and describes how to install them on FreeBSD.

Chapter 7, Multimedia

Shows how to set up sound and video playback support for your system. Also describes some sample audio and video applications.

Chapter 8, Configuring the FreeBSD Kernel

Explains why you might need to configure a new kernel and provides detailed instructions for configuring, building, and installing a custom kernel.

Chapter 9, Printing

Describes managing printers on FreeBSD, including information about banner pages, printer accounting, and initial setup.

Chapter 10, Linux® Binary Compatibility

Describes the Linux® compatibility features of FreeBSD. Also provides detailed installation instructions for many popular Linux® applications such as Oracle® and Mathematica®.

Chapter 11, Configuration and Tuning

Describes the parameters available for system administrators to tune a FreeBSD system for optimum performance. Also describes the various configuration files used in FreeBSD and where to find them.

Chapter 12, The FreeBSD Booting Process

Describes the FreeBSD boot process and explains how to control this process with configuration options.

Chapter 13, Security

Describes many different tools available to help keep your FreeBSD system secure, including Kerberos, IPsec and OpenSSH.

Chapter 14, Jails

Describes the jails framework, and the improvements of jails over the traditional chroot support of FreeBSD.

Chapter 15, Mandatory Access Control

Explains what Mandatory Access Control (MAC) is and how this mechanism can be used to secure a FreeBSD system.

Chapter 16, Security Event Auditing

Describes what FreeBSD Event Auditing is, how it can be installed, configured, and how audit trails can be inspected or monitored.

Chapter 17, Storage

Describes how to manage storage media and filesystems with FreeBSD. This includes physical disks, RAID arrays, optical and tape media, memory-backed disks, and network filesystems.

Chapter 18, GEOM: Modular Disk Transformation Framework

Describes what the GEOM framework in FreeBSD is and how to configure various supported RAID levels.

Chapter 20, Other File Systems

Examines support of non-native file systems in FreeBSD, like the Z File System from Sun™.

Chapter 21, Virtualization

Describes what virtualization systems offer, and how they can be used with FreeBSD.

Chapter 22, Localization - i18n/L10n Usage and Setup

Describes how to use FreeBSD in languages other than English. Covers both system and application level localization.

Chapter 23, Updating and Upgrading FreeBSD

Explains the differences between FreeBSD-STABLE, FreeBSD-CURRENT, and FreeBSD releases. Describes which users would benefit from tracking a development system and outlines that process. Covers the methods users may take to update their system to the latest security release.

Chapter 24, DTrace

Describes how to configure and use the DTrace tool from Sun™ in FreeBSD. Dynamic tracing can help locate performance issues, by performing real time system analysis.

Chapter 25, Serial Communications

Explains how to connect terminals and modems to your FreeBSD system for both dial in and dial out connections.

Chapter 26, PPP

Describes how to use PPP to connect to remote systems with FreeBSD.

Chapter 27, Electronic Mail

Explains the different components of an email server and dives into simple configuration topics for the most popular mail server software: sendmail.

Chapter 28, Network Servers

Provides detailed instructions and example configuration files to set up your FreeBSD machine as a network filesystem server, domain name server, network information system server, or time synchronization server.

Chapter 29, Firewalls

Explains the philosophy behind software-based firewalls and provides detailed information about the configuration of the different firewalls available for FreeBSD.

Chapter 30, Advanced Networking

Describes many networking topics, including sharing an Internet connection with other computers on your LAN, advanced routing topics, wireless networking, Bluetooth®, ATM, IPv6, and much more.

Appendix A, Obtaining FreeBSD

Lists different sources for obtaining FreeBSD media on CDROM or DVD as well as different sites on the Internet that allow you to download and install FreeBSD.

Appendix B, Bibliography

This book touches on many different subjects that may leave you hungry for a more detailed explanation. The bibliography lists many excellent books that are referenced in the text.

Appendix C, Resources on the Internet

Describes the many forums available for FreeBSD users to post questions and engage in technical conversations about FreeBSD.

Appendix D, OpenPGP Keys

Lists the PGP fingerprints of several FreeBSD Developers.

Conventions used in this book

To provide a consistent and easy to read text, several conventions are followed throughout the book.

Typographic Conventions


An italic font is used for filenames, URLs, emphasized text, and the first usage of technical terms.


A monospaced font is used for error messages, commands, environment variables, names of ports, hostnames, user names, group names, device names, variables, and code fragments.


A bold font is used for applications, commands, and keys.

User Input

Keys are shown in bold to stand out from other text. Key combinations that are meant to be typed simultaneously are shown with `+' between the keys, such as:


Meaning the user should type the Ctrl, Alt, and Del keys at the same time.

Keys that are meant to be typed in sequence will be separated with commas, for example:

Ctrl+X, Ctrl+S

Would mean that the user is expected to type the Ctrl and X keys simultaneously and then to type the Ctrl and S keys simultaneously.


Examples starting with C:\> indicate a MS-DOS® command. Unless otherwise noted, these commands may be executed from a Command Prompt window in a modern Microsoft® Windows® environment.

E:\> tools\fdimage floppies\kern.flp A:

Examples starting with # indicate a command that must be invoked as the superuser in FreeBSD. You can login as root to type the command, or login as your normal account and use su(1) to gain superuser privileges.

# dd if=kern.flp of=/dev/fd0

Examples starting with % indicate a command that should be invoked from a normal user account. Unless otherwise noted, C-shell syntax is used for setting environment variables and other shell commands.

% top


The book you are holding represents the efforts of many hundreds of people around the world. Whether they sent in fixes for typos, or submitted complete chapters, all the contributions have been useful.

Several companies have supported the development of this document by paying authors to work on it full-time, paying for publication, etc. In particular, BSDi (subsequently acquired by Wind River Systems) paid members of the FreeBSD Documentation Project to work on improving this book full time leading up to the publication of the first printed edition in March 2000 (ISBN 1-57176-241-8). Wind River Systems then paid several additional authors to make a number of improvements to the print-output infrastructure and to add additional chapters to the text. This work culminated in the publication of the second printed edition in November 2001 (ISBN 1-57176-303-1). In 2003-2004, FreeBSD Mall, Inc, paid several contributors to improve the Handbook in preparation for the third printed edition.

Part I. Getting Started

This part of the FreeBSD Handbook is for users and administrators who are new to FreeBSD. These chapters:

  • Introduce you to FreeBSD.

  • Guide you through the installation process.

  • Teach you UNIX® basics and fundamentals.

  • Show you how to install the wealth of third party applications available for FreeBSD.

  • Introduce you to X, the UNIX® windowing system, and detail how to configure a desktop environment that makes you more productive.

We have tried to keep the number of forward references in the text to a minimum so that you can read this section of the Handbook from front to back with the minimum page flipping required.

Chapter 1. Introduction

Restructured, reorganized, and parts rewritten by Jim Mock.

1.1. Synopsis

Thank you for your interest in FreeBSD! The following chapter covers various aspects of the FreeBSD Project, such as its history, goals, development model, and so on.

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • How FreeBSD relates to other computer operating systems.

  • The history of the FreeBSD Project.

  • The goals of the FreeBSD Project.

  • The basics of the FreeBSD open-source development model.

  • And of course: where the name FreeBSD comes from.

1.2. Welcome to FreeBSD!

FreeBSD is a 4.4BSD-Lite based operating system for Intel (x86 and Itanium®), AMD64, Sun UltraSPARC® computers. Ports to other architectures are also under way. You can also read about the history of FreeBSD, or the current release. If you are interested in contributing something to the Project (code, hardware, funding), see the Contributing to FreeBSD article.

1.2.1. What Can FreeBSD Do?

FreeBSD has many noteworthy features. Some of these are:

  • Preemptive multitasking with dynamic priority adjustment to ensure smooth and fair sharing of the computer between applications and users, even under the heaviest of loads.

  • Multi-user facilities which allow many people to use a FreeBSD system simultaneously for a variety of things. This means, for example, that system peripherals such as printers and tape drives are properly shared between all users on the system or the network and that individual resource limits can be placed on users or groups of users, protecting critical system resources from over-use.

  • Strong TCP/IP networking with support for industry standards such as SCTP, DHCP, NFS, NIS, PPP, SLIP, IPsec, and IPv6. This means that your FreeBSD machine can interoperate easily with other systems as well as act as an enterprise server, providing vital functions such as NFS (remote file access) and email services or putting your organization on the Internet with WWW, FTP, routing and firewall (security) services.

  • Memory protection ensures that applications (or users) cannot interfere with each other. One application crashing will not affect others in any way.

  • The industry standard X Window System (X11R7) can provide a graphical user interface (GUI) on any machine and comes with full sources.

  • Binary compatibility with many programs built for Linux, SCO, SVR4, BSDI and NetBSD.

  • Thousands of ready-to-run applications are available from the FreeBSD ports and packages collection. Why search the net when you can find it all right here?

  • Thousands of additional and easy-to-port applications are available on the Internet. FreeBSD is source code compatible with most popular commercial UNIX® systems and thus most applications require few, if any, changes to compile.

  • Demand paged virtual memory and merged VM/buffer cache design efficiently satisfies applications with large appetites for memory while still maintaining interactive response to other users.

  • SMP support for machines with multiple CPUs.

  • A full complement of C and C++ development tools. Many additional languages for advanced research and development are also available in the ports and packages collection.

  • Source code for the entire system means you have the greatest degree of control over your environment. Why be locked into a proprietary solution at the mercy of your vendor when you can have a truly open system?

  • Extensive online documentation.

  • And many more!

FreeBSD is based on the 4.4BSD-Lite release from Computer Systems Research Group (CSRG) at the University of California at Berkeley, and carries on the distinguished tradition of BSD systems development. In addition to the fine work provided by CSRG, the FreeBSD Project has put in many thousands of hours in fine tuning the system for maximum performance and reliability in real-life load situations. FreeBSD offers performance and reliability on par with commercial offerings, combined with many cutting-edge features not available anywhere else.

The applications to which FreeBSD can be put are truly limited only by your own imagination. From software development to factory automation, inventory control to azimuth correction of remote satellite antennae; if it can be done with a commercial UNIX® product then it is more than likely that you can do it with FreeBSD too! FreeBSD also benefits significantly from literally thousands of high quality applications developed by research centers and universities around the world, often available at little to no cost. Commercial applications are also available and appearing in greater numbers every day.

Because the source code for FreeBSD itself is generally available, the system can also be customized to an almost unheard of degree for special applications or projects, and in ways not generally possible with operating systems from most major commercial vendors. Here is just a sampling of some of the applications in which people are currently using FreeBSD:

  • Internet Services: The robust TCP/IP networking built into FreeBSD makes it an ideal platform for a variety of Internet services such as:

    • World Wide Web servers (standard or secure [SSL])

    • IPv4 and IPv6 routing

    • Firewalls and NAT (IP masquerading) gateways

    • FTP servers

    • Electronic Mail servers

    • And more...

  • Education: Are you a student of computer science or a related engineering field? There is no better way of learning about operating systems, computer architecture and networking than the hands on, under the hood experience that FreeBSD can provide. A number of freely available CAD, mathematical and graphic design packages also make it highly useful to those whose primary interest in a computer is to get other work done!

  • Research: With source code for the entire system available, FreeBSD is an excellent platform for research in operating systems as well as other branches of computer science. FreeBSD's freely available nature also makes it possible for remote groups to collaborate on ideas or shared development without having to worry about special licensing agreements or limitations on what may be discussed in open forums.

  • Networking: Need a new router? A name server (DNS)? A firewall to keep people out of your internal network? FreeBSD can easily turn that unused PC sitting in the corner into an advanced router with sophisticated packet-filtering capabilities.

  • Embedded: FreeBSD makes an excellent platform to build embedded systems upon. With support for the ARM®, MIPS® and PowerPC® platforms, coupled with a robust network stack, cutting edge features and the permissive BSD license FreeBSD makes an excellent foundation for building embedded routers, firewalls, and other devices.

  • Desktop: FreeBSD makes a fine choice for an inexpensive desktop solution using the freely available X11 server. FreeBSD offers a choice from many open-source desktop environments, including the standard GNOME and KDE graphical user interfaces. FreeBSD can even boot diskless from a central server, making individual workstations even cheaper and easier to administer.

  • Software Development: The basic FreeBSD system comes with a full complement of development tools including a full C/C++ compiler and debugger suite. Support for many other languages are also available through the ports and packages collection.

FreeBSD is available to download free of charge, or can be obtained on either CD-ROM or DVD. Please see Appendix A, Obtaining FreeBSD for more information about obtaining FreeBSD.

1.2.2. Who Uses FreeBSD?

FreeBSD's advanced features, proven security, predictable release cycle, and permissive license have led to its use as a platform for building many commercial and open source appliances, devices, and products. Many of the world's largest IT companies use FreeBSD:

  • Apache - The Apache Software Foundation runs most of its public facing infrastructure, including possibly one of the largest SVN repositories in the world with over 1.4 million commits, on FreeBSD.

  • Apple - OS X borrows heavily from FreeBSD for the network stack, virtual file system, and many userland components. Apple iOS also contains elements borrowed from FreeBSD.

  • Cisco - IronPort network security and anti-spam appliances run a modified FreeBSD kernel.

  • Citrix - The NetScaler line of security appliances provide layer 4-7 load balancing, content caching, application firewall, secure VPN, and mobile cloud network access, along with the power of a FreeBSD shell.

  • Dell KACE - The KACE system management appliances run FreeBSD because of its reliability, scalability, and the community that supports its continued development.

  • Experts Exchange - All public facing web servers are powered by FreeBSD and they make extensive use of jails to isolate development and testing environments without the overhead of virtualization.

  • Isilon - Isilon's enterprise storage appliances are based on FreeBSD. The extremely liberal FreeBSD license allowed Isilon to integrate their intellectual property throughout the kernel and focus on building their product instead of an operating system.

  • iXsystems - The TrueNAS line of unified storage appliances is based on FreeBSD. In addition to their commercial products, iXsystems also manages development of the open source projects PC-BSD and FreeNAS.

  • Juniper - The JunOS operating system that powers all Juniper networking gear (including routers, switches, security, and networking appliances) is based on FreeBSD. Juniper is one of many vendors that showcases the symbiotic relationship between the project and vendors of commercial products. Improvements generated at Juniper are upstreamed into FreeBSD to reduce the complexity of integrating new features from FreeBSD back into JunOS in the future.

  • McAfee - SecurOS, the basis of McAfee enterprise firewall products including Sidewinder is based on FreeBSD.

  • NetApp - The Data ONTAP GX line of storage appliances are based on FreeBSD. In addition, NetApp has contributed back many features, including the new BSD licensed hypervisor, bhyve.

  • Netflix - The OpenConnect appliance that Netflix uses to stream movies to its customers is based on FreeBSD. Netflix has made extensive contributions to the codebase and works to maintain a zero delta from mainline FreeBSD. Netflix OpenConnect appliances are responsible for delivering more than 32% of all Internet traffic in North America.

  • Sandvine - Sandvine uses FreeBSD as the basis of their high performance realtime network processing platforms that make up their intelligent network policy control products.

  • Sony - The PlayStation 4 gaming console runs a modified version of FreeBSD.

  • Sophos - The Sophos Email Appliance product is based on a hardened FreeBSD and scans inbound mail for spam and viruses, while also monitoring outbound mail for malware as well as the accidental loss of sensitive information.

  • Spectra Logic - The nTier line of archive grade storage appliances run FreeBSD and OpenZFS.

  • The Weather Channel - The IntelliStar appliance that is installed at each local cable providers headend and is responsible for injecting local weather forecasts into the cable TV network's programming runs FreeBSD.

  • Verisign - Verisign is responsible for operating the .com and .net root domain registries as well as the accompanying DNS infrastructure. They rely on a number of different network operating systems including FreeBSD to ensure there is no common point of failure in their infrastructure.

  • Voxer - Voxer powers their mobile voice messaging platform with ZFS on FreeBSD. Voxer switched from a Solaris derivative to FreeBSD because of its superior documentation, larger and more active community, and more developer friendly environment. In addition to critical features like ZFS and DTrace, FreeBSD also offers TRIM support for ZFS.

  • WhatsApp - When WhatsApp needed a platform that would be able to handle more than 1 million concurrent TCP connections per server, they chose FreeBSD. They then proceeded to scale past 2.5 million connections per server.

  • Wheel Systems - The FUDO security appliance allows enterprises to monitor, control, record, and audit contractors and administrators who work on their systems. Based on all of the best security features of FreeBSD including ZFS, GELI, Capsicum, HAST, and auditdistd.

FreeBSD has also spawned a number of related open source projects:

  • BSD Router - A FreeBSD based replacement for large enterprise routers designed to run on standard PC hardware.

  • FreeNAS - A customized FreeBSD designed to be used as a network file server appliance. Provides a python based web interface to simplify the management of both the UFS and ZFS file systems. Includes support for NFS, SMB/CIFS, AFP, FTP, and iSCSI. Includes an extensible plugin system based on FreeBSD jails.

  • GhostBSD - A desktop oriented distribution of FreeBSD bundled with the Gnome desktop environment.

  • mfsBSD - A toolkit for building a FreeBSD system image that runs entirely from memory.

  • NAS4Free - A file server distribution based on FreeBSD with a PHP powered web interface.

  • PC-BSD - A customized version of FreeBSD geared towards desktop users with graphical utilities to exposing the power of FreeBSD to all users. Designed to ease the transition of Windows and OS X users.

  • pfSense - A firewall distribution based on FreeBSD with a huge array of features and extensive IPv6 support.

  • m0n0wall - A stripped down version of FreeBSD bundled with a web server and PHP. Designed as an embedded firewall appliance with a footprint of less than 12 MB.

  • ZRouter - An open source alternative firmware for embedded devices based on FreeBSD. Designed to replace the proprietary firmware on off-the-shelf routers.

FreeBSD is also used to power some of the biggest sites on the Internet, including:

and many more. Wikipedia also maintains a list of products based on FreeBSD.

1.3. About the FreeBSD Project

The following section provides some background information on the project, including a brief history, project goals, and the development model of the project.

1.3.1. A Brief History of FreeBSD

The FreeBSD Project had its genesis in the early part of 1993, partially as an outgrowth of the Unofficial 386BSDPatchkit by the patchkit's last 3 coordinators: Nate Williams, Rod Grimes and Jordan Hubbard.

The original goal was to produce an intermediate snapshot of 386BSD in order to fix a number of problems with it that the patchkit mechanism just was not capable of solving. The early working title for the project was 386BSD 0.5 or 386BSD Interim in reference of that fact.

386BSD was Bill Jolitz's operating system, which had been up to that point suffering rather severely from almost a year's worth of neglect. As the patchkit swelled ever more uncomfortably with each passing day, they decided to assist Bill by providing this interim cleanup snapshot. Those plans came to a rude halt when Bill Jolitz suddenly decided to withdraw his sanction from the project without any clear indication of what would be done instead.

The trio thought that the goal remained worthwhile, even without Bill's support, and so they adopted the name "FreeBSD" coined by David Greenman. The initial objectives were set after consulting with the system's current users and, once it became clear that the project was on the road to perhaps even becoming a reality, Jordan contacted Walnut Creek CDROM with an eye toward improving FreeBSD's distribution channels for those many unfortunates without easy access to the Internet. Walnut Creek CDROM not only supported the idea of distributing FreeBSD on CD but also went so far as to provide the project with a machine to work on and a fast Internet connection. Without Walnut Creek CDROM's almost unprecedented degree of faith in what was, at the time, a completely unknown project, it is quite unlikely that FreeBSD would have gotten as far, as fast, as it has today.

The first CD-ROM (and general net-wide) distribution was FreeBSD 1.0, released in December of 1993. This was based on the 4.3BSD-Lite (Net/2) tape from U.C. Berkeley, with many components also provided by 386BSD and the Free Software Foundation. It was a fairly reasonable success for a first offering, and they followed it with the highly successful FreeBSD 1.1 release in May of 1994.

Around this time, some rather unexpected storm clouds formed on the horizon as Novell and U.C. Berkeley settled their long-running lawsuit over the legal status of the Berkeley Net/2 tape. A condition of that settlement was U.C. Berkeley's concession that large parts of Net/2 were encumbered code and the property of Novell, who had in turn acquired it from AT&T some time previously. What Berkeley got in return was Novell's blessing that the 4.4BSD-Lite release, when it was finally released, would be declared unencumbered and all existing Net/2 users would be strongly encouraged to switch. This included FreeBSD, and the project was given until the end of July 1994 to stop shipping its own Net/2 based product. Under the terms of that agreement, the project was allowed one last release before the deadline, that release being FreeBSD

FreeBSD then set about the arduous task of literally re-inventing itself from a completely new and rather incomplete set of 4.4BSD-Lite bits. The Lite releases were light in part because Berkeley's CSRG had removed large chunks of code required for actually constructing a bootable running system (due to various legal requirements) and the fact that the Intel port of 4.4 was highly incomplete. It took the project until November of 1994 to make this transition, and in December it released FreeBSD 2.0 to the world. Despite being still more than a little rough around the edges, the release was a significant success and was followed by the more robust and easier to install FreeBSD 2.0.5 release in June of 1995.

Since that time, FreeBSD has made a series of releases each time improving the stability, speed, and feature set of the previous version.

For now, long-term development projects continue to take place in the 10.X-CURRENT (trunk) branch, and snapshot releases of 10.X are continually made available from the snapshot server as work progresses.

1.3.2. FreeBSD Project Goals

Contributed by Jordan Hubbard.

The goals of the FreeBSD Project are to provide software that may be used for any purpose and without strings attached. Many of us have a significant investment in the code (and project) and would certainly not mind a little financial compensation now and then, but we are definitely not prepared to insist on it. We believe that our first and foremost mission is to provide code to any and all comers, and for whatever purpose, so that the code gets the widest possible use and provides the widest possible benefit. This is, I believe, one of the most fundamental goals of Free Software and one that we enthusiastically support.

That code in our source tree which falls under the GNU General Public License (GPL) or Library General Public License (LGPL) comes with slightly more strings attached, though at least on the side of enforced access rather than the usual opposite. Due to the additional complexities that can evolve in the commercial use of GPL software we do, however, prefer software submitted under the more relaxed BSD copyright when it is a reasonable option to do so.

1.3.3. The FreeBSD Development Model

Contributed by Satoshi Asami.

The development of FreeBSD is a very open and flexible process, being literally built from the contributions of thousands of people around the world, as can be seen from our list of contributors. FreeBSD's development infrastructure allow these thousands of contributors to collaborate over the Internet. We are constantly on the lookout for new developers and ideas, and those interested in becoming more closely involved with the project need simply contact us at the FreeBSD technical discussions mailing list. The FreeBSD announcements mailing list is also available to those wishing to make other FreeBSD users aware of major areas of work.

Useful things to know about the FreeBSD Project and its development process, whether working independently or in close cooperation:

The SVN repositories

For several years, the central source tree for FreeBSD was maintained by CVS (Concurrent Versions System), a freely available source code control tool. In June 2008, the Project switched to using SVN (Subversion). The switch was deemed necessary, as the technical limitations imposed by CVS were becoming obvious due to the rapid expansion of the source tree and the amount of history already stored. The Documentation Project and Ports Collection repositories also moved from CVS to SVN in May 2012 and July 2012, respectively. Please refer to the Synchronizing your source tree section for more information on obtaining the FreeBSD src/ repository and Using the Ports Collection for details on obtaining the FreeBSD Ports Collection.

The committers list

The committers are the people who have write access to the Subversion tree, and are authorized to make modifications to the FreeBSD source (the term committer comes from commit, the source control command which is used to bring new changes into the repository). Anyone can submit a bug to the Bug Database. Before submitting a bug report, the FreeBSD mailing lists, IRC channels, or forums can be used to help verify that an issue is actually a bug.

The FreeBSD core team

The FreeBSD core team would be equivalent to the board of directors if the FreeBSD Project were a company. The primary task of the core team is to make sure the project, as a whole, is in good shape and is heading in the right directions. Inviting dedicated and responsible developers to join our group of committers is one of the functions of the core team, as is the recruitment of new core team members as others move on. The current core team was elected from a pool of committer candidates in July 2014. Elections are held every 2 years.


Like most developers, most members of the core team are also volunteers when it comes to FreeBSD development and do not benefit from the project financially, so commitment should also not be misconstrued as meaning guaranteed support. The board of directors analogy above is not very accurate, and it may be more suitable to say that these are the people who gave up their lives in favor of FreeBSD against their better judgement!

Outside contributors

Last, but definitely not least, the largest group of developers are the users themselves who provide feedback and bug fixes to us on an almost constant basis. The primary way of keeping in touch with FreeBSD's more non-centralized development is to subscribe to the FreeBSD technical discussions mailing list where such things are discussed. See Appendix C, Resources on the Internet for more information about the various FreeBSD mailing lists.

The FreeBSD Contributors List is a long and growing one, so why not join it by contributing something back to FreeBSD today?

Providing code is not the only way of contributing to the project; for a more complete list of things that need doing, please refer to the FreeBSD Project web site.

In summary, our development model is organized as a loose set of concentric circles. The centralized model is designed for the convenience of the users of FreeBSD, who are provided with an easy way of tracking one central code base, not to keep potential contributors out! Our desire is to present a stable operating system with a large set of coherent application programs that the users can easily install and use — this model works very well in accomplishing that.

All we ask of those who would join us as FreeBSD developers is some of the same dedication its current people have to its continued success!

1.3.4. Third Party Programs

In addition to the base distributions, FreeBSD offers a ported software collection with thousands of commonly sought-after programs. At the time of this writing, there were over 24,000 ports! The list of ports ranges from http servers, to games, languages, editors, and almost everything in between. The entire Ports Collection requires approximately 500 MB. To compile a port, you simply change to the directory of the program you wish to install, type make install, and let the system do the rest. The full original distribution for each port you build is retrieved dynamically so you need only enough disk space to build the ports you want. Almost every port is also provided as a pre-compiled package, which can be installed with a simple command (pkg install) by those who do not wish to compile their own ports from source. More information on packages and ports can be found in Chapter 4, Installing Applications: Packages and Ports.

1.3.5. Additional Documentation

All recent FreeBSD versions provide an option in the installer (either sysinstall(8) or bsdinstall(8)) to install additional documentation under /usr/local/share/doc/freebsd during the initial system setup. Documentation may also be installed at any later time using packages as described in Section 23.3.2, “Updating Documentation from Ports”. You may view the locally installed manuals with any HTML capable browser using the following URLs:

You can also view the master (and most frequently updated) copies at

Chapter 2. Installing FreeBSD

Restructured, reorganized, and parts rewritten by Jim Mock.
Updated for bsdinstall by Gavin Atkinson and Warren Block.
Updated for root-on-ZFS by Allan Jude.

2.1. Synopsis

Beginning with FreeBSD 9.0-RELEASE, FreeBSD provides an easy to use, text-based installation program named bsdinstall. This chapter describes how to install FreeBSD using bsdinstall.

In general, the installation instructions in this chapter are written for the i386™ and AMD64 architectures. Where applicable, instructions specific to other platforms will be listed. There may be minor differences between the installer and what is shown here, so use this chapter as a general guide rather than as a set of literal instructions.


Users who prefer to install FreeBSD using a graphical installer may be interested in pc-sysinstall, the installer used by the PC-BSD Project. It can be used to install either a graphical desktop (PC-BSD) or a command line version of FreeBSD. Refer to the PC-BSD Users Handbook for details (

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • The minimum hardware requirements and FreeBSD supported architectures.

  • How to create the FreeBSD installation media.

  • How to start bsdinstall.

  • The questions bsdinstall will ask, what they mean, and how to answer them.

  • How to troubleshoot a failed installation.

  • How to access a live version of FreeBSD before committing to an installation.

Before reading this chapter, you should:

  • Read the supported hardware list that shipped with the version of FreeBSD to be installed and verify that the system's hardware is supported.

2.2. Minimum Hardware Requirements

The hardware requirements to install FreeBSD vary by the hardware architecture. Hardware architectures and devices supported by a FreeBSD release are listed on the Release Information page of the FreeBSD web site (

A FreeBSD installation will require a minimum 64 MB of RAM and 1.5 GB of free hard drive space for the most minimal installation. However, that is a minimal install, leaving almost no free space. RAM requirements depend on usage. Specialized FreeBSD systems can run in as little as 128MB RAM while desktop systems should have at least 4 GB of RAM.

The processor requirements for each architecture can be summarized as follows:


This is the most common type of processor desktop and laptop computers will have. Other vendors may call this architecture x86-64.

There are two primary vendors of amd64 processors: Intel® (which produces Intel64 class processors) and AMD (which produces AMD64).

Examples of amd64 compatible processsors include: AMD Athlon™64, AMD Opteron™, multi-core Intel® Xeon™, and Intel® Core™ 2 and later processors.


This architecture is the 32-bit x86 architecture.

Almost all i386-compatible processors with a floating point unit are supported. All Intel® processors 486 or higher are supported.

FreeBSD will take advantage of Physical Address Extensions (PAE) support on CPUs that support this feature. A kernel with the PAE feature enabled will detect memory above 4 GB and allow it to be used by the system. This feature places constraints on the device drivers and other features of FreeBSD which may be used; refer to pae(4) for details.


Currently supported processors are the Itanium® and the Itanium® 2. Supported chipsets include the HP zx1, Intel® 460GX, and Intel® E8870. Both Uniprocessor (UP) and Symmetric Multi-processor (SMP) configurations are supported.


NEC PC-9801/9821 series with almost all i386-compatible processors, including 80486, Pentium®, Pentium® Pro, and Pentium® II, are all supported. All i386-compatible processors by AMD, Cyrix, IBM, and IDT are also supported. EPSON PC-386/486/586 series, which are compatible with NEC PC-9801 series, are supported. The NEC FC-9801/9821 and NEC SV-98 series should be supported.

High-resolution mode is not supported. NEC PC-98XA/XL/RL/XL^2, and NEC PC-H98 series are supported in normal (PC-9801 compatible) mode only. The SMP-related features of FreeBSD are not supported. The New Extend Standard Architecture (NESA) bus used in the PC-H98, SV-H98, and FC-H98 series, is not supported.


All New World ROM Apple® Mac® systems with built-in USB are supported. SMP is supported on machines with multiple CPUs.

A 32-bit kernel can only use the first 2 GB of RAM.


Systems supported by FreeBSD/sparc64 are listed at the FreeBSD/sparc64 Project (

SMP is supported on all systems with more than 1 processor. A dedicated disk is required as it is not possible to share a disk with another operating system at this time.

2.3. Pre-Installation Tasks

Once it has been determined that the system meets the minimum hardware requirements for installing FreeBSD, the installation file should be downloaded and the installation media prepared. Before doing this, check that the system is ready for an installation by verifying the items in this checklist:

  1. Back Up Important Data

    Before installing any operating system, always backup all important data first. Do not store the backup on the system being installed. Instead, save the data to a removable disk such as a USB drive, another system on the network, or an online backup service. Test the backup before starting the installation to make sure it contains all of the needed files. Once the installer formats the system's disk, all data stored on that disk will be lost.

  2. Decide Where to Install FreeBSD

    If FreeBSD will be the only operating system installed, this step can be skipped. But if FreeBSD will share the disk with another operating system, decide which disk or partition will be used for FreeBSD.

    In the i386 and amd64 architectures, disks can be divided into multiple partitions using one of two partitioning schemes. A traditional Master Boot Record (MBR) holds a partition table defining up to four primary partitions. For historical reasons, FreeBSD calls these primary partition slices. One of these primary partitions can be made into an extended partition containing multiple logical partitions. The GUID Partition Table (GPT) is a newer and simpler method of partitioning a disk. Common GPT implementations allow up to 128 partitions per disk, eliminating the need for logical partitions.


    Some older operating systems, like Windows® XP, are not compatible with the GPT partition scheme. If FreeBSD will be sharing a disk with such an operating system, MBR partitioning is required.

    The FreeBSD boot loader requires either a primary or GPT partition. If all of the primary or GPT partitions are already in use, one must be freed for FreeBSD. To create a partition without deleting existing data, use a partition resizing tool to shrink an existing partition and create a new partition using the freed space.

    A variety of free and commercial partition resizing tools are listed at GParted Live ( is a free live CD which includes the GParted partition editor. GParted is also included with many other Linux live CD distributions.


    When used properly, disk shrinking utilities can safely create space for creating a new partition. Since the possibility of selecting the wrong partition exists, always backup any important data and verify the integrity of the backup before modifying disk partitions.

    Disk partitions containing different operating systems make it possible to install multiple operating systems on one computer. An alternative is to use virtualization (Chapter 21, Virtualization) which allows multiple operating systems to run at the same time without modifying any disk partitions.

  3. Collect Network Information

    Some FreeBSD installation methods require a network connection in order to download the installation files. After any installation, the installer will offer to setup the system's network interfaces.

    If the network has a DHCP server, it can be used to provide automatic network configuration. If DHCP is not available, the following network information for the system must be obtained from the local network administrator or Internet service provider:

    Required Network Information
    1. IP address

    2. Subnet mask

    3. IP address of default gateway

    4. Domain name of the network

    5. IP addresses of the network's DNS servers

  4. Check for FreeBSD Errata

    Although the FreeBSD Project strives to ensure that each release of FreeBSD is as stable as possible, bugs occasionally creep into the process. On very rare occasions those bugs affect the installation process. As these problems are discovered and fixed, they are noted in the FreeBSD Errata ( on the FreeBSD web site. Check the errata before installing to make sure that there are no problems that might affect the installation.

    Information and errata for all the releases can be found on the release information section of the FreeBSD web site (

2.3.1. Prepare the Installation Media

The FreeBSD installer is not an application that can be run from within another operating system. Instead, download a FreeBSD installation file, burn it to the media associated with its file type and size (CD, DVD, or USB), and boot the system to install from the inserted media.

FreeBSD installation files are available at Each installation file's name includes the release version of FreeBSD, the architecture, and the type of file. For example, to install FreeBSD 10.2 on an amd64 system from a DVD, download FreeBSD-10.2-RELEASE-amd64-dvd1.iso, burn this file to a DVD, and boot the system with the DVD inserted.

Several file types are available, though not all file types are available for all architectures. The possible file types are:

  • -bootonly.iso: This is the smallest installation file as it only contains the installer. A working Internet connection is required during installation as the installer will download the files it needs to complete the FreeBSD installation. This file should be burned to a CD using a CD burning application.

  • -disc1.iso: This file contains all of the files needed to install FreeBSD, its source, and the Ports Collection. It should be burned to a CD using a CD burning application.

  • -dvd1.iso: This file contains all of the files needed to install FreeBSD, its source, and the Ports Collection. It also contains a set of popular binary packages for installing a window manager and some applications so that a complete system can be installed from media without requiring a connection to the Internet. This file should be burned to a DVD using a DVD burning application.

  • -memstick.img: This file contains all of the files needed to install FreeBSD, its source, and the Ports Collection. It should be burned to a USB stick using the instructions below.

Also download CHECKSUM.SHA256 from the same directory as the image file and use it to check the image file's integrity by calculating a checksum. FreeBSD provides sha256(1) for this, while other operating systems have similar programs. Compare the calculated checksum with the one shown in CHECKSUM.SHA256. The checksums must match exactly. If the checksums do not match, the file is corrupt and should be downloaded again. Writing an Image File to USB

The *.img file is an image of the complete contents of a memory stick. It cannot be copied to the target device as a file. Several applications are available for writing the *.img to a USB stick. This section describes two of these utilities.


Before proceeding, back up any important data on the USB stick. This procedure will erase the existing data on the stick.

Procedure 2.1. Using dd to Write the Image


This example uses /dev/da0 as the target device where the image will be written. Be very careful that the correct device is used as this command will destroy the existing data on the specified target device.

  • The dd(1) command-line utility is available on BSD, Linux®, and Mac OS® systems. To burn the image using dd, insert the USB stick and determine its device name. Then, specify the name of the downloaded installation file and the device name for the USB stick. This example burns the amd64 installation image to the first USB device on an existing FreeBSD system.

    # dd if=FreeBSD-10.2-RELEASE-amd64-memstick.img of=/dev/da0 bs=1M conv=sync

    If this command fails, verify that the USB stick is not mounted and that the device name is for the disk, not a partition. Some operating systems might require this command to be run with sudo(8). Systems like Linux® might buffer writes. To force all writes to complete, use sync(8).

Procedure 2.2. Using Windows® to Write the Image


Be sure to give the correct drive letter as the existing data on the specified drive will be overwritten and destroyed.

  1. Obtaining Image Writer for Windows®

    Image Writer for Windows® is a free application that can correctly write an image file to a memory stick. Download it from and extract it into a folder.

  2. Writing the Image with Image Writer

    Double-click the Win32DiskImager icon to start the program. Verify that the drive letter shown under Device is the drive with the memory stick. Click the folder icon and select the image to be written to the memory stick. Click [ Save ] to accept the image file name. Verify that everything is correct, and that no folders on the memory stick are open in other windows. When everything is ready, click [ Write ] to write the image file to the memory stick.

You are now ready to start installing FreeBSD.

2.4. Starting the Installation


By default, the installation will not make any changes to the disk(s) before the following message:

Your changes will now be written to disk.  If you
have chosen to overwrite existing data, it will
be PERMANENTLY ERASED. Are you sure you want to
commit your changes?

The install can be exited at any time prior to this warning. If there is a concern that something is incorrectly configured, just turn the computer off before this point and no changes will be made to the system's disks.

This section describes how to boot the system from the installation media which was prepared using the instructions in Section 2.3.1, “Prepare the Installation Media”. When using a bootable USB stick, plug in the USB stick before turning on the computer. When booting from CD or DVD, turn on the computer and insert the media at the first opportunity. How to configure the system to boot from the inserted media depends upon the architecture.

2.4.1. Booting on i386™ and amd64

These architectures provide a BIOS menu for selecting the boot device. Depending upon the installation media being used, select the CD/DVD or USB device as the first boot device. Most systems also provide a key for selecting the boot device during startup without having to enter the BIOS. Typically, the key is either F10, F11, F12, or Escape.

If the computer loads the existing operating system instead of the FreeBSD installer, then either:

  1. The installation media was not inserted early enough in the boot process. Leave the media inserted and try restarting the computer.

  2. The BIOS changes were incorrect or not saved. Double-check that the right boot device is selected as the first boot device.

  3. This system is too old to support booting from the chosen media. In this case, the Plop Boot Manager ( can be used to boot the system from the selected media.

2.4.2. Booting on PowerPC®

On most machines, holding C on the keyboard during boot will boot from the CD. Otherwise, hold Command+Option+O+F, or Windows+Alt+O+F on non-Apple® keyboards. At the 0 > prompt, enter

boot cd:,\ppc\loader cd:0

2.4.3. Booting on SPARC64®

Most SPARC64® systems are set up to boot automatically from disk. To install FreeBSD from a CD requires a break into the PROM.

To do this, reboot the system and wait until the boot message appears. The message depends on the model, but should look something like this:

Sun Blade 100 (UltraSPARC-IIe), Keyboard Present
Copyright 1998-2001 Sun Microsystems, Inc.  All rights reserved.
OpenBoot 4.2, 128 MB memory installed, Serial #51090132.
Ethernet address 0:3:ba:b:92:d4, Host ID: 830b92d4.

If the system proceeds to boot from disk at this point, press L1+A or Stop+A on the keyboard, or send a BREAK over the serial console. When using tip or cu, ~# will issue a BREAK. The PROM prompt will be ok on systems with one CPU and ok {0} on SMP systems, where the digit indicates the number of the active CPU.

At this point, place the CD into the drive and type boot cdrom from the PROM prompt.

2.4.4. FreeBSD Boot Menu

Once the system boots from the installation media, a menu similar to the following will be displayed:

Figure 2.1. FreeBSD Boot Loader Menu
FreeBSD Boot Loader Menu

By default, the menu will wait ten seconds for user input before booting into the FreeBSD installer or, if FreeBSD is already installed, before booting into FreeBSD. To pause the boot timer in order to review the selections, press Space. To select an option, press its highlighted number, character, or key. The following options are available.

  • Boot Multi User: This will continue the FreeBSD boot process. If the boot timer has been paused, press 1, upper- or lower-case B, or Enter.

  • Boot Single User: This mode can be used to fix an existing FreeBSD installation as described in Section, “Single-User Mode”. Press 2 or the upper- or lower-case S to enter this mode.

  • Escape to loader prompt: This will boot the system into a repair prompt that contains a limited number of low-level commands. This prompt is described in Section 12.2.3, “Stage Three”. Press 3 or Esc to boot into this prompt.

  • Reboot: Reboots the system.

  • Configure Boot Options: Opens the menu shown in, and described under, Figure 2.2, “FreeBSD Boot Options Menu”.

Figure 2.2. FreeBSD Boot Options Menu
FreeBSD Boot Options Menu

The boot options menu is divided into two sections. The first section can be used to either return to the main boot menu or to reset any toggled options back to their defaults.

The next section is used to toggle the available options to On or Off by pressing the option's highlighted number or character. The system will always boot using the settings for these options until they are modified. Several options can be toggled using this menu:

  • ACPI Support: If the system hangs during boot, try toggling this option to Off.

  • Safe Mode: If the system still hangs during boot even with ACPI Support set to Off, try setting this option to On.

  • Single User: Toggle this option to On to fix an existing FreeBSD installation as described in Section, “Single-User Mode”. Once the problem is fixed, set it back to Off.

  • Verbose: Toggle this option to On to see more detailed messages during the boot process. This can be useful when troubleshooting a piece of hardware.

After making the needed selections, press 1 or Backspace to return to the main boot menu, then press Enter to continue booting into FreeBSD. A series of boot messages will appear as FreeBSD carries out its hardware device probes and loads the installation program. Once the boot is complete, the welcome menu shown in Figure 2.3, “Welcome Menu” will be displayed.

Figure 2.3. Welcome Menu
Welcome Menu

Press Enter to select the default of [ Install ] to enter the installer. The rest of this chapter describes how to use this installer. Otherwise, use the right or left arrows or the colorized letter to select the desired menu item. The [ Shell ] can be used to access a FreeBSD shell in order to use command line utilities to prepare the disks before installation. The [ Live CD ] option can be used to try out FreeBSD before installing it. The live version is described in Section 2.10, “Using the Live CD.


To review the boot messages, including the hardware device probe, press the upper- or lower-case S and then Enter to access a shell. At the shell prompt, type more /var/run/dmesg.boot and use the space bar to scroll through the messages. When finished, type exit to return to the welcome menu.

2.5. Using bsdinstall

This section shows the order of the bsdinstall menus and the type of information that will be asked before the system is installed. Use the arrow keys to highlight a menu option, then Space to select or deselect that menu item. When finished, press Enter to save the selection and move onto the next screen.

2.5.1. Selecting the Keymap Menu

Depending on the system console being used, bsdinstall may initially display the menu shown in Figure 2.4, “Keymap Selection”.

Figure 2.4. Keymap Selection
Keymap Selection

To configure the keyboard layout, press Enter with [ YES ] selected, which will display the menu shown in Figure 2.5, “Selecting Keyboard Menu”. To instead use the default layout, use the arrow key to select [ NO ] and press Enter to skip this menu screen.

Figure 2.5. Selecting Keyboard Menu
Selecting Keyboard Menu

When configuring the keyboard layout, use the up and down arrows to select the keymap that most closely represents the mapping of the keyboard attached to the system. Press Enter to save the selection.


Pressing Esc will exit this menu and use the default keymap. If the choice of keymap is not clear, United States of America ISO-8859-1 is also a safe option.

In FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE and later, this menu has been enhanced. The full selection of keymaps is shown, with the default preselected. In addition, when selecting a different keymap, a dialog is displayed that allows the user to try the keymap and ensure it is correct before proceeding.

Figure 2.6. Enhanced Keymap Menu
Enhanced Keymap Menu

2.5.2. Setting the Hostname

The next bsdinstall menu is used to set the hostname for the newly installed system.

Figure 2.7. Setting the Hostname
Setting the Hostname

Type in a hostname that is unique for the network. It should be a fully-qualified hostname, such as

2.5.3. Selecting Components to Install

Next, bsdinstall will prompt to select optional components to install.

Figure 2.8. Selecting Components to Install
Selecting Components to Install

Deciding which components to install will depend largely on the intended use of the system and the amount of disk space available. The FreeBSD kernel and userland, collectively known as the base system, are always installed. Depending on the architecture, some of these components may not appear:

  • doc - Additional documentation, mostly of historical interest, to install into /usr/share/doc. The documentation provided by the FreeBSD Documentation Project may be installed later using the instructions in Section 23.3, “Updating the Documentation Set”.

  • games - Several traditional BSD games, including fortune, rot13, and others.

  • lib32 - Compatibility libraries for running 32-bit applications on a 64-bit version of FreeBSD.

  • ports - The FreeBSD Ports Collection is a collection of files which automates the downloading, compiling and installation of third-party software packages. Chapter 4, Installing Applications: Packages and Ports discusses how to use the Ports Collection.


    The installation program does not check for adequate disk space. Select this option only if sufficient hard disk space is available. The FreeBSD Ports Collection takes up about 500 MB of disk space.

  • src - The complete FreeBSD source code for both the kernel and the userland. Although not required for the majority of applications, it may be required to build device drivers, kernel modules, or some applications from the Ports Collection. It is also used for developing FreeBSD itself. The full source tree requires 1 GB of disk space and recompiling the entire FreeBSD system requires an additional 5 GB of space.

2.5.4. Installing from the Network

The menu shown in Figure 2.9, “Installing from the Network” only appears when installing from a -bootonly.iso CD as this installation media does not hold copies of the installation files. Since the installation files must be retrieved over a network connection, this menu indicates that the network interface must be first configured.

Figure 2.9. Installing from the Network
Installing from the Network

To configure the network connection, press Enter and follow the instructions in Section 2.8.2, “Configuring Network Interfaces”. Once the interface is configured, select a mirror site that is located in the same region of the world as the computer on which FreeBSD is being installed. Files can be retrieved more quickly when the mirror is close to the target computer, reducing installation time.

Figure 2.10. Choosing a Mirror
Choosing a Mirror

Installation will then continue as if the installation files were located on the local installation media.

2.6. Allocating Disk Space

The next menu is used to determine the method for allocating disk space. The options available in the menu depend upon the version of FreeBSD being installed.

Figure 2.11. Partitioning Choices on FreeBSD 9.x
Partitioning Choices on FreeBSD 9.x

Figure 2.12. Partitioning Choices on FreeBSD 10.x and Higher
Partitioning Choices on FreeBSD 10.x and Higher

Guided partitioning automatically sets up the disk partitions, Manual partitioning allows advanced users to create customized partitions from menu options, and Shell opens a shell prompt where advanced users can create customized partitions using command-line utilities like gpart(8), fdisk(8), and bsdlabel(8). ZFS partitioning, only available in FreeBSD 10 and later, creates an optionally encrypted root-on-ZFS system with support for boot environments.

This section describes what to consider when laying out the disk partitions. It then demonstrates how to use the different partitioning methods.

2.6.1. Designing the Partition Layout

When laying out file systems, remember that hard drives transfer data faster from the outer tracks to the inner. Thus, smaller and heavier-accessed file systems should be closer to the outside of the drive, while larger partitions like /usr should be placed toward the inner parts of the disk. It is a good idea to create partitions in an order similar to: /, swap, /var, and /usr.

The size of the /var partition reflects the intended machine's usage. This partition is used to hold mailboxes, log files, and printer spools. Mailboxes and log files can grow to unexpected sizes depending on the number of users and how long log files are kept. On average, most users rarely need more than about a gigabyte of free disk space in /var.


Sometimes, a lot of disk space is required in /var/tmp. When new software is installed, the packaging tools extract a temporary copy of the packages under /var/tmp. Large software packages, like Firefox, OpenOffice or LibreOffice may be tricky to install if there is not enough disk space under /var/tmp.

The /usr partition holds many of the files which support the system, including the FreeBSD Ports Collection and system source code. At least 2 gigabytes is recommended for this partition.

When selecting partition sizes, keep the space requirements in mind. Running out of space in one partition while barely using another can be a hassle.

As a rule of thumb, the swap partition should be about double the size of physical memory (RAM). Systems with minimal RAM may perform better with more swap. Configuring too little swap can lead to inefficiencies in the VM page scanning code and might create issues later if more memory is added.

On larger systems with multiple SCSI disks or multiple IDE disks operating on different controllers, it is recommended that swap be configured on each drive, up to four drives. The swap partitions should be approximately the same size. The kernel can handle arbitrary sizes but internal data structures scale to 4 times the largest swap partition. Keeping the swap partitions near the same size will allow the kernel to optimally stripe swap space across disks. Large swap sizes are fine, even if swap is not used much. It might be easier to recover from a runaway program before being forced to reboot.

By properly partitioning a system, fragmentation introduced in the smaller write heavy partitions will not bleed over into the mostly read partitions. Keeping the write loaded partitions closer to the disk's edge will increase I/O performance in the partitions where it occurs the most. While I/O performance in the larger partitions may be needed, shifting them more toward the edge of the disk will not lead to a significant performance improvement over moving /var to the edge.

2.6.2. Guided Partitioning

When this method is selected, a menu will display the available disk(s). If multiple disks are connected, choose the one where FreeBSD is to be installed.

Figure 2.13. Selecting from Multiple Disks
Selecting from Multiple Disks

Once the disk is selected, the next menu prompts to install to either the entire disk or to create a partition using free space. If [ Entire Disk ] is chosen, a general partition layout filling the whole disk is automatically created. Selecting [ Partition ] creates a partition layout from the unused space on the disk.

Figure 2.14. Selecting Entire Disk or Partition
Selecting Entire Disk or Partition

After the partition layout has been created, review it to ensure it meets the needs of the installation. Selecting [ Revert ] will reset the partitions to their original values and pressing [ Auto ] will recreate the automatic FreeBSD partitions. Partitions can also be manually created, modified, or deleted. When the partitioning is correct, select [ Finish ] to continue with the installation.

Figure 2.15. Review Created Partitions
Review Created Partitions

2.6.3. Manual Partitioning

Selecting this method opens the partition editor:

Figure 2.16. Manually Create Partitions
Manually Create Partitions

Highlight the installation drive (ada0 in this example) and select [ Create ] to display a menu of available partition schemes:

Figure 2.17. Manually Create Partitions
Manually Create Partitions

GPT is usually the most appropriate choice for amd64 computers. Older computers that are not compatible with GPT should use MBR. The other partition schemes are generally used for uncommon or older computers.

Table 2.1. Partitioning Schemes
APMApple Partition Map, used by PowerPC®.
BSDBSD label without an MBR, sometimes called dangerously dedicated mode as non-BSD disk utilities may not recognize it.
GPTGUID Partition Table (
MBRMaster Boot Record (
PC98MBR variant used by NEC PC-98 computers (
VTOC8Volume Table Of Contents used by Sun SPARC64 and UltraSPARC computers.

After the partitioning scheme has been selected and created, select [ Create ] again to create the partitions.

Figure 2.18. Manually Create Partitions
Manually Create Partitions

A standard FreeBSD GPT installation uses at least three partitions:

  • freebsd-boot - Holds the FreeBSD boot code.

  • freebsd-ufs - A FreeBSD UFS file system.

  • freebsd-swap - FreeBSD swap space.

Another partition type worth noting is freebsd-zfs, used for partitions that will contain a FreeBSD ZFS file system (Chapter 19, The Z File System (ZFS)). Refer to gpart(8) for descriptions of the available GPT partition types.

Multiple file system partitions can be created and some people prefer a traditional layout with separate partitions for /, /var, /tmp, and /usr. See Example 2.1, “Creating Traditional Split File System Partitions” for an example.

The Size may be entered with common abbreviations: K for kilobytes, M for megabytes, or G for gigabytes.


Proper sector alignment provides the best performance, and making partition sizes even multiples of 4K bytes helps to ensure alignment on drives with either 512-byte or 4K-byte sectors. Generally, using partition sizes that are even multiples of 1M or 1G is the easiest way to make sure every partition starts at an even multiple of 4K. There is one exception: the freebsd-boot partition should be no larger than 512K due to current boot code limitations.

A Mountpoint is needed if the partition will contain a file system. If only a single UFS partition will be created, the mountpoint should be /.

The Label is a name by which the partition will be known. Drive names or numbers can change if the drive is connected to a different controller or port, but the partition label does not change. Referring to labels instead of drive names and partition numbers in files like /etc/fstab makes the system more tolerant to hardware changes. GPT labels appear in /dev/gpt/ when a disk is attached. Other partitioning schemes have different label capabilities and their labels appear in different directories in /dev/.


Use a unique label on every partition to avoid conflicts from identical labels. A few letters from the computer's name, use, or location can be added to the label. For instance, use labroot or rootfslab for the UFS root partition on the computer named lab.

Example 2.1. Creating Traditional Split File System Partitions

For a traditional partition layout where the /, /var, /tmp, and /usr directories are separate file systems on their own partitions, create a GPT partitioning scheme, then create the partitions as shown. Partition sizes shown are typical for a 20G target disk. If more space is available on the target disk, larger swap or /var partitions may be useful. Labels shown here are prefixed with ex for example, but readers should use other unique label values as described above.

By default, FreeBSD's gptboot expects the first UFS partition to be the / partition.

Partition TypeSizeMountpointLabel
freebsd-swap4G exswap
freebsd-ufsaccept the default (remainder of the disk)/usrexusrfs

After the custom partitions have been created, select [ Finish ] to continue with the installation.

2.6.4. Root-on-ZFS Automatic Partitioning

Support for automatic creation of root-on-ZFS installations was added in FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE. This partitioning mode only works with whole disks and will erase the contents of the entire disk. The installer will automatically create partitions aligned to 4k boundaries and force ZFS to use 4k sectors. This is safe even with 512 byte sector disks, and has the added benefit of ensuring that pools created on 512 byte disks will be able to have 4k sector disks added in the future, either as additional storage space or as replacements for failed disks. The installer can also optionally employ GELI disk encryption as described in Section 17.12.2, “Disk Encryption with geli. If encryption is enabled, a 2 GB unencrypted boot pool containing the /boot directory is created. It holds the kernel and other files necessary to boot the system. A swap partition of a user selectable size is also created, and all remaining space is used for the ZFS pool.

The main ZFS configuration menu offers a number of options to control the creation of the pool.

Figure 2.19. ZFS Partitioning Menu
ZFS Partitioning Menu

Select T to configure the Pool Type and the disk(s) that will constitute the pool. The automatic ZFS installer currently only supports the creation of a single top level vdev, except in stripe mode. To create more complex pools, use the instructions in Section 2.6.5, “Shell Mode Partitioning” to create the pool. The installer supports the creation of various pool types, including stripe (not recommended, no redundancy), mirror (best performance, least usable space), and RAID-Z 1, 2, and 3 (with the capability to withstand the concurrent failure of 1, 2, and 3 disks, respectively). while selecting the pool type, a tooltip is displayed across the bottom of the screen with advice about the number of required disks, and in the case of RAID-Z, the optimal number of disks for each configuration.

Figure 2.20. ZFS Pool Type
ZFS Pool Type

Once a Pool Type has been selected, a list of available disks is displayed, and the user is prompted to select one or more disks to make up the pool. The configuration is then validated, to ensure enough disks are selected. If not, select <Change Selection> to return to the list of disks, or <Cancel> to change the pool type.

Figure 2.21. Disk Selection
Disk Selection

Figure 2.22. Invalid Selection
Invalid Selection

If one or more disks are missing from the list, or if disks were attached after the installer was started, select - Rescan Devices to repopulate the list of available disks. To ensure that the correct disks are selected, so as not to accidently destroy the wrong disks, the - Disk Info menu can be used to inspect each disk, including its partition table and various other information such as the device model number and serial number, if available.

Figure 2.23. Analysing a Disk
Analysing a Disk

The main ZFS configuration menu also allows the user to enter a pool name, disable forcing 4k sectors, enable or disable encryption, switch between GPT (recommended) and MBR partition table types, and select the amount of swap space. Once all options have been set to the desired values, select the >>> Install option at the top of the menu.

If GELI disk encryption was enabled, the installer will prompt twice for the passphrase to be used to encrypt the disks.

Figure 2.24. Disk Encryption Password
Disk Encryption Password

The installer then offers a last chance to cancel before the contents of the selected drives are destroyed to create the ZFS pool.

Figure 2.25. Last Chance
Last Chance

The installation then proceeds normally.

2.6.5. Shell Mode Partitioning

When creating advanced installations, the bsdinstall paritioning menus may not provide the level of flexibility required. Advanced users can select the Shell option from the partitioning menu in order to manually partition the drives, create the file system(s), populate /tmp/bsdinstall_etc/fstab, and mount the file systems under /mnt. Once this is done, type exit to return to bsdinstall and continue the installation.

2.7. Committing to the Installation

Once the disks are configured, the next menu provides the last chance to make changes before the selected hard drive(s) are formatted. If changes need to be made, select [ Back ] to return to the main partitioning menu. [ Revert & Exit ] will exit the installer without making any changes to the hard drive.

Figure 2.26. Final Confirmation
Final Confirmation

To instead start the actual installation, select [ Commit ] and press Enter.

Installation time will vary depending on the distributions chosen, installation media, and speed of the computer. A series of messages will indicate the progress.

First, the installer formats the selected disk(s) and initializes the partitions. Next, in the case of a bootonly media, it downloads the selected components:

Figure 2.27. Fetching Distribution Files
Fetching Distribution Files

Next, the integrity of the distribution files is verified to ensure they have not been corrupted during download or misread from the installation media:

Figure 2.28. Verifying Distribution Files
Verifying Distribution Files

Finally, the verified distribution files are extracted to the disk:

Figure 2.29. Extracting Distribution Files
Extracting Distribution Files

Once all requested distribution files have been extracted, bsdinstall displays the first post-installation configuration screen. The available post-configuration options are described in the next section.

2.8. Post-Installation

Once FreeBSD is installed, bsdinstall will prompt to configure several options before booting into the newly installed system. This section describes these configuration options.


Once the system has booted, bsdconfig provides a menu-driven method for configuring the system using these and additional options.

2.8.1. Setting the root Password

First, the root password must be set. While entering the password, the characters being typed are not displayed on the screen. After the password has been entered, it must be entered again. This helps prevent typing errors.

Figure 2.30. Setting the root Password
Setting the root Password

2.8.2. Configuring Network Interfaces

Next, a list of the network interfaces found on the computer is shown. Select the interface to configure.


The network configuration menus will be skipped if the network was previously configured as part of a bootonly installation.

Figure 2.31. Choose a Network Interface
Choose a Network Interface

If an Ethernet interface is selected, the installer will skip ahead to the menu shown in Figure 2.35, “Choose IPv4 Networking”. If a wireless network interface is chosen, the system will instead scan for wireless access points:

Figure 2.32. Scanning for Wireless Access Points
Scanning for Wireless Access Points

Wireless networks are identified by a Service Set Identifier (SSID), a short, unique name given to each network. SSIDs found during the scan are listed, followed by a description of the encryption types available for that network. If the desired SSID does not appear in the list, select [ Rescan ] to scan again. If the desired network still does not appear, check for problems with antenna connections or try moving the computer closer to the access point. Rescan after each change is made.

Figure 2.33. Choosing a Wireless Network
Choosing a Wireless Network

Next, enter the encryption information for connecting to the selected wireless network. WPA2 encryption is strongly recommended as older encryption types, like WEP, offer little security. If the network uses WPA2, input the password, also known as the Pre-Shared Key (PSK). For security reasons, the characters typed into the input box are displayed as asterisks.

Figure 2.34. WPA2 Setup
WPA2 Setup

Next, choose whether or not an IPv4 address should be configured on the Ethernet or wireless interface:

Figure 2.35. Choose IPv4 Networking
Choose IPv4 Networking

There are two methods of IPv4 configuration. DHCP will automatically configure the network interface correctly and should be used if the network provides a DHCP server. Otherwise, the addressing information needs to be input manually as a static configuration.


Do not enter random network information as it will not work. If a DHCP server is not available, obtain the information listed in Required Network Information from the network administrator or Internet service provider.

If a DHCP server is available, select [ Yes ] in the next menu to automatically configure the network interface. The installer will appear to pause for a minute or so as it finds the DHCP server and obtains the addressing information for the system.

Figure 2.36. Choose IPv4 DHCP Configuration
Choose IPv4 DHCP Configuration

If a DHCP server is not available, select [ No ] and input the following addressing information in this menu:

Figure 2.37. IPv4 Static Configuration
IPv4 Static Configuration

  • IP Address - The IPv4 address assigned to this computer. The address must be unique and not already in use by another piece of equipment on the local network.

  • Subnet Mask - The subnet mask for the network.

  • Default Router - The IP address of the network's default gateway.

The next screen will ask if the interface should be configured for IPv6. If IPv6 is available and desired, choose [ Yes ] to select it.

Figure 2.38. Choose IPv6 Networking
Choose IPv6 Networking

IPv6 also has two methods of configuration. StateLess Address AutoConfiguration (SLAAC) will automatically request the correct configuration information from a local router. Refer to for more information. Static configuration requires manual entry of network information.

If an IPv6 router is available, select [ Yes ] in the next menu to automatically configure the network interface. The installer will appear to pause for a minute or so as it finds the router and obtains the addressing information for the system.

Figure 2.39. Choose IPv6 SLAAC Configuration
Choose IPv6 SLAAC Configuration

If an IPv6 router is not available, select [ No ] and input the following addressing information in this menu:

Figure 2.40. IPv6 Static Configuration
IPv6 Static Configuration

  • IPv6 Address - The IPv6 address assigned to this computer. The address must be unique and not already in use by another piece of equipment on the local network.

  • Default Router - The IPv6 address of the network's default gateway.

The last network configuration menu is used to configure the Domain Name System (DNS) resolver, which converts hostnames to and from network addresses. If DHCP or SLAAC was used to autoconfigure the network interface, the Resolver Configuration values may already be filled in. Otherwise, enter the local network's domain name in the Search field. DNS #1 and DNS #2 are the IPv4 and/or IPv6 addresses of the DNS servers. At least one DNS server is required.

Figure 2.41. DNS Configuration
DNS Configuration

2.8.3. Setting the Time Zone

The next menu asks if the system clock uses UTC or local time. When in doubt, select [ No ] to choose the more commonly-used local time.

Figure 2.42. Select Local or UTC Clock
Select Local or UTC Clock

The next series of menus are used to determine the correct local time by selecting the geographic region, country, and time zone. Setting the time zone allows the system to automatically correct for regional time changes, such as daylight savings time, and perform other time zone related functions properly.

The example shown here is for a machine located in the Eastern time zone of the United States. The selections will vary according to the geographical location.

Figure 2.43. Select a Region
Select a Region

The appropriate region is selected using the arrow keys and then pressing Enter.

Figure 2.44. Select a Country
Select a Country

Select the appropriate country using the arrow keys and press Enter.

Figure 2.45. Select a Time Zone
Select a Time Zone

The appropriate time zone is selected using the arrow keys and pressing Enter.

Figure 2.46. Confirm Time Zone
Confirm Time Zone

Confirm the abbreviation for the time zone is correct. If it is, press Enter to continue with the post-installation configuration.

2.8.4. Enabling Services

The next menu is used to configure which system services will be started whenever the system boots. All of these services are optional. Only start the services that are needed for the system to function.

Figure 2.47. Selecting Additional Services to Enable
Selecting Additional Services to Enable

Here is a summary of the services which can be enabled in this menu:

  • sshd - The Secure Shell (SSH) daemon is used to remotely access a system over an encrypted connection. Only enable this service if the system should be available for remote logins.

  • moused - Enable this service if the mouse will be used from the command-line system console.

  • ntpd - The Network Time Protocol (NTP) daemon for automatic clock synchronization. Enable this service if there is a Windows®, Kerberos, or LDAP server on the network.

  • powerd - System power control utility for power control and energy saving.

2.8.5. Enabling Crash Dumps

The next menu is used to configure whether or not crash dumps should be enabled. Enabling crash dumps can be useful in debugging issues with the system, so users are encouraged to enable crash dumps.

Figure 2.48. Enabling Crash Dumps
Enabling Crash Dumps

2.8.6. Add Users

The next menu prompts to create at least one user account. It is recommended to login to the system using a user account rather than as root. When logged in as root, there are essentially no limits or protection on what can be done. Logging in as a normal user is safer and more secure.

Select [ Yes ] to add new users.

Figure 2.49. Add User Accounts
Add User Accounts

Follow the prompts and input the requested information for the user account. The example shown in Figure 2.50, “Enter User Information” creates the asample user account.

Figure 2.50. Enter User Information
Enter User Information

Here is a summary of the information to input:

  • Username - The name the user will enter to log in. A common convention is to use the first letter of the first name combined with the last name, as long as each username is unique for the system. The username is case sensitive and should not contain any spaces.

  • Full name - The user's full name. This can contain spaces and is used as a description for the user account.

  • Uid - User ID. Typically, this is left blank so the system will assign a value.

  • Login group - The user's group. Typically this is left blank to accept the default.

  • Invite user into other groups? - Additional groups to which the user will be added as a member. If the user needs administrative access, type wheel here.

  • Login class - Typically left blank for the default.

  • Shell - Type in one of the listed values to set the interactive shell for the user. Refer to Section 3.9, “Shells” for more information about shells.

  • Home directory - The user's home directory. The default is usually correct.

  • Home directory permissions - Permissions on the user's home directory. The default is usually correct.

  • Use password-based authentication? - Typically yes so that the user is prompted to input their password at login.

  • Use an empty password? - Typically no as it is insecure to have a blank password.

  • Use a random password? - Typically no so that the user can set their own password in the next prompt.

  • Enter password - The password for this user. Characters typed will not show on the screen.

  • Enter password again - The password must be typed again for verification.

  • Lock out the account after creation? - Typically no so that the user can login.

After entering everything, a summary is shown for review. If a mistake was made, enter no and try again. If everything is correct, enter yes to create the new user.

Figure 2.51. Exit User and Group Management
Exit User and Group Management

If there are more users to add, answer the Add another user? question with yes. Enter no to finish adding users and continue the installation.

For more information on adding users and user management, see Section 3.3, “Users and Basic Account Management”.

2.8.7. Final Configuration

After everything has been installed and configured, a final chance is provided to modify settings.

Figure 2.52. Final Configuration
Final Configuration

Use this menu to make any changes or do any additional configuration before completing the installation.

After any final configuration is complete, select Exit.

Figure 2.53. Manual Configuration
Manual Configuration

bsdinstall will prompt if there are any additional configuration that needs to be done before rebooting into the new system. Select [ Yes ] to exit to a shell within the new system or [ No ] to proceed to the last step of the installation.

Figure 2.54. Complete the Installation
Complete the Installation

If further configuration or special setup is needed, select [ Live CD ] to boot the install media into Live CD mode.

If the installation is complete, select [ Reboot ] to reboot the computer and start the new FreeBSD system. Do not forget to remove the FreeBSD install media or the computer may boot from it again.

As FreeBSD boots, informational messages are displayed. After the system finishes booting, a login prompt is displayed. At the login: prompt, enter the username added during the installation. Avoid logging in as root. Refer to Section, “The Superuser Account” for instructions on how to become the superuser when administrative access is needed.

The messages that appeared during boot can be reviewed by pressing Scroll-Lock to turn on the scroll-back buffer. The PgUp, PgDn, and arrow keys can be used to scroll back through the messages. When finished, press Scroll-Lock again to unlock the display and return to the console. To review these messages once the system has been up for some time, type less /var/run/dmesg.boot from a command prompt. Press q to return to the command line after viewing.

If sshd was enabled in Figure 2.47, “Selecting Additional Services to Enable”, the first boot may be a bit slower as the system will generate the RSA and DSA keys. Subsequent boots will be faster. The fingerprints of the keys will be displayed, as seen in this example:

Generating public/private rsa1 key pair.
Your identification has been saved in /etc/ssh/ssh_host_key.
Your public key has been saved in /etc/ssh/
The key fingerprint is:
The key's randomart image is:
+--[RSA1 1024]----+
|    o..          |
|   o . .         |
|  .   o          |
|       o         |
|    o   S        |
|   + + o         |
|o . + *          |
|o+ ..+ .         |
|==o..o+E         |
Generating public/private dsa key pair.
Your identification has been saved in /etc/ssh/ssh_host_dsa_key.
Your public key has been saved in /etc/ssh/
The key fingerprint is:
The key's randomart image is:
+--[ DSA 1024]----+
|       ..     . .|
|      o  .   . + |
|     . ..   . E .|
|    . .  o o . . |
|     +  S = .    |
|    +  . = o     |
|     +  . * .    |
|    . .  o .     |
|      .o. .      |
Starting sshd.

Refer to Section 13.8, “OpenSSH” for more information about fingerprints and SSH.

FreeBSD does not install a graphical environment by default. Refer to Chapter 5, The X Window System for more information about installing and configuring a graphical window manager.

Proper shutdown of a FreeBSD computer helps protect data and hardware from damage. Do not turn off the power before the system has been properly shut down! If the user is a member of the wheel group, become the superuser by typing su at the command line and entering the root password. Then, type shutdown -p now and the system will shut down cleanly, and if the hardware supports it, turn itself off.

2.9. Troubleshooting

This section covers basic installation troubleshooting, such as common problems people have reported.

Check the Hardware Notes ( document for the version of FreeBSD to make sure the hardware is supported. If the hardware is supported and lock-ups or other problems occur, build a custom kernel using the instructions in Chapter 8, Configuring the FreeBSD Kernel to add support for devices which are not present in the GENERIC kernel. The default kernel assumes that most hardware devices are in their factory default configuration in terms of IRQs, I/O addresses, and DMA channels. If the hardware has been reconfigured, a custom kernel configuration file can tell FreeBSD where to find things.


Some installation problems can be avoided or alleviated by updating the firmware on various hardware components, most notably the motherboard. Motherboard firmware is usually referred to as the BIOS. Most motherboard and computer manufacturers have a website for upgrades and upgrade information.

Manufacturers generally advise against upgrading the motherboard BIOS unless there is a good reason for doing so, like a critical update. The upgrade process can go wrong, leaving the BIOS incomplete and the computer inoperative.

If the system hangs while probing hardware during boot, or it behaves strangely during install, ACPI may be the culprit. FreeBSD makes extensive use of the system ACPI service on the i386, amd64, and ia64 platforms to aid in system configuration if it is detected during boot. Unfortunately, some bugs still exist in both the ACPI driver and within system motherboards and BIOS firmware. ACPI can be disabled by setting the hint.acpi.0.disabled hint in the third stage boot loader:

set hint.acpi.0.disabled="1"

This is reset each time the system is booted, so it is necessary to add hint.acpi.0.disabled="1" to the file /boot/loader.conf. More information about the boot loader can be found in Section 12.1, “Synopsis”.

2.10. Using the Live CD

The welcome menu of bsdinstall, shown in Figure 2.3, “Welcome Menu”, provides a [ Live CD ] option. This is useful for those who are still wondering whether FreeBSD is the right operating system for them and want to test some of the features before installing.

The following points should be noted before using the [ Live CD ]:

  • To gain access to the system, authentication is required. The username is root and the password is blank.

  • As the system runs directly from the installation media, performance will be significantly slower than that of a system installed on a hard disk.

  • This option only provides a command prompt and not a graphical interface.

Chapter 3. UNIX Basics

3.1. Synopsis

This chapter covers the basic commands and functionality of the FreeBSD operating system. Much of this material is relevant for any UNIX®-like operating system. New FreeBSD users are encouraged to read through this chapter carefully.

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • How to use and configure virtual consoles.

  • How to create and manage users and groups on FreeBSD.

  • How UNIX® file permissions and FreeBSD file flags work.

  • The default FreeBSD file system layout.

  • The FreeBSD disk organization.

  • How to mount and unmount file systems.

  • What processes, daemons, and signals are.

  • What a shell is, and how to change the default login environment.

  • How to use basic text editors.

  • What devices and device nodes are.

  • How to read manual pages for more information.

3.2. Virtual Consoles and Terminals

Unless FreeBSD has been configured to automatically start a graphical environment during startup, the system will boot into a command line login prompt, as seen in this example:

FreeBSD/amd64 ( (ttyv0)


The first line contains some information about the system. The amd64 indicates that the system in this example is running a 64-bit version of FreeBSD. The hostname is, and ttyv0 indicates that this is the system console. The second line is the login prompt.

Since FreeBSD is a multiuser system, it needs some way to distinguish between different users. This is accomplished by requiring every user to log into the system before gaining access to the programs on the system. Every user has a unique name username and a personal password.

To log into the system console, type the username that was configured during system installation, as described in Section 2.8.6, “Add Users”, and press Enter. Then enter the password associated with the username and press Enter. The password is not echoed for security reasons.

Once the correct password is input, the message of the day (MOTD) will be displayed followed by a command prompt. Depending upon the shell that was selected when the user was created, this prompt will be a #, $, or % character. The prompt indicates that the user is now logged into the FreeBSD system console and ready to try the available commands.

3.2.1. Virtual Consoles

While the system console can be used to interact with the system, a user working from the command line at the keyboard of a FreeBSD system will typically instead log into a virtual console. This is because system messages are configured by default to display on the system console. These messages will appear over the command or file that the user is working on, making it difficult to concentrate on the work at hand.

By default, FreeBSD is configured to provide several virtual consoles for inputting commands. Each virtual console has its own login prompt and shell and it is easy to switch between virtual consoles. This essentially provides the command line equivalent of having several windows open at the same time in a graphical environment.

The key combinations Alt+F1 through Alt+F8 have been reserved by FreeBSD for switching between virtual consoles. Use Alt+F1 to switch to the system console (ttyv0), Alt+F2 to access the first virtual console (ttyv1), Alt+F3 to access the second virtual console (ttyv2), and so on.

When switching from one console to the next, FreeBSD manages the screen output. The result is an illusion of having multiple virtual screens and keyboards that can be used to type commands for FreeBSD to run. The programs that are launched in one virtual console do not stop running when the user switches to a different virtual console.

Refer to syscons(4), atkbd(4), vidcontrol(1) and kbdcontrol(1) for a more technical description of the FreeBSD console and its keyboard drivers.

In FreeBSD, the number of available virtual consoles is configured in this section of /etc/ttys:

# name    getty                         type  status comments
ttyv0   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   on  secure
# Virtual terminals
ttyv1   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   on  secure
ttyv2   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   on  secure
ttyv3   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   on  secure
ttyv4   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   on  secure
ttyv5   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   on  secure
ttyv6   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   on  secure
ttyv7   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   on  secure
ttyv8   "/usr/X11R6/bin/xdm -nodaemon"  xterm   off secure

To disable a virtual console, put a comment symbol (#) at the beginning of the line representing that virtual console. For example, to reduce the number of available virtual consoles from eight to four, put a # in front of the last four lines representing virtual consoles ttyv5 through ttyv8. Do not comment out the line for the system console ttyv0. Note that the last virtual console (ttyv8) is used to access the graphical environment if Xorg has been installed and configured as described in Chapter 5, The X Window System.

For a detailed description of every column in this file and the available options for the virtual consoles, refer to ttys(5).

3.2.2. Single User Mode

The FreeBSD boot menu provides an option labelled as Boot Single User. If this option is selected, the system will boot into a special mode known as single user mode. This mode is typically used to repair a system that will not boot or to reset the root password when it is not known. While in single user mode, networking and other virtual consoles are not available. However, full root access to the system is available, and by default, the root password is not needed. For these reasons, physical access to the keyboard is needed to boot into this mode and determining who has physical access to the keyboard is something to consider when securing a FreeBSD system.

The settings which control single user mode are found in this section of /etc/ttys:

# name  getty                           type  status  comments
# If console is marked "insecure", then init will ask for the root password
# when going to single-user mode.
console none                            unknown  off  secure

By default, the status is set to secure. This assumes that who has physical access to the keyboard is either not important or it is controlled by a physical security policy. If this setting is changed to insecure, the assumption is that the environment itself is insecure because anyone can access the keyboard. When this line is changed to insecure, FreeBSD will prompt for the root password when a user selects to boot into single user mode.


Be careful when changing this setting to insecure! If the root password is forgotten, booting into single user mode is still possible, but may be difficult for someone who is not familiar with the FreeBSD booting process.

3.2.3. Changing Console Video Modes

The FreeBSD console default video mode may be adjusted to 1024x768, 1280x1024, or any other size supported by the graphics chip and monitor. To use a different video mode load the VESA module:

# kldload vesa

To determine which video modes are supported by the hardware, use vidcontrol(1). To get a list of supported video modes issue the following:

# vidcontrol -i mode

The output of this command lists the video modes that are supported by the hardware. To select a new video mode, specify the mode using vidcontrol(1) as the root user:

# vidcontrol MODE_279

If the new video mode is acceptable, it can be permanently set on boot by adding it to /etc/rc.conf:


3.3. Users and Basic Account Management

FreeBSD allows multiple users to use the computer at the same time. While only one user can sit in front of the screen and use the keyboard at any one time, any number of users can log in to the system through the network. To use the system, each user should have their own user account.

This chapter describes:

  • The different types of user accounts on a FreeBSD system.

  • How to add, remove, and modify user accounts.

  • How to set limits to control the resources that users and groups are allowed to access.

  • How to create groups and add users as members of a group.

3.3.1. Account Types

Since all access to the FreeBSD system is achieved using accounts and all processes are run by users, user and account management is important.

There are three main types of accounts: system accounts, user accounts, and the superuser account. System Accounts

System accounts are used to run services such as DNS, mail, and web servers. The reason for this is security; if all services ran as the superuser, they could act without restriction.

Examples of system accounts are daemon, operator, bind, news, and www.

nobody is the generic unprivileged system account. However, the more services that use nobody, the more files and processes that user will become associated with, and hence the more privileged that user becomes. User Accounts

User accounts are assigned to real people and are used to log in and use the system. Every person accessing the system should have a unique user account. This allows the administrator to find out who is doing what and prevents users from clobbering the settings of other users.

Each user can set up their own environment to accommodate their use of the system, by configuring their default shell, editor, key bindings, and language settings.

Every user account on a FreeBSD system has certain information associated with it:

User name

The user name is typed at the login: prompt. Each user must have a unique user name. There are a number of rules for creating valid user names which are documented in passwd(5). It is recommended to use user names that consist of eight or fewer, all lower case characters in order to maintain backwards compatibility with applications.


Each account has an associated password.

User ID (UID)

The User ID (UID) is a number used to uniquely identify the user to the FreeBSD system. Commands that allow a user name to be specified will first convert it to the UID. It is recommended to use a UID less than 65535, since higher values may cause compatibility issues with some software.

Group ID (GID)

The Group ID (GID) is a number used to uniquely identify the primary group that the user belongs to. Groups are a mechanism for controlling access to resources based on a user's GID rather than their UID. This can significantly reduce the size of some configuration files and allows users to be members of more than one group. It is recommended to use a GID of 65535 or lower as higher GIDs may break some software.

Login class

Login classes are an extension to the group mechanism that provide additional flexibility when tailoring the system to different users. Login classes are discussed further in Section 13.13.1, “Configuring Login Classes”.

Password change time

By default, passwords do not expire. However, password expiration can be enabled on a per-user basis, forcing some or all users to change their passwords after a certain amount of time has elapsed.

Account expiry time

By default, FreeBSD does not expire accounts. When creating accounts that need a limited lifespan, such as student accounts in a school, specify the account expiry date using pw(8). After the expiry time has elapsed, the account cannot be used to log in to the system, although the account's directories and files will remain.

User's full name

The user name uniquely identifies the account to FreeBSD, but does not necessarily reflect the user's real name. Similar to a comment, this information can contain spaces, uppercase characters, and be more than 8 characters long.

Home directory

The home directory is the full path to a directory on the system. This is the user's starting directory when the user logs in. A common convention is to put all user home directories under /home/username or /usr/home/username. Each user stores their personal files and subdirectories in their own home directory.

User shell

The shell provides the user's default environment for interacting with the system. There are many different kinds of shells and experienced users will have their own preferences, which can be reflected in their account settings. The Superuser Account

The superuser account, usually called root, is used to manage the system with no limitations on privileges. For this reason, it should not be used for day-to-day tasks like sending and receiving mail, general exploration of the system, or programming.

The superuser, unlike other user accounts, can operate without limits, and misuse of the superuser account may result in spectacular disasters. User accounts are unable to destroy the operating system by mistake, so it is recommended to login as a user account and to only become the superuser when a command requires extra privilege.

Always double and triple-check any commands issued as the superuser, since an extra space or missing character can mean irreparable data loss.

There are several ways to gain superuser privilege. While one can log in as root, this is highly discouraged.

Instead, use su(1) to become the superuser. If - is specified when running this command, the user will also inherit the root user's environment. The user running this command must be in the wheel group or else the command will fail. The user must also know the password for the root user account.

In this example, the user only becomes superuser in order to run make install as this step requires superuser privilege. Once the command completes, the user types exit to leave the superuser account and return to the privilege of their user account.

Example 3.1. Install a Program As the Superuser
% configure
% make
% su -
# make install
# exit

The built-in su(1) framework works well for single systems or small networks with just one system administrator. An alternative is to install the security/sudo package or port. This software provides activity logging and allows the administrator to configure which users can run which commands as the superuser.

3.3.2. Managing Accounts

FreeBSD provides a variety of different commands to manage user accounts. The most common commands are summarized in Table 3.1, “Utilities for Managing User Accounts”, followed by some examples of their usage. See the manual page for each utility for more details and usage examples.

Table 3.1. Utilities for Managing User Accounts
adduser(8)The recommended command-line application for adding new users.
rmuser(8)The recommended command-line application for removing users.
chpass(1)A flexible tool for changing user database information.
passwd(1)The command-line tool to change user passwords.
pw(8)A powerful and flexible tool for modifying all aspects of user accounts. adduser

The recommended program for adding new users is adduser(8). When a new user is added, this program automatically updates /etc/passwd and /etc/group. It also creates a home directory for the new user, copies in the default configuration files from /usr/share/skel, and can optionally mail the new user a welcome message. This utility must be run as the superuser.

The adduser(8) utility is interactive and walks through the steps for creating a new user account. As seen in Example 3.2, “Adding a User on FreeBSD”, either input the required information or press Return to accept the default value shown in square brackets. In this example, the user has been invited into the wheel group, allowing them to become the superuser with su(1). When finished, the utility will prompt to either create another user or to exit.

Example 3.2. Adding a User on FreeBSD
# adduser
Username: jru
Full name: J. Random User
Uid (Leave empty for default):
Login group [jru]:
Login group is jru. Invite jru into other groups? []: wheel
Login class [default]:
Shell (sh csh tcsh zsh nologin) [sh]: zsh
Home directory [/home/jru]:
Home directory permissions (Leave empty for default):
Use password-based authentication? [yes]:
Use an empty password? (yes/no) [no]:
Use a random password? (yes/no) [no]:
Enter password:
Enter password again:
Lock out the account after creation? [no]:
Username   : jru
Password   : ****
Full Name  : J. Random User
Uid        : 1001
Class      :
Groups     : jru wheel
Home       : /home/jru
Shell      : /usr/local/bin/zsh
Locked     : no
OK? (yes/no): yes
adduser: INFO: Successfully added (jru) to the user database.
Add another user? (yes/no): no


Since the password is not echoed when typed, be careful to not mistype the password when creating the user account. rmuser

To completely remove a user from the system, run rmuser(8) as the superuser. This command performs the following steps:

  1. Removes the user's crontab(1) entry, if one exists.

  2. Removes any at(1) jobs belonging to the user.

  3. Kills all processes owned by the user.

  4. Removes the user from the system's local password file.

  5. Optionally removes the user's home directory, if it is owned by the user.

  6. Removes the incoming mail files belonging to the user from /var/mail.

  7. Removes all files owned by the user from temporary file storage areas such as /tmp.

  8. Finally, removes the username from all groups to which it belongs in /etc/group. If a group becomes empty and the group name is the same as the username, the group is removed. This complements the per-user unique groups created by adduser(8).

rmuser(8) cannot be used to remove superuser accounts since that is almost always an indication of massive destruction.

By default, an interactive mode is used, as shown in the following example.

Example 3.3. rmuser Interactive Account Removal
# rmuser jru
Matching password entry:
jru:*:1001:1001::0:0:J. Random User:/home/jru:/usr/local/bin/zsh
Is this the entry you wish to remove? y
Remove user's home directory (/home/jru)? y
Removing user (jru): mailspool home passwd.
# chpass

Any user can use chpass(1) to change their default shell and personal information associated with their user account. The superuser can use this utility to change additional account information for any user.

When passed no options, aside from an optional username, chpass(1) displays an editor containing user information. When the user exits from the editor, the user database is updated with the new information.


This utility will prompt for the user's password when exiting the editor, unless the utility is run as the superuser.

In Example 3.4, “Using chpass as Superuser”, the superuser has typed chpass jru and is now viewing the fields that can be changed for this user. If jru runs this command instead, only the last six fields will be displayed and available for editing. This is shown in Example 3.5, “Using chpass as Regular User”.

Example 3.4. Using chpass as Superuser
#Changing user database information for jru.
Login: jru
Password: *
Uid [#]: 1001
Gid [# or name]: 1001
Change [month day year]:
Expire [month day year]:
Home directory: /home/jru
Shell: /usr/local/bin/zsh
Full Name: J. Random User
Office Location:
Office Phone:
Home Phone:
Other information:

Example 3.5. Using chpass as Regular User
#Changing user database information for jru.
Shell: /usr/local/bin/zsh
Full Name: J. Random User
Office Location:
Office Phone:
Home Phone:
Other information:


The commands chfn(1) and chsh(1) are links to chpass(1), as are ypchpass(1), ypchfn(1), and ypchsh(1). Since NIS support is automatic, specifying the yp before the command is not necessary. How to configure NIS is covered in Chapter 28, Network Servers. passwd

Any user can easily change their password using passwd(1). To prevent accidental or unauthorized changes, this command will prompt for the user's original password before a new password can be set:

Example 3.6. Changing Your Password
% passwd
Changing local password for jru.
Old password:
New password:
Retype new password:
passwd: updating the database...
passwd: done

The superuser can change any user's password by specifying the username when running passwd(1). When this utility is run as the superuser, it will not prompt for the user's current password. This allows the password to be changed when a user cannot remember the original password.

Example 3.7. Changing Another User's Password as the Superuser
# passwd jru
Changing local password for jru.
New password:
Retype new password:
passwd: updating the database...
passwd: done


As with chpass(1), yppasswd(1) is a link to passwd(1), so NIS works with either command. pw

The pw(8) utility can create, remove, modify, and display users and groups. It functions as a front end to the system user and group files. pw(8) has a very powerful set of command line options that make it suitable for use in shell scripts, but new users may find it more complicated than the other commands presented in this section.

3.3.3. Managing Groups

A group is a list of users. A group is identified by its group name and GID. In FreeBSD, the kernel uses the UID of a process, and the list of groups it belongs to, to determine what the process is allowed to do. Most of the time, the GID of a user or process usually means the first group in the list.

The group name to GID mapping is listed in /etc/group. This is a plain text file with four colon-delimited fields. The first field is the group name, the second is the encrypted password, the third the GID, and the fourth the comma-delimited list of members. For a more complete description of the syntax, refer to group(5).

The superuser can modify /etc/group using a text editor. Alternatively, pw(8) can be used to add and edit groups. For example, to add a group called teamtwo and then confirm that it exists:

Example 3.8. Adding a Group Using pw(8)
# pw groupadd teamtwo
# pw groupshow teamtwo

In this example, 1100 is the GID of teamtwo. Right now, teamtwo has no members. This command will add jru as a member of teamtwo.

Example 3.9. Adding User Accounts to a New Group Using pw(8)
# pw groupmod teamtwo -M jru
# pw groupshow teamtwo

The argument to -M is a comma-delimited list of users to be added to a new (empty) group or to replace the members of an existing group. To the user, this group membership is different from (and in addition to) the user's primary group listed in the password file. This means that the user will not show up as a member when using groupshow with pw(8), but will show up when the information is queried via id(1) or a similar tool. When pw(8) is used to add a user to a group, it only manipulates /etc/group and does not attempt to read additional data from /etc/passwd.

Example 3.10. Adding a New Member to a Group Using pw(8)
# pw groupmod teamtwo -m db
# pw groupshow teamtwo

In this example, the argument to -m is a comma-delimited list of users who are to be added to the group. Unlike the previous example, these users are appended to the group and do not replace existing users in the group.

Example 3.11. Using id(1) to Determine Group Membership
% id jru
uid=1001(jru) gid=1001(jru) groups=1001(jru), 1100(teamtwo)

In this example, jru is a member of the groups jru and teamtwo.

For more information about this command and the format of /etc/group, refer to pw(8) and group(5).

3.4. Permissions

In FreeBSD, every file and directory has an associated set of permissions and several utilities are available for viewing and modifying these permissions. Understanding how permissions work is necessary to make sure that users are able to access the files that they need and are unable to improperly access the files used by the operating system or owned by other users.

This section discusses the traditional UNIX® permissions used in FreeBSD. For finer grained file system access control, refer to Section 13.9, “Access Control Lists”.

In UNIX®, basic permissions are assigned using three types of access: read, write, and execute. These access types are used to determine file access to the file's owner, group, and others (everyone else). The read, write, and execute permissions can be represented as the letters r, w, and x. They can also be represented as binary numbers as each permission is either on or off (0). When represented as a number, the order is always read as rwx, where r has an on value of 4, w has an on value of 2 and x has an on value of 1.

Table 4.1 summarizes the possible numeric and alphabetic possibilities. When reading the Directory Listing column, a - is used to represent a permission that is set to off.

Table 3.2. UNIX® Permissions
ValuePermissionDirectory Listing
0No read, no write, no execute---
1No read, no write, execute--x
2No read, write, no execute-w-
3No read, write, execute-wx
4Read, no write, no executer--
5Read, no write, executer-x
6Read, write, no executerw-
7Read, write, executerwx

Use the -l argument to ls(1) to view a long directory listing that includes a column of information about a file's permissions for the owner, group, and everyone else. For example, a ls -l in an arbitrary directory may show:

% ls -l
total 530
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel     512 Sep  5 12:31 myfile
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel     512 Sep  5 12:31 otherfile
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel    7680 Sep  5 12:31 email.txt

The first (leftmost) character in the first column indicates whether this file is a regular file, a directory, a special character device, a socket, or any other special pseudo-file device. In this example, the - indicates a regular file. The next three characters, rw- in this example, give the permissions for the owner of the file. The next three characters, r--, give the permissions for the group that the file belongs to. The final three characters, r--, give the permissions for the rest of the world. A dash means that the permission is turned off. In this example, the permissions are set so the owner can read and write to the file, the group can read the file, and the rest of the world can only read the file. According to the table above, the permissions for this file would be 644, where each digit represents the three parts of the file's permission.

How does the system control permissions on devices? FreeBSD treats most hardware devices as a file that programs can open, read, and write data to. These special device files are stored in /dev/.

Directories are also treated as files. They have read, write, and execute permissions. The executable bit for a directory has a slightly different meaning than that of files. When a directory is marked executable, it means it is possible to change into that directory using cd(1). This also means that it is possible to access the files within that directory, subject to the permissions on the files themselves.

In order to perform a directory listing, the read permission must be set on the directory. In order to delete a file that one knows the name of, it is necessary to have write and execute permissions to the directory containing the file.

There are more permission bits, but they are primarily used in special circumstances such as setuid binaries and sticky directories. For more information on file permissions and how to set them, refer to chmod(1).

3.4.1. Symbolic Permissions

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

Symbolic permissions use characters instead of octal values to assign permissions to files or directories. Symbolic permissions use the syntax of (who) (action) (permissions), where the following values are available:

(who)gGroup owner
(who)aAll (world)
(action)+Adding permissions
(action)-Removing permissions
(action)=Explicitly set permissions
(permissions)tSticky bit
(permissions)sSet UID or GID

These values are used with chmod(1), but with letters instead of numbers. For example, the following command would block other users from accessing FILE:

% chmod go= FILE

A comma separated list can be provided when more than one set of changes to a file must be made. For example, the following command removes the group and world write permission on FILE, and adds the execute permissions for everyone:

% chmod go-w,a+x FILE

3.4.2. FreeBSD File Flags

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

In addition to file permissions, FreeBSD supports the use of file flags. These flags add an additional level of security and control over files, but not directories. With file flags, even root can be prevented from removing or altering files.

File flags are modified using chflags(1). For example, to enable the system undeletable flag on the file file1, issue the following command:

# chflags sunlink file1

To disable the system undeletable flag, put a no in front of the sunlink:

# chflags nosunlink file1

To view the flags of a file, use -lo with ls(1):

# ls -lo file1
-rw-r--r--  1 trhodes  trhodes  sunlnk 0 Mar  1 05:54 file1

Several file flags may only be added or removed by the root user. In other cases, the file owner may set its file flags. Refer to chflags(1) and chflags(2) for more information.

3.4.3. The setuid, setgid, and sticky Permissions

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

Other than the permissions already discussed, there are three other specific settings that all administrators should know about. They are the setuid, setgid, and sticky permissions.

These settings are important for some UNIX® operations as they provide functionality not normally granted to normal users. To understand them, the difference between the real user ID and effective user ID must be noted.

The real user ID is the UID who owns or starts the process. The effective UID is the user ID the process runs as. As an example, passwd(1) runs with the real user ID when a user changes their password. However, in order to update the password database, the command runs as the effective ID of the root user. This allows users to change their passwords without seeing a Permission Denied error.

The setuid permission may be set by prefixing a permission set with the number four (4) as shown in the following example:

# chmod 4755

The permissions on now look like the following:

-rwsr-xr-x   1 trhodes  trhodes    63 Aug 29 06:36

Note that a s is now part of the permission set designated for the file owner, replacing the executable bit. This allows utilities which need elevated permissions, such as passwd(1).


The nosuid mount(8) option will cause such binaries to silently fail without alerting the user. That option is not completely reliable as a nosuid wrapper may be able to circumvent it.

To view this in real time, open two terminals. On one, type passwd as a normal user. While it waits for a new password, check the process table and look at the user information for passwd(1):

In terminal A:

Changing local password for trhodes
Old Password:

In terminal B:

# ps aux | grep passwd
trhodes  5232  0.0  0.2  3420  1608   0  R+    2:10AM   0:00.00 grep passwd
root     5211  0.0  0.2  3620  1724   2  I+    2:09AM   0:00.01 passwd

Although passwd(1) is run as a normal user, it is using the effective UID of root.

The setgid permission performs the same function as the setuid permission; except that it alters the group settings. When an application or utility executes with this setting, it will be granted the permissions based on the group that owns the file, not the user who started the process.

To set the setgid permission on a file, provide chmod(1) with a leading two (2):

# chmod 2755

In the following listing, notice that the s is now in the field designated for the group permission settings:

-rwxr-sr-x   1 trhodes  trhodes    44 Aug 31 01:49


In these examples, even though the shell script in question is an executable file, it will not run with a different EUID or effective user ID. This is because shell scripts may not access the setuid(2) system calls.

The setuid and setgid permission bits may lower system security, by allowing for elevated permissions. The third special permission, the sticky bit, can strengthen the security of a system.

When the sticky bit is set on a directory, it allows file deletion only by the file owner. This is useful to prevent file deletion in public directories, such as /tmp, by users who do not own the file. To utilize this permission, prefix the permission set with a one (1):

# chmod 1777 /tmp

The sticky bit permission will display as a t at the very end of the permission set:

# ls -al / | grep tmp
drwxrwxrwt  10 root  wheel         512 Aug 31 01:49 tmp

3.5. Directory Structure

The FreeBSD directory hierarchy is fundamental to obtaining an overall understanding of the system. The most important directory is root or, /. This directory is the first one mounted at boot time and it contains the base system necessary to prepare the operating system for multi-user operation. The root directory also contains mount points for other file systems that are mounted during the transition to multi-user operation.

A mount point is a directory where additional file systems can be grafted onto a parent file system (usually the root file system). This is further described in Section 3.6, “Disk Organization”. Standard mount points include /usr/, /var/, /tmp/, /mnt/, and /cdrom/. These directories are usually referenced to entries in /etc/fstab. This file is a table of various file systems and mount points and is read by the system. Most of the file systems in /etc/fstab are mounted automatically at boot time from the script rc(8) unless their entry includes noauto. Details can be found in Section 3.7.1, “The fstab File”.

A complete description of the file system hierarchy is available in hier(7). The following table provides a brief overview of the most common directories.

/Root directory of the file system.
/bin/User utilities fundamental to both single-user and multi-user environments.
/boot/Programs and configuration files used during operating system bootstrap.
/boot/defaults/Default boot configuration files. Refer to loader.conf(5) for details.
/dev/Device nodes. Refer to intro(4) for details.
/etc/System configuration files and scripts.
/etc/defaults/Default system configuration files. Refer to rc(8) for details.
/etc/mail/Configuration files for mail transport agents such as sendmail(8).
/etc/namedb/named(8) configuration files.
/etc/periodic/Scripts that run daily, weekly, and monthly, via cron(8). Refer to periodic(8) for details.
/etc/ppp/ppp(8) configuration files.
/mnt/Empty directory commonly used by system administrators as a temporary mount point.
/proc/Process file system. Refer to procfs(5), mount_procfs(8) for details.
/rescue/Statically linked programs for emergency recovery as described in rescue(8).
/root/Home directory for the root account.
/sbin/System programs and administration utilities fundamental to both single-user and multi-user environments.
/tmp/Temporary files which are usually not preserved across a system reboot. A memory-based file system is often mounted at /tmp. This can be automated using the tmpmfs-related variables of rc.conf(5) or with an entry in /etc/fstab; refer to mdmfs(8) for details.
/usr/The majority of user utilities and applications.
/usr/bin/Common utilities, programming tools, and applications.
/usr/include/Standard C include files.
/usr/lib/Archive libraries.
/usr/libdata/Miscellaneous utility data files.
/usr/libexec/System daemons and system utilities executed by other programs.
/usr/local/Local executables and libraries. Also used as the default destination for the FreeBSD ports framework. Within /usr/local, the general layout sketched out by hier(7) for /usr should be used. Exceptions are the man directory, which is directly under /usr/local rather than under /usr/local/share, and the ports documentation is in share/doc/port.
/usr/obj/Architecture-specific target tree produced by building the /usr/src tree.
/usr/ports/The FreeBSD Ports Collection (optional).
/usr/sbin/System daemons and system utilities executed by users.
/usr/share/Architecture-independent files.
/usr/src/BSD and/or local source files.
/var/Multi-purpose log, temporary, transient, and spool files. A memory-based file system is sometimes mounted at /var. This can be automated using the varmfs-related variables in rc.conf(5) or with an entry in /etc/fstab; refer to mdmfs(8) for details.
/var/log/Miscellaneous system log files.
/var/mail/User mailbox files.
/var/spool/Miscellaneous printer and mail system spooling directories.
/var/tmp/Temporary files which are usually preserved across a system reboot, unless /var is a memory-based file system.
/var/yp/NIS maps.

3.6. Disk Organization

The smallest unit of organization that FreeBSD uses to find files is the filename. Filenames are case-sensitive, which means that readme.txt and README.TXT are two separate files. FreeBSD does not use the extension of a file to determine whether the file is a program, document, or some other form of data.

Files are stored in directories. A directory may contain no files, or it may contain many hundreds of files. A directory can also contain other directories, allowing a hierarchy of directories within one another in order to organize data.

Files and directories are referenced by giving the file or directory name, followed by a forward slash, /, followed by any other directory names that are necessary. For example, if the directory foo contains a directory bar which contains the file readme.txt, the full name, or path, to the file is foo/bar/readme.txt. Note that this is different from Windows® which uses \ to separate file and directory names. FreeBSD does not use drive letters, or other drive names in the path. For example, one would not type c:\foo\bar\readme.txt on FreeBSD.

Directories and files are stored in a file system. Each file system contains exactly one directory at the very top level, called the root directory for that file system. This root directory can contain other directories. One file system is designated the root file system or /. Every other file system is mounted under the root file system. No matter how many disks are on the FreeBSD system, every directory appears to be part of the same disk.

Consider three file systems, called A, B, and C. Each file system has one root directory, which contains two other directories, called A1, A2 (and likewise B1, B2 and C1, C2).

Call A the root file system. If ls(1) is used to view the contents of this directory, it will show two subdirectories, A1 and A2. The directory tree looks like this:

A file system must be mounted on to a directory in another file system. When mounting file system B on to the directory A1, the root directory of B replaces A1, and the directories in B appear accordingly:

Any files that are in the B1 or B2 directories can be reached with the path /A1/B1 or /A1/B2 as necessary. Any files that were in /A1 have been temporarily hidden. They will reappear if B is unmounted from A.

If B had been mounted on A2 then the diagram would look like this:

and the paths would be /A2/B1 and /A2/B2 respectively.

File systems can be mounted on top of one another. Continuing the last example, the C file system could be mounted on top of the B1 directory in the B file system, leading to this arrangement:

Or C could be mounted directly on to the A file system, under the A1 directory:

It is entirely possible to have one large root file system, and not need to create any others. There are some drawbacks to this approach, and one advantage.

Benefits of Multiple File Systems
  • Different file systems can have different mount options. For example, the root file system can be mounted read-only, making it impossible for users to inadvertently delete or edit a critical file. Separating user-writable file systems, such as /home, from other file systems allows them to be mounted nosuid. This option prevents the suid/guid bits on executables stored on the file system from taking effect, possibly improving security.

  • FreeBSD automatically optimizes the layout of files on a file system, depending on how the file system is being used. So a file system that contains many small files that are written frequently will have a different optimization to one that contains fewer, larger files. By having one big file system this optimization breaks down.

  • FreeBSD's file systems are robust if power is lost. However, a power loss at a critical point could still damage the structure of the file system. By splitting data over multiple file systems it is more likely that the system will still come up, making it easier to restore from backup as necessary.

Benefit of a Single File System
  • File systems are a fixed size. If you create a file system when you install FreeBSD and give it a specific size, you may later discover that you need to make the partition bigger. This is not easily accomplished without backing up, recreating the file system with the new size, and then restoring the backed up data.


    FreeBSD features the growfs(8) command, which makes it possible to increase the size of file system on the fly, removing this limitation.

File systems are contained in partitions. This does not have the same meaning as the common usage of the term partition (for example, MS-DOS® partition), because of FreeBSD's UNIX® heritage. Each partition is identified by a letter from a through to h. Each partition can contain only one file system, which means that file systems are often described by either their typical mount point in the file system hierarchy, or the letter of the partition they are contained in.

FreeBSD also uses disk space for swap space to provide virtual memory. This allows your computer to behave as though it has much more memory than it actually does. When FreeBSD runs out of memory, it moves some of the data that is not currently being used to the swap space, and moves it back in (moving something else out) when it needs it.

Some partitions have certain conventions associated with them.

aNormally contains the root file system.
bNormally contains swap space.
cNormally the same size as the enclosing slice. This allows utilities that need to work on the entire slice, such as a bad block scanner, to work on the c partition. A file system would not normally be created on this partition.
dPartition d used to have a special meaning associated with it, although that is now gone and d may work as any normal partition.

Disks in FreeBSD are divided into slices, referred to in Windows® as partitions, which are numbered from 1 to 4. These are then divided into partitions, which contain file systems, and are labeled using letters.

Slice numbers follow the device name, prefixed with an s, starting at 1. So da0s1 is the first slice on the first SCSI drive. There can only be four physical slices on a disk, but there can be logical slices inside physical slices of the appropriate type. These extended slices are numbered starting at 5, so ada0s5 is the first extended slice on the first SATA disk. These devices are used by file systems that expect to occupy a slice.

Slices, dangerously dedicated physical drives, and other drives contain partitions, which are represented as letters from a to h. This letter is appended to the device name, so da0a is the a partition on the first da drive, which is dangerously dedicated. ada1s3e is the fifth partition in the third slice of the second SATA disk drive.

Finally, each disk on the system is identified. A disk name starts with a code that indicates the type of disk, and then a number, indicating which disk it is. Unlike slices, disk numbering starts at 0. Common codes are listed in Table 3.3, “Disk Device Names”.

When referring to a partition, include the disk name, s, the slice number, and then the partition letter. Examples are shown in Example 3.12, “Sample Disk, Slice, and Partition Names”.

Example 3.13, “Conceptual Model of a Disk” shows a conceptual model of a disk layout.

When installing FreeBSD, configure the disk slices, create partitions within the slice to be used for FreeBSD, create a file system or swap space in each partition, and decide where each file system will be mounted.

Table 3.3. Disk Device Names
Drive TypeDrive Device Name
SATA and IDE hard drivesada or ad
SCSI hard drives and USB storage devicesda
SATA and IDE CD-ROM drivescd or acd
SCSI CD-ROM drivescd
Floppy drivesfd
Assorted non-standard CD-ROM drivesmcd for Mitsumi CD-ROM and scd for Sony CD-ROM devices
SCSI tape drivessa
IDE tape drivesast
RAID drivesExamples include aacd for Adaptec® AdvancedRAID, mlxd and mlyd for Mylex®, amrd for AMI MegaRAID®, idad for Compaq Smart RAID, twed for 3ware® RAID.

Example 3.12. Sample Disk, Slice, and Partition Names
ada0s1aThe first partition (a) on the first slice (s1) on the first SATA disk (ada0).
da1s2eThe fifth partition (e) on the second slice (s2) on the second SCSI disk (da1).

Example 3.13. Conceptual Model of a Disk

This diagram shows FreeBSD's view of the first SATA disk attached to the system. Assume that the disk is 250 GB in size, and contains an 80 GB slice and a 170 GB slice (MS-DOS® partitions). The first slice contains a Windows® NTFS file system, C:, and the second slice contains a FreeBSD installation. This example FreeBSD installation has four data partitions and a swap partition.

The four partitions each hold a file system. Partition a is used for the root file system, d for /var/, e for /tmp/, and f for /usr/. Partition letter c refers to the entire slice, and so is not used for ordinary partitions.

3.7. Mounting and Unmounting File Systems

The file system is best visualized as a tree, rooted, as it were, at /. /dev, /usr, and the other directories in the root directory are branches, which may have their own branches, such as /usr/local, and so on.

There are various reasons to house some of these directories on separate file systems. /var contains the directories log/, spool/, and various types of temporary files, and as such, may get filled up. Filling up the root file system is not a good idea, so splitting /var from / is often favorable.

Another common reason to contain certain directory trees on other file systems is if they are to be housed on separate physical disks, or are separate virtual disks, such as Network File System mounts, described in Section 28.3, “Network File System (NFS)”, or CDROM drives.

3.7.1. The fstab File

During the boot process (Chapter 12, The FreeBSD Booting Process), file systems listed in /etc/fstab are automatically mounted except for the entries containing noauto. This file contains entries in the following format:

device       /mount-point fstype     options      dumpfreq     passno

An existing device name as explained in Table 3.3, “Disk Device Names”.


An existing directory on which to mount the file system.


The file system type to pass to mount(8). The default FreeBSD file system is ufs.


Either rw for read-write file systems, or ro for read-only file systems, followed by any other options that may be needed. A common option is noauto for file systems not normally mounted during the boot sequence. Other options are listed in mount(8).


Used by dump(8) to determine which file systems require dumping. If the field is missing, a value of zero is assumed.


Determines the order in which file systems should be checked. File systems that should be skipped should have their passno set to zero. The root file system needs to be checked before everything else and should have its passno set to one. The other file systems should be set to values greater than one. If more than one file system has the same passno, fsck(8) will attempt to check file systems in parallel if possible.

Refer to fstab(5) for more information on the format of /etc/fstab and its options.

3.7.2. Using mount(8)

File systems are mounted using mount(8). The most basic syntax is as follows:

# mount device mountpoint

This command provides many options which are described in mount(8), The most commonly used options include:

Mount Options

Mount all the file systems listed in /etc/fstab, except those marked as noauto, excluded by the -t flag, or those that are already mounted.


Do everything except for the actual mount system call. This option is useful in conjunction with the -v flag to determine what mount(8) is actually trying to do.


Force the mount of an unclean file system (dangerous), or the revocation of write access when downgrading a file system's mount status from read-write to read-only.


Mount the file system read-only. This is identical to using -o ro.

-t fstype

Mount the specified file system type or mount only file systems of the given type, if -a is included. ufs is the default file system type.


Update mount options on the file system.


Be verbose.


Mount the file system read-write.

The following options can be passed to -o as a comma-separated list:


Do not interpret setuid or setgid flags on the file system. This is also a useful security option.

3.7.3. Using umount(8)

To unmount a file system use umount(8). This command takes one parameter which can be a mountpoint, device name, -a or -A.

All forms take -f to force unmounting, and -v for verbosity. Be warned that -f is not generally a good idea as it might crash the computer or damage data on the file system.

To unmount all mounted file systems, or just the file system types listed after -t, use -a or -A. Note that -A does not attempt to unmount the root file system.

3.8. Processes and Daemons

FreeBSD is a multi-tasking operating system. Each program running at any one time is called a process. Every running command starts at least one new process and there are a number of system processes that are run by FreeBSD.

Each process is uniquely identified by a number called a process ID (PID). Similar to files, each process has one owner and group, and the owner and group permissions are used to determine which files and devices the process can open. Most processes also have a parent process that started them. For example, the shell is a process, and any command started in the shell is a process which has the shell as its parent process. The exception is a special process called init(8) which is always the first process to start at boot time and which always has a PID of 1.

Some programs are not designed to be run with continuous user input and disconnect from the terminal at the first opportunity. For example, a web server responds to web requests, rather than user input. Mail servers are another example of this type of application. These types of programs are known as daemons. The term daemon comes from Greek mythology and represents an entity that is neither good nor evil, and which invisibly performs useful tasks. This is why the BSD mascot is the cheerful-looking daemon with sneakers and a pitchfork.

There is a convention to name programs that normally run as daemons with a trailing d. For example, BIND is the Berkeley Internet Name Domain, but the actual program that executes is named. The Apache web server program is httpd and the line printer spooling daemon is lpd. This is only a naming convention. For example, the main mail daemon for the Sendmail application is sendmail, and not maild.

3.8.1. Viewing Processes

To see the processes running on the system, use ps(1) or top(1). To display a static list of the currently running processes, their PIDs, how much memory they are using, and the command they were started with, use ps(1). To display all the running processes and update the display every few seconds in order to interactively see what the computer is doing, use top(1).

By default, ps(1) only shows the commands that are running and owned by the user. For example:

% ps
8203  0  Ss   0:00.59 /bin/csh
8895  0  R+   0:00.00 ps

The output from ps(1) is organized into a number of columns. The PID column displays the process ID. PIDs are assigned starting at 1, go up to 99999, then wrap around back to the beginning. However, a PID is not reassigned if it is already in use. The TT column shows the tty the program is running on and STAT shows the program's state. TIME is the amount of time the program has been running on the CPU. This is usually not the elapsed time since the program was started, as most programs spend a lot of time waiting for things to happen before they need to spend time on the CPU. Finally, COMMAND is the command that was used to start the program.

A number of different options are available to change the information that is displayed. One of the most useful sets is auxww, where a displays information about all the running processes of all users, u displays the username and memory usage of the process' owner, x displays information about daemon processes, and ww causes ps(1) to display the full command line for each process, rather than truncating it once it gets too long to fit on the screen.

The output from top(1) is similar:

% top
last pid:  9609;  load averages:  0.56,  0.45,  0.36              up 0+00:20:03  10:21:46
107 processes: 2 running, 104 sleeping, 1 zombie
CPU:  6.2% user,  0.1% nice,  8.2% system,  0.4% interrupt, 85.1% idle
Mem: 541M Active, 450M Inact, 1333M Wired, 4064K Cache, 1498M Free
ARC: 992M Total, 377M MFU, 589M MRU, 250K Anon, 5280K Header, 21M Other
Swap: 2048M Total, 2048M Free

  557 root          1 -21  r31   136M 42296K select  0   2:20  9.96% Xorg
 8198 dru           2  52    0   449M 82736K select  3   0:08  5.96% kdeinit4
 8311 dru          27  30    0  1150M   187M uwait   1   1:37  0.98% firefox
  431 root          1  20    0 14268K  1728K select  0   0:06  0.98% moused
 9551 dru           1  21    0 16600K  2660K CPU3    3   0:01  0.98% top
 2357 dru           4  37    0   718M   141M select  0   0:21  0.00% kdeinit4
 8705 dru           4  35    0   480M    98M select  2   0:20  0.00% kdeinit4
 8076 dru           6  20    0   552M   113M uwait   0   0:12  0.00% soffice.bin
 2623 root          1  30   10 12088K  1636K select  3   0:09  0.00% powerd
 2338 dru           1  20    0   440M 84532K select  1   0:06  0.00% kwin
 1427 dru           5  22    0   605M 86412K select  1   0:05  0.00% kdeinit4

The output is split into two sections. The header (the first five or six lines) shows the PID of the last process to run, the system load averages (which are a measure of how busy the system is), the system uptime (time since the last reboot) and the current time. The other figures in the header relate to how many processes are running, how much memory and swap space has been used, and how much time the system is spending in different CPU states. If the ZFS file system module has been loaded, an ARC line indicates how much data was read from the memory cache instead of from disk.

Below the header is a series of columns containing similar information to the output from ps(1), such as the PID, username, amount of CPU time, and the command that started the process. By default, top(1) also displays the amount of memory space taken by the process. This is split into two columns: one for total size and one for resident size. Total size is how much memory the application has needed and the resident size is how much it is actually using now.

top(1) automatically updates the display every two seconds. A different interval can be specified with -s.

3.8.2. Killing Processes

One way to communicate with any running process or daemon is to send a signal using kill(1). There are a number of different signals; some have a specific meaning while others are described in the application's documentation. A user can only send a signal to a process they own and sending a signal to someone else's process will result in a permission denied error. The exception is the root user, who can send signals to anyone's processes.

The operating system can also send a signal to a process. If an application is badly written and tries to access memory that it is not supposed to, FreeBSD will send the process the Segmentation Violation signal (SIGSEGV). If an application has been written to use the alarm(3) system call to be alerted after a period of time has elapsed, it will be sent the Alarm signal (SIGALRM).

Two signals can be used to stop a process: SIGTERM and SIGKILL. SIGTERM is the polite way to kill a process as the process can read the signal, close any log files it may have open, and attempt to finish what it is doing before shutting down. In some cases, a process may ignore SIGTERM if it is in the middle of some task that cannot be interrupted.

SIGKILL cannot be ignored by a process. Sending a SIGKILL to a process will usually stop that process there and then. [1].

Other commonly used signals are SIGHUP, SIGUSR1, and SIGUSR2. Since these are general purpose signals, different applications will respond differently.

For example, after changing a web server's configuration file, the web server needs to be told to re-read its configuration. Restarting httpd would result in a brief outage period on the web server. Instead, send the daemon the SIGHUP signal. Be aware that different daemons will have different behavior, so refer to the documentation for the daemon to determine if SIGHUP will achieve the desired results.

Procedure 3.1. Sending a Signal to a Process

This example shows how to send a signal to inetd(8). The inetd(8) configuration file is /etc/inetd.conf, and inetd(8) will re-read this configuration file when it is sent a SIGHUP.

  1. Find the PID of the process to send the signal to using pgrep(1). In this example, the PID for inetd(8) is 198:

    % pgrep -l inetd
    198  inetd -wW
  2. Use kill(1) to send the signal. Because inetd(8) is owned by root, use su(1) to become root first.

    % su
    # /bin/kill -s HUP 198

    Like most UNIX® commands, kill(1) will not print any output if it is successful. If a signal is sent to a process not owned by that user, the message kill: PID: Operation not permitted will be displayed. Mistyping the PID will either send the signal to the wrong process, which could have negative results, or will send the signal to a PID that is not currently in use, resulting in the error kill: PID: No such process.

    Why Use /bin/kill?:

    Many shells provide kill as a built in command, meaning that the shell will send the signal directly, rather than running /bin/kill. Be aware that different shells have a different syntax for specifying the name of the signal to send. Rather than try to learn all of them, it can be simpler to specify /bin/kill.

When sending other signals, substitute TERM or KILL with the name of the signal.


Killing a random process on the system is a bad idea. In particular, init(8), PID 1, is special. Running /bin/kill -s KILL 1 is a quick, and unrecommended, way to shutdown the system. Always double check the arguments to kill(1) before pressing Return.

3.9. Shells

A shell provides a command line interface for interacting with the operating system. A shell receives commands from the input channel and executes them. Many shells provide built in functions to help with everyday tasks such as file management, file globbing, command line editing, command macros, and environment variables. FreeBSD comes with several shells, including the Bourne shell (sh(1)) and the extended C shell (tcsh(1)). Other shells are available from the FreeBSD Ports Collection, such as zsh and bash.

The shell that is used is really a matter of taste. A C programmer might feel more comfortable with a C-like shell such as tcsh(1). A Linux® user might prefer bash. Each shell has unique properties that may or may not work with a user's preferred working environment, which is why there is a choice of which shell to use.

One common shell feature is filename completion. After a user types the first few letters of a command or filename and presses Tab, the shell completes the rest of the command or filename. Consider two files called foobar and football. To delete foobar, the user might type rm foo and press Tab to complete the filename.

But the shell only shows rm foo. It was unable to complete the filename because both foobar and football start with foo. Some shells sound a beep or show all the choices if more than one name matches. The user must then type more characters to identify the desired filename. Typing a t and pressing Tab again is enough to let the shell determine which filename is desired and fill in the rest.

Another feature of the shell is the use of environment variables. Environment variables are a variable/key pair stored in the shell's environment. This environment can be read by any program invoked by the shell, and thus contains a lot of program configuration. Table 3.4, “Common Environment Variables” provides a list of common environment variables and their meanings. Note that the names of environment variables are always in uppercase.

Table 3.4. Common Environment Variables
USERCurrent logged in user's name.
PATHColon-separated list of directories to search for binaries.
DISPLAYNetwork name of the Xorg display to connect to, if available.
SHELLThe current shell.
TERMThe name of the user's type of terminal. Used to determine the capabilities of the terminal.
TERMCAPDatabase entry of the terminal escape codes to perform various terminal functions.
OSTYPEType of operating system.
MACHTYPEThe system's CPU architecture.
EDITORThe user's preferred text editor.
PAGERThe user's preferred utility for viewing text one page at a time.
MANPATHColon-separated list of directories to search for manual pages.

How to set an environment variable differs between shells. In tcsh(1) and csh(1), use setenv to set environment variables. In sh(1) and bash, use export to set the current environment variables. This example sets the default EDITOR to /usr/local/bin/emacs for the tcsh(1) shell:

% setenv EDITOR /usr/local/bin/emacs

The equivalent command for bash would be:

% export EDITOR="/usr/local/bin/emacs"

To expand an environment variable in order to see its current setting, type a $ character in front of its name on the command line. For example, echo $TERM displays the current $TERM setting.

Shells treat special characters, known as meta-characters, as special representations of data. The most common meta-character is *, which represents any number of characters in a filename. Meta-characters can be used to perform filename globbing. For example, echo * is equivalent to ls because the shell takes all the files that match * and echo lists them on the command line.

To prevent the shell from interpreting a special character, escape it from the shell by starting it with a backslash (\). For example, echo $TERM prints the terminal setting whereas echo \$TERM literally prints the string $TERM.

3.9.1. Changing the Shell

The easiest way to permanently change the default shell is to use chsh. Running this command will open the editor that is configured in the EDITOR environment variable, which by default is set to vi(1). Change the Shell: line to the full path of the new shell.

Alternately, use chsh -s which will set the specified shell without opening an editor. For example, to change the shell to bash:

% chsh -s /usr/local/bin/bash


The new shell must be present in /etc/shells. If the shell was installed from the FreeBSD Ports Collection as described in Chapter 4, Installing Applications: Packages and Ports, it should be automatically added to this file. If it is missing, add it using this command, replacing the path with the path of the shell:

# echo /usr/local/bin/bash >> /etc/shells

Then, rerun chsh(1).

3.9.2. Advanced Shell Techniques

Written by Tom Rhodes.

The UNIX® shell is not just a command interpreter, it acts as a powerful tool which allows users to execute commands, redirect their output, redirect their input and chain commands together to improve the final command output. When this functionality is mixed with built in commands, the user is provided with an environment that can maximize efficiency.

Shell redirection is the action of sending the output or the input of a command into another command or into a file. To capture the output of the ls(1) command, for example, into a file, redirect the output:

% ls > directory_listing.txt

The directory contents will now be listed in directory_listing.txt. Some commands can be used to read input, such as sort(1). To sort this listing, redirect the input:

% sort < directory_listing.txt

The input will be sorted and placed on the screen. To redirect that input into another file, one could redirect the output of sort(1) by mixing the direction:

% sort < directory_listing.txt > sorted.txt

In all of the previous examples, the commands are performing redirection using file descriptors. Every UNIX® system has file descriptors, which include standard input (stdin), standard output (stdout), and standard error (stderr). Each one has a purpose, where input could be a keyboard or a mouse, something that provides input. Output could be a screen or paper in a printer. And error would be anything that is used for diagnostic or error messages. All three are considered I/O based file descriptors and sometimes considered streams.

Through the use of these descriptors, the shell allows output and input to be passed around through various commands and redirected to or from a file. Another method of redirection is the pipe operator.

The UNIX® pipe operator, | allows the output of one command to be directly passed or directed to another program. Basically, a pipe allows the standard output of a command to be passed as standard input to another command, for example:

% cat directory_listing.txt | sort | less

In that example, the contents of directory_listing.txt will be sorted and the output passed to less(1). This allows the user to scroll through the output at their own pace and prevent it from scrolling off the screen.

3.10. Text Editors

Most FreeBSD configuration is done by editing text files. Because of this, it is a good idea to become familiar with a text editor. FreeBSD comes with a few as part of the base system, and many more are available in the Ports Collection.

A simple editor to learn is ee(1), which stands for easy editor. To start this editor, type ee filename where filename is the name of the file to be edited. Once inside the editor, all of the commands for manipulating the editor's functions are listed at the top of the display. The caret (^) represents Ctrl, so ^e expands to Ctrl+e. To leave ee(1), press Esc, then choose the leave editor option from the main menu. The editor will prompt to save any changes if the file has been modified.

FreeBSD also comes with more powerful text editors, such as vi(1), as part of the base system. Other editors, like editors/emacs and editors/vim, are part of the FreeBSD Ports Collection. These editors offer more functionality at the expense of being more complicated to learn. Learning a more powerful editor such as vim or Emacs can save more time in the long run.

Many applications which modify files or require typed input will automatically open a text editor. To change the default editor, set the EDITOR environment variable as described in Section 3.9, “Shells”.

3.11. Devices and Device Nodes

A device is a term used mostly for hardware-related activities in a system, including disks, printers, graphics cards, and keyboards. When FreeBSD boots, the majority of the boot messages refer to devices being detected. A copy of the boot messages are saved to /var/run/dmesg.boot.

Each device has a device name and number. For example, ada0 is the first SATA hard drive, while kbd0 represents the keyboard.

Most devices in a FreeBSD must be accessed through special files called device nodes, which are located in /dev.

3.12. Manual Pages

The most comprehensive documentation on FreeBSD is in the form of manual pages. Nearly every program on the system comes with a short reference manual explaining the basic operation and available arguments. These manuals can be viewed using man:

% man command

where command is the name of the command to learn about. For example, to learn more about ls(1), type:

% man ls

Manual pages are divided into sections which represent the type of topic. In FreeBSD, the following sections are available:

  1. User commands.

  2. System calls and error numbers.

  3. Functions in the C libraries.

  4. Device drivers.

  5. File formats.

  6. Games and other diversions.

  7. Miscellaneous information.

  8. System maintenance and operation commands.

  9. System kernel interfaces.

In some cases, the same topic may appear in more than one section of the online manual. For example, there is a chmod user command and a chmod() system call. To tell man(1) which section to display, specify the section number:

% man 1 chmod

This will display the manual page for the user command chmod(1). References to a particular section of the online manual are traditionally placed in parenthesis in written documentation, so chmod(1) refers to the user command and chmod(2) refers to the system call.

If the name of the manual page is unknown, use man -k to search for keywords in the manual page descriptions:

% man -k mail

This command displays a list of commands that have the keyword mail in their descriptions. This is equivalent to using apropos(1).

To read the descriptions for all of the commands in /usr/bin, type:

% cd /usr/bin
% man -f * | more


% cd /usr/bin
% whatis * |more

3.12.1. GNU Info Files

FreeBSD includes several applications and utilities produced by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). In addition to manual pages, these programs may include hypertext documents called info files. These can be viewed using info(1) or, if editors/emacs is installed, the info mode of emacs.

To use info(1), type:

% info

For a brief introduction, type h. For a quick command reference, type ?.

[1] There are a few tasks that cannot be interrupted. For example, if the process is trying to read from a file that is on another computer on the network, and the other computer is unavailable, the process is said to be uninterruptible. Eventually the process will time out, typically after two minutes. As soon as this time out occurs the process will be killed.

Chapter 4. Installing Applications: Packages and Ports

4.1. Synopsis

FreeBSD is bundled with a rich collection of system tools as part of the base system. In addition, FreeBSD provides two complementary technologies for installing third-party software: the FreeBSD Ports Collection, for installing from source, and packages, for installing from pre-built binaries. Either method may be used to install software from local media or from the network.

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • The difference between binary packages and ports.

  • How to find third-party software that has been ported to FreeBSD.

  • How to manage binary packages using pkg.

  • How to build third-party software from source using the Ports Collection.

  • How to find the files installed with the application for post-installation configuration.

  • What to do if a software installation fails.

4.2. Overview of Software Installation

The typical steps for installing third-party software on a UNIX® system include:

  1. Find and download the software, which might be distributed in source code format or as a binary.

  2. Unpack the software from its distribution format. This is typically a tarball compressed with compress(1), gzip(1), or bzip2(1).

  3. Locate the documentation in INSTALL, README or some file in a doc/ subdirectory and read up on how to install the software.

  4. If the software was distributed in source format, compile it. This may involve editing a Makefile or running a configure script.

  5. Test and install the software.

If the software package was not deliberately ported, or tested to work, on FreeBSD, the source code may need editing in order for it to install and run properly. At the time of this writing, over 24,000 third-party applications have been ported to FreeBSD.

A FreeBSD package contains pre-compiled copies of all the commands for an application, as well as any configuration files and documentation. A package can be manipulated with the pkg commands, such as pkg install.

A FreeBSD port is a collection of files designed to automate the process of compiling an application from source code. The files that comprise a port contain all the necessary information to automatically download, extract, patch, compile, and install the application.

The ports system can also be used to generate packages which can be manipulated with the FreeBSD package management commands.

Both packages and ports understand dependencies. If a package or port is used to install an application and a dependent library is not already installed, the library will automatically be installed first.

While the two technologies are similar, packages and ports each have their own strengths. Select the technology that meets your requirements for installing a particular application.

Package Benefits
  • A compressed package tarball is typically smaller than the compressed tarball containing the source code for the application.

  • Packages do not require compilation time. For large applications, such as Mozilla, KDE, or GNOME, this can be important on a slow system.

  • Packages do not require any understanding of the process involved in compiling software on FreeBSD.

Port Benefits
  • Packages are normally compiled with conservative options because they have to run on the maximum number of systems. By compiling from the port, one can change the compilation options.

  • Some applications have compile-time options relating to which features are installed. For example, Apache can be configured with a wide variety of different built-in options.

    In some cases, multiple packages will exist for the same application to specify certain settings. For example, Ghostscript is available as a ghostscript package and a ghostscript-nox11 package, depending on whether or not Xorg is installed. Creating multiple packages rapidly becomes impossible if an application has more than one or two different compile-time options.

  • The licensing conditions of some software forbid binary distribution. Such software must be distributed as source code which must be compiled by the end-user.

  • Some people do not trust binary distributions or prefer to read through source code in order to look for potential problems.

  • Source code is needed in order to apply custom patches.

To keep track of updated ports, subscribe to the FreeBSD ports mailing list and the FreeBSD ports bugs mailing list.


Before installing any application, check for security issues related to the application or type pkg audit -F to check all installed applications for known vulnerabilities.

The remainder of this chapter explains how to use packages and ports to install and manage third-party software on FreeBSD.

4.3. Finding Software

FreeBSD's list of available applications is growing all the time. There are a number of ways to find software to install:

  • The FreeBSD web site maintains an up-to-date searchable list of all the available applications, at The ports can be searched by application name or by software category.

  • Dan Langille maintains which provides a comprehensive search utility and also tracks changes to the applications in the Ports Collection. Registered users can create a customized watch list in order to receive an automated email when their watched ports are updated.

  • If finding a particular application becomes challenging, try searching a site like or then check back at the FreeBSD site to see if the application has been ported.

  • To search the binary package repository for an application:

    # pkg search subversion

    Package names include the version number and in case of ports based on python, the version number of the version of python the package was built with. Some ports also have multiple versions available. In case of subversion there are different versions available, as well as different compile options. In this case, the staticly linked version of subversion. When indicating which package to install, it is best to specify the application by the port origin, which is the path in the ports tree. Repeat the pkg search with -o to list the origin of each package:

    # pkg search -o subversion

    Searching by shell globs, regular expressions, exact match, by description, or any other field in the repository database is also supported by pkg search. After installing ports-mgmt/pkg or ports-mgmt/pkg-devel, see pkg-search(8) for more details.

  • If the Ports Collection is already installed, there are several methods to query the local version of the ports tree. To find out which category a port is in, type whereis file, where file is the program to be installed:

    # whereis lsof
    lsof: /usr/ports/sysutils/lsof

    Alternately, an echo(1) statement can be used:

    # echo /usr/ports/*/*lsof*

    Note that this will also return any matched files downloaded into the /usr/ports/distfiles directory.

  • Another way to find software is by using the Ports Collection's built-in search mechanism. To use the search feature, cd to /usr/ports then run make search name=program-name where program-name is the name of the software. For example, to search for lsof:

    # cd /usr/ports
    # make search name=lsof
    Port:   lsof-4.88.d,8
    Path:   /usr/ports/sysutils/lsof
    Info:   Lists information about open files (similar to fstat(1))
    Index:  sysutils


    The built-in search mechanism uses a file of index information. If a message indicates that the INDEX is required, run make fetchindex to download the current index file. With the INDEX present, make search will be able to perform the requested search.

    The Path: line indicates where to find the port.

    To receive less information, use the quicksearch feature:

    # cd /usr/ports
    # make quicksearch name=lsof
    Port:   lsof-4.88.d,8
    Path:   /usr/ports/sysutils/lsof
    Info:   Lists information about open files (similar to fstat(1))

    For more in-depth searching, use make search key=string or make quicksearch key=string, where string is some text to search for. The text can be in comments, descriptions, or dependencies in order to find ports which relate to a particular subject when the name of the program is unknown.

    When using search or quicksearch, the search string is case-insensitive. Searching for LSOF will yield the same results as searching for lsof.

4.4. Using pkg for Binary Package Management

pkg is the next generation replacement for the traditional FreeBSD package management tools, offering many features that make dealing with binary packages faster and easier.

pkg is not a replacement for port management tools like ports-mgmt/portmaster or ports-mgmt/portupgrade. These tools can be used to install third-party software from both binary packages and the Ports Collection, while pkg installs only binary packages.

4.4.1. Getting Started with pkg

FreeBSD includes a bootstrap utility which can be used to download and install pkg, along with its manual pages.

To bootstrap the system, run:

# /usr/sbin/pkg

For earlier FreeBSD versions, pkg must instead be installed from the Ports Collection or as a binary package.

To install the port, run:

# cd /usr/ports/ports-mgmt/pkg
# make
# make install clean

When upgrading an existing system that originally used the older package system, the database must be converted to the new format, so that the new tools are aware of the already installed packages. Once pkg has been installed, the package database must be converted from the traditional format to the new format by running this command:

# pkg2ng


This step is not required for new installations that do not yet have any third-party software installed.


This step is not reversible. Once the package database has been converted to the pkg format, the traditional pkg_* tools should no longer be used.


The package database conversion may emit errors as the contents are converted to the new version. Generally, these errors can be safely ignored. However, a list of third-party software that was not successfully converted will be listed after pkg2ng has finished and these applications must be manually reinstalled.

To ensure that the FreeBSD Ports Collection registers new software with pkg, and not the traditional packages format, FreeBSD versions earlier than 10.X require this line in /etc/make.conf:


By default pkg uses the FreeBSD package mirrors. For information about building a custom package repository, see Section 4.6, “Building Packages with Poudriere

Additional pkg configuration options are described in pkg.conf(5).

Usage information for pkg is available in the pkg(8) manpage or by running pkg without additional arguments.

Each pkg command argument is documented in a command-specific manual page. To read the manual page for pkg install, for example, run either of these commands:

# pkg help install
# man pkg-install

The rest of this section demonstrates common binary package management tasks which can be performed using pkg. Each demonstrated command provides many switches to customize its use. Refer to a command's help or man page for details and more examples.

4.4.2. Obtaining Information About Installed Packages

Information about the packages installed on a system can be viewed by running pkg info which, when run without any switches, will list the package version for either all installed packages or the specified package.

For example, to see which version of pkg is installed, run:

# pkg info pkg

4.4.3. Installing and Removing Packages

To install a binary package use the following command, where packagename is the name of the package to install:

# pkg install packagename

This command uses repository data to determine which version of the software to install and if it has any uninstalled dependencies. For example, to install curl:

# pkg install curl
Updating repository catalogue
/usr/local/tmp/All/curl-7.31.0_1.txz          100% of 1181 kB 1380 kBps 00m01s

/usr/local/tmp/All/ca_root_nss-3.15.1_1.txz   100% of  288 kB 1700 kBps 00m00s

Updating repository catalogue
The following 2 packages will be installed:

        Installing ca_root_nss: 3.15.1_1
        Installing curl: 7.31.0_1

The installation will require 3 MB more space

0 B to be downloaded

Proceed with installing packages [y/N]: y
Checking integrity... done
[1/2] Installing ca_root_nss-3.15.5_1... done
[2/2] Installing curl-7.31.0_1... done
Cleaning up cache files...Done

The new package and any additional packages that were installed as dependencies can be seen in the installed packages list:

# pkg info
ca_root_nss-3.15.5_1	The root certificate bundle from the Mozilla Project
curl-7.31.0_1	Non-interactive tool to get files from FTP, GOPHER, HTTP(S) servers
pkg-1.1.4_6	New generation package manager

Packages that are no longer needed can be removed with pkg delete. For example:

# pkg delete curl
The following packages will be deleted:


The deletion will free 3 MB

Proceed with deleting packages [y/N]: y
[1/1] Deleting curl-7.31.0_1... done

4.4.4. Upgrading Installed Packages

Installed packages can be upgraded to their latest versions by running:

# pkg upgrade

This command will compare the installed versions with those available in the repository catalogue and upgrade them from the repository.

4.4.5. Auditing Installed Packages

Occasionally, software vulnerabilities may be discovered in third-party applications. To address this, pkg includes a built-in auditing mechanism. To determine if there are any known vulnerabilities for the software installed on the system, run:

# pkg audit -F

4.4.6. Automatically Removing Leaf Dependencies

Removing a package may leave behind dependencies which are no longer required. Unneeded packages that were installed as dependencies can be automatically detected and removed using:

# pkg autoremove
Packages to be autoremoved:

The autoremoval will free 723 kB

Proceed with autoremoval of packages [y/N]: y
Deinstalling ca_root_nss-3.15.1_1... done

4.4.7. Restoring the Package Database

Unlike the traditional package management system, pkg includes its own package database backup mechanism. This functionality is enabled by default.


To disable the periodic script from backing up the package database, set daily_backup_pkgdb_enable="NO" in periodic.conf(5).

To restore the contents of a previous package database backup, run the following command replacing /path/to/pkg.sql with the location of the backup:

# pkg backup -r /path/to/pkg.sql


If restoring a backup taken by the periodic script, it must be decompressed prior to being restored.

To run a manual backup of the pkg database, run the following command, replacing /path/to/pkg.sql with a suitable file name and location:

# pkg backup -d /path/to/pkg.sql

4.4.8. Removing Stale Packages

By default, pkg stores binary packages in a cache directory defined by PKG_CACHEDIR in pkg.conf(5). Only copies of the latest installed packages are kept. Older versions of pkg kept all previous packages. To remove these outdated binary packages, run:

# pkg clean

The entire cache may be cleared by running:

# pkg clean -a

4.4.9. Modifying Package Metadata

Software within the FreeBSD Ports Collection can undergo major version number changes. To address this, pkg has a built-in command to update package origins. This can be useful, for example, if lang/php5 is renamed to lang/php53 so that lang/php5 can now represent version 5.4.

To change the package origin for the above example, run:

# pkg set -o lang/php5:lang/php53

As another example, to update lang/ruby18 to lang/ruby19, run:

# pkg set -o lang/ruby18:lang/ruby19

As a final example, to change the origin of the libglut shared libraries from graphics/libglut to graphics/freeglut, run:

# pkg set -o graphics/libglut:graphics/freeglut


When changing package origins, it is important to reinstall packages that are dependent on the package with the modified origin. To force a reinstallation of dependent packages, run:

# pkg install -Rf graphics/freeglut

4.5. Using the Ports Collection

The Ports Collection is a set of Makefiles, patches, and description files stored in /usr/ports. This set of files is used to compile and install applications on FreeBSD. Before an application can be compiled using a port, the Ports Collection must first be installed. If it was not installed during the installation of FreeBSD, use one of the following methods to install it:

Procedure 4.1. Portsnap Method

The base system of FreeBSD includes Portsnap. This is a fast and user-friendly tool for retrieving the Ports Collection and is the recommended choice for most users. This utility connects to a FreeBSD site, verifies the secure key, and downloads a new copy of the Ports Collection. The key is used to verify the integrity of all downloaded files.

  1. To download a compressed snapshot of the Ports Collection into /var/db/portsnap:

    # portsnap fetch
  2. When running Portsnap for the first time, extract the snapshot into /usr/ports:

    # portsnap extract
  3. After the first use of Portsnap has been completed as shown above, /usr/ports can be updated as needed by running:

    # portsnap fetch
    # portsnap update

    When using fetch, the extract or the update operation may be run consecutively, like so:

    # portsnap fetch update
Procedure 4.2. Subversion Method

If more control over the ports tree is needed or if local changes need to be maintained, Subversion can be used to obtain the Ports Collection. Refer to the Subversion Primer for a detailed description of Subversion.

  1. Subversion must be installed before it can be used to check out the ports tree. If a copy of the ports tree is already present, install Subversion like this:

    # cd /usr/ports/devel/subversion
    # make install clean

    If the ports tree is not available, or pkg is being used to manage packages, Subversion can be installed as a package:

    # pkg install subversion
  2. Check out a copy of the ports tree:

    # svn checkout /usr/ports
  3. As needed, update /usr/ports after the initial Subversion checkout:

    # svn update /usr/ports

The Ports Collection installs a series of directories representing software categories with each category having a subdirectory for each application. Each subdirectory, also referred to as a ports skeleton, contains a set of files that tell FreeBSD how to compile and install that program. Each port skeleton includes these files and directories:

  • Makefile: contains statements that specify how the application should be compiled and where its components should be installed.

  • distinfo: contains the names and checksums of the files that must be downloaded to build the port.

  • files/: this directory contains any patches needed for the program to compile and install on FreeBSD. This directory may also contain other files used to build the port.

  • pkg-descr: provides a more detailed description of the program.

  • pkg-plist: a list of all the files that will be installed by the port. It also tells the ports system which files to remove upon deinstallation.

Some ports include pkg-message or other files to handle special situations. For more details on these files, and on ports in general, refer to the FreeBSD Porter's Handbook.

The port does not include the actual source code, also known as a distfile. The extract portion of building a port will automatically save the downloaded source to /usr/ports/distfiles.

4.5.1. Installing Ports

This section provides basic instructions on using the Ports Collection to install or remove software. The detailed description of available make targets and environment variables is available in ports(7).


Before compiling any port, be sure to update the Ports Collection as described in the previous section. Since the installation of any third-party software can introduce security vulnerabilities, it is recommended to first check for known security issues related to the port. Alternately, run pkg audit -F before installing a new port. This command can be configured to automatically perform a security audit and an update of the vulnerability database during the daily security system check. For more information, refer to pkg-audit(8) and periodic(8).

Using the Ports Collection assumes a working Internet connection. It also requires superuser privilege.

To compile and install the port, change to the directory of the port to be installed, then type make install at the prompt. Messages will indicate the progress:

# cd /usr/ports/sysutils/lsof
# make install
>> lsof_4.88D.freebsd.tar.gz doesn't seem to exist in /usr/ports/distfiles/.
>> Attempting to fetch from
===>  Extracting for lsof-4.88
[extraction output snipped]
>> Checksum OK for lsof_4.88D.freebsd.tar.gz.
===>  Patching for lsof-4.88.d,8
===>  Applying FreeBSD patches for lsof-4.88.d,8
===>  Configuring for lsof-4.88.d,8
[configure output snipped]
===>  Building for lsof-4.88.d,8
[compilation output snipped]

===>  Installing for lsof-4.88.d,8
[installation output snipped]
===>   Generating temporary packing list
===>   Compressing manual pages for lsof-4.88.d,8
===>   Registering installation for lsof-4.88.d,8
      This port has installed the following binaries which execute with
      increased privileges.

Since lsof is a program that runs with increased privileges, a security warning is displayed as it is installed. Once the installation is complete, the prompt will be returned.

Some shells keep a cache of the commands that are available in the directories listed in the PATH environment variable, to speed up lookup operations for the executable file of these commands. Users of the tcsh shell should type rehash so that a newly installed command can be used without specifying its full path. Use hash -r instead for the sh shell. Refer to the documentation for the shell for more information.

During installation, a working subdirectory is created which contains all the temporary files used during compilation. Removing this directory saves disk space and minimizes the chance of problems later when upgrading to the newer version of the port:

# make clean
===>  Cleaning for lsof-88.d,8


To save this extra step, instead use make install clean when compiling the port. Customizing Ports Installation

Some ports provide build options which can be used to enable or disable application components, provide security options, or allow for other customizations. Examples include www/firefox, security/gpgme, and mail/sylpheed-claws. If the port depends upon other ports which have configurable options, it may pause several times for user interaction as the default behavior is to prompt the user to select options from a menu. To avoid this, run make config-recursive within the port skeleton to do this configuration in one batch. Then, run make install [clean] to compile and install the port.


When using config-recursive, the list of ports to configure are gathered by the all-depends-list target. It is recommended to run make config-recursive until all dependent ports options have been defined, and ports options screens no longer appear, to be certain that all dependency options have been configured.

There are several ways to revisit a port's build options menu in order to add, remove, or change these options after a port has been built. One method is to cd into the directory containing the port and type make config. Another option is to use make showconfig. Another option is to execute make rmconfig which will remove all selected options and allow you to start over. All of these options, and others, are explained in great detail in ports(7).

The ports system uses fetch(1) to download the source files, which supports various environment variables. The FTP_PASSIVE_MODE, FTP_PROXY, and FTP_PASSWORD variables may need to be set if the FreeBSD system is behind a firewall or FTP/HTTP proxy. See fetch(3) for the complete list of supported variables.

For users who cannot be connected to the Internet all the time, make fetch can be run within /usr/ports, to fetch all distfiles, or within a category, such as /usr/ports/net, or within the specific port skeleton. Note that if a port has any dependencies, running this command in a category or ports skeleton will not fetch the distfiles of ports from another category. Instead, use make fetch-recursive to also fetch the distfiles for all the dependencies of a port.

In rare cases, such as when an organization has a local distfiles repository, the MASTER_SITES variable can be used to override the download locations specified in the Makefile. When using, specify the alternate location:

# cd /usr/ports/directory
# make MASTER_SITE_OVERRIDE= \ fetch

The WRKDIRPREFIX and PREFIX variables can override the default working and target directories. For example:

# make WRKDIRPREFIX=/usr/home/example/ports install

will compile the port in /usr/home/example/ports and install everything under /usr/local.

# make PREFIX=/usr/home/example/local install

will compile the port in /usr/ports and install it in /usr/home/example/local. And:

# make WRKDIRPREFIX=../ports PREFIX=../local install

will combine the two.

These can also be set as environmental variables. Refer to the manual page for your shell for instructions on how to set an environmental variable.

4.5.2. Removing Installed Ports

Installed ports can be uninstalled using pkg delete. Examples for using this command can be found in the pkg-delete(8) manpage.

Alternately, make deinstall can be run in the port's directory:

# cd /usr/ports/sysutils/lsof
make deinstall
===>  Deinstalling for sysutils/lsof
===>   Deinstalling
Deinstallation has been requested for the following 1 packages:


The deinstallation will free 229 kB
[1/1] Deleting lsof-4.88.d,8... done

It is recommended to read the messages as the port is uninstalled. If the port has any applications that depend upon it, this information will be displayed but the uninstallation will proceed. In such cases, it may be better to reinstall the application in order to prevent broken dependencies.

4.5.3. Upgrading Ports

Over time, newer versions of software become available in the Ports Collection. This section describes how to determine which software can be upgraded and how to perform the upgrade.

To determine if newer versions of installed ports are available, ensure that the latest version of the ports tree is installed, using the updating command described in either Procedure 4.1, “Portsnap Method” or Procedure 4.2, “Subversion Method”. On FreeBSD 10 and later, or if the system has been converted to pkg, the following command will list the installed ports which are out of date:

# pkg version -l "<"

For FreeBSD 9.X and lower, the following command will list the installed ports that are out of date:

# pkg_version -l "<"


Before attempting an upgrade, read /usr/ports/UPDATING from the top of the file to the date closest to the last time ports were upgraded or the system was installed. This file describes various issues and additional steps users may encounter and need to perform when updating a port, including such things as file format changes, changes in locations of configuration files, or any incompatibilities with previous versions. Make note of any instructions which match any of the ports that need upgrading and follow these instructions when performing the upgrade.

To perform the actual upgrade, use either Portmaster or Portupgrade. Upgrading Ports Using Portmaster

The ports-mgmt/portmaster package or port is the recommended tool for upgrading installed ports as it is designed to use the tools installed with FreeBSD without depending upon other ports. It uses the information in /var/db/pkg/ to determine which ports to upgrade. To install this utility as a port:

# cd /usr/ports/ports-mgmt/portmaster
# make install clean

Portmaster defines four categories of ports:

  • Root port: has no dependencies and is not a dependency of any other ports.

  • Trunk port: has no dependencies, but other ports depend upon it.

  • Branch port: has dependencies and other ports depend upon it.

  • Leaf port: has dependencies but no other ports depend upon it.

To list these categories and search for updates:

# portmaster -L
===>>> Root ports (No dependencies, not depended on)
===>>> ispell-3.2.06_18
===>>> screen-4.0.3
        ===>>> New version available: screen-4.0.3_1
===>>> tcpflow-0.21_1
===>>> 7 root ports
===>>> Branch ports (Have dependencies, are depended on)
===>>> apache22-2.2.3
        ===>>> New version available: apache22-2.2.8
===>>> Leaf ports (Have dependencies, not depended on)
===>>> automake-1.9.6_2
===>>> bash-3.1.17
        ===>>> New version available: bash-3.2.33
===>>> 32 leaf ports

===>>> 137 total installed ports
        ===>>> 83 have new versions available

This command is used to upgrade all outdated ports:

# portmaster -a


By default, Portmaster will make a backup package before deleting the existing port. If the installation of the new version is successful, Portmaster will delete the backup. Using -b will instruct Portmaster not to automatically delete the backup. Adding -i will start Portmaster in interactive mode, prompting for confirmation before upgrading each port. Many other options are available. Read through the manual page for portmaster(8) for details regarding their usage.

If errors are encountered during the upgrade process, add -f to upgrade and rebuild all ports:

# portmaster -af

Portmaster can also be used to install new ports on the system, upgrading all dependencies before building and installing the new port. To use this function, specify the location of the port in the Ports Collection:

# portmaster shells/bash Upgrading Ports Using Portupgrade

Another utility that can be used to upgrade ports is Portupgrade, which is available as the ports-mgmt/portupgrade package or port. This utility installs a suite of applications which can be used to manage ports. However, it is dependent upon Ruby. To install the port:

# cd /usr/ports/ports-mgmt/portupgrade
# make install clean

Before performing an upgrade using this utility, it is recommended to scan the list of installed ports using pkgdb -F and to fix all the inconsistencies it reports.

To upgrade all the outdated ports installed on the system, use portupgrade -a. Alternately, include -i to be asked for confirmation of every individual upgrade:

# portupgrade -ai

To upgrade only a specified application instead of all available ports, use portupgrade pkgname. It is very important to include -R to first upgrade all the ports required by the given application:

# portupgrade -R firefox

If -P is included, Portupgrade searches for available packages in the local directories listed in PKG_PATH. If none are available locally, it then fetches packages from a remote site. If packages can not be found locally or fetched remotely, Portupgrade will use ports. To avoid using ports entirely, specify -PP. This last set of options tells Portupgrade to abort if no packages are available:

# portupgrade -PP gnome3

To just fetch the port distfiles, or packages, if -P is specified, without building or installing anything, use -F. For further information on all of the available switches, refer to the manual page for portupgrade.

4.5.4. Ports and Disk Space

Using the Ports Collection will use up disk space over time. After building and installing a port, running make clean within the ports skeleton will clean up the temporary work directory. If Portmaster is used to install a port, it will automatically remove this directory unless -K is specified. If Portupgrade is installed, this command will remove all work directories found within the local copy of the Ports Collection:

# portsclean -C

In addition, a lot of out-dated source distribution files will collect in /usr/ports/distfiles over time. If Portupgrade is installed, this command will delete all the distfiles that are no longer referenced by any ports:

# portsclean -D

To use Portupgrade to remove all distfiles not referenced by any port currently installed on the system:

# portsclean -DD

If Portmaster is installed, use:

# portmaster --clean-distfiles

By default, this command is interactive and will prompt the user to confirm if a distfile should be deleted.

In addition to these commands, the ports-mgmt/pkg_cutleaves package or port automates the task of removing installed ports that are no longer needed.

4.6. Building Packages with Poudriere

Poudriere is a BSD-licensed utility for creating and testing FreeBSD packages. It uses FreeBSD jails to set up isolated compilation environments. These jails can be used to build packages for versions of FreeBSD that are different from the system on which it is installed, and also to build packages for i386 if the host is an amd64 system. Once the packages are built, they are in a layout identical to the official mirrors. These packages are usable by pkg(8) and other package management tools.

Poudriere is installed using the ports-mgmt/poudriere package or port. The installation includes a sample configuration file /usr/local/etc/poudriere.conf.sample. Copy this file to /usr/local/etc/poudriere.conf. Edit the copied file to suit the local configuration.

While ZFS is not required on the system running poudriere, it is beneficial. When ZFS is used, ZPOOL must be specified in /usr/local/etc/poudriere.conf and FREEBSD_HOST should be set to a nearby mirror. Defining CCACHE_DIR enables the use of devel/ccache to cache compilation and reduce build times for frequently-compiled code. It may be convenient to put poudriere datasets in an isolated tree mounted at /poudriere. Defaults for the other configuration values are adequate.

The number of processor cores detected is used to define how many builds should run in parallel. Supply enough virtual memory, either with RAM or swap space. If virtual memory runs out, compiling jails will stop and be torn down, resulting in weird error messages.

4.6.1. Initialize Jails and Port Trees

After configuration, initialize poudriere so that it installs a jail with the required FreeBSD tree and a ports tree. Specify a name for the jail using -j and the FreeBSD version with -v. On systems running FreeBSD/amd64, the architecture can be set with -a to either i386 or amd64. The default is the architecture shown by uname.

# poudriere jail -c -j 10amd64 -v 10.0-RELEASE
====>> Creating 10amd64 fs... done
====>> Fetching base.txz for FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE amd64
/poudriere/jails/10amd64/fromftp/base.txz      100% of   59 MB 1470 kBps 00m42s
====>> Extracting base.txz... done
====>> Fetching src.txz for FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE amd64
/poudriere/jails/10amd64/fromftp/src.txz       100% of  107 MB 1476 kBps 01m14s
====>> Extracting src.txz... done
====>> Fetching games.txz for FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE amd64
/poudriere/jails/10amd64/fromftp/games.txz     100% of  865 kB  734 kBps 00m01s
====>> Extracting games.txz... done
====>> Fetching lib32.txz for FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE amd64
/poudriere/jails/10amd64/fromftp/lib32.txz     100% of   14 MB 1316 kBps 00m12s
====>> Extracting lib32.txz... done
====>> Cleaning up... done
====>> Jail 10amd64 10.0-RELEASE amd64 is ready to be used
# poudriere ports -c -p local
====>> Creating local fs... done
====>> Extracting portstree "local"...
Looking up mirrors... 7 mirrors found.
Fetching public key from done.
Fetching snapshot tag from done.
Fetching snapshot metadata... done.
Fetching snapshot generated at Tue Feb 11 01:07:15 CET 2014:
94a3431f0ce567f6452ffde4fd3d7d3c6e1da143efec76100% of   69 MB 1246 kBps 00m57s
Extracting snapshot... done.
Verifying snapshot integrity... done.
Fetching snapshot tag from done.
Fetching snapshot metadata... done.
Updating from Tue Feb 11 01:07:15 CET 2014 to Tue Feb 11 16:05:20 CET 2014.
Fetching 4 metadata patches... done.
Applying metadata patches... done.
Fetching 0 metadata files... done.
Fetching 48 patches.
(48/48) 100.00%  done.
Applying patches...
Fetching 1 new ports or files... done.


Building new INDEX files... done.

On a single computer, poudriere can build ports with multiple configurations, in multiple jails, and from different port trees. Custom configurations for these combinations are called sets. See the CUSTOMIZATION section of poudriere(8) for details after ports-mgmt/poudriere or ports-mgmt/poudriere-devel is installed.

The basic configuration shown here puts a single jail-, port-, and set-specific make.conf in /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d. The filename in this example is created by combining the jail name, port name, and set name: 10amd64-local-workstation-make.conf. The system make.conf and this new file are combined at build time to create the make.conf used by the build jail.

Packages to be built are entered in 10amd64-local-workstation-pkglist:


Options and dependencies for the specified ports are configured:

# poudriere options -j 10amd64 -p local -z workstation -f 10amd64-local-workstation-pkglist

Finally, packages are built and a package repository is created:

# poudriere bulk -j 10amd64 -p local -z workstation -f 10amd64-local-workstation-pkglist

Ctrl+t displays the current state of the build. Poudriere also builds files in /poudriere/logs/bulk/jailname that can be used with a web server to display build information.

Packages are now available for installation from the poudriere repository.

For more information on using poudriere, see poudriere(8) and the main web site,

4.6.2. Configuring pkg Clients to Use a Poudriere Repository

While it is possible to use both a custom repository along side of the official repository, sometimes it is useful to disable the official repository. This is done by creating a configuration file that overrides and disables the official configuration file. Create /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos/FreeBSD.conf that contains the following:

FreeBSD: {
	enabled: no

Usually it is easiest to serve a poudriere repository to the client machines via HTTP. Setup a webserver to serve up the package directory, usually something like: /usr/local/poudriere/data/packages/10amd64. Where 10amd64 is the name of the build.

If the URL to the package repository is:, then the repository configuration file in /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos/custom.conf would look like:

custom: {
	url: "",
	enabled: yes,

4.7. Post-Installation Considerations

Regardless of whether the software was installed from a binary package or port, most third-party applications require some level of configuration after installation. The following commands and locations can be used to help determine what was installed with the application.

  • Most applications install at least one default configuration file in /usr/local/etc. In the case where an application has a large number of configuration files, a subdirectory will be created to hold them. Often, sample configuration files are installed which end with a suffix such as .sample. The configuration files should be reviewed and possibly edited to meet the system's needs. To edit a sample file, first copy it without the .sample extension.

  • Applications which provide documentation will install it into /usr/local/share/doc and many applications also install manual pages. This documentation should be consulted before continuing.

  • Some applications run services which must be added to /etc/rc.conf before starting the application. These applications usually install a startup script in /usr/local/etc/rc.d. See Starting Services for more information.

  • Users of csh(1) should run rehash to rebuild the known binary list in the shells PATH.

  • Use pkg info to determine which files, man pages, and binaries were installed with the application.

4.8. Dealing with Broken Ports

When a port does not build or install, try the following:

  1. Search to see if there is a fix pending for the port in the Problem Report database. If so, implementing the proposed fix may fix the issue.

  2. Ask the maintainer of the port for help. Type make maintainer in the ports skeleton or read the port's Makefile to find the maintainer's email address. Remember to include the $FreeBSD: line from the port's Makefile and the output leading up to the error in the email to the maintainer.


    Some ports are not maintained by an individual but instead by a mailing list. Many, but not all, of these addresses look like . Take this into account when sending an email.

    In particular, ports shown as maintained by are not maintained by a specific individual. Instead, any fixes and support come from the general community who subscribe to that mailing list. More volunteers are always needed!

    If there is no response to the email, use Bugzilla to submit a bug report using the instructions in Writing FreeBSD Problem Reports.

  3. Fix it! The Porter's Handbook includes detailed information on the ports infrastructure so that you can fix the occasional broken port or even submit your own!

  4. Install the package instead of the port using the instructions in Section 4.4, “Using pkg for Binary Package Management”.

Chapter 5. The X Window System

5.1. Synopsis

An installation of FreeBSD using bsdinstall does not automatically install a graphical user interface. This chapter describes how to install and configure Xorg, which provides the open source X Window System used to provide a graphical environment. It then describes how to find and install a desktop environment or window manager.


Users who prefer an installation method that automatically configures the Xorg and offers a choice of window managers during installation should refer to the website.

For more information on the video hardware that Xorg supports, refer to the website.

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • The various components of the X Window System, and how they interoperate.

  • How to install and configure Xorg.

  • How to install and configure several window managers and desktop environments.

  • How to use TrueType® fonts in Xorg.

  • How to set up your system for graphical logins (XDM).

Before reading this chapter, you should:

5.2. Terminology

While it is not necessary to understand all of the details of the various components in the X Window System and how they interact, some basic knowledge of these components can be useful.

X server

X was designed from the beginning to be network-centric, and adopts a client-server model. In this model, the X server runs on the computer that has the keyboard, monitor, and mouse attached. The server's responsibility includes tasks such as managing the display, handling input from the keyboard and mouse, and handling input or output from other devices such as a tablet or a video projector. This confuses some people, because the X terminology is exactly backward to what they expect. They expect the X server to be the big powerful machine down the hall, and the X client to be the machine on their desk.

X client

Each X application, such as XTerm or Firefox, is a client. A client sends messages to the server such as Please draw a window at these coordinates, and the server sends back messages such as The user just clicked on the OK button.

In a home or small office environment, the X server and the X clients commonly run on the same computer. It is also possible to run the X server on a less powerful computer and to run the X applications on a more powerful system. In this scenario, the communication between the X client and server takes place over the network.

window manager

X does not dictate what windows should look like on screen, how to move them around with the mouse, which keystrokes should be used to move between windows, what the title bars on each window should look like, whether or not they have close buttons on them, and so on. Instead, X delegates this responsibility to a separate window manager application. There are dozens of window managers available. Each window manager provides a different look and feel: some support virtual desktops, some allow customized keystrokes to manage the desktop, some have a Start button, and some are themeable, allowing a complete change of the desktop's look-and-feel. Window managers are available in the x11-wm category of the Ports Collection.

Each window manager uses a different configuration mechanism. Some expect configuration file written by hand while others provide graphical tools for most configuration tasks.

desktop environment

KDE and GNOME are considered to be desktop environments as they include an entire suite of applications for performing common desktop tasks. These may include office suites, web browsers, and games.

focus policy

The window manager is responsible for the mouse focus policy. This policy provides some means for choosing which window is actively receiving keystrokes and it should also visibly indicate which window is currently active.

One focus policy is called click-to-focus. In this model, a window becomes active upon receiving a mouse click. In the focus-follows-mouse policy, the window that is under the mouse pointer has focus and the focus is changed by pointing at another window. If the mouse is over the root window, then this window is focused. In the sloppy-focus model, if the mouse is moved over the root window, the most recently used window still has the focus. With sloppy-focus, focus is only changed when the cursor enters a new window, and not when exiting the current window. In the click-to-focus policy, the active window is selected by mouse click. The window may then be raised and appear in front of all other windows. All keystrokes will now be directed to this window, even if the cursor is moved to another window.

Different window managers support different focus models. All of them support click-to-focus, and the majority of them also support other policies. Consult the documentation for the window manager to determine which focus models are available.


Widget is a term for all of the items in the user interface that can be clicked or manipulated in some way. This includes buttons, check boxes, radio buttons, icons, and lists. A widget toolkit is a set of widgets used to create graphical applications. There are several popular widget toolkits, including Qt, used by KDE, and GTK+, used by GNOME. As a result, applications will have a different look and feel, depending upon which widget toolkit was used to create the application.

5.3. Installing Xorg

On FreeBSD, Xorg can be installed as a package or port.

To build and install from the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/x11/xorg
# make install clean

The binary package can be installed more quickly but with fewer options for customization:

# pkg install xorg

Either of these installations results in the complete Xorg system being installed. This is the best option for most users.

A smaller version of the X system suitable for experienced users is available in x11/xorg-minimal. Most of the documents, libraries, and applications will not be installed. Some applications require these additional components to function.

5.4. Xorg Configuration

Warren Block

5.4.1. Quick Start

Xorg supports most common video cards, keyboards, and pointing devices. These devices are automatically detected and do not require any manual configuration.

  1. If Xorg has been used on this computer before, move or remove any existing configuration files:

    # mv /etc/X11/xorg.conf ~/xorg.conf.etc
    # mv /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf ~/xorg.conf.localetc
  2. Add the user who will run Xorg to the video or wheel group to enable 3D acceleration when available. To add user jru to whichever group is available:

    # pw groupmod video -m jru || pw groupmod wheel -m jru
  3. The TWM window manager is included by default. It is started when Xorg starts:

    % startx
  4. On some older versions of FreeBSD, the system console must be set to vt(4) before switching back to the text console will work properly. See Section 5.4.3, “Kernel Mode Setting (KMS)”.

5.4.2. User Group for Accelerated Video

Access to /dev/dri is needed to allow 3D acceleration on video cards. It is usually simplest to add the user who will be running X to either the video or wheel group. Here, pw(8) is used to add user slurms to the video group, or to the wheel group if there is no video group:

# pw groupmod video -m slurms || pw groupmod wheel -m slurms

5.4.3. Kernel Mode Setting (KMS)

When the computer switches from displaying the console to a higher screen resolution for X, it must set the video output mode. Recent versions of Xorg use a system inside the kernel to do these mode changes more efficiently. Older versions of FreeBSD use sc(4), which is not aware of the KMS system. The end result is that after closing X, the system console is blank, even though it is still working. The newer vt(4) console avoids this problem.

Add this line to /boot/loader.conf to enable vt(4):


5.4.4. Configuration Files Directory

Xorg looks in several directories for configuration files. /usr/local/etc/X11/ is the recommended directory for these files on FreeBSD. Using this directory helps keep application files separate from operating system files.

Storing configuration files in the legacy /etc/X11/ still works. However, this mixes application files with the base FreeBSD files and is not recommended. Single or Multiple Files

It is easier to use multiple files that each configure a specific setting than the traditional single xorg.conf. These files are stored in the xorg.conf.d/ subdirectory of the main configuration file directory. The full path is typically /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/.

Examples of these files are shown later in this section.

The traditional single xorg.conf still works, but is neither as clear nor as flexible as multiple files in the xorg.conf.d/ subdirectory.

5.4.5. Video Cards


3D acceleration is supported on most Intel® graphics, including IronLake, SandyBridge, and IvyBridge.

AMD® Radeon

2D and 3D acceleration is supported on Radeon cards up to and including the HD6000 series.


Several NVIDIA drivers are available in the x11 category of the Ports Collection. Install the driver that matches the video card.

Hybrid Combination Graphics

Some notebook computers add additional graphics processing units to those built into the chipset or processor. Optimus combines Intel® and NVIDIA hardware. Switchable Graphics or Hybrid Graphics are a combination of Intel® and an AMD® Radeon GPU.

Implementations of these hybrid graphics systems vary, and Xorg on FreeBSD is not able to drive all versions of them.

Some computers provide a BIOS option to disable one of the graphics adapters or select a discrete mode which can be used with one of the standard video card drivers. For example, it is sometimes possible to disable the NVIDIA GPU in an Optimus system. The Intel® video can then be used with an Intel® driver.

BIOS settings depend on the model of computer.

Other Video Cards

Drivers for some less-common video cards can be found in the x11-drivers directory of the Ports Collection.

Cards that are not supported by a specific driver might still be usable with the x11-drivers/xf86-video-vesa driver. This driver is installed by x11/xorg. It can also be installed manually as x11-drivers/xf86-video-vesa. Xorg attempts to use this driver when a specific driver is not found for the video card.

x11-drivers/xf86-video-scfb is a similar nonspecialized video driver that works on many UEFI and ARM® computers.

5.4.6. Monitors

Almost all monitors support the Extended Display Identification Data standard (EDID). Xorg uses EDID to communicate with the monitor and detect the supported resolutions and refresh rates. Then it selects the most appropriate combination of settings to use with that monitor.

Other resolutions supported by the monitor can be chosen by setting the desired resolution in configuration files, or after the X server has been started with xrandr(1).

Using xrandr(1)

Run xrandr(1) without any parameters to see a list of video outputs and detected monitor modes:

% xrandr
Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 3000 x 1920, maximum 8192 x 8192
DVI-0 connected primary 1920x1200+1080+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 495mm x 310mm
   1920x1200     59.95*+
   1600x1200     60.00
   1280x1024     85.02    75.02    60.02
   1280x960      60.00
   1152x864      75.00
   1024x768      85.00    75.08    70.07    60.00
   832x624       74.55
   800x600       75.00    60.32
   640x480       75.00    60.00
   720x400       70.08
DisplayPort-0 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
HDMI-0 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)

This shows that the DVI-0 output is being used to display a screen resolution of 1920x1200 pixels at a refresh rate of about 60 Hz. Monitors are not attached to the DisplayPort-0 and HDMI-0 connectors.

Any of the other display modes can be selected with xrandr(1). For example, to switch to 1280x1024 at 60 Hz:

% xrandr --mode 1280x1024 --rate 60

A common task is using the external video output on a notebook computer for a video projector.

Names and types of video connectors vary, so xrandr(1) is run without options to list the outputs:

% xrandr
Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1366 x 768, maximum 8192 x 8192
LVDS1 connected 1366x768+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 344mm x 193mm
   1366x768      60.04*+
   1024x768      60.00
   800x600       60.32    56.25
   640x480       59.94
VGA1 connected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
   1280x1024     60.02 +  75.02
   1280x960      60.00
   1152x864      75.00
   1024x768      75.08    70.07    60.00
   832x624       74.55
   800x600       72.19    75.00    60.32    56.25
   640x480       75.00    72.81    66.67    60.00
   720x400       70.08
HDMI1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
DP1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)

Four outputs were found: the built-in panel LVDS1, and external VGA1, HDMI1, and DP1 connectors.

The projector has been connected to the VGA1 output. xrandr(1) is now used to set that output to the native resolution of the projector and add the additional space to the right side of the desktop:

% xrandr --output VGA1 --auto --right-of LVDS1

--auto chooses the resolution and refresh rate detected by EDID. If the resolution is not correctly detected, a fixed value can be given with --mode instead of the --auto statement. For example, most projectors can be used with a 1024x768 resolution, which is set with --mode 1024x768.

xrandr(1) is often run from .xinitrc to set the appropriate mode when X starts.

Setting Monitor Resolution in a File

To set a screen resolution of 1024x768 in a configuration file:

Example 5.1. Set Screen Resolution in a File


Section "Screen"
	Identifier "Screen0"
	Device     "Card0"
	SubSection "Display"
	Modes      "1024x768"

The few monitors that do not have EDID can be configured by setting HorizSync and VertRefresh to the range of frequencies supported by the monitor.

Example 5.2. Manually Setting Monitor Frequencies


Section "Monitor"
	Identifier   "Monitor0"
	HorizSync    30-83   # kHz
	VertRefresh  50-76   # Hz

5.4.7. Input Devices Keyboards

Keyboard Layout

The standardized location of keys on a keyboard is called a layout. Layouts and other adjustable parameters are listed in xkeyboard-config(7).

A United States layout is the default. To select an alternate layout, set the XkbLayout and XkbVariant options in an InputClass. This will be applied to all input devices that match the class.

This example selects a French keyboard layout with the oss variant.

Example 5.3. Setting a Keyboard Layout


Section	"InputClass"
	Identifier	"KeyboardDefaults"
	Driver		"keyboard"
	MatchIsKeyboard	"on"
	Option		"XkbLayout" "fr"
	Option		"XkbVariant" "oss"

Example 5.4. Setting Multiple Keyboard Layouts

Set United States, Spanish, and Ukrainian keyboard layouts. Cycle through these layouts by pressing Alt+Shift. x11/xxkb or x11/sbxkb can be used for improved layout switching control and current layout indicators.


Section	"InputClass"
	Identifier	"All Keyboards"
	MatchIsKeyboard	"yes"
	Option		"XkbLayout" "us, es, ua"

Closing Xorg From the Keyboard

A combination of keys is available to close the X system. This option is disabled by default because it conflicts with keyboard commands for some applications. Enabling this option requires changes to both ServerLayout and keyboard InputDevice sections:

Example 5.5. Enabling Keyboard Exit from X


Section "ServerLayout"
	Identifier "EnableZap"
	Option     "DontZap" "Off"


Section	"InputClass"
	Identifier	"KeyboardDefaults"
	Driver		"keyboard"
	MatchIsKeyboard	"on"
	Option		"XkbOptions" "terminate:ctrl_alt_bksp"
EndSection Mice and Pointing Devices

Many mouse parameters can be adjusted with configuration options. See mousedrv(4) for a full list.

Mouse Buttons

The number of buttons on a mouse can be set in the mouse InputDevice section of xorg.conf. To set the number of buttons to 7:

Example 5.6. Setting the Number of Mouse Buttons


Section "InputDevice"
	Identifier  "Mouse0"
	Option      "Buttons" "7"

5.4.8. Manual Configuration

In some cases, Xorg autoconfiguration does not work with particular hardware, or a different configuration is desired. For these cases, a custom configuration file can be created.

A configuration file can be generated by Xorg based on the detected hardware. This file is often a useful starting point for custom configurations.

Generating an xorg.conf:

# Xorg -configure

The configuration file is saved to /root/ Make any changes desired, then test that file with:

# Xorg -config /root/

After the new configuration has been adjusted and tested, it can be split into smaller files in the normal location, /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/.

5.5. Using Fonts in Xorg

5.5.1. Type1 Fonts

The default fonts that ship with Xorg are less than ideal for typical desktop publishing applications. Large presentation fonts show up jagged and unprofessional looking, and small fonts are almost completely unintelligible. However, there are several free, high quality Type1 (PostScript®) fonts available which can be readily used with Xorg. For instance, the URW font collection (x11-fonts/urwfonts) includes high quality versions of standard type1 fonts (Times Roman®, Helvetica®, Palatino® and others). The Freefonts collection (x11-fonts/freefonts) includes many more fonts, but most of them are intended for use in graphics software such as the Gimp, and are not complete enough to serve as screen fonts. In addition, Xorg can be configured to use TrueType® fonts with a minimum of effort. For more details on this, see the X(7) manual page or Section 5.5.2, “TrueType® Fonts”.

To install the above Type1 font collections from the Ports Collection, run the following commands:

# cd /usr/ports/x11-fonts/urwfonts
# make install clean

And likewise with the freefont or other collections. To have the X server detect these fonts, add an appropriate line to the X server configuration file (/etc/X11/xorg.conf), which reads:

FontPath "/usr/local/share/fonts/urwfonts/"

Alternatively, at the command line in the X session run:

% xset fp+ /usr/local/share/fonts/urwfonts
% xset fp rehash

This will work but will be lost when the X session is closed, unless it is added to the startup file (~/.xinitrc for a normal startx session, or ~/.xsession when logging in through a graphical login manager like XDM). A third way is to use the new /usr/local/etc/fonts/local.conf as demonstrated in Section 5.5.3, “Anti-Aliased Fonts”.

5.5.2. TrueType® Fonts

Xorg has built in support for rendering TrueType® fonts. There are two different modules that can enable this functionality. The freetype module is used in this example because it is more consistent with the other font rendering back-ends. To enable the freetype module just add the following line to the "Module" section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

Load  "freetype"

Now make a directory for the TrueType® fonts (for example, /usr/local/share/fonts/TrueType) and copy all of the TrueType® fonts into this directory. Keep in mind that TrueType® fonts cannot be directly taken from an Apple® Mac®; they must be in UNIX®/MS-DOS®/Windows® format for use by Xorg. Once the files have been copied into this directory, use ttmkfdir to create a fonts.dir, so that the X font renderer knows that these new files have been installed. ttmkfdir is available from the FreeBSD Ports Collection as x11-fonts/ttmkfdir.

# cd /usr/local/share/fonts/TrueType
# ttmkfdir -o fonts.dir

Now add the TrueType® directory to the font path. This is just the same as described in Section 5.5.1, “Type1 Fonts”:

% xset fp+ /usr/local/share/fonts/TrueType
% xset fp rehash

or add a FontPath line to xorg.conf.

Now Gimp, OpenOffice, and all of the other X applications should now recognize the installed TrueType® fonts. Extremely small fonts (as with text in a high resolution display on a web page) and extremely large fonts (within StarOffice) will look much better now.

5.5.3. Anti-Aliased Fonts

All fonts in Xorg that are found in /usr/local/share/fonts/ and ~/.fonts/ are automatically made available for anti-aliasing to Xft-aware applications. Most recent applications are Xft-aware, including KDE, GNOME, and Firefox.

In order to control which fonts are anti-aliased, or to configure anti-aliasing properties, create (or edit, if it already exists) the file /usr/local/etc/fonts/local.conf. Several advanced features of the Xft font system can be tuned using this file; this section describes only some simple possibilities. For more details, please see fonts-conf(5).

This file must be in XML format. Pay careful attention to case, and make sure all tags are properly closed. The file begins with the usual XML header followed by a DOCTYPE definition, and then the <fontconfig> tag:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
      <!DOCTYPE fontconfig SYSTEM "fonts.dtd">

As previously stated, all fonts in /usr/local/share/fonts/ as well as ~/.fonts/ are already made available to Xft-aware applications. If you wish to add another directory outside of these two directory trees, add a line similar to the following to /usr/local/etc/fonts/local.conf:


After adding new fonts, and especially new font directories, you should run the following command to rebuild the font caches:

# fc-cache -f

Anti-aliasing makes borders slightly fuzzy, which makes very small text more readable and removes staircases from large text, but can cause eyestrain if applied to normal text. To exclude font sizes smaller than 14 point from anti-aliasing, include these lines:

        <match target="font">
	    <test name="size" compare="less">
	    <edit name="antialias" mode="assign">
	<match target="font">
	    <test name="pixelsize" compare="less" qual="any">
	    <edit mode="assign" name="antialias">

Spacing for some monospaced fonts may also be inappropriate with anti-aliasing. This seems to be an issue with KDE, in particular. One possible fix for this is to force the spacing for such fonts to be 100. Add the following lines:

       <match target="pattern" name="family">
	   <test qual="any" name="family">
	   <edit name="family" mode="assign">
	<match target="pattern" name="family">
	    <test qual="any" name="family">
	    <edit name="family" mode="assign">

(this aliases the other common names for fixed fonts as "mono"), and then add:

         <match target="pattern" name="family">
	     <test qual="any" name="family">
	     <edit name="spacing" mode="assign">

Certain fonts, such as Helvetica, may have a problem when anti-aliased. Usually this manifests itself as a font that seems cut in half vertically. At worst, it may cause applications to crash. To avoid this, consider adding the following to local.conf:

         <match target="pattern" name="family">
	     <test qual="any" name="family">
	     <edit name="family" mode="assign">

Once you have finished editing local.conf make sure you end the file with the </fontconfig> tag. Not doing this will cause your changes to be ignored.

Finally, users can add their own settings via their personal .fonts.conf files. To do this, each user should simply create a ~/.fonts.conf. This file must also be in XML format.

One last point: with an LCD screen, sub-pixel sampling may be desired. This basically treats the (horizontally separated) red, green and blue components separately to improve the horizontal resolution; the results can be dramatic. To enable this, add the line somewhere in local.conf:

<match target="font">
	     <test qual="all" name="rgba">
	     <edit name="rgba" mode="assign">


Depending on the sort of display, rgb may need to be changed to bgr, vrgb or vbgr: experiment and see which works best.

5.6. The X Display Manager

Contributed by Seth Kingsley.

Xorg provides an X Display Manager, XDM, which can be used for login session management. XDM provides a graphical interface for choosing which display server to connect to and for entering authorization information such as a login and password combination.

This section demonstrates how to configure the X Display Manager on FreeBSD. Some desktop environments provide their own graphical login manager. Refer to Section 5.7.1, “GNOME” for instructions on how to configure the GNOME Display Manager and Section 5.7.2, “KDE” for instructions on how to configure the KDE Display Manager.

5.6.1. Configuring XDM

To install XDM, use the x11/xdm package or port. Once installed, XDM can be configured to run when the machine boots up by editing this entry in /etc/ttys:

ttyv8   "/usr/local/bin/xdm -nodaemon"  xterm   off secure

Change the off to on and save the edit. The ttyv8 in this entry indicates that XDM will run on the ninth virtual terminal.

The XDM configuration directory is located in /usr/local/lib/X11/xdm. This directory contains several files used to change the behavior and appearance of XDM, as well as a few scripts and programs used to set up the desktop when XDM is running. Table 5.1, “XDM Configuration Files” summarizes the function of each of these files. The exact syntax and usage of these files is described in xdm(1).

Table 5.1. XDM Configuration Files
XaccessThe protocol for connecting to XDM is called the X Display Manager Connection Protocol (XDMCP) This file is a client authorization ruleset for controlling XDMCP connections from remote machines. By default, this file does not allow any remote clients to connect.
XresourcesThis file controls the look and feel of the XDM display chooser and login screens. The default configuration is a simple rectangular login window with the hostname of the machine displayed at the top in a large font and Login: and Password: prompts below. The format of this file is identical to the app-defaults file described in the Xorg documentation.
XserversThe list of local and remote displays the chooser should provide as login choices.
XsessionDefault session script for logins which is run by XDM after a user has logged in. Normally each user will have a customized session script in ~/.xsession that overrides this script
Xsetup_*Script to automatically launch applications before displaying the chooser or login interfaces. There is a script for each display being used, named Xsetup_*, where * is the local display number. Typically these scripts run one or two programs in the background such as xconsole.
xdm-configGlobal configuration for all displays running on this machine.
xdm-errorsContains errors generated by the server program. If a display that XDM is trying to start hangs, look at this file for error messages. These messages are also written to the user's ~/.xsession-errors on a per-session basis.
xdm-pidThe running process ID of XDM.

5.6.2. Configuring Remote Access

By default, only users on the same system can login using XDM. To enable users on other systems to connect to the display server, edit the access control rules and enable the connection listener.

To configure XDM to listen for any remote connection, comment out the DisplayManager.requestPort line in /usr/local/lib/X11/xdm/xdm-config by putting a ! in front of it:

! SECURITY: do not listen for XDMCP or Chooser requests
! Comment out this line if you want to manage X terminals with xdm
DisplayManager.requestPort:     0

Save the edits and restart XDM. To restrict remote access, look at the example entries in /usr/local/lib/X11/xdm/Xaccess and refer to xdm(1) for further information.

5.7. Desktop Environments

Contributed by Valentino Vaschetto.

This section describes how to install three popular desktop environments on a FreeBSD system. A desktop environment can range from a simple window manager to a complete suite of desktop applications. Over a hundred desktop environments are available in the x11-wm category of the Ports Collection.

5.7.1. GNOME

GNOME is a user-friendly desktop environment. It includes a panel for starting applications and displaying status, a desktop, a set of tools and applications, and a set of conventions that make it easy for applications to cooperate and be consistent with each other. More information regarding GNOME on FreeBSD can be found at That web site contains additional documentation about installing, configuring, and managing GNOME on FreeBSD.

This desktop environment can be installed from a package:

# pkg install gnome2

To instead build GNOME from ports, use the following command. GNOME is a large application and will take some time to compile, even on a fast computer.

# cd /usr/ports/x11/gnome2
# make install clean

For proper operation, GNOME requires /proc to be mounted. Add this line to /etc/fstab to mount this file system automatically during system startup:

proc           /proc       procfs  rw  0   0

Once GNOME is installed, configure Xorg to start GNOME. The easiest way to do this is to enable the GNOME Display Manager, GDM, which is installed as part of the GNOME package or port. It can be enabled by adding this line to /etc/rc.conf:


It is often desirable to also start all GNOME services. To achieve this, add a second line to /etc/rc.conf:


GDM will now start automatically when the system boots.

A second method for starting GNOME is to type startx from the command-line after configuring ~/.xinitrc. If this file already exists, replace the line that starts the current window manager with one that starts /usr/local/bin/gnome-session. If this file does not exist, create it with this command:

% echo "exec /usr/local/bin/gnome-session" > ~/.xinitrc

A third method is to use XDM as the display manager. In this case, create an executable ~/.xsession:

% echo "#!/bin/sh" > ~/.xsession
% echo "exec /usr/local/bin/gnome-session" >> ~/.xsession
% chmod +x ~/.xsession

5.7.2. KDE

KDE is another easy-to-use desktop environment. This desktop provides a suite of applications with a consistent look and feel, a standardized menu and toolbars, keybindings, color-schemes, internationalization, and a centralized, dialog-driven desktop configuration. More information on KDE can be found at For FreeBSD-specific information, consult

To install the KDE package, type:

# pkg install x11/kde4

To instead build the KDE port, use the following command. Installing the port will provide a menu for selecting which components to install. KDE is a large application and will take some time to compile, even on a fast computer.

# cd /usr/ports/x11/kde4
# make install clean

KDE requires /proc to be mounted. Add this line to /etc/fstab to mount this file system automatically during system startup:

proc           /proc       procfs  rw  0   0

The installation of KDE includes the KDE Display Manager, KDM. To enable this display manager, add this line to /etc/rc.conf:


A second method for launching KDE is to type startx from the command line. For this to work, the following line is needed in ~/.xinitrc:

exec /usr/local/bin/startkde

A third method for starting KDE is through XDM. To do so, create an executable ~/.xsession as follows:

% echo "#!/bin/sh" > ~/.xsession
% echo "exec /usr/local/bin/startkde" >> ~/.xsession
% chmod +x ~/.xsession

Once KDE is started, refer to its built-in help system for more information on how to use its various menus and applications.

5.7.3. Xfce

Xfce is a desktop environment based on the GTK+ toolkit used by GNOME. However, it is more lightweight and provides a simple, efficient, easy-to-use desktop. It is fully configurable, has a main panel with menus, applets, and application launchers, provides a file manager and sound manager, and is themeable. Since it is fast, light, and efficient, it is ideal for older or slower machines with memory limitations. More information on Xfce can be found at

To install the Xfce package:

# pkg install xfce

Alternatively, to build the port:

# cd /usr/ports/x11-wm/xfce4
# make install clean

Unlike GNOME or KDE, Xfce does not provide its own login manager. In order to start Xfce from the command line by typing startx, first add its entry to ~/.xinitrc:

% echo "exec /usr/local/bin/startxfce4" > ~/.xinitrc

An alternate method is to use XDM. To configure this method, create an executable ~/.xsession:

% echo "#!/bin/sh" > ~/.xsession
% echo "exec /usr/local/bin/startxfce4" >> ~/.xsession
% chmod +x ~/.xsession

5.8. Installing Compiz Fusion

One way to increase the pleasantness of using a desktop computer is by having nice 3D effects.

Installing the Compiz Fusion package is easy, but configuring it requires a few steps that are not described in the port's documentation.

5.8.1. Setting up the FreeBSD nVidia Driver

Desktop effects can cause quite a load on the graphics card. For an nVidia-based graphics card, the proprietary driver is required for good performance. Users of other graphics cards can skip this section and continue with the xorg.conf configuration.

To determine which nVidia driver is needed see the FAQ question on the subject.

Having determined the correct driver to use for your card, installation is as simple as installing any other package.

For example, to install the latest driver:

# pkg install x11/nvidia-driver

The driver will create a kernel module, which needs to be loaded at system startup. Add the following line to /boot/loader.conf:



To immediately load the kernel module into the running kernel by issuing a command like kldload nvidia, however it has been noted that the some versions of Xorg will not function properly if the driver is not loaded at boot time. After editing /boot/loader.conf, a reboot is recommended.

With the kernel module loaded, you normally only need to change a single line in xorg.conf to enable the proprietary driver:

Find the following line in /etc/X11/xorg.conf:

Driver      "nv"

and change it to:

Driver      "nvidia"

Start the GUI as usual, and you should be greeted by the nVidia splash. Everything should work as usual.

5.8.2. Configuring xorg.conf for Desktop Effects

To enable Compiz Fusion, /etc/X11/xorg.conf needs to be modified:

Add the following section to enable composite effects:

Section "Extensions"
    Option         "Composite" "Enable"

Locate the Screen section which should look similar to the one below:

Section "Screen"
    Identifier     "Screen0"
    Device         "Card0"
    Monitor        "Monitor0"

and add the following two lines (after Monitor will do):

DefaultDepth    24
    Option         "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "True"

Locate the Subsection that refers to the screen resolution that you wish to use. For example, if you wish to use 1280x1024, locate the section that follows. If the desired resolution does not appear in any subsection, you may add the relevant entry by hand:

SubSection     "Display"
    Viewport    0 0
    Modes      "1280x1024"

A color depth of 24 bits is needed for desktop composition, change the above subsection to:

SubSection     "Display"
    Viewport    0 0
    Depth       24
    Modes      "1280x1024"

Finally, confirm that the glx and extmod modules are loaded in the Module section:

Section "Module"
    Load           "extmod"
    Load           "glx"

The preceding can be done automatically with x11/nvidia-xconfig by running (as root):

# nvidia-xconfig --add-argb-glx-visuals
    # nvidia-xconfig --composite
    # nvidia-xconfig --depth=24

5.8.3. Installing and Configuring Compiz Fusion

Installing Compiz Fusion is as simple as any other package:

# pkg install x11-wm/compiz-fusion

When the installation is finished, start your graphic desktop and at a terminal, enter the following commands (as a normal user):

% compiz --replace --sm-disable --ignore-desktop-hints ccp &
    % emerald --replace &

Your screen will flicker for a few seconds, as your window manager (e.g. Metacity if you are using GNOME) is replaced by Compiz Fusion. Emerald takes care of the window decorations (i.e. close, minimize, maximize buttons, title bars and so on).

You may convert this to a trivial script and have it run at startup automatically (e.g. by adding to Sessions in a GNOME desktop):

#! /bin/sh
    compiz --replace --sm-disable --ignore-desktop-hints ccp &
    emerald --replace &

Save this in your home directory as, for example, start-compiz and make it executable:

% chmod +x ~/start-compiz

Then use the GUI to add it to Startup Programs (located in System, Preferences, Sessions on a GNOME desktop).

To actually select all the desired effects and their settings, execute (again as a normal user) the Compiz Config Settings Manager:

% ccsm


In GNOME, this can also be found in the System, Preferences menu.

If you have selected gconf support during the build, you will also be able to view these settings using gconf-editor under apps/compiz.

5.9. Troubleshooting

If the mouse does not work, you will need to first configure it before proceeding. In recent Xorg versions, the InputDevice sections in xorg.conf are ignored in favor of the autodetected devices. To restore the old behavior, add the following line to the ServerLayout or ServerFlags section of this file:

Option "AutoAddDevices" "false"

Input devices may then be configured as in previous versions, along with any other options needed (e.g., keyboard layout switching).


As previously explained the hald daemon will, by default, automatically detect your keyboard. There are chances that your keyboard layout or model will not be correct, desktop environments like GNOME, KDE or Xfce provide tools to configure the keyboard. However, it is possible to set the keyboard properties directly either with the help of the setxkbmap(1) utility or with a hald's configuration rule.

For example if, one wants to use a PC 102 keys keyboard coming with a french layout, we have to create a keyboard configuration file for hald called x11-input.fdi and saved in the /usr/local/etc/hal/fdi/policy directory. This file should contain the following lines:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1"?>
<deviceinfo version="0.2">
    <match key="info.capabilities" contains="input.keyboard">
	  <merge key="input.x11_options.XkbModel" type="string">pc102</merge>
	  <merge key="input.x11_options.XkbLayout" type="string">fr</merge>

If this file already exists, just copy and add to your file the lines regarding the keyboard configuration.

You will have to reboot your machine to force hald to read this file.

It is possible to do the same configuration from an X terminal or a script with this command line:

% setxkbmap -model pc102 -layout fr

/usr/local/share/X11/xkb/rules/base.lst lists the various keyboard, layouts and options available.

The configuration file may now be tuned to taste. Open the file in a text editor such as emacs(1) or ee(1). If the monitor is an older or unusual model that does not support autodetection of sync frequencies, those settings can be added to under the "Monitor" section:

Section "Monitor"
	Identifier   "Monitor0"
	VendorName   "Monitor Vendor"
	ModelName    "Monitor Model"
	HorizSync    30-107
	VertRefresh  48-120

Most monitors support sync frequency autodetection, making manual entry of these values unnecessary. For the few monitors that do not support autodetection, avoid potential damage by only entering values provided by the manufacturer.

X allows DPMS (Energy Star) features to be used with capable monitors. The xset(1) program controls the time-outs and can force standby, suspend, or off modes. If you wish to enable DPMS features for your monitor, you must add the following line to the monitor section:

Option       "DPMS"

While the configuration file is still open in an editor, select the default resolution and color depth desired. This is defined in the "Screen" section:

Section "Screen"
	Identifier "Screen0"
	Device     "Card0"
	Monitor    "Monitor0"
	DefaultDepth 24
	SubSection "Display"
		Viewport  0 0
		Depth     24
		Modes     "1024x768"

The DefaultDepth keyword describes the color depth to run at by default. This can be overridden with the -depth command line switch to Xorg(1). The Modes keyword describes the resolution to run at for the given color depth. Note that only VESA standard modes are supported as defined by the target system's graphics hardware. In the example above, the default color depth is twenty-four bits per pixel. At this color depth, the accepted resolution is 1024 by 768 pixels.

Finally, write the configuration file and test it using the test mode given above.


One of the tools available to assist you during troubleshooting process are the Xorg log files, which contain information on each device that the Xorg server attaches to. Xorg log file names are in the format of /var/log/Xorg.0.log. The exact name of the log can vary from Xorg.0.log to Xorg.8.log and so forth.

If all is well, the configuration file needs to be installed in a common location where Xorg(1) can find it. This is typically /etc/X11/xorg.conf or /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.

# cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf

The Xorg configuration process is now complete. Xorg may be now started with the startx(1) utility. The Xorg server may also be started with the use of xdm(1).

5.9.1. Configuration with Intel® i810 Graphics Chipsets

Configuration with Intel® i810 integrated chipsets requires the agpgart AGP programming interface for Xorg to drive the card. See the agp(4) driver manual page for more information.

This will allow configuration of the hardware as any other graphics board. Note on systems without the agp(4) driver compiled in the kernel, trying to load the module with kldload(8) will not work. This driver has to be in the kernel at boot time through being compiled in or using /boot/loader.conf.

5.9.2. Adding a Widescreen Flatpanel to the Mix

This section assumes a bit of advanced configuration knowledge. If attempts to use the standard configuration tools above have not resulted in a working configuration, there is information enough in the log files to be of use in getting the setup working. Use of a text editor will be necessary.

Current widescreen (WSXGA, WSXGA+, WUXGA, WXGA, WXGA+, formats support 16:10 and 10:9 formats or aspect ratios that can be problematic. Examples of some common screen resolutions for 16:10 aspect ratios are:

  • 2560x1600

  • 1920x1200

  • 1680x1050

  • 1440x900

  • 1280x800

At some point, it will be as easy as adding one of these resolutions as a possible Mode in the Section "Screen" as such:

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device     "Card0"
Monitor    "Monitor0"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
	Viewport  0 0
	Depth     24
	Modes     "1680x1050"

Xorg is smart enough to pull the resolution information from the widescreen via I2C/DDC information so it knows what the monitor can handle as far as frequencies and resolutions.

If those ModeLines do not exist in the drivers, one might need to give Xorg a little hint. Using /var/log/Xorg.0.log one can extract enough information to manually create a ModeLine that will work. Simply look for information resembling this:

(II) MGA(0): Supported additional Video Mode:
(II) MGA(0): clock: 146.2 MHz   Image Size:  433 x 271 mm
(II) MGA(0): h_active: 1680  h_sync: 1784  h_sync_end 1960 h_blank_end 2240 h_border: 0
(II) MGA(0): v_active: 1050  v_sync: 1053  v_sync_end 1059 v_blanking: 1089 v_border: 0
(II) MGA(0): Ranges: V min: 48  V max: 85 Hz, H min: 30  H max: 94 kHz, PixClock max 170 MHz

This information is called EDID information. Creating a ModeLine from this is just a matter of putting the numbers in the correct order:

ModeLine <name> <clock> <4 horiz. timings> <4 vert. timings>

So that the ModeLine in Section "Monitor" for this example would look like this:

Section "Monitor"
Identifier      "Monitor1"
VendorName      "Bigname"
ModelName       "BestModel"
ModeLine        "1680x1050" 146.2 1680 1784 1960 2240 1050 1053 1059 1089
Option          "DPMS"

Now having completed these simple editing steps, X should start on your new widescreen monitor.

5.9.3. Troubleshooting Compiz Fusion I have installed Compiz Fusion, and after running the commands you mention, my windows are left without title bars and buttons. What is wrong? When I run the command to start Compiz Fusion, the X server crashes and I am back at the console. What is wrong?

I have installed Compiz Fusion, and after running the commands you mention, my windows are left without title bars and buttons. What is wrong?

You are probably missing a setting in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. Review this file carefully and check especially the DefaultDepth and AddARGBGLXVisuals directives.

When I run the command to start Compiz Fusion, the X server crashes and I am back at the console. What is wrong?

If you check /var/log/Xorg.0.log, you will probably find error messages during the X startup. The most common would be:

(EE) NVIDIA(0):     Failed to initialize the GLX module; please check in your X
    (EE) NVIDIA(0):     log file that the GLX module has been loaded in your X
    (EE) NVIDIA(0):     server, and that the module is the NVIDIA GLX module.  If
    (EE) NVIDIA(0):     you continue to encounter problems, Please try
    (EE) NVIDIA(0):     reinstalling the NVIDIA driver.

This is usually the case when you upgrade Xorg. You will need to reinstall the x11/nvidia-driver package so glx is built again.

Part II. Common Tasks

Now that the basics have been covered, this part of the FreeBSD Handbook will discuss some frequently used features of FreeBSD. These chapters:

  • Introduce you to popular and useful desktop applications: browsers, productivity tools, document viewers, etc.

  • Introduce you to a number of multimedia tools available for FreeBSD.

  • Explain the process of building a customized FreeBSD kernel, to enable extra functionality on your system.

  • Describe the print system in detail, both for desktop and network-connected printer setups.

  • Show you how to run Linux applications on your FreeBSD system.

Some of these chapters recommend that you do some prior reading, and this is noted in the synopsis at the beginning of each chapter.

Chapter 6. Desktop Applications

6.1. Synopsis

While FreeBSD is popular as a server for its performance and stability, it is also suited for day-to-day use as a desktop. With over 24,000 applications available as FreeBSD packages or ports, it is easy to build a customized desktop that runs a wide variety of desktop applications. This chapter demonstrates how to install numerous desktop applications, including web browsers, productivity software, document viewers, and financial software.


Users who prefer to install a pre-built desktop version of FreeBSD rather than configuring one from scratch should refer to the website.

Readers of this chapter should know how to:

For information on how to configure a multimedia environment, refer to Chapter 7, Multimedia.

6.2. Browsers

FreeBSD does not come with a pre-installed web browser. Instead, the www category of the Ports Collection contains many browsers which can be installed as a package or compiled from the Ports Collection.

The KDE and GNOME desktop environments include their own HTML browser. Refer to Section 5.7, “Desktop Environments” for more information on how to set up these complete desktops.

Some light-weight browsers include www/dillo2, www/links, and www/w3m.

This section demonstrates how to install the following popular web browsers and indicates if the application is resource-heavy, takes time to compile from ports, or has any major dependencies.

Application NameResources NeededInstallation from PortsNotes
FirefoxmediumheavyFreeBSD, Linux®, and localized versions are available
OperalightlightFreeBSD and Linux® versions are available
KonquerormediumheavyRequires KDE libraries
ChromiummediumheavyRequires Gtk+

6.2.1. Firefox

Firefox is an open source browser that is fully ported to FreeBSD. It features a standards-compliant HTML display engine, tabbed browsing, popup blocking, extensions, improved security, and more. Firefox is based on the Mozilla codebase.

To install the package of the latest release version of Firefox, type:

# pkg install firefox

To instead install Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) version, use:

# pkg install firefox-esr

Localized versions are available in www/firefox-i18n and www/firefox-esr-i18n.

The Ports Collection can instead be used to compile the desired version of Firefox from source code. This example builds www/firefox, where firefox can be replaced with the ESR or localized version to install.

# cd /usr/ports/www/firefox
# make install clean Firefox and Java™ Plugin

The installation of Firefox does not include Java™ support. However, java/icedtea-web provides a free software web browser plugin for running Java applets. It can be installed as a package. To alternately compile the port:

# cd /usr/ports/java/icedtea-web
# make install clean

Keep the default configuration options when compiling the port.

Once installed, start firefox, enter about:plugins in the location bar and press Enter. A page listing the installed plugins will be displayed. The Java plugin should be listed.

If the browser is unable to find the plugin, each user will have to run the following command and relaunch the browser:

% ln -s /usr/local/lib/ \
  $HOME/.mozilla/plugins/ Firefox and Adobe® Flash® Plugin

A native Adobe® Flash® plugin is not available for FreeBSD. However, a software wrapper for running the Linux® version of the plugin is available. This wrapper also provides support for other browser plugins such as RealPlayer®.

To install and enable this plugin, perform these steps:

  1. Install www/nspluginwrapper from the port. Due to licensing restrictions, a package is not available. This port requires emulators/linux_base-c6.

  2. Install www/linux-c6-flashplugin11 from the port. Due to licensing restrictions, a package is not available.

  3. Before the plugin is first used, each user must run:

    % nspluginwrapper -v -a -i

    When the plugin port has been updated and reinstalled, each user must run:

    % nspluginwrapper -v -a -u

    Start the browser, enter about:plugins in the location bar and press Enter. A list of all the currently available plugins will be shown. Firefox and Swfdec Flash® Plugin

Swfdec is a decoder and renderer for Flash® animations. Swfdec-Mozilla is a plugin for Firefox browsers that uses the Swfdec library for playing SWF files.

To install the package:

# pkg install swfdec-plugin

If the package is not available, compile and install it from the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/www/swfdec-plugin
# make install clean

Restart the browser to activate this plugin.

6.2.2. Opera

Opera is a full-featured and standards-compliant browser which is still lightweight and fast. It comes with a built-in mail and news reader, an IRC client, an RSS/Atom feeds reader, and more. It is available as a native FreeBSD version and as a version that runs under Linux® emulation.

This command installs the package of the FreeBSD version of Opera. Replace opera with linux-opera to instead install the Linux® version.

# pkg install opera

Alternately, install either version through the Ports Collection. This example compiles the native version:

# cd /usr/ports/www/opera
# make install clean

To install the Linux® version, substitute linux-opera in place of opera.

To install Adobe® Flash® plugin support, first compile the www/linux-c6-flashplugin11 port. Licensing restrictions prevent making a package available. Then install www/opera-linuxplugins. This example compiles both applications from ports:

# cd /usr/ports/www/linux-c6-flashplugin11
# make install clean
# cd /usr/ports/www/opera-linuxplugins
# make install clean

Once installed, check the presence of the plugin by starting the browser, entering opera:plugins in the location bar and pressing Enter. A list should appear with all the currently available plugins.

To add the Java plugin, follow the instructions in Section, “Firefox and Java™ Plugin”.

6.2.3. Konqueror

Konqueror is more than a web browser as it is also a file manager and a multimedia viewer. It is included in the x11/kde4-baseapps package or port.

Konqueror supports WebKit as well as its own KHTML. WebKit is a rendering engine used by many modern browsers including Chromium. To use WebKit with Konqueror on FreeBSD, install the www/kwebkitpart package or port. This example compiles the port:

# cd /usr/ports/www/kwebkitpart
# make install clean

To enable WebKit within Konqueror, click Settings, Configure Konqueror. In the General settings page, click the drop-down menu next to Default web browser engine and change KHTML to WebKit.

Konqueror also supports Flash®. A How To guide for getting Flash® support on Konqueror is available at

6.2.4. Chromium

Chromium is an open source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable web browsing experience. Chromium features tabbed browsing, popup blocking, extensions, and much more. Chromium is the open source project upon which the Google Chrome web browser is based.

Chromium can be installed as a package by typing:

# pkg install chromium

Alternatively, Chromium can be compiled from source using the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/www/chromium
# make install clean


The executable for Chromium is /usr/local/bin/chrome, not /usr/local/bin/chromium. Chromium and Java™ Plugin

The installation of Chromium does not include Java™ support. To install Java™ plugin support, follow the instructions in Section, “Firefox and Java™ Plugin”.

Once Java™ support is installed, start Chromium and enter about:plugins in the address bar. IcedTea-Web should be listed as one of the installed plugins.

If Chromium does not display the IcedTea-Web plugin, run the following commands and restart the web browser:

# mkdir -p /usr/local/share/chromium/plugins
# ln -s /usr/local/lib/ \
  /usr/local/share/chromium/plugins/ Chromium and Adobe® Flash® Plugin

Configuring Chromium and Adobe® Flash® is similar to the instructions in Section, “Firefox and Adobe® Flash® Plugin”. No additional configuration should be necessary, since Chromium is able to use some plugins from other browsers.

6.3. Productivity

When it comes to productivity, new users often look for an office suite or an easy-to-use word processor. While some desktop environments like KDE provide an office suite, there is no default productivity package. Several office suites and graphical word processors are available for FreeBSD, regardless of the installed window manager.

This section demonstrates how to install the following popular productivity software and indicates if the application is resource-heavy, takes time to compile from ports, or has any major dependencies.

Application NameResources NeededInstallation from PortsMajor Dependencies
AbiWordlightlightGtk+ or GNOME
The GimplightheavyGtk+
Apache OpenOfficeheavyhugeJDK and Mozilla
LibreOfficesomewhat heavyhugeGtk+, or KDE/ GNOME, or JDK

6.3.1. Calligra

The KDE desktop environment includes an office suite which can be installed separately from KDE. Calligra includes standard components that can be found in other office suites. Words is the word processor, Sheets is the spreadsheet program, Stage manages slide presentations, and Karbon is used to draw graphical documents.

In FreeBSD, editors/calligra can be installed as a package or a port. To install the package:

# pkg install calligra

If the package is not available, use the Ports Collection instead:

# cd /usr/ports/editors/calligra
# make install clean

6.3.2. AbiWord

AbiWord is a free word processing program similar in look and feel to Microsoft® Word. It is fast, contains many features, and is user-friendly.

AbiWord can import or export many file formats, including some proprietary ones like Microsoft® .rtf.

To install the AbiWord package:

# pkg install abiword

If the package is not available, it can be compiled from the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/editors/abiword
# make install clean

6.3.3. The GIMP

For image authoring or picture retouching, The GIMP provides a sophisticated image manipulation program. It can be used as a simple paint program or as a quality photo retouching suite. It supports a large number of plugins and features a scripting interface. The GIMP can read and write a wide range of file formats and supports interfaces with scanners and tablets.

To install the package:

# pkg install gimp

Alternately, use the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/graphics/gimp
# make install clean

The graphics category ( of the Ports Collection contains several GIMP-related plugins, help files, and user manuals.

6.3.4. Apache OpenOffice

Apache OpenOffice is an open source office suite which is developed under the wing of the Apache Software Foundation's Incubator. It includes all of the applications found in a complete office productivity suite: a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program. Its user interface is similar to other office suites, and it can import and export in various popular file formats. It is available in a number of different languages and internationalization has been extended to interfaces, spell checkers, and dictionaries.

The word processor of Apache OpenOffice uses a native XML file format for increased portability and flexibility. The spreadsheet program features a macro language which can be interfaced with external databases. Apache OpenOffice is stable and runs natively on Windows®, Solaris™, Linux®, FreeBSD, and Mac OS® X. More information about Apache OpenOffice can be found at For FreeBSD specific information refer to

To install the Apache OpenOffice package:

# pkg install apache-openoffice

Once the package is installed, type the following command to launch Apache OpenOffice:

% openoffice-X.Y.Z

where X.Y.Z is the version number of the installed version of Apache OpenOffice. The first time Apache OpenOffice launches, some questions will be asked and a folder will be created in the user's home directory.

If the desired Apache OpenOffice package is not available, compiling the port is still an option. However, this requires a lot of disk space and a fairly long time to compile:

# cd /usr/ports/editors/openoffice-4
# make install clean


To build a localized version, replace the previous command with:

# make LOCALIZED_LANG=your_language install clean

Replace your_language with the correct language ISO-code. A list of supported language codes is available in files/Makefile.localized, located in the port's directory.

6.3.5. LibreOffice

LibreOffice is a free software office suite developed by It is compatible with other major office suites and available on a variety of platforms. It is a rebranded fork of and includes applications found in a complete office productivity suite: a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, drawing program, database management program, and a tool for creating and editing mathematical formulæ. It is available in a number of different languages and internationalization has been extended to interfaces, spell checkers, and dictionaries.

The word processor of LibreOffice uses a native XML file format for increased portability and flexibility. The spreadsheet program features a macro language which can be interfaced with external databases. LibreOffice is stable and runs natively on Windows®, Linux®, FreeBSD, and Mac OS® X. More information about LibreOffice can be found at

To install the English version of the LibreOffice package:

# pkg install libreoffice

The editors category ( of the Ports Collection contains several localizations for LibreOffice. When installing a localized package, replace libreoffice with the name of the localized package.

Once the package is installed, type the following command to run LibreOffice:

% libreoffice

During the first launch, some questions will be asked and a .libreoffice folder will be created in the user's home directory.

If the desired LibreOffice package is not available, compiling the port is still an option. However, this requires a lot of disk space and a fairly long time to compile. This example compiles the English version:

# cd /usr/ports/editors/libreoffice
# make install clean


To build a localized version, cd into the port directory of the desired language. Supported languages can be found in the editors category ( of the Ports Collection.

6.4. Document Viewers

Some new document formats have gained popularity since the advent of UNIX® and the viewers they require may not be available in the base system. This section demonstrates how to install the following document viewers:

Application NameResources NeededInstallation from PortsMajor Dependencies
GQviewlightlightGtk+ or GNOME

6.4.1. Xpdf

For users that prefer a small FreeBSD PDF viewer, Xpdf provides a light-weight and efficient viewer which requires few resources. It uses the standard X fonts and does not require any additional toolkits.

To install the Xpdf package:

# pkg install xpdf

If the package is not available, use the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/graphics/xpdf
# make install clean

Once the installation is complete, launch xpdf and use the right mouse button to activate the menu.

6.4.2. gv

gv is a PostScript® and PDF viewer. It is based on ghostview, but has a nicer look as it is based on the Xaw3d widget toolkit. gv has many configurable features, such as orientation, paper size, scale, and anti-aliasing. Almost any operation can be performed with either the keyboard or the mouse.

To install gv as a package:

# pkg install gv

If a package is unavailable, use the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/print/gv
# make install clean

6.4.3. GQview

GQview is an image manager which supports viewing a file with a single click, launching an external editor, and thumbnail previews. It also features a slideshow mode and some basic file operations, making it easy to manage image collections and to find duplicate files. GQview supports full screen viewing and internationalization.

To install the GQview package:

# pkg install gqview

If the package is not available, use the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/graphics/gqview
# make install clean

6.4.4. ePDFView

ePDFView is a lightweight PDF document viewer that only uses the Gtk+ and Poppler libraries. It is currently under development, but already opens most PDF files (even encrypted), save copies of documents, and has support for printing using CUPS.

To install ePDFView as a package:

# pkg install epdfview

If a package is unavailable, use the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/graphics/epdfview
# make install clean

6.4.5. Okular

Okular is a universal document viewer based on KPDF for KDE. It can open many document formats, including PDF, PostScript®, DjVu, CHM, XPS, and ePub.

To install Okular as a package:

# pkg install okular

If a package is unavailable, use the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/graphics/okular
# make install clean

6.5. Finance

For managing personal finances on a FreeBSD desktop, some powerful and easy-to-use applications can be installed. Some are compatible with widespread file formats, such as the formats used by Quicken and Excel.

This section covers these programs:

Application NameResources NeededInstallation from PortsMajor Dependencies

6.5.1. GnuCash

GnuCash is part of the GNOME effort to provide user-friendly, yet powerful, applications to end-users. GnuCash can be used to keep track of income and expenses, bank accounts, and stocks. It features an intuitive interface while remaining professional.

GnuCash provides a smart register, a hierarchical system of accounts, and many keyboard accelerators and auto-completion methods. It can split a single transaction into several more detailed pieces. GnuCash can import and merge Quicken QIF files. It also handles most international date and currency formats.

To install the GnuCash package:

# pkg install gnucash

If the package is not available, use the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/finance/gnucash
# make install clean

6.5.2. Gnumeric

Gnumeric is a spreadsheet program developed by the GNOME community. It features convenient automatic guessing of user input according to the cell format with an autofill system for many sequences. It can import files in a number of popular formats, including Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, and Quattro Pro. It has a large number of built-in functions and allows all of the usual cell formats such as number, currency, date, time, and much more.

To install Gnumeric as a package:

# pkg install gnumeric

If the package is not available, use the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/math/gnumeric
# make install clean

6.5.3. KMyMoney

KMyMoney is a personal finance application created by the KDE community. KMyMoney aims to provide the important features found in commercial personal finance manager applications. It also highlights ease-of-use and proper double-entry accounting among its features. KMyMoney imports from standard Quicken QIF files, tracks investments, handles multiple currencies, and provides a wealth of reports.

To install KMyMoney as a package:

# pkg install kmymoney-kde4

If the package is not available, use the Ports Collection:

# cd /usr/ports/finance/kmymoney-kde4
# make install clean

Chapter 7. Multimedia

Edited by Ross Lippert.

7.1. Synopsis

FreeBSD supports a wide variety of sound cards, allowing users to enjoy high fidelity output from a FreeBSD system. This includes the ability to record and playback audio in the MPEG Audio Layer 3 (MP3), Waveform Audio File (WAV), Ogg Vorbis, and other formats. The FreeBSD Ports Collection contains many applications for editing recorded audio, adding sound effects, and controlling attached MIDI devices.

FreeBSD also supports the playback of video files and DVDs. The FreeBSD Ports Collection contains applications to encode, convert, and playback various video media.

This chapter describes how to configure sound cards, video playback, TV tuner cards, and scanners on FreeBSD. It also describes some of the applications which are available for using these devices.

After reading this chapter, you will know how to:

  • Configure a sound card on FreeBSD.

  • Troubleshoot the sound setup.

  • Playback and encode MP3s and other audio.

  • Prepare a FreeBSD system for video playback.

  • Play DVDs, .mpg, and .avi files.

  • Rip CD and DVD content into files.

  • Configure a TV card.

  • Install and setup MythTV on FreeBSD

  • Configure an image scanner.

Before reading this chapter, you should:

7.2. Setting Up the Sound Card

Contributed by Moses Moore.
Enhanced by Marc Fonvieille.

Before beginning the configuration, determine the model of the sound card and the chip it uses. FreeBSD supports a wide variety of sound cards. Check the supported audio devices list of the Hardware Notes to see if the card is supported and which FreeBSD driver it uses.

In order to use the sound device, its device driver must be loaded. The easiest way is to load a kernel module for the sound card with kldload(8). This example loads the driver for a built-in audio chipset based on the Intel specification:

# kldload snd_hda

To automate the loading of this driver at boot time, add the driver to /boot/loader.conf. The line for this driver is:


Other available sound modules are listed in /boot/defaults/loader.conf. When unsure which driver to use, load the snd_driver module:

# kldload snd_driver

This is a metadriver which loads all of the most common sound drivers and can be used to speed up the search for the correct driver. It is also possible to load all sound drivers by adding the metadriver to /boot/loader.conf.

To determine which driver was selected for the sound card after loading the snd_driver metadriver, type cat /dev/sndstat.

7.2.1. Configuring a Custom Kernel with Sound Support

This section is for users who prefer to statically compile in support for the sound card in a custom kernel. For more information about recompiling a kernel, refer to Chapter 8, Configuring the FreeBSD Kernel.

When using a custom kernel to provide sound support, make sure that the audio framework driver exists in the custom kernel configuration file:

device sound

Next, add support for the sound card. To continue the example of the built-in audio chipset based on the Intel specification from the previous section, use the following line in the custom kernel configuration file:

device snd_hda

Be sure to read the manual page of the driver for the device name to use for the driver.

Non-PnP ISA sound cards may require the IRQ and I/O port settings of the card to be added to /boot/device.hints. During the boot process, loader(8) reads this file and passes the settings to the kernel. For example, an old Creative SoundBlaster® 16 ISA non-PnP card will use the snd_sbc(4) driver in conjunction with snd_sb16. For this card, the following lines must be added to the kernel configuration file:

device snd_sbc
device snd_sb16

If the card uses the 0x220 I/O port and IRQ 5, these lines must also be added to /boot/device.hints:"isa"

In this case, the card uses the 0x220 I/O port and the IRQ 5.

The syntax used in /boot/device.hints is described in sound(4) and the manual page for the driver of the sound card.

The settings shown above are the defaults. In some cases, the IRQ or other settings may need to be changed to match the card. Refer to snd_sbc(4) for more information about this card.

7.2.2. Testing Sound

After loading the required module or rebooting into the custom kernel, the sound card should be detected. To confirm, run dmesg | grep pcm. This example is from a system with a built-in Conexant CX20590 chipset:

pcm0: <NVIDIA (0x001c) (HDMI/DP 8ch)> at nid 5 on hdaa0
pcm1: <NVIDIA (0x001c) (HDMI/DP 8ch)> at nid 6 on hdaa0
pcm2: <Conexant CX20590 (Analog 2.0+HP/2.0)> at nid 31,25 and 35,27 on hdaa1

The status of the sound card may also be checked using this command:

# cat /dev/sndstat
FreeBSD Audio Driver (newpcm: 64bit 2009061500/amd64)
Installed devices:
pcm0: <NVIDIA (0x001c) (HDMI/DP 8ch)> (play)
pcm1: <NVIDIA (0x001c) (HDMI/DP 8ch)> (play)
pcm2: <Conexant CX20590 (Analog 2.0+HP/2.0)> (play/rec) default

The output will vary depending upon the sound card. If no pcm devices are listed, double-check that the correct device driver was loaded or compiled into the kernel. The next section lists some common problems and their solutions.

If all goes well, the sound card should now work in os;. If the CD or DVD drive is properly connected to the sound card, one can insert an audio CD in the drive and play it with cdcontrol(1):

% cdcontrol -f /dev/acd0 play 1


Audio CDs have specialized encodings which means that they should not be mounted using mount(8).

Various applications, such as audio/workman, provide a friendlier interface. The audio/mpg123 port can be installed to listen to MP3 audio files.

Another quick way to test the card is to send data to /dev/dsp:

% cat filename > /dev/dsp

where filename can be any type of file. This command should produce some noise, confirming that the sound card is working.


The /dev/dsp* device nodes will be created automatically as needed. When not in use, they do not exist and will not appear in the output of ls(1).

7.2.3. Troubleshooting Sound

Table 7.1, “Common Error Messages” lists some common error messages and their solutions:

Table 7.1. Common Error Messages
sb_dspwr(XX) timed out

The I/O port is not set correctly.

bad irq XX

The IRQ is set incorrectly. Make sure that the set IRQ and the sound IRQ are the same.

xxx: gus pcm not attached, out of memory

There is not enough available memory to use the device.

xxx: can't open /dev/dsp!

Type fstat | grep dsp to check if another application is holding the device open. Noteworthy troublemakers are esound and KDE's sound support.

Modern graphics cards often come with their own sound driver for use with HDMI. This sound device is sometimes enumerated before the sound card meaning that the sound card will not be used as the default playback device. To check if this is the case, run dmesg and look for pcm. The output looks something like this:

hdac0: HDA Driver Revision: 20100226_0142
hdac1: HDA Driver Revision: 20100226_0142
hdac0: HDA Codec #0: NVidia (Unknown)
hdac0: HDA Codec #1: NVidia (Unknown)
hdac0: HDA Codec #2: NVidia (Unknown)
hdac0: HDA Codec #3: NVidia (Unknown)
pcm0: <HDA NVidia (Unknown) PCM #0 DisplayPort> at cad 0 nid 1 on hdac0
pcm1: <HDA NVidia (Unknown) PCM #0 DisplayPort> at cad 1 nid 1 on hdac0
pcm2: <HDA NVidia (Unknown) PCM #0 DisplayPort> at cad 2 nid 1 on hdac0
pcm3: <HDA NVidia (Unknown) PCM #0 DisplayPort> at cad 3 nid 1 on hdac0
hdac1: HDA Codec #2: Realtek ALC889
pcm4: <HDA Realtek ALC889 PCM #0 Analog> at cad 2 nid 1 on hdac1
pcm5: <HDA Realtek ALC889 PCM #1 Analog> at cad 2 nid 1 on hdac1
pcm6: <HDA Realtek ALC889 PCM #2 Digital> at cad 2 nid 1 on hdac1
pcm7: <HDA Realtek ALC889 PCM #3 Digital> at cad 2 nid 1 on hdac1

In this example, the graphics card (NVidia) has been enumerated before the sound card (Realtek ALC889). To use the sound card as the default playback device, change hw.snd.default_unit to the unit that should be used for playback:

# sysctl hw.snd.default_unit=n

where n is the number of the sound device to use. In this example, it should be 4. Make this change permanent by adding the following line to /etc/sysctl.conf:


7.2.4. Utilizing Multiple Sound Sources

Contributed by Munish Chopra.

It is often desirable to have multiple sources of sound that are able to play simultaneously. FreeBSD uses Virtual Sound Channels to multiplex the sound card's playback by mixing sound in the kernel.

Three sysctl(8) knobs are available for configuring virtual channels:

# sysctl
# sysctl dev.pcm.0.rec.vchans=4
# sysctl hw.snd.maxautovchans=4

This example allocates four virtual channels, which is a practical number for everyday use. Both and dev.pcm.0.rec.vchans=4 are configurable after a device has been attached and represent the number of virtual channels pcm0 has for playback and recording. Since the pcm module can be loaded independently of the hardware drivers, hw.snd.maxautovchans indicates how many virtual channels will be given to an audio device when it is attached. Refer to pcm(4) for more information.


The number of virtual channels for a device cannot be changed while it is in use. First, close any programs using the device, such as music players or sound daemons.

The correct pcm device will automatically be allocated transparently to a program that requests /dev/dsp0.

7.2.5. Setting Default Values for Mixer Channels

Contributed by Josef El-Rayes.

The default values for the different mixer channels are hardcoded in the source code of the pcm(4) driver. While sound card mixer levels can be changed using mixer(8) or third-party applications and daemons, this is not a permanent solution. To instead set default mixer values at the driver level, define the appropriate values in /boot/device.hints, as seen in this example:


This will set the volume channel to a default value of 50 when the pcm(4) module is loaded.

7.3. MP3 Audio

Contributed by Chern Lee.

This section describes some MP3 players available for FreeBSD, how to rip audio CD tracks, and how to encode and decode MP3s.

7.3.1. MP3 Players

A popular graphical MP3 player is XMMS. It supports Winamp skins and additional plugins. The interface is intuitive, with a playlist, graphic equalizer, and more. Those familiar with Winamp will find XMMS simple to use. On FreeBSD, XMMS can be installed from the multimedia/xmms port or package.

The audio/mpg123 package or port provides an alternative, command-line MP3 player. Once installed, specify the MP3 file to play on the command line. If the system has multiple audio devices, the sound device can also be specifed:

# mpg123 -a /dev/dsp1.0 Foobar-GreatestHits.mp3
High Performance MPEG 1.0/2.0/2.5 Audio Player for Layers 1, 2 and 3
        version 1.18.1; written and copyright by Michael Hipp and others
        free software (LGPL) without any warranty but with best wishes

Playing MPEG stream from Foobar-GreatestHits.mp3 ...
MPEG 1.0 layer III, 128 kbit/s, 44100 Hz joint-stereo

Additional MP3 players are available in the FreeBSD Ports Collection.

7.3.2. Ripping CD Audio Tracks

Before encoding a CD or CD track to MP3, the audio data on the CD must be ripped to the hard drive. This is done by copying the raw CD Digital Audio (CDDA) data to WAV files.

The cdda2wav tool, which is installed with the sysutils/cdrtools suite, can be used to rip audio information from CDs.

With the audio CD in the drive, the following command can be issued as root to rip an entire CD into individual, per track, WAV files:

# cdda2wav -D 0,1,0 -B

In this example, the -D 0,1,0 indicates the SCSI device 0,1,0 containing the CD to rip. Use cdrecord -scanbus to determine the correct device parameters for the system.

To rip individual tracks, use -t to specify the track:

# cdda2wav -D 0,1,0 -t 7

To rip a range of tracks, such as track one to seven, specify a range:

# cdda2wav -D 0,1,0 -t 1+7

To rip from an ATAPI (IDE) CDROM drive, specify the device name in place of the SCSI unit numbers. For example, to rip track 7 from an IDE drive:

# cdda2wav -D /dev/acd0 -t 7

Alternately, dd can be used to extract audio tracks on ATAPI drives, as described in Section 17.5.5, “Duplicating Audio CDs”.

7.3.3. Encoding and Decoding MP3s

Lame is a popular MP3 encoder which can be installed from the audio/lame port. Due to patent issues, a package is not available.

The following command will convert the ripped WAV file audio01.wav to audio01.mp3:

# lame -h -b 128 --tt "Foo Song Title" --ta "FooBar Artist" --tl "FooBar Album" \
--ty "2014" --tc "Ripped and encoded by Foo" --tg "Genre" audio01.wav audio01.mp3

The specified 128 kbits is a standard MP3 bitrate while the 160 and 192 bitrates provide higher quality. The higher the bitrate, the larger the size of the resulting MP3. The -h turns on the higher quality but a little slower mode. The options beginning with --t indicate ID3 tags, which usually contain song information, to be embedded within the MP3 file. Additional encoding options can be found in the lame manual page.

In order to burn an audio CD from MP3s, they must first be converted to a non-compressed file format. XMMS can be used to convert to the WAV format, while mpg123 can be used to convert to the raw Pulse-Code Modulation (PCM) audio data format.

To convert audio01.mp3 using mpg123, specify the name of the PCM file:

# mpg123 -s audio01.mp3 > audio01.pcm

To use XMMS to convert a MP3 to WAV format, use these steps:

Procedure 7.1. Converting to WAV Format in XMMS
  1. Launch XMMS.

  2. Right-click the window to bring up the XMMS menu.

  3. Select Preferences under Options.

  4. Change the Output Plugin to Disk Writer Plugin.

  5. Press Configure.

  6. Enter or browse to a directory to write the uncompressed files to.

  7. Load the MP3 file into XMMS as usual, with volume at 100% and EQ settings turned off.

  8. Press Play. The XMMS will appear as if it is playing the MP3, but no music will be heard. It is actually playing the MP3 to a file.

  9. When finished, be sure to set the default Output Plugin back to what it was before in order to listen to MP3s again.

Both the WAV and PCM formats can be used with cdrecord. When using WAV files, there will be a small tick sound at the beginning of each track. This sound is the header of the WAV file. The audio/sox port or package can be used to remove the header:

% sox -t wav -r 44100 -s -w -c 2 track.wav track.raw

Refer to Section 17.5, “Creating and Using CD Media” for more information on using a CD burner in FreeBSD.

7.4. Video Playback

Contributed by Ross Lippert.

Before configuring video playback, determine the model and chipset of the video card. While Xorg supports a wide variety of video cards, not all provide good playback performance. To obtain a list of extensions supported by the Xorg server using the card, run xdpyinfo while Xorg is running.

It is a good idea to have a short MPEG test file for evaluating various players and options. Since some DVD applications look for DVD media in /dev/dvd by default, or have this device name hardcoded in them, it might be useful to make a symbolic link to the proper device:

# ln -sf /dev/cd0 /dev/dvd

Due to the nature of devfs(5), manually created links will not persist after a system reboot. In order to recreate the symbolic link automatically when the system boots, add the following line to /etc/devfs.conf:

link cd0 dvd

DVD decryption invokes certain functions that require write permission to the DVD device.

To enhance the shared memory Xorg interface, it is recommended to increase the values of these sysctl(8) variables:


7.4.1. Determining Video Capabilities

There are several possible ways to display video under Xorg and what works is largely hardware dependent. Each method described below will have varying quality across different hardware.

Common video interfaces include:

  1. Xorg: normal output using shared memory.

  2. XVideo: an extension to the Xorg interface which allows video to be directly displayed in drawable objects through a special acceleration. This extension provides good quality playback even on low-end machines. The next section describes how to determine if this extension is running.

  3. SDL: the Simple Directmedia Layer is a porting layer for many operating systems, allowing cross-platform applications to be developed which make efficient use of sound and graphics. SDL provides a low-level abstraction to the hardware which can sometimes be more efficient than the Xorg interface. On FreeBSD, SDL can be installed using the devel/sdl20 package or port.

  4. DGA: the Direct Graphics Access is an Xorg extension which allows a program to bypass the Xorg server and directly alter the framebuffer. Because it relies on a low level memory mapping, programs using it must be run as root. The DGA extension can be tested and benchmarked using dga(1). When dga is running, it changes the colors of the display whenever a key is pressed. To quit, press q.

  5. SVGAlib: a low level console graphics layer. XVideo

To check whether this extension is running, use xvinfo:

% xvinfo

XVideo is supported for the card if the result is similar to:

X-Video Extension version 2.2
  screen #0
  Adaptor #0: "Savage Streams Engine"
    number of ports: 1
    port base: 43
    operations supported: PutImage
    supported visuals:
      depth 16, visualID 0x22
      depth 16, visualID 0x23
    number of attributes: 5
      "XV_COLORKEY" (range 0 to 16777215)
              client settable attribute
              client gettable attribute (current value is 2110)
      "XV_BRIGHTNESS" (range -128 to 127)
              client settable attribute
              client gettable attribute (current value is 0)
      "XV_CONTRAST" (range 0 to 255)
              client settable attribute
              client gettable attribute (current value is 128)
      "XV_SATURATION" (range 0 to 255)
              client settable attribute
              client gettable attribute (current value is 128)
      "XV_HUE" (range -180 to 180)
              client settable attribute
              client gettable attribute (current value is 0)
    maximum XvImage size: 1024 x 1024
    Number of image formats: 7
      id: 0x32595559 (YUY2)
        guid: 59555932-0000-0010-8000-00aa00389b71
        bits per pixel: 16
        number of planes: 1
        type: YUV (packed)
      id: 0x32315659 (YV12)
        guid: 59563132-0000-0010-8000-00aa00389b71
        bits per pixel: 12
        number of planes: 3
        type: YUV (planar)
      id: 0x30323449 (I420)
        guid: 49343230-0000-0010-8000-00aa00389b71
        bits per pixel: 12
        number of planes: 3
        type: YUV (planar)
      id: 0x36315652 (RV16)
        guid: 52563135-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
        bits per pixel: 16
        number of planes: 1
        type: RGB (packed)
        depth: 0
        red, green, blue masks: 0x1f, 0x3e0, 0x7c00
      id: 0x35315652 (RV15)
        guid: 52563136-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
        bits per pixel: 16
        number of planes: 1
        type: RGB (packed)
        depth: 0
        red, green, blue masks: 0x1f, 0x7e0, 0xf800
      id: 0x31313259 (Y211)
        guid: 59323131-0000-0010-8000-00aa00389b71
        bits per pixel: 6
        number of planes: 3
        type: YUV (packed)
      id: 0x0
        guid: 00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
        bits per pixel: 0
        number of planes: 0
        type: RGB (packed)
        depth: 1
        red, green, blue masks: 0x0, 0x0, 0x0

The formats listed, such as YUV2 and YUV12, are not present with every implementation of XVideo and their absence may hinder some players.

If the result instead looks like:

X-Video Extension version 2.2
screen #0
no adaptors present

XVideo is probably not supported for the card. This means that it will be more difficult for the display to meet the computational demands of rendering video, depending on the video card and processor.

7.4.2. Ports and Packages Dealing with Video

This section introduces some of the software available from the FreeBSD Ports Collection which can be used for video playback. MPlayer and MEncoder

MPlayer is a command-line video player with an optional graphical interface which aims to provide speed and flexibility. Other graphical front-ends to MPlayer are available from the FreeBSD Ports Collection.

MPlayer can be installed using the multimedia/mplayer package or port. Several compile options are available and a variety of hardware checks occur during the build process. For these reasons, some users prefer to build the port rather than install the package.

When compiling the port, the menu options should be reviewed to determine the type of support to compile into the port. If an option is not selected, MPlayer will not be able to display that type of video format. Use the arrow keys and spacebar to select the required formats. When finished, press Enter to continue the port compile and installation.

By default, the package or port will build the mplayer command line utility and the gmplayer graphical utility. To encode videos, compile the multimedia/mencoder port. Due to licensing restrictions, a package is not available for MEncoder.

The first time MPlayer is run, it will create ~/.mplayer in the user's home directory. This subdirectory contains default versions of the user-specific configuration files.

This section describes only a few common uses. Refer to mplayer(1) for a complete description of its numerous options.

To play the file testfile.avi, specify the video interfaces with -vo, as seen in the following examples:

% mplayer -vo xv testfile.avi
% mplayer -vo sdl testfile.avi
% mplayer -vo x11 testfile.avi
# mplayer -vo dga testfile.avi
# mplayer -vo 'sdl:dga' testfile.avi

It is worth trying all of these options, as their relative performance depends on many factors and will vary significantly with hardware.

To play a DVD, replace testfile.avi with dvd://N -dvd-device DEVICE, where N is the title number to play and DEVICE is the device node for the DVD. For example, to play title 3 from /dev/dvd:

# mplayer -vo xv dvd://3 -dvd-device /dev/dvd


The default DVD device can be defined during the build of the MPlayer port by including the WITH_DVD_DEVICE=/path/to/desired/device option. By default, the device is /dev/cd0. More details can be found in the port's Makefile.options.

To stop, pause, advance, and so on, use a keybinding. To see the list of keybindings, run mplayer -h or read mplayer(1).

Additional playback options include -fs -zoom, which engages fullscreen mode, and -framedrop, which helps performance.

Each user can add commonly used options to their ~/.mplayer/config like so:


mplayer can be used to rip a DVD title to a .vob. To dump the second title from a DVD:

# mplayer -dumpstream -dumpfile out.vob dvd://2 -dvd-device /dev/dvd

The output file, out.vob, will be in MPEG format.

Anyone wishing to obtain a high level of expertise with UNIX® video should consult as it is technically informative. This documentation should be considered as required reading before submitting any bug reports.

Before using mencoder, it is a good idea to become familiar with the options described at There are innumerable ways to improve quality, lower bitrate, and change formats, and some of these options may make the difference between good or bad performance. Improper combinations of command line options can yield output files that are unplayable even by mplayer.

Here is an example of a simple copy:

% mencoder input.avi -oac copy -ovc copy -o output.avi

To rip to a file, use -dumpfile with mplayer.

To convert input.avi to the MPEG4 codec with MPEG3 audio encoding, first install the audio/lame port. Due to licensing restrictions, a package is not available. Once installed, type:

% mencoder input.avi -oac mp3lame -lameopts br=192 \
	 -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vhq -o output.avi

This will produce output playable by applications such as mplayer and xine.

input.avi can be replaced with dvd://1 -dvd-device /dev/dvd and run as root to re-encode a DVD title directly. Since it may take a few tries to get the desired result, it is recommended to instead dump the title to a file and to work on the file. The xine Video Player

xine is a video player with a reusable base library and a modular executable which can be extended with plugins. It can be installed using the multimedia/xine package or port.

In practice, xine requires either a fast CPU with a fast video card, or support for the XVideo extension. The xine video player performs best on XVideo interfaces.

By default, the xine player starts a graphical user interface. The menus can then be used to open a specific file.

Alternatively, xine may be invoked from the command line by specifying the name of the file to play:

% xine -g -p mymovie.avi

Refer to for more information and troubleshooting tips. The Transcode Utilities

Transcode provides a suite of tools for re-encoding video and audio files. Transcode can be used to merge video files or repair broken files using command line tools with stdin/stdout stream interfaces.

In FreeBSD, Transcode can be installed using the multimedia/transcode package or port. Many users prefer to compile the port as it provides a menu of compile options for specifying the support and codecs to compile in. If an option is not selected, Transcode will not be able to encode that format. Use the arrow keys and spacebar to select the required formats. When finished, press Enter to continue the port compile and installation.

This example demonstrates how to convert a DivX file into a PAL MPEG-1 file (PAL VCD):

% transcode -i
input.avi -V --export_prof vcd-pal -o output_vcd
% mplex -f 1 -o output_vcd.mpg output_vcd.m1v output_vcd.mpa

The resulting MPEG file, output_vcd.mpg, is ready to be played with MPlayer. The file can be burned on a CD media to create a video CD using a utility such as multimedia/vcdimager or sysutils/cdrdao.

In addition to the manual page for transcode, refer to for further information and examples.

7.5. TV Cards

Original contribution by Josef El-Rayes.
Enhanced and adapted by Marc Fonvieille.

TV cards can be used to watch broadcast or cable TV on a computer. Most cards accept composite video via an RCA or S-video input and some cards include a FM radio tuner.

FreeBSD provides support for PCI-based TV cards using a Brooktree Bt848/849/878/879 video capture chip with the bktr(4) driver. This driver supports most Pinnacle PCTV video cards. Before purchasing a TV card, consult bktr(4) for a list of supported tuners.

7.5.1. Loading the Driver

In order to use the card, the bktr(4) driver must be loaded. To automate this at boot time, add the following line to /boot/loader.conf:


Alternatively, one can statically compile support for the TV card into a custom kernel. In that case, add the following lines to the custom kernel configuration file:

device	 bktr
device	iicbus
device	iicbb
device	smbus

These additional devices are necessary as the card components are interconnected via an I2C bus. Then, build and install a new kernel.

To test that the tuner is correctly detected, reboot the system. The TV card should appear in the boot messages, as seen in this example:

bktr0: <BrookTree 848A> mem 0xd7000000-0xd7000fff irq 10 at device 10.0 on pci0
iicbb0: <I2C bit-banging driver> on bti2c0
iicbus0: <Philips I2C bus> on iicbb0 master-only
iicbus1: <Philips I2C bus> on iicbb0 master-only
smbus0: <System Management Bus> on bti2c0
bktr0: Pinnacle/Miro TV, Philips SECAM tuner.

The messages will differ according to the hardware. If necessary, it is possible to override some of the detected parameters using sysctl(8) or custom kernel configuration options. For example, to force the tuner to a Philips SECAM tuner, add the following line to a custom kernel configuration file:


or, use sysctl(8):

# sysctl hw.bt848.tuner=6

Refer to bktr(4) for a description of the available sysctl(8) parameters and kernel options.

7.5.2. Useful Applications

To use the TV card, install one of the following applications:

  • multimedia/fxtv provides TV-in-a-window and image/audio/video capture capabilities.

  • multimedia/xawtv is another TV application with similar features.

  • audio/xmradio provides an application for using the FM radio tuner of a TV card.

More applications are available in the FreeBSD Ports Collection.

7.5.3. Troubleshooting

If any problems are encountered with the TV card, check that the video capture chip and the tuner are supported by bktr(4) and that the right configuration options were used. For more support or to ask questions about supported TV cards, refer to the freebsd-multimedia mailing list.

7.6. MythTV

MythTV is a popular, open source Personal Video Recorder (PVR) application. This section demonstrates how to install and setup MythTV on FreeBSD. Refer to for more information on how to use MythTV.

MythTV requires a frontend and a backend. These components can either be installed on the same system or on different machines.

The frontend can be installed on FreeBSD using the multimedia/mythtv-frontend package or port. Xorg must also be installed and configured as described in Chapter 5, The X Window System. Ideally, this system has a video card that supports X-Video Motion Compensation (XvMC) and, optionally, a Linux Infrared Remote Control (LIRC)-compatible remote.

To install both the backend and the frontend on FreeBSD, use the multimedia/mythtv package or port. A MySQL™ database server is also required and should automatically be installed as a dependency. Optionally, this system should have a tuner card and sufficient storage to hold recorded data.

7.6.1. Hardware

MythTV uses Video for Linux (V4L) to access video input devices such as encoders and tuners. In FreeBSD, MythTV works best with USB DVB-S/C/T cards as they are well supported by the multimedia/webcamd package or port which provides a V4L userland application. Any Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) card supported by webcamd should work with MythTV. A list of known working cards can be found at Drivers are also available for Hauppauge cards in the multimedia/pvr250 and multimedia/pvrxxx ports, but they provide a non-standard driver interface that does not work with versions of MythTV greater than 0.23. Due to licensing restrictions, no packages are available and these two ports must be compiled.

The page contains a list of all available DVB drivers.

7.6.2. Setting up the MythTV Backend

To install MythTV using the port:

# cd /usr/ports/multimedia/mythtv
# make install

Once installed, set up the MythTV database:

# mysql -uroot -p < /usr/local/share/mythtv/database/mc.sql

Then, configure the backend:

# mythtv-setup

Finally, start the backend:

# echo 'mythbackend_enable="YES"' >> /etc/rc.conf
# service mythbackend start

7.7. Image Scanners

Written by Marc Fonvieille.

In FreeBSD, access to image scanners is provided by SANE (Scanner Access Now Easy), which is available in the FreeBSD Ports Collection. SANE will also use some FreeBSD device drivers to provide access to the scanner hardware.

FreeBSD supports both SCSI and USB scanners. Depending upon the scanner interface, different device drivers are required. Be sure the scanner is supported by SANE prior to performing any configuration. Refer to for more information about supported scanners.

This chapter describes how to determine if the scanner has been detected by FreeBSD. It then provides an overview of how to configure and use SANE on a FreeBSD system.

7.7.1. Checking the Scanner

The GENERIC kernel includes the device drivers needed to support USB scanners. Users with a custom kernel should ensure that the following lines are present in the custom kernel configuration file:

device usb
device uhci
device ohci
device ehci

To determine if the USB scanner is detected, plug it in and use dmesg to determine whether the scanner appears in the system message buffer. If it does, it should display a message similar to this:

ugen0.2: <EPSON> at usbus0

In this example, an EPSON Perfection® 1650 USB scanner was detected on /dev/ugen0.2.

If the scanner uses a SCSI interface, it is important to know which SCSI controller board it will use. Depending upon the SCSI chipset, a custom kernel configuration file may be needed. The GENERIC kernel supports the most common SCSI controllers. Refer to /usr/src/sys/conf/NOTES to determine the correct line to add to a custom kernel configuration file. In addition to the SCSI adapter driver, the following lines are needed in a custom kernel configuration file:

device scbus
device pass

Verify that the device is displayed in the system message buffer:

pass2 at aic0 bus 0 target 2 lun 0
pass2: <AGFA SNAPSCAN 600 1.10> Fixed Scanner SCSI-2 device
pass2: 3.300MB/s transfers

If the scanner was not powered-on at system boot, it is still possible to manually force detection by performing a SCSI bus scan with camcontrol:

# camcontrol rescan all
Re-scan of bus 0 was successful
Re-scan of bus 1 was successful
Re-scan of bus 2 was successful
Re-scan of bus 3 was successful

The scanner should now appear in the SCSI devices list:

# camcontrol devlist
<IBM DDRS-34560 S97B>              at scbus0 target 5 lun 0 (pass0,da0)
<IBM DDRS-34560 S97B>              at scbus0 target 6 lun 0 (pass1,da1)
<AGFA SNAPSCAN 600 1.10>           at scbus1 target 2 lun 0 (pass3)
<PHILIPS CDD3610 CD-R/RW 1.00>     at scbus2 target 0 lun 0 (pass2,cd0)

Refer to scsi(4) and camcontrol(8) for more details about SCSI devices on FreeBSD.

7.7.2. SANE Configuration

The SANE system is split in two parts: the backends (graphics/sane-backends) and the frontends (graphics/sane-frontends or graphics/xsane). The backends provide access to the scanner. Refer to to determine which backend supports the scanner. The frontends provide the graphical scanning interface. graphics/sane-frontends installs xscanimage while graphics/xsane installs xsane.

After installing the graphics/sane-backends port or package, use sane-find-scanner to check the scanner detection by the SANE system:

# sane-find-scanner -q
found SCSI scanner "AGFA SNAPSCAN 600 1.10" at /dev/pass3

The output should show the interface type of the scanner and the device node used to attach the scanner to the system. The vendor and the product model may or may not appear.


Some USB scanners require firmware to be loaded. Refer to sane-find-scanner(1) and sane(7) for details.

Next, check if the scanner will be identified by a scanning frontend. The SANE backends include scanimage which can be used to list the devices and perform an image acquisition. Use -L to list the scanner devices. The first example is for a SCSI scanner and the second is for a USB scanner:

# scanimage -L
device `snapscan:/dev/pass3' is a AGFA SNAPSCAN 600 flatbed scanner
# scanimage -L
device 'epson2:libusb:/dev/usb:/dev/ugen0.2' is a Epson GT-8200 flatbed scanner

In this second example, 'epson2:libusb:/dev/usb:/dev/ugen0.2' is the backend name (epson2) and /dev/ugen0.2 is the device node used by the scanner.

If scanimage is unable to identify the scanner, this message will appear:

# scanimage -L

No scanners were identified. If you were expecting something different,
check that the scanner is plugged in, turned on and detected by the
sane-find-scanner tool (if appropriate). Please read the documentation
which came with this software (README, FAQ, manpages).

If this happens, edit the backend configuration file in /usr/local/etc/sane.d/ and define the scanner device used. For example, if the undetected scanner model is an EPSON Perfection® 1650 and it uses the epson2 backend, edit /usr/local/etc/sane.d/epson2.conf. When editing, add a line specifying the interface and the device node used. In this case, add the following line:

usb /dev/ugen0.2

Save the edits and verify that the scanner is identified with the right backend name and the device node:

# scanimage -L
device 'epson2:libusb:/dev/usb:/dev/ugen0.2' is a Epson GT-8200 flatbed scanner

Once scanimage -L sees the scanner, the configuration is complete and the scanner is now ready to use.

While scanimage can be used to perform an image acquisition from the command line, it is often preferable to use a graphical interface to perform image scanning. The graphics/sane-frontends package or port installs a simple but efficient graphical interface, xscanimage.

Alternately, xsane, which is installed with the graphics/xsane package or port, is another popular graphical scanning frontend. It offers advanced features such as various scanning modes, color correction, and batch scans. Both of these applications are usable as a GIMP plugin.

7.7.3. Scanner Permissions

In order to have access to the scanner, a user needs read and write permissions to the device node used by the scanner. In the previous example, the USB scanner uses the device node /dev/ugen0.2 which is really a symlink to the real device node /dev/usb/0.2.0. The symlink and the device node are owned, respectively, by the wheel and operator groups. While adding the user to these groups will allow access to the scanner, it is considered insecure to add a user to wheel. A better solution is to create a group and make the scanner device accessible to members of this group.

This example creates a group called usb:

# pw groupadd usb

Then, make the /dev/ugen0.2 symlink and the /dev/usb/0.2.0 device node accessible to the usb group with write permissions of 0660 or 0664 by adding the following lines to /etc/devfs.rules:

add path ugen0.2 mode 0660 group usb
add path usb/0.2.0 mode 0666 group usb

Finally, add the users to usb in order to allow access to the scanner:

# pw groupmod usb -m joe

For more details refer to pw(8).

Chapter 8. Configuring the FreeBSD Kernel

8.1. Synopsis

The kernel is the core of the FreeBSD operating system. It is responsible for managing memory, enforcing security controls, networking, disk access, and much more. While much of FreeBSD is dynamically configurable, it is still occasionally necessary to configure and compile a custom kernel.

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • When to build a custom kernel.

  • How to take a hardware inventory.

  • How to customize a kernel configuration file.

  • How to use the kernel configuration file to create and build a new kernel.

  • How to install the new kernel.

  • How to troubleshoot if things go wrong.

All of the commands listed in the examples in this chapter should be executed as root.

8.2. Why Build a Custom Kernel?

Traditionally, FreeBSD used a monolithic kernel. The kernel was one large program, supported a fixed list of devices, and in order to change the kernel's behavior, one had to compile and then reboot into a new kernel.

Today, most of the functionality in the FreeBSD kernel is contained in modules which can be dynamically loaded and unloaded from the kernel as necessary. This allows the running kernel to adapt immediately to new hardware or for new functionality to be brought into the kernel. This is known as a modular kernel.

Occasionally, it is still necessary to perform static kernel configuration. Sometimes the needed functionality is so tied to the kernel that it can not be made dynamically loadable. Some security environments prevent the loading and unloading of kernel modules and require that only needed functionality is statically compiled into the kernel.

Building a custom kernel is often a rite of passage for advanced BSD users. This process, while time consuming, can provide benefits to the FreeBSD system. Unlike the GENERIC kernel, which must support a wide range of hardware, a custom kernel can be stripped down to only provide support for that computer's hardware. This has a number of benefits, such as:

  • Faster boot time. Since the kernel will only probe the hardware on the system, the time it takes the system to boot can decrease.

  • Lower memory usage. A custom kernel often uses less memory than the GENERIC kernel by omitting unused features and device drivers. This is important because the kernel code remains resident in physical memory at all times, preventing that memory from being used by applications. For this reason, a custom kernel is useful on a system with a small amount of RAM.

  • Additional hardware support. A custom kernel can add support for devices which are not present in the GENERIC kernel.

Before building a custom kernel, consider the reason for doing so. If there is a need for specific hardware support, it may already exist as a module.

Kernel modules exist in /boot/kernel and may be dynamically loaded into the running kernel using kldload(8). Most kernel drivers have a loadable module and manual page. For example, the ath(4) wireless Ethernet driver has the following information in its manual page:

Alternatively, to load the driver as a module at boot time, place the
following line in loader.conf(5):


Adding if_ath_load="YES" to /boot/loader.conf will load this module dynamically at boot time.

In some cases, there is no associated module in /boot/kernel. This is mostly true for certain subsystems.

8.3. Finding the System Hardware

Before editing the kernel configuration file, it is recommended to perform an inventory of the machine's hardware. On a dual-boot system, the inventory can be created from the other operating system. For example, Microsoft®'s Device Manager contains information about installed devices.


Some versions of Microsoft® Windows® have a System icon which can be used to access Device Manager.

If FreeBSD is the only installed operating system, use dmesg(8) to determine the hardware that was found and listed during the boot probe. Most device drivers on FreeBSD have a manual page which lists the hardware supported by that driver. For example, the following lines indicate that the psm(4) driver found a mouse:

psm0: <PS/2 Mouse> irq 12 on atkbdc0
psm0: [ITHREAD]
psm0: model Generic PS/2 mouse, device ID 0

Since this hardware exists, this driver should not be removed from a custom kernel configuration file.

If the output of dmesg does not display the results of the boot probe output, instead read the contents of /var/run/dmesg.boot.

Another tool for finding hardware is pciconf(8), which provides more verbose output. For example:

% pciconf -lv
ath0@pci0:3:0:0:        class=0x020000 card=0x058a1014 chip=0x1014168c rev=0x01 hdr=0x00
    vendor     = 'Atheros Communications Inc.'
    device     = 'AR5212 Atheros AR5212 802.11abg wireless'
    class      = network
    subclass   = ethernet

This output shows that the ath driver located a wireless Ethernet device.

The -k flag of man(1) can be used to provide useful information. For example, to display a list of manual pages which contain the specified word:

# man -k Atheros
ath(4)                   - Atheros IEEE 802.11 wireless network driver
ath_hal(4)               - Atheros Hardware Access Layer (HAL)

Once the hardware inventory list is created, refer to it to ensure that drivers for installed hardware are not removed as the custom kernel configuration is edited.

8.4. The Configuration File

In order to create a custom kernel configuration file and build a custom kernel, the full FreeBSD source tree must first be installed.

If /usr/src/ does not exist or it is empty, source has not been installed. Source can be installed using Subversion and the instructions in Section A.4, “Using Subversion.

Once source is installed, review the contents of /usr/src/sys. This directory contains a number of subdirectories, including those which represent the following supported architectures: amd64, i386, ia64, pc98, powerpc, and sparc64. Everything inside a particular architecture's directory deals with that architecture only and the rest of the code is machine independent code common to all platforms. Each supported architecture has a conf subdirectory which contains the GENERIC kernel configuration file for that architecture.

Do not make edits to GENERIC. Instead, copy the file to a different name and make edits to the copy. The convention is to use a name with all capital letters. When maintaining multiple FreeBSD machines with different hardware, it is a good idea to name it after the machine's hostname. This example creates a copy, named MYKERNEL, of the GENERIC configuration file for the amd64 architecture:

# cd /usr/src/sys/amd64/conf

MYKERNEL can now be customized with any ASCII text editor. The default editor is vi, though an easier editor for beginners, called ee, is also installed with FreeBSD.

The format of the kernel configuration file is simple. Each line contains a keyword that represents a device or subsystem, an argument, and a brief description. Any text after a # is considered a comment and ignored. To remove kernel support for a device or subsystem, put a # at the beginning of the line representing that device or subsystem. Do not add or remove a # for any line that you do not understand.


It is easy to remove support for a device or option and end up with a broken kernel. For example, if the ata(4) driver is removed from the kernel configuration file, a system using ATA disk drivers may not boot. When in doubt, just leave support in the kernel.

In addition to the brief descriptions provided in this file, additional descriptions are contained in NOTES, which can be found in the same directory as GENERIC for that architecture. For architecture independent options, refer to /usr/src/sys/conf/NOTES.


When finished customizing the kernel configuration file, save a backup copy to a location outside of /usr/src.

Alternately, keep the kernel configuration file elsewhere and create a symbolic link to the file:

# cd /usr/src/sys/amd64/conf
# mkdir /root/kernels
# cp GENERIC /root/kernels/MYKERNEL
# ln -s /root/kernels/MYKERNEL

An include directive is available for use in configuration files. This allows another configuration file to be included in the current one, making it easy to maintain small changes relative to an existing file. If only a small number of additional options or drivers are required, this allows a delta to be maintained with respect to GENERIC, as seen in this example:

include GENERIC

options         IPFIREWALL
options         DUMMYNET
options         IPDIVERT

Using this method, the local configuration file expresses local differences from a GENERIC kernel. As upgrades are performed, new features added to GENERIC will also be added to the local kernel unless they are specifically prevented using nooptions or nodevice. A comprehensive list of configuration directives and their descriptions may be found in config(5).


To build a file which contains all available options, run the following command as root:

# cd /usr/src/sys/arch/conf && make LINT

8.5. Building and Installing a Custom Kernel

Once the edits to the custom configuration file have been saved, the source code for the kernel can be compiled using the following steps:

Procedure 8.1. Building a Kernel
  1. Change to this directory:

    # cd /usr/src
  2. Compile the new kernel by specifying the name of the custom kernel configuration file:

    # make buildkernel KERNCONF=MYKERNEL
  3. Install the new kernel associated with the specified kernel configuration file. This command will copy the new kernel to /boot/kernel/kernel and save the old kernel to /boot/kernel.old/kernel:

    # make installkernel KERNCONF=MYKERNEL
  4. Shutdown the system and reboot into the new kernel. If something goes wrong, refer to The kernel does not boot.

By default, when a custom kernel is compiled, all kernel modules are rebuilt. To update a kernel faster or to build only custom modules, edit /etc/make.conf before starting to build the kernel.

For example, this variable specifies the list of modules to build instead of using the default of building all modules:


Alternately, this variable lists which modules to exclude from the build process:

WITHOUT_MODULES = linux acpi sound

Additional variables are available. Refer to make.conf(5) for details.

8.6. If Something Goes Wrong

There are four categories of trouble that can occur when building a custom kernel:

config fails

If config fails, it will print the line number that is incorrect. As an example, for the following message, make sure that line 17 is typed correctly by comparing it to GENERIC or NOTES:

config: line 17: syntax error
make fails

If make fails, it is usually due to an error in the kernel configuration file which is not severe enough for config to catch. Review the configuration, and if the problem is not apparent, send an email to the FreeBSD general questions mailing list which contains the kernel configuration file.

The kernel does not boot

If the new kernel does not boot or fails to recognize devices, do not panic! Fortunately, FreeBSD has an excellent mechanism for recovering from incompatible kernels. Simply choose the kernel to boot from at the FreeBSD boot loader. This can be accessed when the system boot menu appears by selecting the Escape to a loader prompt option. At the prompt, type boot kernel.old, or the name of any other kernel that is known to boot properly.

After booting with a good kernel, check over the configuration file and try to build it again. One helpful resource is /var/log/messages which records the kernel messages from every successful boot. Also, dmesg(8) will print the kernel messages from the current boot.


When troubleshooting a kernel, make sure to keep a copy of GENERIC, or some other kernel that is known to work, as a different name that will not get erased on the next build. This is important because every time a new kernel is installed, kernel.old is overwritten with the last installed kernel, which may or may not be bootable. As soon as possible, move the working kernel by renaming the directory containing the good kernel:

# mv /boot/kernel /boot/kernel.bad
# mv /boot/kernel.good /boot/kernel
The kernel works, but ps(1) does not

If the kernel version differs from the one that the system utilities have been built with, for example, a kernel built from -CURRENT sources is installed on a -RELEASE system, many system status commands like ps(1) and vmstat(8) will not work. To fix this, recompile and install a world built with the same version of the source tree as the kernel. It is never a good idea to use a different version of the kernel than the rest of the operating system.

Chapter 9. Printing

Originally contributed by Warren Block.

Putting information on paper is a vital function, despite many attempts to eliminate it. Printing has two basic components. The data must be delivered to the printer, and must be in a form that the printer can understand.

9.1. Quick Start

Basic printing can be set up quickly. The printer must be capable of printing plain ASCII text. For printing to other types of files, see Section 9.5.3, “Filters”.

  1. Create a directory to store files while they are being printed:

    # mkdir -p /var/spool/lpd/lp
    # chown daemon:daemon /var/spool/lpd/lp
    # chmod 770 /var/spool/lpd/lp
  2. As root, create /etc/printcap with these contents:

    	:lp=/dev/unlpt0:\  1


    This line is for a printer connected to a USB port.

    For a printer connected to a parallel or printer port, use:


    For a printer connected directly to a network, use:


    Replace network-printer-name with the DNS host name of the network printer.

  3. Enable lpd by editing /etc/rc.conf, adding this line:


    Start the service:

    # service lpd start
    Starting lpd.
  4. Print a test:

    # printf "1. This printer can print.\n2. This is the second line.\n" | lpr


    If both lines do not start at the left border, but stairstep instead, see Section, “Preventing Stairstepping on Plain Text Printers”.

    Text files can now be printed with lpr. Give the filename on the command line, or pipe output directly into lpr.

    % lpr textfile.txt
    % ls -lh | lpr

9.2. Printer Connections

Printers are connected to computer systems in a variety of ways. Small desktop printers are usually connected directly to computer's USB port. Older printers are connected to a parallel or printer port. Some printers are directly connected to a network, making it easy for multiple computers share them. A few printers use a much less common serial port connection.

FreeBSD can communicate with all of these types of printers.


USB printers can be connected to any available USB port on the computer.

When FreeBSD detects a USB printer, two device entries are created: /dev/ulpt0 and /dev/unlpt0. Data sent to either device will be relayed to the printer. After each print job, ulpt0 resets the USB port. Resetting the port can cause problems with some printers, so the unlpt0 device is used instead. unlpt0 does not reset the USB port at all.

Parallel (IEEE-1284)

The parallel port device is /dev/lpt0. This device appears whether a printer is attached or not, it is not autodetected.

Vendors have largely moved away from these legacy ports, and many computers no longer have them. Adapters can be used to connect a parallel printer to a USB port. With such an adapter, the printer can be treated as if it were actually a USB printer. Devices called print servers can also be used to connect parallel printers directly to a network.

Serial (RS-232)

Serial ports are another legacy port, rarely used for printers except in certain niche applications. Cables, connectors, and required wiring vary widely.

For serial ports built into a motherboard, the serial device name is /dev/cuau0 or /dev/cuau1. Serial USB adapters can also be used, and these will appear as /dev/cuaU0.

Several communication parameters must be known to communicate with a serial printer. The most important are baud rate and parity. Values vary, but typical serial printers often use a baud rate of 9600 and no parity.


Network printers are connected directly to the local computer network.

The DNS hostname of the printer must be known. If the printer is assigned a dynamic address by DHCP, DNS should be dynamically updated so that the host name always has the correct IP address. Network printers are often given static IP addresses to avoid this problem.

Most network printers understand print jobs sent with the LPD protocol. A print queue name can also be specified. Some printers process data differently depending on which queue is used. For example, a raw queue prints the data unchanged, while the text queue adds carriage returns to plain text.

Many network printers can also print data sent directly to port 9100.

9.2.1. Summary

Wired network connections are usually the easiest to set up and give the fastest printing. For direct connection to the computer, USB is preferred for speed and simplicity. Parallel connections work but have limitations on cable length and speed. Serial connections are more difficult to configure. Cable wiring differs between models, and communication parameters like baud rate and parity bits must add to the complexity. Fortunately, serial printers are rare.

9.3. Common Page Description Languages

Data sent to a printer must be in a language that the printer can understand. These languages are called Page Description Languages, or PDLs.


Plain ASCII text is the simplest way to send data to a printer. Characters correspond one to one with what will be printed: an A in the data prints an A on the page. Very little formatting is available. There is no way to select a font or proportional spacing. The forced simplicity of plain ASCII means that text can be printed straight from the computer with little or no encoding or translation. The printed output corresponds directly with what was sent.

Some inexpensive printers cannot print plain ASCII text. This makes them more difficult to set up, but it is usually still possible.


PostScript® is almost the opposite of ASCII. Rather than simple text, a PostScript® program is a set of instructions that draw the final document. Different fonts and graphics can be used. However, this power comes at a price. The program that draws the page must be written. Usually this program is generated by application software, so the process is invisible to the user.

Inexpensive printers sometimes leave out PostScript® compatibility as a cost-saving measure.

PCL (Printer Command Language)

PCL is an extension of ASCII, adding escape sequences for formatting, font selection, and printing graphics. Many printers provide PCL5 support. Some support the newer PCL6 or PCLXL. These later versions are supersets of PCL5 and can provide faster printing.


Manufacturers can reduce the cost of a printer by giving it a simple processor and very little memory. These printers are not capable of printing plain text. Instead, bitmaps of text and graphics are drawn by a driver on the host computer and then sent to the printer. These are called host-based printers.

Communication between the driver and a host-based printer is often through proprietary or undocumented protocols, making them functional only on the most common operating systems.

9.3.1. Converting PostScript® to Other PDLs

Many applications from the Ports Collection and FreeBSD utilities produce PostScript® output. This table shows the utilities available to convert that into other common PDLs:

Table 9.1. Output PDLs
Output PDLGenerated ByNotes
PCL or PCL5print/ghostscript9-sDEVICE=ljet4 for monochrome, -sDEVICE=cljet5 for color
PCLXL or PCL6print/ghostscript9-sDEVICE=pxlmono for monochrome, -sDEVICE=pxlcolor for color

9.3.2. Summary

For the easiest printing, choose a printer that supports PostScript®. Printers that support PCL are the next preferred. With print/ghostscript, these printers can be used as if they understood PostScript® natively. Printers that support PostScript® or PCL directly almost always support direct printing of plain ASCII text files also.

Line-based printers like typical inkjets usually do not support PostScript® or PCL. They often can print plain ASCII text files. print/ghostscript supports the PDLs used by some of these printers. However, printing an entire graphic-based page on these printers is often very slow due to the large amount of data to be transferred and printed.

Host-based printers are often more difficult to set up. Some cannot be used at all because of proprietary PDLs. Avoid these printers when possible.

Descriptions of many PDLs can be found at The particular PDL used by various models of printers can be found at

9.4. Direct Printing

For occasional printing, files can be sent directly to a printer device without any setup. For example, a file called sample.txt can be sent to a USB printer:

# cp sample.txt /dev/unlpt0

Direct printing to network printers depends on the abilities of the printer, but most accept print jobs on port 9100, and nc(1) can be used with them. To print the same file to a printer with the DNS hostname of netlaser:

# nc netlaser 9100 < sample.txt

9.5. LPD (Line Printer Daemon)

Printing a file in the background is called spooling. A spooler allows the user to continue with other programs on the computer without waiting for the printer to slowly complete the print job.

FreeBSD includes a spooler called lpd(8). Print jobs are submitted with lpr(1).

9.5.1. Initial Setup

A directory for storing print jobs is created, ownership is set, and the permissions are set to prevent other users from viewing the contents of those files:

# mkdir -p /var/spool/lpd/lp
# chown daemon:daemon /var/spool/lpd/lp
# chmod 770 /var/spool/lpd/lp

Printers are defined in /etc/printcap. An entry for each printer includes details like a name, the port where it is attached, and various other settings. Create /etc/printcap with these contents:

lp:\				1
	:lp=/dev/unlpt0:\	2
	:sh:\			3
	:mx#0:\			4
	:sd=/var/spool/lpd/lp:\	5
	:lf=/var/log/lpd-errs:	6


The name of this printer. lpr(1) sends print jobs to the lp printer unless another printer is specified with -P, so the default printer should be named lp.


The device where the printer is connected. Replace this line with the appropriate one for the connection type shown here.

Connection TypeDevice Entry in /etc/printcap

This is the non-resetting USB printer device. If problems are experienced, use ulpt0 instead, which resets the USB port on each use.


For a printer supporting the LPD protocol:


For printers supporting port 9100 printing:


For both types, replace network-printer-name with the DNS host name of the network printer.


These values are for a typical serial printer connected to a motherboard serial port. The baud rate is 9600, and no parity is used.


Suppress the printing of a header page at the start of a print job.


Do not limit the maximum size of a print job.


The path to the spooling directory for this printer. Each printer uses its own spooling directory.


The log file where errors on this printer will be reported.

After creating /etc/printcap, use chkprintcap(8) to test it for errors:

# chkprintcap

Fix any reported problems before continuing.

Enable lpd(8) in /etc/rc.conf:


Start the service:

# service lpd start

9.5.2. Printing with lpr(1)

Documents are sent to the printer with lpr. A file to be printed can be named on the command line or piped into lpr. These two commands are equivalent, sending the contents of doc.txt to the default printer:

% lpr doc.txt
% cat doc.txt | lpr

Printers can be selected with -P. To print to a printer called laser:

% lpr -Plaser doc.txt

9.5.3. Filters

The examples shown so far have sent the contents of a text file directly to the printer. As long as the printer understands the content of those files, output will be printed correctly.

Some printers are not capable of printing plain text, and the input file might not even be plain text.

Filters allow files to be translated or processed. The typical use is to translate one type of input, like plain text, into a form that the printer can understand, like PostScript® or PCL. Filters can also be used to provide additional features, like adding page numbers or highlighting source code to make it easier to read.

The filters discussed here are input filters or text filters. These filters convert the incoming file into different forms. Use su(1) to become root before creating the files.

Filters are specified in /etc/printcap with the if= identifier. To use /usr/local/libexec/lf2crlf as a filter, modify /etc/printcap like this:

	:if=/usr/local/libexec/lf2crlf:\   1


if= identifies the input filter that will be used on incoming text.


The backslash line continuation characters at the end of the lines in printcap entries reveal that an entry for a printer is really just one long line with entries delimited by colon characters. An earlier example can be rewritten as a single less-readable line:

lp:lp=/dev/unlpt0:sh:mx#0:sd=/var/spool/lpd/lp:if=/usr/local/libexec/lf2crlf:lf=/var/log/lpd-errs: Preventing Stairstepping on Plain Text Printers

Typical FreeBSD text files contain only a single line feed character at the end of each line. These lines will stairstep on a standard printer:

A printed file looks
                    like the steps of a staircase
                                                 scattered by the wind

A filter can convert the newline characters into carriage returns and newlines. The carriage returns make the printer return to the left after each line. Create /usr/local/libexec/lf2crlf with these contents:

/usr/bin/sed -e "s/$/${CR}/g"

Set the permissions and make it executable:

# chmod 555 /usr/local/libexec/lf2crlf

Modify /etc/printcap to use the new filter:


Test the filter by printing the same plain text file. The carriage returns will cause each line to start at the left side of the page. Fancy Plain Text on PostScript® Printers with print/enscript

GNU Enscript converts plain text files into nicely-formatted PostScript® for printing on PostScript® printers. It adds page numbers, wraps long lines, and provides numerous other features to make printed text files easier to read. Depending on the local paper size, install either print/enscript-letter or print/enscript-a4 from the Ports Collection.

Create /usr/local/libexec/enscript with these contents:

/usr/local/bin/enscript -o -

Set the permissions and make it executable:

# chmod 555 /usr/local/libexec/enscript

Modify /etc/printcap to use the new filter:


Test the filter by printing a plain text file. Printing PostScript® to PCL Printers

Many programs produce PostScript® documents. However, inexpensive printers often only understand plain text or PCL. This filter converts PostScript® files to PCL before sending them to the printer.

Install the Ghostscript PostScript® interpreter, print/ghostscript9, from the Ports Collection.

Create /usr/local/libexec/ps2pcl with these contents:

/usr/local/bin/gs -dSAFER -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -q -sDEVICE=ljet4 -sOutputFile=- -

Set the permissions and make it executable:

# chmod 555 /usr/local/libexec/ps2pcl

PostScript® input sent to this script will be rendered and converted to PCL before being sent on to the printer.

Modify /etc/printcap to use this new input filter:


Test the filter by sending a small PostScript® program to it:

% printf "%%\!PS \n /Helvetica findfont 18 scalefont setfont \
72 432 moveto (PostScript printing successful.) show showpage \004" | lpr Smart Filters

A filter that detects the type of input and automatically converts it to the correct format for the printer can be very convenient. The first two characters of a PostScript® file are usually %!. A filter can detect those two characters. PostScript® files can be sent on to a PostScript® printer unchanged. Text files can be converted to PostScript® with Enscript as shown earlier. Create /usr/local/libexec/psif with these contents:

#  psif - Print PostScript or plain text on a PostScript printer
IFS="" read -r first_line
first_two_chars=`expr "$first_line" : '\(..\)'`

case "$first_two_chars" in
    # %! : PostScript job, print it.
    echo "$first_line" && cat && exit 0
    exit 2
    # otherwise, format with enscript
    ( echo "$first_line"; cat ) | /usr/local/bin/enscript -o - && exit 0
    exit 2

Set the permissions and make it executable:

# chmod 555 /usr/local/libexec/psif

Modify /etc/printcap to use this new input filter:


Test the filter by printing PostScript® and plain text files. Other Smart Filters

Writing a filter that detects many different types of input and formats them correctly is challenging. print/apsfilter from the Ports Collection is a smart magic filter that detects dozens of file types and automatically converts them to the PDL understood by the printer. See for more details.

9.5.4. Multiple Queues

The entries in /etc/printcap are really definitions of queues. There can be more than one queue for a single printer. When combined with filters, multiple queues provide users more control over how their jobs are printed.

As an example, consider a networked PostScript® laser printer in an office. Most users want to print plain text, but a few advanced users want to be able to print PostScript® files directly. Two entries can be created for the same printer in /etc/printcap:



Documents sent to textprinter will be formatted by the /usr/local/libexec/enscript filter shown in an earlier example. Advanced users can print PostScript® files on psprinter, where no filtering is done.

This multiple queue technique can be used to provide direct access to all kinds of printer features. A printer with a duplexer could use two queues, one for ordinary single-sided printing, and one with a filter that sends the command sequence to enable double-sided printing and then sends the incoming file.

9.5.5. Monitoring and Controlling Printing

Several utilities are available to monitor print jobs and check and control printer operation. lpq(1)

lpq(1) shows the status of a user's print jobs. Print jobs from other users are not shown.

Show the current user's pending jobs on a single printer:

% lpq -Plp
Rank   Owner      Job  Files                                 Total Size
1st    jsmith     0    (standard input)                      12792 bytes

Show the current user's pending jobs on all printers:

% lpq -a
Rank   Owner      Job  Files                                 Total Size
1st    jsmith     1    (standard input)                      27320 bytes

Rank   Owner      Job  Files                                 Total Size
1st    jsmith     287  (standard input)                      22443 bytes lprm(1)

lprm(1) is used to remove print jobs. Normal users are only allowed to remove their own jobs. root can remove any or all jobs.

Remove all pending jobs from a printer:

# lprm -Plp -
dfA002smithy dequeued
cfA002smithy dequeued
dfA003smithy dequeued
cfA003smithy dequeued
dfA004smithy dequeued
cfA004smithy dequeued

Remove a single job from a printer. lpq(1) is used to find the job number.

% lpq
Rank   Owner      Job  Files                                 Total Size
1st    jsmith     5    (standard input)                      12188 bytes
% lprm -Plp 5
dfA005smithy dequeued
cfA005smithy dequeued lpc(8)

lpc(8) is used to check and modify printer status. lpc is followed by a command and an optional printer name. all can be used instead of a specific printer name, and the command will be applied to all printers. Normal users can view status with lpc(8). Only class="username">root can use commands which modify printer status.

Show the status of all printers:

% lpc status all
	queuing is enabled
	printing is enabled
	1 entry in spool area
	printer idle
	queuing is enabled
	printing is enabled
	1 entry in spool area
	waiting for laser to come up

Prevent a printer from accepting new jobs, then begin accepting new jobs again:

# lpc disable lp
	queuing disabled
# lpc enable lp
	queuing enabled

Stop printing, but continue to accept new jobs. Then begin printing again:

# lpc stop lp
	printing disabled
# lpc start lp
	printing enabled
	daemon started

Restart a printer after some error condition:

# lpc restart lp
	no daemon to abort
	printing enabled
	daemon restarted

Turn the print queue off and disable printing, with a message to explain the problem to users:

# lpc down lp Repair parts will arrive on Monday
	printer and queuing disabled
	status message is now: Repair parts will arrive on Monday

Re-enable a printer that is down:

# lpc up lp
	printing enabled
	daemon started

See lpc(8) for more commands and options.

9.5.6. Shared Printers

Printers are often shared by multiple users in businesses and schools. Additional features are provided to make sharing printers more convenient. Aliases

The printer name is set in the first line of the entry in /etc/printcap. Additional names, or aliases, can be added after that name. Aliases are separated from the name and each other by vertical bars:


Aliases can be used in place of the printer name. For example, users in the Sales department print to their printer with

% lpr -Psalesprinter sales-report.txt

Users in the Repairs department print to their printer with

% lpr -Prepairsprinter repairs-report.txt

All of the documents print on that single printer. When the Sales department grows enough to need their own printer, the alias is removed from the shared printer entry and used as the name of the new printer. Users in both departments continue to use the same commands, but the Sales documents are sent to the new printer. Header Pages

Users can have difficulty locating their documents in the stack of pages produced by a busy shared printer. Header pages were created to solve this problem. A header page with the user name and document name is printed before each print job. These pages are also sometimes called banner or separator pages.

Enabling header pages differs depending on whether the printer is connected directly to the computer with a USB, parallel, or serial cable, or is connected remotely by the network.

Header pages on directly-connected printers are enabled by removing the :sh:\ (Suppress Header) line from the entry in /etc/printcap. These header pages only use line feed characters for new lines. Some printers will need the /usr/share/examples/printing/hpif filter to prevent stairstepped text. The filter configures PCL printers to print both carriage returns and line feeds when a line feed is received.

Header pages for network printers must be configured on the printer itself. Header page entries in /etc/printcap are ignored. Settings are usually available from the printer front panel or a configuration web page accessible with a web browser.

9.5.7. References

Example files: /usr/share/examples/printing/.

The 4.3BSD Line Printer Spooler Manual, /usr/share/doc/smm/07.lpd/paper.ascii.gz.

Manual pages: printcap(5), lpd(8), lpr(1), lpc(8), lprm(1), lpq(1).

9.6. Other Printing Systems

Several other printing systems are available in addition to the built-in lpd(8). These systems offer support for other protocols or additional features.

9.6.1. CUPS (Common UNIX® Printing System)

CUPS is a popular printing system available on many operating systems. Using CUPS on FreeBSD is documented in a separate article:../../../../doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/articles/cups

9.6.2. HPLIP

Hewlett Packard provides a printing system that supports many of their inkjet and laser printers. The port is print/hplip. The main web page is at The port handles all the installation details on FreeBSD. Configuration information is shown at

9.6.3. LPRng

LPRng was developed as an enhanced alternative to lpd(8). The port is sysutils/LPRng. For details and documentation, see

Chapter 10. Linux® Binary Compatibility

Restructured and parts updated by Jim Mock.
Originally contributed by Brian N. Handy and Rich Murphey.

10.1. Synopsis

FreeBSD provides 32-bit binary compatibility with Linux®, allowing users to install and run most 32-bit Linux® binaries on a FreeBSD system without having to first modify the binary. It has even been reported that, in some situations, 32-bit Linux® binaries perform better on FreeBSD than they do on Linux®.

However, some Linux®-specific operating system features are not supported under FreeBSD. For example, Linux® binaries will not work on FreeBSD if they overly use i386™ specific calls, such as enabling virtual 8086 mode. In addition, 64-bit Linux® binaries are not supported at this time.

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • How to enable Linux® binary compatibility on a FreeBSD system.

  • How to install additional Linux® shared libraries.

  • How to install Linux® applications on a FreeBSD system.

  • The implementation details of Linux® compatibility in FreeBSD.

Before reading this chapter, you should:

10.2. Configuring Linux® Binary Compatibility

By default, Linux® libraries are not installed and Linux® binary compatibility is not enabled. Linux® libraries can either be installed manually or from the FreeBSD Ports Collection.

Before attempting to build the port, load the Linux® kernel module, otherwise the build will fail:

# kldload linux

To verify that the module is loaded:

% kldstat
      Id Refs Address    Size     Name
      1    2 0xc0100000 16bdb8   kernel
      7    1 0xc24db000 d000     linux.ko

The emulators/linux_base-c6 package or port is the easiest way to install a base set of Linux® libraries and binaries on a FreeBSD system. To install the port:

# printf "compat.linux.osrelease=2.6.18\n" >> /etc/sysctl.conf
# sysctl compat.linux.osrelease=2.6.18
# pkg install emulators/linux_base-c6

For Linux® compatibility to be enabled at boot time, add this line to /etc/rc.conf:


Users who prefer to statically link Linux® binary compatibility into a custom kernel should add options COMPAT_LINUX to their custom kernel configuration file. Compile and install the new kernel as described in Chapter 8, Configuring the FreeBSD Kernel.

10.2.1. Installing Additional Libraries Manually

If a Linux® application complains about missing shared libraries after configuring Linux® binary compatibility, determine which shared libraries the Linux® binary needs and install them manually.

From a Linux® system, ldd can be used to determine which shared libraries the application needs. For example, to check which shared libraries linuxdoom needs, run this command from a Linux® system that has Doom installed:

% ldd linuxdoom (DLL Jump 3.1) => /usr/X11/lib/ (DLL Jump 3.1) => /usr/X11/lib/ (DLL Jump 4.5pl26) => /lib/

Then, copy all the files in the last column of the output from the Linux® system into /compat/linux on the FreeBSD system. Once copied, create symbolic links to the names in the first column. This example will result in the following files on the FreeBSD system:

/compat/linux/usr/X11/lib/ ->
/compat/linux/usr/X11/lib/ ->
/compat/linux/lib/ ->

If a Linux® shared library already exists with a matching major revision number to the first column of the ldd output, it does not need to be copied to the file named in the last column, as the existing library should work. It is advisable to copy the shared library if it is a newer version, though. The old one can be removed, as long as the symbolic link points to the new one.

For example, these libraries already exist on the FreeBSD system:

/compat/linux/lib/ ->

and ldd indicates that a binary requires a later version: (DLL Jump 4.5pl26) ->

Since the existing library is only one or two versions out of date in the last digit, the program should still work with the slightly older version. However, it is safe to replace the existing with the newer version:

/compat/linux/lib/ ->

Generally, one will need to look for the shared libraries that Linux® binaries depend on only the first few times that a Linux® program is installed on FreeBSD. After a while, there will be a sufficient set of Linux® shared libraries on the system to be able to run newly installed Linux® binaries without any extra work.

10.2.2. Installing Linux® ELF Binaries

ELF binaries sometimes require an extra step. When an unbranded ELF binary is executed, it will generate an error message:

% ./my-linux-elf-binary
ELF binary type not known

To help the FreeBSD kernel distinguish between a FreeBSD ELF binary and a Linux® binary, use brandelf(1):

% brandelf -t Linux my-linux-elf-binary

Since the GNU toolchain places the appropriate branding information into ELF binaries automatically, this step is usually not necessary.

10.2.3. Installing a Linux® RPM Based Application

In order to install a Linux® RPM-based application, first install the archivers/rpm package or port. Once installed, root can use this command to install a .rpm:

# cd /compat/linux
# rpm2cpio < /path/to/linux.archive.rpm | cpio -id

If necessary, brandelf the installed ELF binaries. Note that this will prevent a clean uninstall.

10.2.4. Configuring the Hostname Resolver

If DNS does not work or this error appears:

resolv+: "bind" is an invalid keyword resolv+:
"hosts" is an invalid keyword

configure /compat/linux/etc/host.conf as follows:

order hosts, bind
multi on

This specifies that /etc/hosts is searched first and DNS is searched second. When /compat/linux/etc/host.conf does not exist, Linux® applications use /etc/host.conf and complain about the incompatible FreeBSD syntax. Remove bind if a name server is not configured using /etc/resolv.conf.

10.3. Advanced Topics

This section describes how Linux® binary compatibility works and is based on an email written to FreeBSD chat mailing list by Terry Lambert (Message ID: <>).

FreeBSD has an abstraction called an execution class loader. This is a wedge into the execve(2) system call.

Historically, the UNIX® loader examined the magic number (generally the first 4 or 8 bytes of the file) to see if it was a binary known to the system, and if so, invoked the binary loader.

If it was not the binary type for the system, the execve(2) call returned a failure, and the shell attempted to start executing it as shell commands. The assumption was a default of whatever the current shell is.

Later, a hack was made for sh(1) to examine the first two characters, and if they were :\n, it invoked the csh(1) shell instead.

FreeBSD has a list of loaders, instead of a single loader, with a fallback to the #! loader for running shell interpreters or shell scripts.

For the Linux® ABI support, FreeBSD sees the magic number as an ELF binary. The ELF loader looks for a specialized brand, which is a comment section in the ELF image, and which is not present on SVR4/Solaris™ ELF binaries.

For Linux® binaries to function, they must be branded as type Linux using brandelf(1):

# brandelf -t Linux file

When the ELF loader sees the Linux brand, the loader replaces a pointer in the proc structure. All system calls are indexed through this pointer. In addition, the process is flagged for special handling of the trap vector for the signal trampoline code, and several other (minor) fix-ups that are handled by the Linux® kernel module.

The Linux® system call vector contains, among other things, a list of sysent[] entries whose addresses reside in the kernel module.

When a system call is called by the Linux® binary, the trap code dereferences the system call function pointer off the proc structure, and gets the Linux®, not the FreeBSD, system call entry points.

Linux® mode dynamically reroots lookups. This is, in effect, equivalent to the union option to file system mounts. First, an attempt is made to lookup the file in /compat/linux/original-path. If that fails, the lookup is done in /original-path. This makes sure that binaries that require other binaries can run. For example, the Linux® toolchain can all run under Linux® ABI support. It also means that the Linux® binaries can load and execute FreeBSD binaries, if there are no corresponding Linux® binaries present, and that a uname(1) command can be placed in the /compat/linux directory tree to ensure that the Linux® binaries can not tell they are not running on Linux®.

In effect, there is a Linux® kernel in the FreeBSD kernel. The various underlying functions that implement all of the services provided by the kernel are identical to both the FreeBSD system call table entries, and the Linux® system call table entries: file system operations, virtual memory operations, signal delivery, and System V IPC. The only difference is that FreeBSD binaries get the FreeBSD glue functions, and Linux® binaries get the Linux® glue functions. The FreeBSD glue functions are statically linked into the kernel, and the Linux® glue functions can be statically linked, or they can be accessed via a kernel module.

Technically, this is not really emulation, it is an ABI implementation. It is sometimes called Linux® emulation because the implementation was done at a time when there was no other word to describe what was going on. Saying that FreeBSD ran Linux® binaries was not true, since the code was not compiled in.

Part III. System Administration

The remaining chapters of the FreeBSD Handbook cover all aspects of FreeBSD system administration. Each chapter starts by describing what you will learn as a result of reading the chapter, and also details what you are expected to know before tackling the material.

These chapters are designed to be read when you need the information. You do not have to read them in any particular order, nor do you need to read all of them before you can begin using FreeBSD.

Table of Contents
11. Configuration and Tuning
11.1. Synopsis
11.2. Starting Services
11.3. Configuring cron(8)
11.4. Managing Services in FreeBSD
11.5. Setting Up Network Interface Cards
11.6. Virtual Hosts
11.7. Configuring System Logging
11.8. Configuration Files
11.9. Tuning with sysctl(8)
11.10. Tuning Disks
11.11. Tuning Kernel Limits
11.12. Adding Swap Space
11.13. Power and Resource Management
12. The FreeBSD Booting Process
12.1. Synopsis
12.2. FreeBSD Boot Process
12.3. Configuring Boot Time Splash Screens
12.4. Device Hints
12.5. Shutdown Sequence
13. Security
13.1. Synopsis
13.2. Introduction
13.3. One-time Passwords
13.4. TCP Wrapper
13.5. Kerberos
13.6. OpenSSL
13.7. VPN over IPsec
13.8. OpenSSH
13.9. Access Control Lists
13.10. Monitoring Third Party Security Issues
13.11. FreeBSD Security Advisories
13.12. Process Accounting
13.13. Resource Limits
14. Jails
14.1. Synopsis
14.2. Terms Related to Jails
14.3. Creating and Controlling Jails
14.4. Fine Tuning and Administration
14.5. Updating Multiple Jails
14.6. Managing Jails with ezjail
15. Mandatory Access Control
15.1. Synopsis
15.2. Key Terms
15.3. Understanding MAC Labels
15.4. Planning the Security Configuration
15.5. Available MAC Policies
15.6. User Lock Down
15.7. Nagios in a MAC Jail
15.8. Troubleshooting the MAC Framework
16. Security Event Auditing
16.1. Synopsis
16.2. Key Terms
16.3. Audit Configuration
16.4. Working with Audit Trails
17. Storage
17.1. Synopsis
17.2. Adding Disks
17.3. Resizing and Growing Disks
17.4. USB Storage Devices
17.5. Creating and Using CD Media
17.6. Creating and Using DVD Media
17.7. Creating and Using Floppy Disks
17.8. Backup Basics
17.9. Memory Disks
17.10. File System Snapshots
17.11. Disk Quotas
17.12. Encrypting Disk Partitions
17.13. Encrypting Swap
17.14. Highly Available Storage (HAST)
18. GEOM: Modular Disk Transformation Framework
18.1. Synopsis
18.2. RAID0 - Striping
18.3. RAID1 - Mirroring
18.4. RAID3 - Byte-level Striping with Dedicated Parity
18.5. Software RAID Devices
18.6. GEOM Gate Network
18.7. Labeling Disk Devices
18.8. UFS Journaling Through GEOM
19. The Z File System (ZFS)
19.1. What Makes ZFS Different
19.2. Quick Start Guide
19.3. zpool Administration
19.4. zfs Administration
19.5. Delegated Administration
19.6. Advanced Topics
19.7. Additional Resources
19.8. ZFS Features and Terminology
20. Other File Systems
20.1. Synopsis
20.2. Linux® File Systems
21. Virtualization
21.1. Synopsis
21.2. FreeBSD as a Guest on Parallels for Mac OS® X
21.3. FreeBSD as a Guest on Virtual PC for Windows®
21.4. FreeBSD as a Guest on VMware Fusion for Mac OS®
21.5. VirtualBox™ Guest Additions on a FreeBSD Guest
21.6. FreeBSD as a Host with VirtualBox
21.7. FreeBSD as a Host with bhyve
22. Localization - i18n/L10n Usage and Setup
22.1. Synopsis
22.2. Using Localization
22.3. Finding i18n Applications
22.4. Locale Configuration for Specific Languages
23. Updating and Upgrading FreeBSD
23.1. Synopsis
23.2. FreeBSD Update
23.3. Updating the Documentation Set
23.4. Tracking a Development Branch
23.5. Synchronizing Source
23.6. Rebuilding World
23.7. Tracking for Multiple Machines
24. DTrace
24.1. Synopsis
24.2. Implementation Differences
24.3. Enabling DTrace Support
24.4. Using DTrace

Chapter 11. Configuration and Tuning

Written by Chern Lee.
Based on a tutorial written by Mike Smith.
Also based on tuning(7) written by Matt Dillon.

11.1. Synopsis

One of the important aspects of FreeBSD is proper system configuration. This chapter explains much of the FreeBSD configuration process, including some of the parameters which can be set to tune a FreeBSD system.

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • The basics of rc.conf configuration and /usr/local/etc/rc.d startup scripts.

  • How to configure and test a network card.

  • How to configure virtual hosts on network devices.

  • How to use the various configuration files in /etc.

  • How to tune FreeBSD using sysctl(8) variables.

  • How to tune disk performance and modify kernel limitations.

Before reading this chapter, you should:

11.2. Starting Services

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

Many users install third party software on FreeBSD from the Ports Collection and require the installed services to be started upon system initialization. Services, such as mail/postfix or www/apache22 are just two of the many software packages which may be started during system initialization. This section explains the procedures available for starting third party software.

In FreeBSD, most included services, such as cron(8), are started through the system start up scripts.

11.2.1. Extended Application Configuration

Now that FreeBSD includes rc.d, configuration of application startup is easier and provides more features. Using the key words discussed in Section 11.4, “Managing Services in FreeBSD”, applications can be set to start after certain other services and extra flags can be passed through /etc/rc.conf in place of hard coded flags in the start up script. A basic script may look similar to the following:

# PROVIDE: utility
# KEYWORD: shutdown

. /etc/rc.subr



load_rc_config $name

# SET THEM IN THE /etc/rc.conf FILE

run_rc_command "$1"

This script will ensure that the provided utility will be started after the DAEMON pseudo-service. It also provides a method for setting and tracking the process ID (PID).

This application could then have the following line placed in /etc/rc.conf:


This method allows for easier manipulation of command line arguments, inclusion of the default functions provided in /etc/rc.subr, compatibility with rcorder(8), and provides for easier configuration via rc.conf.

11.2.2. Using Services to Start Services

Other services can be started using inetd(8). Working with inetd(8) and its configuration is described in depth in Section 28.2, “The inetd Super-Server”.

In some cases, it may make more sense to use cron(8) to start system services. This approach has a number of advantages as cron(8) runs these processes as the owner of the crontab(5). This allows regular users to start and maintain their own applications.

The @reboot feature of cron(8), may be used in place of the time specification. This causes the job to run when cron(8) is started, normally during system initialization.

11.3. Configuring cron(8)

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

One of the most useful utilities in FreeBSD is cron. This utility runs in the background and regularly checks /etc/crontab for tasks to execute and searches /var/cron/tabs for custom crontab files. These files are used to schedule tasks which cron runs at the specified times. Each entry in a crontab defines a task to run and is known as a cron job.

Two different types of configuration files are used: the system crontab, which should not be modified, and user crontabs, which can be created and edited as needed. The format used by these files is documented in crontab(5). The format of the system crontab, /etc/crontab includes a who column which does not exist in user crontabs. In the system crontab, cron runs the command as the user specified in this column. In a user crontab, all commands run as the user who created the crontab.

User crontabs allow individual users to schedule their own tasks. The root user can also have a user crontab which can be used to schedule tasks that do not exist in the system crontab.

Here is a sample entry from the system crontab, /etc/crontab:

# /etc/crontab - root's crontab for FreeBSD
# $FreeBSD: head/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/config/chapter.xml 47772 2015-11-11 17:44:52Z wblock $
# 1
PATH=/etc:/bin:/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin 2
#minute	hour	mday	month	wday	who	command 3
*/5	*	*	*	*	root	/usr/libexec/atrun 4


Lines that begin with the # character are comments. A comment can be placed in the file as a reminder of what and why a desired action is performed. Comments cannot be on the same line as a command or else they will be interpreted as part of the command; they must be on a new line. Blank lines are ignored.


The equals (=) character is used to define any environment settings. In this example, it is used to define the SHELL and PATH. If the SHELL is omitted, cron will use the default Bourne shell. If the PATH is omitted, the full path must be given to the command or script to run.


This line defines the seven fields used in a system crontab: minute, hour, mday, month, wday, who, and command. The minute field is the time in minutes when the specified command will be run, the hour is the hour when the specified command will be run, the mday is the day of the month, month is the month, and wday is the day of the week. These fields must be numeric values, representing the twenty-four hour clock, or a *, representing all values for that field. The who field only exists in the system crontab and specifies which user the command should be run as. The last field is the command to be executed.


This entry defines the values for this cron job. The */5, followed by several more * characters, specifies that /usr/libexec/atrun is invoked by root every five minutes of every hour, of every day and day of the week, of every month.

Commands can include any number of switches. However, commands which extend to multiple lines need to be broken with the backslash \ continuation character.

11.3.1. Creating a User Crontab

To create a user crontab, invoke crontab in editor mode:

% crontab -e

This will open the user's crontab using the default text editor. The first time a user runs this command, it will open an empty file. Once a user creates a crontab, this command will open that file for editing.

It is useful to add these lines to the top of the crontab file in order to set the environment variables and to remember the meanings of the fields in the crontab:

# Order of crontab fields
# minute	hour	mday	month	wday	command

Then add a line for each command or script to run, specifying the time to run the command. This example runs the specified custom Bourne shell script every day at two in the afternoon. Since the path to the script is not specified in PATH, the full path to the script is given:

0	14	*	*	*	/usr/home/dru/bin/


Before using a custom script, make sure it is executable and test it with the limited set of environment variables set by cron. To replicate the environment that would be used to run the above cron entry, use:

env -i SHELL=/bin/sh PATH=/etc:/bin:/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin HOME=/home/dru LOGNAME=dru /usr/home/dru/bin/

The environment set by cron is discussed in crontab(5). Checking that scripts operate correctly in a cron environment is especially important if they include any commands that delete files using wildcards.

When finished editing the crontab, save the file. It will automatically be installed and cron will read the crontab and run its cron jobs at their specified times. To list the cron jobs in a crontab, use this command:

% crontab -l
0	14	*	*	*	/usr/home/dru/bin/

To remove all of the cron jobs in a user crontab:

% crontab -r
remove crontab for dru? y

11.4. Managing Services in FreeBSD

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

FreeBSD uses the rc(8) system of startup scripts during system initialization and for managing services. The scripts listed in /etc/rc.d provide basic services which can be controlled with the start, stop, and restart options to service(8). For instance, sshd(8) can be restarted with the following command:

# service sshd restart

This procedure can be used to start services on a running system. Services will be started automatically at boot time as specified in rc.conf(5). For example, to enable natd(8) at system startup, add the following line to /etc/rc.conf:


If a natd_enable="NO" line is already present, change the NO to YES. The rc(8) scripts will automatically load any dependent services during the next boot, as described below.

Since the rc(8) system is primarily intended to start and stop services at system startup and shutdown time, the start, stop and restart options will only perform their action if the appropriate /etc/rc.conf variable is set. For instance, sshd restart will only work if sshd_enable is set to YES in /etc/rc.conf. To start, stop or restart a service regardless of the settings in /etc/rc.conf, these commands should be prefixed with one. For instance, to restart sshd(8) regardless of the current /etc/rc.conf setting, execute the following command:

# service sshd onerestart

To check if a service is enabled in /etc/rc.conf, run the appropriate rc(8) script with rcvar. This example checks to see if sshd(8) is enabled in /etc/rc.conf:

# service sshd rcvar
# sshd
#   (default: "")


The # sshd line is output from the above command, not a root console.

To determine whether or not a service is running, use status. For instance, to verify that sshd(8) is running:

# service sshd status
sshd is running as pid 433.

In some cases, it is also possible to reload a service. This attempts to send a signal to an individual service, forcing the service to reload its configuration files. In most cases, this means sending the service a SIGHUP signal. Support for this feature is not included for every service.

The rc(8) system is used for network services and it also contributes to most of the system initialization. For instance, when the /etc/rc.d/bgfsck script is executed, it prints out the following message:

Starting background file system checks in 60 seconds.

This script is used for background file system checks, which occur only during system initialization.

Many system services depend on other services to function properly. For example, yp(8) and other RPC-based services may fail to start until after the rpcbind(8) service has started. To resolve this issue, information about dependencies and other meta-data is included in the comments at the top of each startup script. The rcorder(8) program is used to parse these comments during system initialization to determine the order in which system services should be invoked to satisfy the dependencies.

The following key word must be included in all startup scripts as it is required by rc.subr(8) to enable the startup script:

  • PROVIDE: Specifies the services this file provides.

The following key words may be included at the top of each startup script. They are not strictly necessary, but are useful as hints to rcorder(8):

  • REQUIRE: Lists services which are required for this service. The script containing this key word will run after the specified services.

  • BEFORE: Lists services which depend on this service. The script containing this key word will run before the specified services.

By carefully setting these keywords for each startup script, an administrator has a fine-grained level of control of the startup order of the scripts, without the need for runlevels used by some UNIX® operating systems.

Additional information can be found in rc(8) and rc.subr(8). Refer to this article for instructions on how to create custom rc(8) scripts.

11.4.1. Managing System-Specific Configuration

The principal location for system configuration information is /etc/rc.conf. This file contains a wide range of configuration information and it is read at system startup to configure the system. It provides the configuration information for the rc* files.

The entries in /etc/rc.conf override the default settings in /etc/defaults/rc.conf. The file containing the default settings should not be edited. Instead, all system-specific changes should be made to /etc/rc.conf.

A number of strategies may be applied in clustered applications to separate site-wide configuration from system-specific configuration in order to reduce administration overhead. The recommended approach is to place system-specific configuration into /etc/rc.conf.local. For example, these entries in /etc/rc.conf apply to all systems:


Whereas these entries in /etc/rc.conf.local apply to this system only:


Distribute /etc/rc.conf to every system using an application such as rsync or puppet, while /etc/rc.conf.local remains unique.

Upgrading the system will not overwrite /etc/rc.conf, so system configuration information will not be lost.


Both /etc/rc.conf and /etc/rc.conf.local are parsed by sh(1). This allows system operators to create complex configuration scenarios. Refer to rc.conf(5) for further information on this topic.

11.5. Setting Up Network Interface Cards

Contributed by Marc Fonvieille.

Adding and configuring a network interface card (NIC) is a common task for any FreeBSD administrator.

11.5.1. Locating the Correct Driver

First, determine the model of the NIC and the chip it uses. FreeBSD supports a wide variety of NICs. Check the Hardware Compatibility List for the FreeBSD release to see if the NIC is supported.

If the NIC is supported, determine the name of the FreeBSD driver for the NIC. Refer to /usr/src/sys/conf/NOTES and /usr/src/sys/arch/conf/NOTES for the list of NIC drivers with some information about the supported chipsets. When in doubt, read the manual page of the driver as it will provide more information about the supported hardware and any known limitations of the driver.

The drivers for common NICs are already present in the GENERIC kernel, meaning the NIC should be probed during boot. The system's boot messages can be viewed by typing more /var/run/dmesg.boot and using the spacebar to scroll through the text. In this example, two Ethernet NICs using the dc(4) driver are present on the system:

dc0: <82c169 PNIC 10/100BaseTX> port 0xa000-0xa0ff mem 0xd3800000-0xd38
000ff irq 15 at device 11.0 on pci0
miibus0: <MII bus> on dc0
bmtphy0: <BCM5201 10/100baseTX PHY> PHY 1 on miibus0
bmtphy0:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto
dc0: Ethernet address: 00:a0:cc:da:da:da
dc0: [ITHREAD]
dc1: <82c169 PNIC 10/100BaseTX> port 0x9800-0x98ff mem 0xd3000000-0xd30
000ff irq 11 at device 12.0 on pci0
miibus1: <MII bus> on dc1
bmtphy1: <BCM5201 10/100baseTX PHY> PHY 1 on miibus1
bmtphy1:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto
dc1: Ethernet address: 00:a0:cc:da:da:db
dc1: [ITHREAD]

If the driver for the NIC is not present in GENERIC, but a driver is available, the driver will need to be loaded before the NIC can be configured and used. This may be accomplished in one of two ways:

  • The easiest way is to load a kernel module for the NIC using kldload(8). To also automatically load the driver at boot time, add the appropriate line to /boot/loader.conf. Not all NIC drivers are available as modules.

  • Alternatively, statically compile support for the NIC into a custom kernel. Refer to /usr/src/sys/conf/NOTES, /usr/src/sys/arch/conf/NOTES and the manual page of the driver to determine which line to add to the custom kernel configuration file. For more information about recompiling the kernel, refer to Chapter 8, Configuring the FreeBSD Kernel. If the NIC was detected at boot, the kernel does not need to be recompiled. Using Windows® NDIS Drivers

Unfortunately, there are still many vendors that do not provide schematics for their drivers to the open source community because they regard such information as trade secrets. Consequently, the developers of FreeBSD and other operating systems are left with two choices: develop the drivers by a long and pain-staking process of reverse engineering or using the existing driver binaries available for Microsoft® Windows® platforms.

FreeBSD provides native support for the Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS). It includes ndisgen(8) which can be used to convert a Windows® XP driver into a format that can be used on FreeBSD. Because the ndis(4) driver uses a Windows® XP binary, it only runs on i386™ and amd64 systems. PCI, CardBus, PCMCIA, and USB devices are supported.

To use ndisgen(8), three things are needed:

  1. FreeBSD kernel sources.

  2. A Windows® XP driver binary with a .SYS extension.

  3. A Windows® XP driver configuration file with a .INF extension.

Download the .SYS and .INF files for the specific NIC. Generally, these can be found on the driver CD or at the vendor's website. The following examples use W32DRIVER.SYS and W32DRIVER.INF.

The driver bit width must match the version of FreeBSD. For FreeBSD/i386, use a Windows® 32-bit driver. For FreeBSD/amd64, a Windows® 64-bit driver is needed.

The next step is to compile the driver binary into a loadable kernel module. As root, use ndisgen(8):

# ndisgen /path/to/W32DRIVER.INF /path/to/W32DRIVER.SYS

This command is interactive and prompts for any extra information it requires. A new kernel module will be generated in the current directory. Use kldload(8) to load the new module:

# kldload ./W32DRIVER_SYS.ko

In addition to the generated kernel module, the ndis.ko and if_ndis.ko modules must be loaded. This should happen automatically when any module that depends on ndis(4) is loaded. If not, load them manually, using the following commands:

# kldload ndis
# kldload if_ndis

The first command loads the ndis(4) miniport driver wrapper and the second loads the generated NIC driver.

Check dmesg(8) to see if there were any load errors. If all went well, the output should be similar to the following:

ndis0: <Wireless-G PCI Adapter> mem 0xf4100000-0xf4101fff irq 3 at device 8.0 on pci1
ndis0: NDIS API version: 5.0
ndis0: Ethernet address: 0a:b1:2c:d3:4e:f5
ndis0: 11b rates: 1Mbps 2Mbps 5.5Mbps 11Mbps
ndis0: 11g rates: 6Mbps 9Mbps 12Mbps 18Mbps 36Mbps 48Mbps 54Mbps

From here, ndis0 can be configured like any other NIC.

To configure the system to load the ndis(4) modules at boot time, copy the generated module, W32DRIVER_SYS.ko, to /boot/modules. Then, add the following line to /boot/loader.conf:


11.5.2. Configuring the Network Card

Once the right driver is loaded for the NIC, the card needs to be configured. It may have been configured at installation time by sysinstall(8).

To display the NIC configuration, enter the following command:

% ifconfig
dc0: flags=8843<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500
        ether 00:a0:cc:da:da:da
        inet netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast
        media: Ethernet autoselect (100baseTX <full-duplex>)
        status: active
dc1: flags=8802<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500
        ether 00:a0:cc:da:da:db
        inet netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast
        media: Ethernet 10baseT/UTP
        status: no carrier
lo0: flags=8049<UP,LOOPBACK,RUNNING,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 16384
        inet6 fe80::1%lo0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x4
        inet6 ::1 prefixlen 128
        inet netmask 0xff000000
        nd6 options=3<PERFORMNUD,ACCEPT_RTADV>

In this example, the following devices were displayed:

  • dc0: The first Ethernet interface.

  • dc1: The second Ethernet interface.

  • lo0: The loopback device.

FreeBSD uses the driver name followed by the order in which the card is detected at boot to name the NIC. For example, sis2 is the third NIC on the system using the sis(4) driver.

In this example, dc0 is up and running. The key indicators are:

  1. UP means that the card is configured and ready.

  2. The card has an Internet (inet) address,

  3. It has a valid subnet mask (netmask), where 0xffffff00 is the same as

  4. It has a valid broadcast address,

  5. The MAC address of the card (ether) is 00:a0:cc:da:da:da.

  6. The physical media selection is on autoselection mode (media: Ethernet autoselect (100baseTX <full-duplex>)). In this example, dc1 is configured to run with 10baseT/UTP media. For more information on available media types for a driver, refer to its manual page.

  7. The status of the link (status) is active, indicating that the carrier signal is detected. For dc1, the status: no carrier status is normal when an Ethernet cable is not plugged into the card.

If the ifconfig(8) output had shown something similar to:

dc0: flags=8843<BROADCAST,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500
        ether 00:a0:cc:da:da:da
        media: Ethernet autoselect (100baseTX <full-duplex>)
        status: active

it would indicate the card has not been configured.

The card must be configured as root. The NIC configuration can be performed from the command line with ifconfig(8) but will not persist after a reboot unless the configuration is also added to /etc/rc.conf. Add a line for each NIC present on the system, as seen in this example:

ifconfig_dc0="inet netmask"
ifconfig_dc1="inet netmask media 10baseT/UTP"

Replace dc0 and dc1 and the IP address information with the correct values for the system. Refer to the man page for the driver, ifconfig(8), and rc.conf(5) for more details about the allowed options and the syntax of /etc/rc.conf.

If the network was configured during installation, some entries for the NIC(s) may be already present. Double check /etc/rc.conf before adding any lines.

If the network is not using DNS, edit /etc/hosts to add the names and IP addresses of the hosts on the LAN, if they are not already there. For more information, refer to hosts(5) and to /usr/share/examples/etc/hosts.


If there is no DHCP server and access to the Internet is needed, manually configure the default gateway and the nameserver:

# echo 'defaultrouter="your_default_router"' >> /etc/rc.conf
# echo 'nameserver your_DNS_server' >> /etc/resolv.conf

11.5.3. Testing and Troubleshooting

Once the necessary changes to /etc/rc.conf are saved, a reboot can be used to test the network configuration and to verify that the system restarts without any configuration errors. Alternatively, apply the settings to the networking system with this command:

# service netif restart


If a default gateway has been set in /etc/rc.conf, also issue this command:

# service routing restart

Once the networking system has been relaunched, test the NICs. Testing the Ethernet Card

To verify that an Ethernet card is configured correctly, ping(8) the interface itself, and then ping(8) another machine on the LAN:

% ping -c5
PING ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=0.082 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.074 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=0.076 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=64 time=0.108 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=64 time=0.076 ms

--- ping statistics ---
5 packets transmitted, 5 packets received, 0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 0.074/0.083/0.108/0.013 ms
% ping -c5
PING ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=0.726 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.766 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=0.700 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=64 time=0.747 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=64 time=0.704 ms

--- ping statistics ---
5 packets transmitted, 5 packets received, 0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 0.700/0.729/0.766/0.025 ms

To test network resolution, use the host name instead of the IP address. If there is no DNS server on the network, /etc/hosts must first be configured. Troubleshooting

When troubleshooting hardware and software configurations, check the simple things first. Is the network cable plugged in? Are the network services properly configured? Is the firewall configured correctly? Is the NIC supported by FreeBSD? Before sending a bug report, always check the Hardware Notes, update the version of FreeBSD to the latest STABLE version, check the mailing list archives, and search the Internet.

If the card works, yet performance is poor, read through tuning(7). Also, check the network configuration as incorrect network settings can cause slow connections.

Some users experience one or two device timeout messages, which is normal for some cards. If they continue, or are bothersome, determine if the device is conflicting with another device. Double check the cable connections. Consider trying another card.

To resolve watchdog timeout errors, first check the network cable. Many cards require a PCI slot which supports bus mastering. On some old motherboards, only one PCI slot allows it, usually slot 0. Check the NIC and the motherboard documentation to determine if that may be the problem.

No route to host messages occur if the system is unable to route a packet to the destination host. This can happen if no default route is specified or if a cable is unplugged. Check the output of netstat -rn and make sure there is a valid route to the host. If there is not, read Chapter 30, Advanced Networking.

ping: sendto: Permission denied error messages are often caused by a misconfigured firewall. If a firewall is enabled on FreeBSD but no rules have been defined, the default policy is to deny all traffic, even ping(8). Refer to Chapter 29, Firewalls for more information.

Sometimes performance of the card is poor or below average. In these cases, try setting the media selection mode from autoselect to the correct media selection. While this works for most hardware, it may or may not resolve the issue. Again, check all the network settings, and refer to tuning(7).

11.6. Virtual Hosts

A common use of FreeBSD is virtual site hosting, where one server appears to the network as many servers. This is achieved by assigning multiple network addresses to a single interface.

A given network interface has one real address, and may have any number of alias addresses. These aliases are normally added by placing alias entries in /etc/rc.conf, as seen in this example:

ifconfig_fxp0_alias0="inet netmask"

Alias entries must start with alias0 using a sequential number such as alias0, alias1, and so on. The configuration process will stop at the first missing number.

The calculation of alias netmasks is important. For a given interface, there must be one address which correctly represents the network's netmask. Any other addresses which fall within this network must have a netmask of all 1s, expressed as either or 0xffffffff.

For example, consider the case where the fxp0 interface is connected to two networks: with a netmask of and with a netmask of The system is to be configured to appear in the ranges through and through Only the first address in a given network range should have a real netmask. All the rest ( through and through must be configured with a netmask of

The following /etc/rc.conf entries configure the adapter correctly for this scenario:

ifconfig_fxp0="inet netmask"
ifconfig_fxp0_alias0="inet netmask"
ifconfig_fxp0_alias1="inet netmask"
ifconfig_fxp0_alias2="inet netmask"
ifconfig_fxp0_alias3="inet netmask"
ifconfig_fxp0_alias4="inet netmask"
ifconfig_fxp0_alias5="inet netmask"
ifconfig_fxp0_alias6="inet netmask"
ifconfig_fxp0_alias7="inet netmask"

A simpler way to express this is with a space-separated list of IP address ranges. The first address will be given the indicated subnet mask and the additional addresses will have a subnet mask of

ifconfig_fxp0_aliases="inet inet"

11.7. Configuring System Logging

Contributed by Niclas Zeising.

Generating and reading system logs is an important aspect of system administration. The information in system logs can be used to detect hardware and software issues as well as application and system configuration errors. This information also plays an important role in security auditing and incident response. Most system daemons and applications will generate log entries.

FreeBSD provides a system logger, syslogd, to manage logging. By default, syslogd is started when the system boots. This is controlled by the variable syslogd_enable in /etc/rc.conf. There are numerous application arguments that can be set using syslogd_flags in /etc/rc.conf. Refer to syslogd(8) for more information on the available arguments.

This section describes how to configure the FreeBSD system logger for both local and remote logging and how to perform log rotation and log management.

11.7.1. Configuring Local Logging

The configuration file, /etc/syslog.conf, controls what syslogd does with log entries as they are received. There are several parameters to control the handling of incoming events. The facility describes which subsystem generated the message, such as the kernel or a daemon, and the level describes the severity of the event that occurred. This makes it possible to configure if and where a log message is logged, depending on the facility and level. It is also possible to take action depending on the application that sent the message, and in the case of remote logging, the hostname of the machine generating the logging event.

This configuration file contains one line per action, where the syntax for each line is a selector field followed by an action field. The syntax of the selector field is facility.level which will match log messages from facility at level level or higher. It is also possible to add an optional comparison flag before the level to specify more precisely what is logged. Multiple selector fields can be used for the same action, and are separated with a semicolon (;). Using * will match everything. The action field denotes where to send the log message, such as to a file or remote log host. As an example, here is the default syslog.conf from FreeBSD:

# $FreeBSD$
#       Spaces ARE valid field separators in this file. However,
#       other *nix-like systems still insist on using tabs as field
#       separators. If you are sharing this file between systems, you
#       may want to use only tabs as field separators here.
#       Consult the syslog.conf(5) manpage.
*.err;kern.warning;auth.notice;mail.crit                /dev/console
*.notice;authpriv.none;kern.debug;;mail.crit;news.err   /var/log/messages
security.*                                      /var/log/security;                         /var/log/auth.log                                       /var/log/maillog                                        /var/log/lpd-errs                                        /var/log/xferlog
cron.*                                          /var/log/cron
*.=debug                                        /var/log/debug.log
*.emerg                                         *
# uncomment this to log all writes to /dev/console to /var/log/console.log                                   /var/log/console.log
# uncomment this to enable logging of all log messages to /var/log/all.log
# touch /var/log/all.log and chmod it to mode 600 before it will work
#*.*                                            /var/log/all.log
# uncomment this to enable logging to a remote loghost named loghost
#*.*                                            @loghost
# uncomment these if you're running inn
# news.crit                                     /var/log/news/news.crit
# news.err                                      /var/log/news/news.err
# news.notice                                   /var/log/news/news.notice
# Uncomment this if you wish to see messages produced by devd
# !devd
# *.>=info
*.*                                             /var/log/ppp.log

In this example:

  • Line 8 matches all messages with a level of err or higher, as well as kern.warning, auth.notice and mail.crit, and sends these log messages to the console (/dev/console).

  • Line 12 matches all messages from the mail facility at level info or above and logs the messages to /var/log/maillog.

  • Line 17 uses a comparison flag (=) to only match messages at level debug and logs them to /var/log/debug.log.

  • Line 33 is an example usage of a program specification. This makes the rules following it only valid for the specified program. In this case, only the messages generated by ppp are logged to /var/log/ppp.log.

The available levels, in order from most to least critical are emerg, alert, crit, err, warning, notice, info, and debug.

The facilities, in no particular order, are auth, authpriv, console, cron, daemon, ftp, kern, lpr, mail, mark, news, security, syslog, user, uucp, and local0 through local7. Be aware that other operating systems might have different facilities.

To log everything of level notice and higher to /var/log/daemon.log, add the following entry:

daemon.notice                                        /var/log/daemon.log

For more information about the different levels and facilities, refer to syslog(3) and syslogd(8). For more information about /etc/syslog.conf, its syntax, and more advanced usage examples, see syslog.conf(5).

11.7.2. Log Management and Rotation

Log files can grow quickly, taking up disk space and making it more difficult to locate useful information. Log management attempts to mitigate this. In FreeBSD, newsyslog is used to manage log files. This built-in program periodically rotates and compresses log files, and optionally creates missing log files and signals programs when log files are moved. The log files may be generated by syslogd or by any other program which generates log files. While newsyslog is normally run from cron(8), it is not a system daemon. In the default configuration, it runs every hour.

To know which actions to take, newsyslog reads its configuration file, /etc/newsyslog.conf. This file contains one line for each log file that newsyslog manages. Each line states the file owner, permissions, when to rotate that file, optional flags that affect log rotation, such as compression, and programs to signal when the log is rotated. Here is the default configuration in FreeBSD:

# configuration file for newsyslog
# $FreeBSD: head/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/config/chapter.xml 47772 2015-11-11 17:44:52Z wblock $
# Entries which do not specify the '/pid_file' field will cause the
# syslogd process to be signalled when that log file is rotated.  This
# action is only appropriate for log files which are written to by the
# syslogd process (ie, files listed in /etc/syslog.conf).  If there
# is no process which needs to be signalled when a given log file is
# rotated, then the entry for that file should include the 'N' flag.
# The 'flags' field is one or more of the letters: BCDGJNUXZ or a '-'.
# Note: some sites will want to select more restrictive protections than the
# defaults.  In particular, it may be desirable to switch many of the 644
# entries to 640 or 600.  For example, some sites will consider the
# contents of maillog, messages, and lpd-errs to be confidential.  In the
# future, these defaults may change to more conservative ones.
# logfilename          [owner:group]    mode count size when  flags [/pid_file] [sig_num]
/var/log/all.log                        600  7     *    @T00  J
/var/log/amd.log                        644  7     100  *     J
/var/log/auth.log                       600  7     100  @0101T JC
/var/log/console.log                    600  5     100  *     J
/var/log/cron                           600  3     100  *     JC
/var/log/daily.log                      640  7     *    @T00  JN
/var/log/debug.log                      600  7     100  *     JC
/var/log/kerberos.log                   600  7     100  *     J
/var/log/lpd-errs                       644  7     100  *     JC
/var/log/maillog                        640  7     *    @T00  JC
/var/log/messages                       644  5     100  @0101T JC
/var/log/monthly.log                    640  12    *    $M1D0 JN
/var/log/pflog                          600  3     100  *     JB    /var/run/
/var/log/ppp.log        root:network    640  3     100  *     JC
/var/log/devd.log                       644  3     100  *     JC
/var/log/security                       600  10    100  *     JC
/var/log/                    640  10    *    168   B
/var/log/utx.log                        644  3     *    @01T05 B
/var/log/weekly.log                     640  5     1    $W6D0 JN
/var/log/xferlog                        600  7     100  *     JC

Each line starts with the name of the log to be rotated, optionally followed by an owner and group for both rotated and newly created files. The mode field sets the permissions on the log file and count denotes how many rotated log files should be kept. The size and when fields tell newsyslog when to rotate the file. A log file is rotated when either its size is larger than the size field or when the time in the when field has passed. An asterisk (*) means that this field is ignored. The flags field gives further instructions, such as how to compress the rotated file or to create the log file if it is missing. The last two fields are optional and specify the name of the Process ID (PID) file of a process and a signal number to send to that process when the file is rotated.

For more information on all fields, valid flags, and how to specify the rotation time, refer to newsyslog.conf(5). Since newsyslog is run from cron(8), it cannot rotate files more often than it is scheduled to run from cron(8).

11.7.3. Configuring Remote Logging

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

Monitoring the log files of multiple hosts can become unwieldy as the number of systems increases. Configuring centralized logging can reduce some of the administrative burden of log file administration.

In FreeBSD, centralized log file aggregation, merging, and rotation can be configured using syslogd and newsyslog. This section demonstrates an example configuration, where host A, named, will collect logging information for the local network. Host B, named, will be configured to pass logging information to the logging server. Log Server Configuration

A log server is a system that has been configured to accept logging information from other hosts. Before configuring a log server, check the following:

  • If there is a firewall between the logging server and any logging clients, ensure that the firewall ruleset allows UDP port 514 for both the clients and the server.

  • The logging server and all client machines must have forward and reverse entries in the local DNS. If the network does not have a DNS server, create entries in each system's /etc/hosts. Proper name resolution is required so that log entries are not rejected by the logging server.

On the log server, edit /etc/syslog.conf to specify the name of the client to receive log entries from, the logging facility to be used, and the name of the log to store the host's log entries. This example adds the hostname of B, logs all facilities, and stores the log entries in /var/log/logclient.log.

Example 11.1. Sample Log Server Configuration
*.*     /var/log/logclient.log

When adding multiple log clients, add a similar two-line entry for each client. More information about the available facilities may be found in syslog.conf(5).

Next, configure /etc/rc.conf:

syslogd_flags="-a -v -v"

The first entry starts syslogd at system boot. The second entry allows log entries from the specified client. The -v -v increases the verbosity of logged messages. This is useful for tweaking facilities as administrators are able to see what type of messages are being logged under each facility.

Multiple -a options may be specified to allow logging from multiple clients. IP addresses and whole netblocks may also be specified. Refer to syslogd(8) for a full list of possible options.

Finally, create the log file:

# touch /var/log/logclient.log

At this point, syslogd should be restarted and verified:

# service syslogd restart
# pgrep syslog

If a PID is returned, the server restarted successfully, and client configuration can begin. If the server did not restart, consult /var/log/messages for the error. Log Client Configuration

A logging client sends log entries to a logging server on the network. The client also keeps a local copy of its own logs.

Once a logging server has been configured, edit /etc/rc.conf on the logging client:

syslogd_flags="-s -v -v"

The first entry enables syslogd on boot up. The second entry prevents logs from being accepted by this client from other hosts (-s) and increases the verbosity of logged messages.

Next, define the logging server in the client's /etc/syslog.conf. In this example, all logged facilities are sent to a remote system, denoted by the @ symbol, with the specified hostname:


After saving the edit, restart syslogd for the changes to take effect:

# service syslogd restart

To test that log messages are being sent across the network, use logger(1) on the client to send a message to syslogd:

# logger "Test message from logclient"

This message should now exist both in /var/log/messages on the client and /var/log/logclient.log on the log server. Debugging Log Servers

If no messages are being received on the log server, the cause is most likely a network connectivity issue, a hostname resolution issue, or a typo in a configuration file. To isolate the cause, ensure that both the logging server and the logging client are able to ping each other using the hostname specified in their /etc/rc.conf. If this fails, check the network cabling, the firewall ruleset, and the hostname entries in the DNS server or /etc/hosts on both the logging server and clients. Repeat until the ping is successful from both hosts.

If the ping succeeds on both hosts but log messages are still not being received, temporarily increase logging verbosity to narrow down the configuration issue. In the following example, /var/log/logclient.log on the logging server is empty and /var/log/messages on the logging client does not indicate a reason for the failure. To increase debugging output, edit the syslogd_flags entry on the logging server and issue a restart:

syslogd_flags="-d -a -v -v"
# service syslogd restart

Debugging data similar to the following will flash on the console immediately after the restart:

logmsg: pri 56, flags 4, from, msg syslogd: restart
syslogd: restarted
logmsg: pri 6, flags 4, from, msg syslogd: kernel boot file is /boot/kernel/kernel
Logging to FILE /var/log/messages
syslogd: kernel boot file is /boot/kernel/kernel
validate: dgram from IP, port 514, name;
rejected in rule 0 due to name mismatch.

In this example, the log messages are being rejected due to a typo which results in a hostname mismatch. The client's hostname should be logclient, not logclien. Fix the typo, issue a restart, and verify the results:

# service syslogd restart
logmsg: pri 56, flags 4, from, msg syslogd: restart
syslogd: restarted
logmsg: pri 6, flags 4, from, msg syslogd: kernel boot file is /boot/kernel/kernel
syslogd: kernel boot file is /boot/kernel/kernel
logmsg: pri 166, flags 17, from,
msg Dec 10 20:55:02 <syslog.err> syslogd: exiting on signal 2
validate: dgram from IP, port 514, name;
accepted in rule 0.
logmsg: pri 15, flags 0, from, msg Dec 11 02:01:28 trhodes: Test message 2
Logging to FILE /var/log/logclient.log
Logging to FILE /var/log/messages

At this point, the messages are being properly received and placed in the correct file. Security Considerations

As with any network service, security requirements should be considered before implementing a logging server. Log files may contain sensitive data about services enabled on the local host, user accounts, and configuration data. Network data sent from the client to the server will not be encrypted or password protected. If a need for encryption exists, consider using security/stunnel, which will transmit the logging data over an encrypted tunnel.

Local security is also an issue. Log files are not encrypted during use or after log rotation. Local users may access log files to gain additional insight into system configuration. Setting proper permissions on log files is critical. The built-in log rotator, newsyslog, supports setting permissions on newly created and rotated log files. Setting log files to mode 600 should prevent unwanted access by local users. Refer to newsyslog.conf(5) for additional information.

11.8. Configuration Files

11.8.1. /etc Layout

There are a number of directories in which configuration information is kept. These include:

/etcGeneric system-specific configuration information.
/etc/defaultsDefault versions of system configuration files.
/etc/mailExtra sendmail(8) configuration and other MTA configuration files.
/etc/pppConfiguration for both user- and kernel-ppp programs.
/etc/namedbDefault location for named(8) data. Normally named.conf and zone files are stored here.
/usr/local/etcConfiguration files for installed applications. May contain per-application subdirectories.
/usr/local/etc/rc.drc(8) scripts for installed applications.
/var/dbAutomatically generated system-specific database files, such as the package database and the locate(1) database.

11.8.2. Hostnames /etc/resolv.conf

How a FreeBSD system accesses the Internet Domain Name System (DNS) is controlled by resolv.conf(5).

The most common entries to /etc/resolv.conf are:

nameserverThe IP address of a name server the resolver should query. The servers are queried in the order listed with a maximum of three.
searchSearch list for hostname lookup. This is normally determined by the domain of the local hostname.
domainThe local domain name.

A typical /etc/resolv.conf looks like this:



Only one of the search and domain options should be used.

When using DHCP, dhclient(8) usually rewrites /etc/resolv.conf with information received from the DHCP server. /etc/hosts

/etc/hosts is a simple text database which works in conjunction with DNS and NIS to provide host name to IP address mappings. Entries for local computers connected via a LAN can be added to this file for simplistic naming purposes instead of setting up a named(8) server. Additionally, /etc/hosts can be used to provide a local record of Internet names, reducing the need to query external DNS servers for commonly accessed names.

# $FreeBSD$
# Host Database
# This file should contain the addresses and aliases for local hosts that
# share this file.  Replace 'my.domain' below with the domainname of your
# machine.
# In the presence of the domain name service or NIS, this file may
# not be consulted at all; see /etc/nsswitch.conf for the resolution order.
::1			localhost		localhost
# Imaginary network.
# myname
# myfriend
# According to RFC 1918, you can use the following IP networks for
# private nets which will never be connected to the Internet:
#	-
#	-
#	-
# In case you want to be able to connect to the Internet, you need
# real official assigned numbers.  Do not try to invent your own network
# numbers but instead get one from your network provider (if any) or
# from your regional registry (ARIN, APNIC, LACNIC, RIPE NCC, or AfriNIC.)

The format of /etc/hosts is as follows:

[Internet address] [official hostname] [alias1] [alias2] ...

For example: myRealHostname foobar1 foobar2

Consult hosts(5) for more information.

11.9. Tuning with sysctl(8)

sysctl(8) is used to make changes to a running FreeBSD system. This includes many advanced options of the TCP/IP stack and virtual memory system that can dramatically improve performance for an experienced system administrator. Over five hundred system variables can be read and set using sysctl(8).

At its core, sysctl(8) serves two functions: to read and to modify system settings.

To view all readable variables:

% sysctl -a

To read a particular variable, specify its name:

% sysctl kern.maxproc
kern.maxproc: 1044

To set a particular variable, use the variable=value syntax:

# sysctl kern.maxfiles=5000
kern.maxfiles: 2088 -> 5000

Settings of sysctl variables are usually either strings, numbers, or booleans, where a boolean is 1 for yes or 0 for no.

To automatically set some variables each time the machine boots, add them to /etc/sysctl.conf. For more information, refer to sysctl.conf(5) and Section 11.9.1, “sysctl.conf.

11.9.1. sysctl.conf

The configuration file for sysctl(8), /etc/sysctl.conf, looks much like /etc/rc.conf. Values are set in a variable=value form. The specified values are set after the system goes into multi-user mode. Not all variables are settable in this mode.

For example, to turn off logging of fatal signal exits and prevent users from seeing processes started by other users, the following tunables can be set in /etc/sysctl.conf:

# Do not log fatal signal exits (e.g., sig 11)

# Prevent users from seeing information about processes that
# are being run under another UID.

11.9.2. sysctl(8) Read-only

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

In some cases it may be desirable to modify read-only sysctl(8) values, which will require a reboot of the system.

For instance, on some laptop models the cardbus(4) device will not probe memory ranges and will fail with errors similar to:

cbb0: Could not map register memory
device_probe_and_attach: cbb0 attach returned 12

The fix requires the modification of a read-only sysctl(8) setting. Add hw.pci.allow_unsupported_io_range=1 to /boot/loader.conf and reboot. Now cardbus(4) should work properly.

11.10. Tuning Disks

The following section will discuss various tuning mechanisms and options which may be applied to disk devices. In many cases, disks with mechanical parts, such as SCSI drives, will be the bottleneck driving down the overall system performance. While a solution is to install a drive without mechanical parts, such as a solid state drive, mechanical drives are not going away anytime in the near future. When tuning disks, it is advisable to utilize the features of the iostat(8) command to test various changes to the system. This command will allow the user to obtain valuable information on system IO.

11.10.1. Sysctl Variables vfs.vmiodirenable

The vfs.vmiodirenable sysctl(8) variable may be set to either 0 (off) or 1 (on). It is set to 1 by default. This variable controls how directories are cached by the system. Most directories are small, using just a single fragment (typically 1 K) in the file system and typically 512 bytes in the buffer cache. With this variable turned off, the buffer cache will only cache a fixed number of directories, even if the system has a huge amount of memory. When turned on, this sysctl(8) allows the buffer cache to use the VM page cache to cache the directories, making all the memory available for caching directories. However, the minimum in-core memory used to cache a directory is the physical page size (typically 4 K) rather than 512  bytes. Keeping this option enabled is recommended if the system is running any services which manipulate large numbers of files. Such services can include web caches, large mail systems, and news systems. Keeping this option on will generally not reduce performance, even with the wasted memory, but one should experiment to find out. vfs.write_behind

The vfs.write_behind sysctl(8) variable defaults to 1 (on). This tells the file system to issue media writes as full clusters are collected, which typically occurs when writing large sequential files. This avoids saturating the buffer cache with dirty buffers when it would not benefit I/O performance. However, this may stall processes and under certain circumstances should be turned off. vfs.hirunningspace

The vfs.hirunningspace sysctl(8) variable determines how much outstanding write I/O may be queued to disk controllers system-wide at any given instance. The default is usually sufficient, but on machines with many disks, try bumping it up to four or five megabytes. Setting too high a value which exceeds the buffer cache's write threshold can lead to bad clustering performance. Do not set this value arbitrarily high as higher write values may add latency to reads occurring at the same time.

There are various other buffer cache and VM page cache related sysctl(8) values. Modifying these values is not recommended as the VM system does a good job of automatically tuning itself. vm.swap_idle_enabled

The vm.swap_idle_enabled sysctl(8) variable is useful in large multi-user systems with many active login users and lots of idle processes. Such systems tend to generate continuous pressure on free memory reserves. Turning this feature on and tweaking the swapout hysteresis (in idle seconds) via vm.swap_idle_threshold1 and vm.swap_idle_threshold2 depresses the priority of memory pages associated with idle processes more quickly then the normal pageout algorithm. This gives a helping hand to the pageout daemon. Only turn this option on if needed, because the tradeoff is essentially pre-page memory sooner rather than later which eats more swap and disk bandwidth. In a small system this option will have a determinable effect, but in a large system that is already doing moderate paging, this option allows the VM system to stage whole processes into and out of memory easily. hw.ata.wc

Turning off IDE write caching reduces write bandwidth to IDE disks, but may sometimes be necessary due to data consistency issues introduced by hard drive vendors. The problem is that some IDE drives lie about when a write completes. With IDE write caching turned on, IDE hard drives write data to disk out of order and will sometimes delay writing some blocks indefinitely when under heavy disk load. A crash or power failure may cause serious file system corruption. Check the default on the system by observing the hw.ata.wc sysctl(8) variable. If IDE write caching is turned off, one can set this read-only variable to 1 in /boot/loader.conf in order to enable it at boot time.

For more information, refer to ata(4). SCSI_DELAY (

The SCSI_DELAY kernel configuration option may be used to reduce system boot times. The defaults are fairly high and can be responsible for 15 seconds of delay in the boot process. Reducing it to 5 seconds usually works with modern drives. The boot time tunable should be used. The tunable and kernel configuration option accept values in terms of milliseconds and not seconds.

11.10.2. Soft Updates

To fine-tune a file system, use tunefs(8). This program has many different options. To toggle Soft Updates on and off, use:

# tunefs -n enable /filesystem
# tunefs -n disable /filesystem

A file system cannot be modified with tunefs(8) while it is mounted. A good time to enable Soft Updates is before any partitions have been mounted, in single-user mode.

Soft Updates is recommended for UFS file systems as it drastically improves meta-data performance, mainly file creation and deletion, through the use of a memory cache. There are two downsides to Soft Updates to be aware of. First, Soft Updates guarantee file system consistency in the case of a crash, but could easily be several seconds or even a minute behind updating the physical disk. If the system crashes, unwritten data may be lost. Secondly, Soft Updates delay the freeing of file system blocks. If the root file system is almost full, performing a major update, such as make installworld, can cause the file system to run out of space and the update to fail. More Details About Soft Updates

Meta-data updates are updates to non-content data like inodes or directories. There are two traditional approaches to writing a file system's meta-data back to disk.

Historically, the default behavior was to write out meta-data updates synchronously. If a directory changed, the system waited until the change was actually written to disk. The file data buffers (file contents) were passed through the buffer cache and backed up to disk later on asynchronously. The advantage of this implementation is that it operates safely. If there is a failure during an update, meta-data is always in a consistent state. A file is either created completely or not at all. If the data blocks of a file did not find their way out of the buffer cache onto the disk by the time of the crash, fsck(8) recognizes this and repairs the file system by setting the file length to 0. Additionally, the implementation is clear and simple. The disadvantage is that meta-data changes are slow. For example, rm -r touches all the files in a directory sequentially, but each directory change will be written synchronously to the disk. This includes updates to the directory itself, to the inode table, and possibly to indirect blocks allocated by the file. Similar considerations apply for unrolling large hierarchies using tar -x.

The second approach is to use asynchronous meta-data updates. This is the default for a UFS file system mounted with mount -o async. Since all meta-data updates are also passed through the buffer cache, they will be intermixed with the updates of the file content data. The advantage of this implementation is there is no need to wait until each meta-data update has been written to disk, so all operations which cause huge amounts of meta-data updates work much faster than in the synchronous case. This implementation is still clear and simple, so there is a low risk for bugs creeping into the code. The disadvantage is that there is no guarantee for a consistent state of the file system. If there is a failure during an operation that updated large amounts of meta-data, like a power failure or someone pressing the reset button, the file system will be left in an unpredictable state. There is no opportunity to examine the state of the file system when the system comes up again as the data blocks of a file could already have been written to the disk while the updates of the inode table or the associated directory were not. It is impossible to implement a fsck(8) which is able to clean up the resulting chaos because the necessary information is not available on the disk. If the file system has been damaged beyond repair, the only choice is to reformat it and restore from backup.

The usual solution for this problem is to implement dirty region logging, which is also referred to as journaling. Meta-data updates are still written synchronously, but only into a small region of the disk. Later on, they are moved to their proper location. Because the logging area is a small, contiguous region on the disk, there are no long distances for the disk heads to move, even during heavy operations, so these operations are quicker than synchronous updates. Additionally, the complexity of the implementation is limited, so the risk of bugs being present is low. A disadvantage is that all meta-data is written twice, once into the logging region and once to the proper location, so performance pessimization might result. On the other hand, in case of a crash, all pending meta-data operations can be either quickly rolled back or completed from the logging area after the system comes up again, resulting in a fast file system startup.

Kirk McKusick, the developer of Berkeley FFS, solved this problem with Soft Updates. All pending meta-data updates are kept in memory and written out to disk in a sorted sequence (ordered meta-data updates). This has the effect that, in case of heavy meta-data operations, later updates to an item catch the earlier ones which are still in memory and have not already been written to disk. All operations are generally performed in memory before the update is written to disk and the data blocks are sorted according to their position so that they will not be on the disk ahead of their meta-data. If the system crashes, an implicit log rewind causes all operations which were not written to the disk appear as if they never happened. A consistent file system state is maintained that appears to be the one of 30 to 60 seconds earlier. The algorithm used guarantees that all resources in use are marked as such in their blocks and inodes. After a crash, the only resource allocation error that occurs is that resources are marked as used which are actually free. fsck(8) recognizes this situation, and frees the resources that are no longer used. It is safe to ignore the dirty state of the file system after a crash by forcibly mounting it with mount -f. In order to free resources that may be unused, fsck(8) needs to be run at a later time. This is the idea behind the background fsck(8): at system startup time, only a snapshot of the file system is recorded and fsck(8) is run afterwards. All file systems can then be mounted dirty, so the system startup proceeds in multi-user mode. Then, background fsck(8) is scheduled for all file systems where this is required, to free resources that may be unused. File systems that do not use Soft Updates still need the usual foreground fsck(8).

The advantage is that meta-data operations are nearly as fast as asynchronous updates and are faster than logging, which has to write the meta-data twice. The disadvantages are the complexity of the code, a higher memory consumption, and some idiosyncrasies. After a crash, the state of the file system appears to be somewhat older. In situations where the standard synchronous approach would have caused some zero-length files to remain after the fsck(8), these files do not exist at all with Soft Updates because neither the meta-data nor the file contents have been written to disk. Disk space is not released until the updates have been written to disk, which may take place some time after running rm(1). This may cause problems when installing large amounts of data on a file system that does not have enough free space to hold all the files twice.

11.11. Tuning Kernel Limits

11.11.1. File/Process Limits kern.maxfiles

The kern.maxfiles sysctl(8) variable can be raised or lowered based upon system requirements. This variable indicates the maximum number of file descriptors on the system. When the file descriptor table is full, file: table is full will show up repeatedly in the system message buffer, which can be viewed using dmesg(8).

Each open file, socket, or fifo uses one file descriptor. A large-scale production server may easily require many thousands of file descriptors, depending on the kind and number of services running concurrently.

In older FreeBSD releases, the default value of kern.maxfiles is derived from maxusers in the kernel configuration file. kern.maxfiles grows proportionally to the value of maxusers. When compiling a custom kernel, consider setting this kernel configuration option according to the use of the system. From this number, the kernel is given most of its pre-defined limits. Even though a production machine may not have 256 concurrent users, the resources needed may be similar to a high-scale web server.

The read-only sysctl(8) variable kern.maxusers is automatically sized at boot based on the amount of memory available in the system, and may be determined at run-time by inspecting the value of kern.maxusers. Some systems require larger or smaller values of kern.maxusers and values of 64, 128, and 256 are not uncommon. Going above 256 is not recommended unless a huge number of file descriptors is needed. Many of the tunable values set to their defaults by kern.maxusers may be individually overridden at boot-time or run-time in /boot/loader.conf. Refer to loader.conf(5) and /boot/defaults/loader.conf for more details and some hints.

In older releases, the system will auto-tune maxusers if it is set to 0. [2]. When setting this option, set maxusers to at least 4, especially if the system runs Xorg or is used to compile software. The most important table set by maxusers is the maximum number of processes, which is set to 20 + 16 * maxusers. If maxusers is set to 1, there can only be 36 simultaneous processes, including the 18 or so that the system starts up at boot time and the 15 or so used by Xorg. Even a simple task like reading a manual page will start up nine processes to filter, decompress, and view it. Setting maxusers to 64 allows up to 1044 simultaneous processes, which should be enough for nearly all uses. If, however, the proc table full error is displayed when trying to start another program, or a server is running with a large number of simultaneous users, increase the number and rebuild.


maxusers does not limit the number of users which can log into the machine. It instead sets various table sizes to reasonable values considering the maximum number of users on the system and how many processes each user will be running. kern.ipc.somaxconn

The kern.ipc.somaxconn sysctl(8) variable limits the size of the listen queue for accepting new TCP connections. The default value of 128 is typically too low for robust handling of new connections on a heavily loaded web server. For such environments, it is recommended to increase this value to 1024 or higher. A service such as sendmail(8), or Apache may itself limit the listen queue size, but will often have a directive in its configuration file to adjust the queue size. Large listen queues do a better job of avoiding Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

11.11.2. Network Limits

The NMBCLUSTERS kernel configuration option dictates the amount of network Mbufs available to the system. A heavily-trafficked server with a low number of Mbufs will hinder performance. Each cluster represents approximately 2 K of memory, so a value of 1024 represents 2 megabytes of kernel memory reserved for network buffers. A simple calculation can be done to figure out how many are needed. A web server which maxes out at 1000 simultaneous connections where each connection uses a 6 K receive and 16 K send buffer, requires approximately 32 MB worth of network buffers to cover the web server. A good rule of thumb is to multiply by 2, so 2x32 MB / 2 KB = 64 MB / 2 kB = 32768. Values between 4096 and 32768 are recommended for machines with greater amounts of memory. Never specify an arbitrarily high value for this parameter as it could lead to a boot time crash. To observe network cluster usage, use -m with netstat(1).

The kern.ipc.nmbclusters loader tunable should be used to tune this at boot time. Only older versions of FreeBSD will require the use of the NMBCLUSTERS kernel config(8) option.

For busy servers that make extensive use of the sendfile(2) system call, it may be necessary to increase the number of sendfile(2) buffers via the NSFBUFS kernel configuration option or by setting its value in /boot/loader.conf (see loader(8) for details). A common indicator that this parameter needs to be adjusted is when processes are seen in the sfbufa state. The sysctl(8) variable kern.ipc.nsfbufs is read-only. This parameter nominally scales with kern.maxusers, however it may be necessary to tune accordingly.


Even though a socket has been marked as non-blocking, calling sendfile(2) on the non-blocking socket may result in the sendfile(2) call blocking until enough struct sf_buf's are made available. net.inet.ip.portrange.*

The net.inet.ip.portrange.* sysctl(8) variables control the port number ranges automatically bound to TCP and UDP sockets. There are three ranges: a low range, a default range, and a high range. Most network programs use the default range which is controlled by net.inet.ip.portrange.first and net.inet.ip.portrange.last, which default to 1024 and 5000, respectively. Bound port ranges are used for outgoing connections and it is possible to run the system out of ports under certain circumstances. This most commonly occurs when running a heavily loaded web proxy. The port range is not an issue when running a server which handles mainly incoming connections, such as a web server, or has a limited number of outgoing connections, such as a mail relay. For situations where there is a shortage of ports, it is recommended to increase net.inet.ip.portrange.last modestly. A value of 10000, 20000 or 30000 may be reasonable. Consider firewall effects when changing the port range. Some firewalls may block large ranges of ports, usually low-numbered ports, and expect systems to use higher ranges of ports for outgoing connections. For this reason, it is not recommended that the value of net.inet.ip.portrange.first be lowered. TCP Bandwidth Delay Product

TCP bandwidth delay product limiting can be enabled by setting the net.inet.tcp.inflight.enable sysctl(8) variable to 1. This instructs the system to attempt to calculate the bandwidth delay product for each connection and limit the amount of data queued to the network to just the amount required to maintain optimum throughput.

This feature is useful when serving data over modems, Gigabit Ethernet, high speed WAN links, or any other link with a high bandwidth delay product, especially when also using window scaling or when a large send window has been configured. When enabling this option, also set net.inet.tcp.inflight.debug to 0 to disable debugging. For production use, setting net.inet.tcp.inflight.min to at least 6144 may be beneficial. Setting high minimums may effectively disable bandwidth limiting, depending on the link. The limiting feature reduces the amount of data built up in intermediate route and switch packet queues and reduces the amount of data built up in the local host's interface queue. With fewer queued packets, interactive connections, especially over slow modems, will operate with lower Round Trip Times. This feature only effects server side data transmission such as uploading. It has no effect on data reception or downloading.

Adjusting net.inet.tcp.inflight.stab is not recommended. This parameter defaults to 20, representing 2 maximal packets added to the bandwidth delay product window calculation. The additional window is required to stabilize the algorithm and improve responsiveness to changing conditions, but it can also result in higher ping(8) times over slow links, though still much lower than without the inflight algorithm. In such cases, try reducing this parameter to 15, 10, or 5 and reducing net.inet.tcp.inflight.min to a value such as 3500 to get the desired effect. Reducing these parameters should be done as a last resort only.

11.11.3. Virtual Memory kern.maxvnodes

A vnode is the internal representation of a file or directory. Increasing the number of vnodes available to the operating system reduces disk I/O. Normally, this is handled by the operating system and does not need to be changed. In some cases where disk I/O is a bottleneck and the system is running out of vnodes, this setting needs to be increased. The amount of inactive and free RAM will need to be taken into account.

To see the current number of vnodes in use:

# sysctl vfs.numvnodes
vfs.numvnodes: 91349

To see the maximum vnodes:

# sysctl kern.maxvnodes
kern.maxvnodes: 100000

If the current vnode usage is near the maximum, try increasing kern.maxvnodes by a value of 1000. Keep an eye on the number of vfs.numvnodes. If it climbs up to the maximum again, kern.maxvnodes will need to be increased further. Otherwise, a shift in memory usage as reported by top(1) should be visible and more memory should be active.

11.12. Adding Swap Space

Sometimes a system requires more swap space. This section describes two methods to increase swap space: adding swap to an existing partition or new hard drive, and creating a swap file on an existing partition.

For information on how to encrypt swap space, which options exist, and why it should be done, refer to Section 17.13, “Encrypting Swap”.

11.12.1. Swap on a New Hard Drive or Existing Partition

Adding a new hard drive for swap gives better performance than using a partition on an existing drive. Setting up partitions and hard drives is explained in Section 17.2, “Adding Disks” while Section 2.6.1, “Designing the Partition Layout” discusses partition layouts and swap partition size considerations.

Use swapon to add a swap partition to the system. For example:

# swapon /dev/ada1s1b


It is possible to use any partition not currently mounted, even if it already contains data. Using swapon on a partition that contains data will overwrite and destroy that data. Make sure that the partition to be added as swap is really the intended partition before running swapon.

To automatically add this swap partition on boot, add an entry to /etc/fstab:

/dev/ada1s1b	none	swap	sw	0	0

See fstab(5) for an explanation of the entries in /etc/fstab. More information about swapon can be found in swapon(8).

11.12.2. Creating a Swap File

These examples create a 64M swap file called /usr/swap0 instead of using a partition.

Using swap files requires that the module needed by md(4) has either been built into the kernel or has been loaded before swap is enabled. See Chapter 8, Configuring the FreeBSD Kernel for information about building a custom kernel.

Example 11.2. Creating a Swap File on FreeBSD 10.X and Later
  1. Create the swap file:

    # dd if=/dev/zero of=/usr/swap0 bs=1m count=64
  2. Set the proper permissions on the new file:

    # chmod 0600 /usr/swap0
  3. Inform the system about the swap file by adding a line to /etc/fstab:

    md99	none	swap	sw,file=/usr/swap0	0	0

    The md(4) device md99 is used, leaving lower device numbers available for interactive use.

  4. Swap space will be added on system startup. To add swap space immediately, use swapon(8):

    # swapon -aL

Example 11.3. Creating a Swap File on FreeBSD 9.X and Earlier
  1. Create the swap file, /usr/swap0:

    # dd if=/dev/zero of=/usr/swap0 bs=1m count=64
  2. Set the proper permissions on /usr/swap0:

    # chmod 0600 /usr/swap0
  3. Enable the swap file in /etc/rc.conf:

    swapfile="/usr/swap0"   # Set to name of swap file
  4. Swap space will be added on system startup. To enable the swap file immediately, specify a free memory device. Refer to Section 17.9, “Memory Disks” for more information about memory devices.

    # mdconfig -a -t vnode -f /usr/swap0 -u 0 && swapon /dev/md0

11.13. Power and Resource Management

Written by Hiten Pandya and Tom Rhodes.

It is important to utilize hardware resources in an efficient manner. Power and resource management allows the operating system to monitor system limits and to possibly provide an alert if the system temperature increases unexpectedly. An early specification for providing power management was the Advanced Power Management (APM) facility. APM controls the power usage of a system based on its activity. However, it was difficult and inflexible for operating systems to manage the power usage and thermal properties of a system. The hardware was managed by the BIOS and the user had limited configurability and visibility into the power management settings. The APM BIOS is supplied by the vendor and is specific to the hardware platform. An APM driver in the operating system mediates access to the APM Software Interface, which allows management of power levels.

There are four major problems in APM. First, power management is done by the vendor-specific BIOS, separate from the operating system. For example, the user can set idle-time values for a hard drive in the APM BIOS so that, when exceeded, the BIOS spins down the hard drive without the consent of the operating system. Second, the APM logic is embedded in the BIOS, and it operates outside the scope of the operating system. This means that users can only fix problems in the APM BIOS by flashing a new one into the ROM, which is a dangerous procedure with the potential to leave the system in an unrecoverable state if it fails. Third, APM is a vendor-specific technology, meaning that there is a lot of duplication of efforts and bugs found in one vendor's BIOS may not be solved in others. Lastly, the APM BIOS did not have enough room to implement a sophisticated power policy or one that can adapt well to the purpose of the machine.

The Plug and Play BIOS (PNPBIOS) was unreliable in many situations. PNPBIOS is 16-bit technology, so the operating system has to use 16-bit emulation in order to interface with PNPBIOS methods. FreeBSD provides an APM driver as APM should still be used for systems manufactured at or before the year 2000. The driver is documented in apm(4).

The successor to APM is the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI). ACPI is a standard written by an alliance of vendors to provide an interface for hardware resources and power management. It is a key element in Operating System-directed configuration and Power Management as it provides more control and flexibility to the operating system.

This chapter demonstrates how to configure ACPI on FreeBSD. It then offers some tips on how to debug ACPI and how to submit a problem report containing debugging information so that developers can diagnosis and fix ACPI issues.

11.13.1. Configuring ACPI

In FreeBSD the acpi(4) driver is loaded by default at system boot and should not be compiled into the kernel. This driver cannot be unloaded after boot because the system bus uses it for various hardware interactions. However, if the system is experiencing problems, ACPI can be disabled altogether by rebooting after setting hint.acpi.0.disabled="1" in /boot/loader.conf or by setting this variable at the loader prompt, as described in Section 12.2.3, “Stage Three”.


ACPI and APM cannot coexist and should be used separately. The last one to load will terminate if the driver notices the other is running.

ACPI can be used to put the system into a sleep mode with acpiconf, the -s flag, and a number from 1 to 5. Most users only need 1 (quick suspend to RAM) or 3 (suspend to RAM). Option 5 performs a soft-off which is the same as running halt -p.

Other options are available using sysctl. Refer to acpi(4) and acpiconf(8) for more information.

11.13.2. Common Problems

ACPI is present in all modern computers that conform to the ia32 (x86), ia64 (Itanium), and amd64 (AMD) architectures. The full standard has many features including CPU performance management, power planes control, thermal zones, various battery systems, embedded controllers, and bus enumeration. Most systems implement less than the full standard. For instance, a desktop system usually only implements bus enumeration while a laptop might have cooling and battery management support as well. Laptops also have suspend and resume, with their own associated complexity.

An ACPI-compliant system has various components. The BIOS and chipset vendors provide various fixed tables, such as FADT, in memory that specify things like the APIC map (used for SMP), config registers, and simple configuration values. Additionally, a bytecode table, the Differentiated System Description Table DSDT, specifies a tree-like name space of devices and methods.

The ACPI driver must parse the fixed tables, implement an interpreter for the bytecode, and modify device drivers and the kernel to accept information from the ACPI subsystem. For FreeBSD, Intel® has provided an interpreter (ACPI-CA) that is shared with Linux® and NetBSD. The path to the ACPI-CA source code is src/sys/contrib/dev/acpica. The glue code that allows ACPI-CA to work on FreeBSD is in src/sys/dev/acpica/Osd. Finally, drivers that implement various ACPI devices are found in src/sys/dev/acpica.

For ACPI to work correctly, all the parts have to work correctly. Here are some common problems, in order of frequency of appearance, and some possible workarounds or fixes. If a fix does not resolve the issue, refer to Section 11.13.4, “Getting and Submitting Debugging Info” for instructions on how to submit a bug report. Mouse Issues

In some cases, resuming from a suspend operation will cause the mouse to fail. A known work around is to add hint.psm.0.flags="0x3000" to /boot/loader.conf. Suspend/Resume

ACPI has three suspend to RAM (STR) states, S1-S3, and one suspend to disk state (STD), called S4. STD can be implemented in two separate ways. The S4BIOS is a BIOS-assisted suspend to disk and S4OS is implemented entirely by the operating system. The normal state the system is in when plugged in but not powered up is soft off (S5).

Use sysctl hw.acpi to check for the suspend-related items. These example results are from a Thinkpad:

hw.acpi.supported_sleep_state: S3 S4 S5
hw.acpi.s4bios: 0

Use acpiconf -s to test S3, S4, and S5. An s4bios of one (1) indicates S4BIOS support instead of S4 operating system support.

When testing suspend/resume, start with S1, if supported. This state is most likely to work since it does not require much driver support. No one has implemented S2, which is similar to S1. Next, try S3. This is the deepest STR state and requires a lot of driver support to properly reinitialize the hardware.

A common problem with suspend/resume is that many device drivers do not save, restore, or reinitialize their firmware, registers, or device memory properly. As a first attempt at debugging the problem, try:

# sysctl debug.bootverbose=1
# sysctl debug.acpi.suspend_bounce=1
# acpiconf -s 3

This test emulates the suspend/resume cycle of all device drivers without actually going into S3 state. In some cases, problems such as losing firmware state, device watchdog time out, and retrying forever, can be captured with this method. Note that the system will not really enter S3 state, which means devices may not lose power, and many will work fine even if suspend/resume methods are totally missing, unlike real S3 state.

Harder cases require additional hardware, such as a serial port and cable for debugging through a serial console, a Firewire port and cable for using dcons(4), and kernel debugging skills.

To help isolate the problem, unload as many drivers as possible. If it works, narrow down which driver is the problem by loading drivers until it fails again. Typically, binary drivers like nvidia.ko, display drivers, and USB will have the most problems while Ethernet interfaces usually work fine. If drivers can be properly loaded and unloaded, automate this by putting the appropriate commands in /etc/rc.suspend and /etc/rc.resume. Try setting hw.acpi.reset_video to 1 if the display is messed up after resume. Try setting longer or shorter values for hw.acpi.sleep_delay to see if that helps.

Try loading a recent Linux® distribution to see if suspend/resume works on the same hardware. If it works on Linux®, it is likely a FreeBSD driver problem. Narrowing down which driver causes the problem will assist developers in fixing the problem. Since the ACPI maintainers rarely maintain other drivers, such as sound or ATA, any driver problems should also be posted to the freebsd-current list and mailed to the driver maintainer. Advanced users can include debugging printf(3)s in a problematic driver to track down where in its resume function it hangs.

Finally, try disabling ACPI and enabling APM instead. If suspend/resume works with APM, stick with APM, especially on older hardware (pre-2000). It took vendors a while to get ACPI support correct and older hardware is more likely to have BIOS problems with ACPI. System Hangs

Most system hangs are a result of lost interrupts or an interrupt storm. Chipsets may have problems based on boot, how the BIOS configures interrupts before correctness of the APIC (MADT) table, and routing of the System Control Interrupt (SCI).

Interrupt storms can be distinguished from lost interrupts by checking the output of vmstat -i and looking at the line that has acpi0. If the counter is increasing at more than a couple per second, there is an interrupt storm. If the system appears hung, try breaking to DDB (CTRL+ALT+ESC on console) and type show interrupts.

When dealing with interrupt problems, try disabling APIC support with hint.apic.0.disabled="1" in /boot/loader.conf. Panics

Panics are relatively rare for ACPI and are the top priority to be fixed. The first step is to isolate the steps to reproduce the panic, if possible, and get a backtrace. Follow the advice for enabling options DDB and setting up a serial console in Section 25.6.4, “Entering the DDB Debugger from the Serial Line” or setting up a dump partition. To get a backtrace in DDB, use tr. When handwriting the backtrace, get at least the last five and the top five lines in the trace.

Then, try to isolate the problem by booting with ACPI disabled. If that works, isolate the ACPI subsystem by using various values of debug.acpi.disable. See acpi(4) for some examples. System Powers Up After Suspend or Shutdown

First, try setting hw.acpi.disable_on_poweroff="0" in /boot/loader. This keeps ACPI from disabling various events during the shutdown process. Some systems need this value set to 1 (the default) for the same reason. This usually fixes the problem of a system powering up spontaneously after a suspend or poweroff. BIOS Contains Buggy Bytecode

Some BIOS vendors provide incorrect or buggy bytecode. This is usually manifested by kernel console messages like this:

ACPI-1287: *** Error: Method execution failed [\\_SB_.PCI0.LPC0.FIGD._STA] \\
(Node 0xc3f6d160), AE_NOT_FOUND

Often, these problems may be resolved by updating the BIOS to the latest revision. Most console messages are harmless, but if there are other problems, like the battery status is not working, these messages are a good place to start looking for problems.

11.13.3. Overriding the Default AML

The BIOS bytecode, known as ACPI Machine Language (AML), is compiled from a source language called ACPI Source Language (ASL). The AML is found in the table known as the Differentiated System Description Table (DSDT).

The goal of FreeBSD is for everyone to have working ACPI without any user intervention. Workarounds are still being developed for common mistakes made by BIOS vendors. The Microsoft® interpreter (acpi.sys and acpiec.sys) does not strictly check for adherence to the standard, and thus many BIOS vendors who only test ACPI under Windows® never fix their ASL. FreeBSD developers continue to identify and document which non-standard behavior is allowed by Microsoft®'s interpreter and replicate it so that FreeBSD can work without forcing users to fix the ASL.

To help identify buggy behavior and possibly fix it manually, a copy can be made of the system's ASL. To copy the system's ASL to a specified file name, use acpidump with -t, to show the contents of the fixed tables, and -d, to disassemble the AML:

# acpidump -td > my.asl

Some AML versions assume the user is running Windows®. To override this, set hw.acpi.osname="Windows 2009" in /boot/loader.conf, using the most recent Windows® version listed in the ASL.

Other workarounds may require my.asl to be customized. If this file is edited, compile the new ASL using the following command. Warnings can usually be ignored, but errors are bugs that will usually prevent ACPI from working correctly.

# iasl -f my.asl

Including -f forces creation of the AML, even if there are errors during compilation. Some errors, such as missing return statements, are automatically worked around by the FreeBSD interpreter.

The default output filename for iasl is DSDT.aml. Load this file instead of the BIOS's buggy copy, which is still present in flash memory, by editing /boot/loader.conf as follows:


Be sure to copy DSDT.aml to /boot, then reboot the system. If this fixes the problem, send a diff(1) of the old and new ASL to freebsd-acpi so that developers can work around the buggy behavior in acpica.

11.13.4. Getting and Submitting Debugging Info

Written by Nate Lawson.
With contributions from Peter Schultz and Tom Rhodes.

The ACPI driver has a flexible debugging facility. A set of subsystems and the level of verbosity can be specified. The subsystems to debug are specified as layers and are broken down into components (ACPI_ALL_COMPONENTS) and ACPI hardware support (ACPI_ALL_DRIVERS). The verbosity of debugging output is specified as the level and ranges from just report errors (ACPI_LV_ERROR) to everything (ACPI_LV_VERBOSE). The level is a bitmask so multiple options can be set at once, separated by spaces. In practice, a serial console should be used to log the output so it is not lost as the console message buffer flushes. A full list of the individual layers and levels is found in acpi(4).

Debugging output is not enabled by default. To enable it, add options ACPI_DEBUG to the custom kernel configuration file if ACPI is compiled into the kernel. Add ACPI_DEBUG=1 to /etc/make.conf to enable it globally. If a module is used instead of a custom kernel, recompile just the acpi.ko module as follows:

# cd /sys/modules/acpi/acpi && make clean && make ACPI_DEBUG=1

Copy the compiled acpi.ko to /boot/kernel and add the desired level and layer to /boot/loader.conf. The entries in this example enable debug messages for all ACPI components and hardware drivers and output error messages at the least verbose level:


If the required information is triggered by a specific event, such as a suspend and then resume, do not modify /boot/loader.conf. Instead, use sysctl to specify the layer and level after booting and preparing the system for the specific event. The variables which can be set using sysctl are named the same as the tunables in /boot/loader.conf.

Once the debugging information is gathered, it can be sent to freebsd-acpi so that it can be used by the FreeBSD ACPI maintainers to identify the root cause of the problem and to develop a solution.


Before submitting debugging information to this mailing list, ensure the latest BIOS version is installed and, if available, the embedded controller firmware version.

When submitting a problem report, include the following information:

  • Description of the buggy behavior, including system type, model, and anything that causes the bug to appear. Note as accurately as possible when the bug began occurring if it is new.

  • The output of dmesg after running boot -v, including any error messages generated by the bug.

  • The dmesg output from boot -v with ACPI disabled, if disabling ACPI helps to fix the problem.

  • Output from sysctl hw.acpi. This lists which features the system offers.

  • The URL to a pasted version of the system's ASL. Do not send the ASL directly to the list as it can be very large. Generate a copy of the ASL by running this command:

    # acpidump -dt > name-system.asl

    Substitute the login name for name and manufacturer/model for system. For example, use njl-FooCo6000.asl.

Most FreeBSD developers watch the FreeBSD-CURRENT mailing list, but one should submit problems to freebsd-acpi to be sure it is seen. Be patient when waiting for a response. If the bug is not immediately apparent, submit a PR using send-pr(1). When entering a PR, include the same information as requested above. This helps developers to track the problem and resolve it. Do not send a PR without emailing freebsd-acpi first as it is likely that the problem has been reported before.

11.13.5. References

More information about ACPI may be found in the following locations:

[2] The auto-tuning algorithm sets maxusers equal to the amount of memory in the system, with a minimum of 32, and a maximum of 384.

Chapter 12. The FreeBSD Booting Process

12.1. Synopsis

The process of starting a computer and loading the operating system is referred to as the bootstrap process, or booting. FreeBSD's boot process provides a great deal of flexibility in customizing what happens when the system starts, including the ability to select from different operating systems installed on the same computer, different versions of the same operating system, or a different installed kernel.

This chapter details the configuration options that can be set. It demonstrates how to customize the FreeBSD boot process, including everything that happens until the FreeBSD kernel has started, probed for devices, and started init(8). This occurs when the text color of the boot messages changes from bright white to grey.

After reading this chapter, you will recognize:

  • The components of the FreeBSD bootstrap system and how they interact.

  • The options that can be passed to the components in the FreeBSD bootstrap in order to control the boot process.

  • How to configure a customized boot splash screen.

  • The basics of setting device hints.

  • How to boot into single- and multi-user mode and how to properly shut down a FreeBSD system.


This chapter only describes the boot process for FreeBSD running on x86 and amd64 systems.

12.2. FreeBSD Boot Process

Turning on a computer and starting the operating system poses an interesting dilemma. By definition, the computer does not know how to do anything until the operating system is started. This includes running programs from the disk. If the computer can not run a program from the disk without the operating system, and the operating system programs are on the disk, how is the operating system started?

This problem parallels one in the book The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. A character had fallen part way down a manhole, and pulled himself out by grabbing his bootstraps and lifting. In the early days of computing, the term bootstrap was applied to the mechanism used to load the operating system. It has since become shortened to booting.

On x86 hardware, the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) is responsible for loading the operating system. The BIOS looks on the hard disk for the Master Boot Record (MBR), which must be located in a specific place on the disk. The BIOS has enough knowledge to load and run the MBR, and assumes that the MBR can then carry out the rest of the tasks involved in loading the operating system, possibly with the help of the BIOS.


FreeBSD provides for booting from both the older MBR standard, and the newer GUID Partition Table (GPT). GPT partitioning is often found on computers with the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). However, FreeBSD can boot from GPT partitions even on machines with only a legacy BIOS with gptboot(8). Work is under way to provide direct UEFI booting.

The code within the MBR is typically referred to as a boot manager, especially when it interacts with the user. The boot manager usually has more code in the first track of the disk or within the file system. Examples of boot managers include the standard FreeBSD boot manager boot0, also called Boot Easy, and Grub, which is used by many Linux® distributions.

If only one operating system is installed, the MBR searches for the first bootable (active) slice on the disk, and then runs the code on that slice to load the remainder of the operating system. When multiple operating systems are present, a different boot manager can be installed to display a list of operating systems so the user can select one to boot.

The remainder of the FreeBSD bootstrap system is divided into three stages. The first stage knows just enough to get the computer into a specific state and run the second stage. The second stage can do a little bit more, before running the third stage. The third stage finishes the task of loading the operating system. The work is split into three stages because the MBR puts limits on the size of the programs that can be run at stages one and two. Chaining the tasks together allows FreeBSD to provide a more flexible loader.

The kernel is then started and begins to probe for devices and initialize them for use. Once the kernel boot process is finished, the kernel passes control to the user process init(8), which makes sure the disks are in a usable state, starts the user-level resource configuration which mounts file systems, sets up network cards to communicate on the network, and starts the processes which have been configured to run at startup.

This section describes these stages in more detail and demonstrates how to interact with the FreeBSD boot process.

12.2.1. The Boot Manager

The boot manager code in the MBR is sometimes referred to as stage zero of the boot process. By default, FreeBSD uses the boot0 boot manager.

The MBR installed by the FreeBSD installer is based on /boot/boot0. The size and capability of boot0 is restricted to 446 bytes due to the slice table and 0x55AA identifier at the end of the MBR. If boot0 and multiple operating systems are installed, a message similar to this example will be displayed at boot time:

Example 12.1. boot0 Screenshot
F1 Win
F2 FreeBSD

Default: F2

Other operating systems will overwrite an existing MBR if they are installed after FreeBSD. If this happens, or to replace the existing MBR with the FreeBSD MBR, use the following command:

# fdisk -B -b /boot/boot0 device

where device is the boot disk, such as ad0 for the first IDE disk, ad2 for the first IDE disk on a second IDE controller, or da0 for the first SCSI disk. To create a custom configuration of the MBR, refer to boot0cfg(8).

12.2.2. Stage One and Stage Two

Conceptually, the first and second stages are part of the same program on the same area of the disk. Because of space constraints, they have been split into two, but are always installed together. They are copied from the combined /boot/boot by the FreeBSD installer or bsdlabel.

These two stages are located outside file systems, in the first track of the boot slice, starting with the first sector. This is where boot0, or any other boot manager, expects to find a program to run which will continue the boot process.

The first stage, boot1, is very simple, since it can only be 512 bytes in size. It knows just enough about the FreeBSD bsdlabel, which stores information about the slice, to find and execute boot2.

Stage two, boot2, is slightly more sophisticated, and understands the FreeBSD file system enough to find files. It can provide a simple interface to choose the kernel or loader to run. It runs loader, which is much more sophisticated and provides a boot configuration file. If the boot process is interrupted at stage two, the following interactive screen is displayed:

Example 12.2. boot2 Screenshot
>> FreeBSD/i386 BOOT
Default: 0:ad(0,a)/boot/loader

To replace the installed boot1 and boot2, use bsdlabel, where diskslice is the disk and slice to boot from, such as ad0s1 for the first slice on the first IDE disk:

# bsdlabel -B diskslice


If just the disk name is used, such as ad0, bsdlabel will create the disk in dangerously dedicated mode, without slices. This is probably not the desired action, so double check the diskslice before pressing Return.

12.2.3. Stage Three

The loader is the final stage of the three-stage bootstrap process. It is located on the file system, usually as /boot/loader.

The loader is intended as an interactive method for configuration, using a built-in command set, backed up by a more powerful interpreter which has a more complex command set.

During initialization, loader will probe for a console and for disks, and figure out which disk it is booting from. It will set variables accordingly, and an interpreter is started where user commands can be passed from a script or interactively.

The loader will then read /boot/loader.rc, which by default reads in /boot/defaults/loader.conf which sets reasonable defaults for variables and reads /boot/loader.conf for local changes to those variables. loader.rc then acts on these variables, loading whichever modules and kernel are selected.

Finally, by default, loader issues a 10 second wait for key presses, and boots the kernel if it is not interrupted. If interrupted, the user is presented with a prompt which understands the command set, where the user may adjust variables, unload all modules, load modules, and then finally boot or reboot. Table 12.1, “Loader Built-In Commands” lists the most commonly used loader commands. For a complete discussion of all available commands, refer to loader(8).

Table 12.1. Loader Built-In Commands
autoboot secondsProceeds to boot the kernel if not interrupted within the time span given, in seconds. It displays a countdown, and the default time span is 10 seconds.
boot [-options] [kernelname]Immediately proceeds to boot the kernel, with any specified options or kernel name. Providing a kernel name on the command-line is only applicable after an unload has been issued. Otherwise, the previously-loaded kernel will be used. If kernelname is not qualified it will be searched under /boot/kernel and /boot/modules.
boot-confGoes through the same automatic configuration of modules based on specified variables, most commonly kernel. This only makes sense if unload is used first, before changing some variables.
help [topic]Shows help messages read from /boot/ If the topic given is index, the list of available topics is displayed.
include filenameReads the specified file and interprets it line by line. An error immediately stops the include.
load [-t type] filenameLoads the kernel, kernel module, or file of the type given, with the specified filename. Any arguments after filename are passed to the file. If filename is not qualified it will be searched under /boot/kernel and /boot/modules.
ls [-l] [path]Displays a listing of files in the given path, or the root directory, if the path is not specified. If -l is specified, file sizes will also be shown.
lsdev [-v]Lists all of the devices from which it may be possible to load modules. If -v is specified, more details are printed.
lsmod [-v]Displays loaded modules. If -v is specified, more details are shown.
more filenameDisplays the files specified, with a pause at each LINES displayed.
rebootImmediately reboots the system.
set variable, set variable=valueSets the specified environment variables.
unloadRemoves all loaded modules.

Here are some practical examples of loader usage. To boot the usual kernel in single-user mode :

boot -s

To unload the usual kernel and modules and then load the previous or another, specified kernel:

load kernel.old

Use kernel.GENERIC to refer to the default kernel that comes with an installation, or kernel.old, to refer to the previously installed kernel before a system upgrade or before configuring a custom kernel.

Use the following to load the usual modules with another kernel:

set kernel="kernel.old"

To load an automated kernel configuration script:

load -t userconfig_script /boot/kernel.conf

12.2.4. Last Stage

Once the kernel is loaded by either loader or by boot2, which bypasses loader, it examines any boot flags and adjusts its behavior as necessary. Table 12.2, “Kernel Interaction During Boot” lists the commonly used boot flags. Refer to boot(8) for more information on the other boot flags.

Table 12.2. Kernel Interaction During Boot
-aDuring kernel initialization, ask for the device to mount as the root file system.
-CBoot the root file system from a CDROM.
-sBoot into single-user mode.
-vBe more verbose during kernel startup.

Once the kernel has finished booting, it passes control to the user process init(8), which is located at /sbin/init, or the program path specified in the init_path variable in loader. This is the last stage of the boot process.

The boot sequence makes sure that the file systems available on the system are consistent. If a UFS file system is not, and fsck cannot fix the inconsistencies, init drops the system into single-user mode so that the system administrator can resolve the problem directly. Otherwise, the system boots into multi-user mode. Single-User Mode

A user can specify this mode by booting with -s or by setting the boot_single variable in loader. It can also be reached by running shutdown now from multi-user mode. Single-user mode begins with this message:

Enter full pathname of shell or RETURN for /bin/sh:

If the user presses Enter, the system will enter the default Bourne shell. To specify a different shell, input the full path to the shell.

Single-user mode is usually used to repair a system that will not boot due to an inconsistent file system or an error in a boot configuration file. It can also be used to reset the root password when it is unknown. These actions are possible as the single-user mode prompt gives full, local access to the system and its configuration files. There is no networking in this mode.

While single-user mode is useful for repairing a system, it poses a security risk unless the system is in a physically secure location. By default, any user who can gain physical access to a system will have full control of that system after booting into single-user mode.

If the system console is changed to insecure in /etc/ttys, the system will first prompt for the root password before initiating single-user mode. This adds a measure of security while removing the ability to reset the root password when it is unknown.

Example 12.3. Configuring an Insecure Console in /etc/ttys
# name  getty                           type    status          comments
# If console is marked "insecure", then init will ask for the root password
# when going to single-user mode.
console none                            unknown off insecure

An insecure console means that physical security to the console is considered to be insecure, so only someone who knows the root password may use single-user mode. Multi-User Mode

If init finds the file systems to be in order, or once the user has finished their commands in single-user mode and has typed exit to leave single-user mode, the system enters multi-user mode, in which it starts the resource configuration of the system.

The resource configuration system reads in configuration defaults from /etc/defaults/rc.conf and system-specific details from /etc/rc.conf. It then proceeds to mount the system file systems listed in /etc/fstab. It starts up networking services, miscellaneous system daemons, then the startup scripts of locally installed packages.

To learn more about the resource configuration system, refer to rc(8) and examine the scripts located in /etc/rc.d.

12.3. Configuring Boot Time Splash Screens

Contributed by Joseph J. Barbish.

Typically when a FreeBSD system boots, it displays its progress as a series of messages at the console. A boot splash screen creates an alternate boot screen that hides all of the boot probe and service startup messages. A few boot loader messages, including the boot options menu and a timed wait countdown prompt, are displayed at boot time, even when the splash screen is enabled. The display of the splash screen can be turned off by hitting any key on the keyboard during the boot process.

There are two basic environments available in FreeBSD. The first is the default legacy virtual console command line environment. After the system finishes booting, a console login prompt is presented. The second environment is a configured graphical environment. Refer to Chapter 5, The X Window System for more information on how to install and configure a graphical display manager and a graphical login manager.

Once the system has booted, the splash screen defaults to being a screen saver. After a time period of non-use, the splash screen will display and will cycle through steps of changing intensity of the image, from bright to very dark and over again. The configuration of the splash screen saver can be overridden by adding a saver= line to /etc/rc.conf. Several built-in screen savers are available and described in splash(4). The saver= option only applies to virtual consoles and has no effect on graphical display managers.

Sample splash screen files can be downloaded from the gallery at By installing the sysutils/bsd-splash-changer package or port, a random splash image from a collection will display at boot.

The splash screen function supports 256-colors in the bitmap (.bmp), ZSoft PCX (.pcx), or TheDraw (.bin) formats. The .bmp, .pcx, or .bin image has to be placed on the root partition, for example in /boot. The splash image files must have a resolution of 320 by 200 pixels or less in order to work on standard VGA adapters. For the default boot display resolution of 256-colors and 320 by 200 pixels or less, add the following lines to /boot/loader.conf. Replace splash.bmp with the name of the bitmap file to use:


To use a PCX file instead of a bitmap file:


To instead use ASCII art in the format:


To use larger images that fill the whole display screen, up to the maximum resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels, the VESA module must also be loaded during system boot. If using a custom kernel, ensure that the custom kernel configuration file includes the VESA kernel configuration option. To load the VESA module for the splash screen, add this line to /boot/loader.conf before the three lines mentioned in the above examples:


Other interesting loader.conf options include:


This will stop the boot options menu from being displayed, but the timed wait count down prompt will still be present. Even with the display of the boot options menu disabled, entering an option selection at the timed wait count down prompt will enact the corresponding boot option.


This will replace the default words FreeBSD, which are displayed to the right of the boot options menu, with the colored beastie logo.

For more information, refer to splash(4), loader.conf(5), and vga(4).

12.4. Device Hints

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

During initial system startup, the boot loader(8) reads device.hints(5). This file stores kernel boot information known as variables, sometimes referred to as device hints. These device hints are used by device drivers for device configuration.

Device hints may also be specified at the Stage 3 boot loader prompt, as demonstrated in Section 12.2.3, “Stage Three”. Variables can be added using set, removed with unset, and viewed show. Variables set in /boot/device.hints can also be overridden. Device hints entered at the boot loader are not permanent and will not be applied on the next reboot.

Once the system is booted, kenv(1) can be used to dump all of the variables.

The syntax for /boot/device.hints is one variable per line, using the hash # as comment markers. Lines are constructed as follows:


The syntax for the Stage 3 boot loader is:

set hint.driver.unit.keyword=value

where driver is the device driver name, unit is the device driver unit number, and keyword is the hint keyword. The keyword may consist of the following options:

  • at: specifies the bus which the device is attached to.

  • port: specifies the start address of the I/O to be used.

  • irq: specifies the interrupt request number to be used.

  • drq: specifies the DMA channel number.

  • maddr: specifies the physical memory address occupied by the device.

  • flags: sets various flag bits for the device.

  • disabled: if set to 1 the device is disabled.

Since device drivers may accept or require more hints not listed here, viewing a driver's manual page is recommended. For more information, refer to device.hints(5), kenv(1), loader.conf(5), and loader(8).

12.5. Shutdown Sequence

Upon controlled shutdown using shutdown(8), init(8) will attempt to run the script /etc/rc.shutdown, and then proceed to send all processes the TERM signal, and subsequently the KILL signal to any that do not terminate in a timely manner.

To power down a FreeBSD machine on architectures and systems that support power management, use shutdown -p now to turn the power off immediately. To reboot a FreeBSD system, use shutdown -r now. One must be root or a member of operator in order to run shutdown(8). One can also use halt(8) and reboot(8). Refer to their manual pages and to shutdown(8) for more information.


Power management requires acpi(4) to be loaded as a module or statically compiled into a custom kernel.

Chapter 13. Security

Rewritten by Tom Rhodes.

13.1. Synopsis

Security, whether physical or virtual, is a topic so broad that an entire industry has grown up around it. Hundreds of standard practices have been authored about how to secure systems and networks, and as a user of FreeBSD, understanding how to protect against attacks and intruders is a must.

In this chapter, several fundamentals and techniques will be discussed. The FreeBSD system comes with multiple layers of security, and many more third party utilities may be added to enhance security.

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • Basic FreeBSD system security concepts.

  • The various crypt mechanisms available in FreeBSD.

  • How to set up one-time password authentication.

  • How to configure TCP Wrapper for use with inetd(8).

  • How to set up Kerberos on FreeBSD.

  • How to configure IPsec and create a VPN.

  • How to configure and use OpenSSH on FreeBSD.

  • How to use file system ACLs.

  • How to use pkg to audit third party software packages in