FreeBSD/alpha 6.4-STABLE Installation Instructions

The FreeBSD Project

This article gives some brief instructions on installing FreeBSD/alpha 6.4-STABLE, with particular emphasis given to obtaining a FreeBSD distribution. Some notes on troubleshooting and frequently-asked questions are also given.

1 Installing FreeBSD

This section documents the process of installing a new distribution of FreeBSD. These instructions pay particular emphasis to the process of obtaining the FreeBSD 6.4-STABLE distribution and to beginning the installation procedure. The “Installing FreeBSD” chapter of the FreeBSD Handbook provides more in-depth information about the installation program itself, including a guided walkthrough with screenshots.

If you are upgrading from a previous release of FreeBSD, please see Section 3 for instructions on upgrading.

1.1 Getting Started

Probably the most important pre-installation step that can be taken is that of reading the various instruction documents provided with FreeBSD. A roadmap of documents pertaining to this release of FreeBSD can be found in README.TXT, which can usually be found in the same location as this file; most of these documents, such as the release notes and the hardware compatibility list, are also accessible in the Documentation menu of the installer.

Note that on-line versions of the FreeBSD FAQ and Handbook are also available from the FreeBSD Project Web site, if you have an Internet connection.

This collection of documents may seem daunting, but the time spent reading them will likely be saved many times over. Being familiar with what resources are available can also be helpful in the event of problems during installation.

The best laid plans sometimes go awry, so if you run into trouble take a look at Section 4, which contains valuable troubleshooting information. You should also read an updated copy of ERRATA.TXT before installing, since this will alert you to any problems which have reported in the interim for your particular release.

Important: While FreeBSD does its best to safeguard against accidental loss of data, it's still more than possible to wipe out your entire disk with this installation if you make a mistake. Please do not proceed to the final FreeBSD installation menu unless you've adequately backed up any important data first.

1.2 Hardware Requirements

FreeBSD for the Alpha/AXP supports the platforms described in HARDWARE.TXT.

You will need a dedicated disk for FreeBSD/alpha. It is not possible to share a disk with another operating system at this time. This disk will need to be attached to a SCSI controller which is supported by the SRM firmware or an IDE disk assuming the SRM in your machine supports booting from IDE disks.

Your root filesystem MUST be the first partition (partition a) on the disk to be bootable.

You will need the SRM console firmware for your platform. In some cases, it is possible to switch between AlphaBIOS (or ARC) firmware and SRM. In others it will be necessary to download new firmware from the vendor's Web site.

If you are not familiar with configuring hardware for FreeBSD, you should be sure to read the HARDWARE.TXT file; it contains important information on what hardware is supported by FreeBSD.

1.3 Floppy Disk Image Instructions

Depending on how you choose to install FreeBSD, you may need to create a set of floppy disks (usually four) to begin the installation process. This section briefly describes how to create these disks, either from a CDROM installation or from the Internet. Note that in the common case of installing FreeBSD from CDROM, on a machine that supports bootable CDROMs, the steps outlined in this section will not be needed and can be skipped.

For most CDROM or network installations, all you need to copy onto actual floppies from the floppies/ directory are the boot.flp and kernX.flp images (for 1.44MB floppies).

Getting these images over the network is easy. Simply fetch the release/floppies/boot.flp, and all of the release/floppies/kernX.flp files from or one of the many mirrors listed at FTP Sites section of the Handbook, or on the Web pages.

Get several blank, freshly formatted floppies and image copy boot.flp onto one and the kernX.flp files onto the others. These images are not DOS files. You cannot simply copy them to a DOS or UFS floppy as regular files, you need to “image” copy them to the floppy with fdimage.exe under DOS (see the tools directory on your CDROM or FreeBSD FTP mirror) or the dd(1) command in UNIX.

For example, to create the kernel floppy image from DOS, you'd do something like this:

C> fdimage boot.flp a:

Assuming that you'd copied fdimage.exe and boot.flp into a directory somewhere. You would do the same for the kernX.flp files, of course.

If you're creating the boot floppy from a UNIX machine, you may find that:

# dd if=floppies/boot.flp of=/dev/rfd0


# dd if=floppies/boot.flp of=/dev/fd0


# dd if=floppies/boot.flp of=/dev/floppy

work well, depending on your hardware and operating system environment (different versions of UNIX have different names for the floppy drive).

1.4 Installing FreeBSD from CDROM or the Internet

The easiest type of installation is from CDROM. If you have a supported CDROM drive and a FreeBSD installation CDROM, you can boot FreeBSD directly from the CDROM. Insert the CDROM into the drive and type the following command to start the installation (substituting the name of the appropriate CDROM drive if necessary):

>>>boot dka0

Alternatively you can boot the installation from floppy disk. You should start the installation by building a set of FreeBSD boot floppies from the floppies/boot.flp and floppies/kernX.flp files using the instructions found in Section 1.3. From the SRM console prompt (>>>), just insert the boot.flp floppy and type the following command to start the installation:

>>>boot dva0

Insert the other floppies when prompted and you will end up at the first screen of the install program.

1.5 Detail on various installation types

Once you've gotten yourself to the initial installation screen somehow, you should be able to follow the various menu prompts and go from there. If you've never used the FreeBSD installation before, you are also encouraged to read some of the documentation in the Documentation submenu as well as the general “Usage” instructions on the first menu.

Note: If you get stuck at a screen, press the F1 key for online documentation relevant to that specific section.

If you've never installed FreeBSD before, or even if you have, the “Standard” installation mode is the most recommended since it makes sure that you'll visit all the various important checklist items along the way. If you're much more comfortable with the FreeBSD installation process and know exactly what you want to do, use the “Express” or “Custom” installation options. If you're upgrading an existing system, use the “Upgrade” option.

The FreeBSD installer supports the direct use of floppy, DOS, tape, CDROM, FTP, NFS and UFS partitions as installation media; further tips on installing from each type of media are listed below.

Once the install procedure has finished, you will be able to start FreeBSD/alpha by typing something like this to the SRM prompt:

>>>boot dkc0

This instructs the firmware to boot the specified disk. To find the SRM names of disks in your machine, use the show device command:

>>>show device
dka0.               DKA0           TOSHIBA CD-ROM XM-57  3476
dkc0.0.0.1009.0            DKC0                       RZ1BB-BS  0658
dkc100.1.0.1009.0          DKC100             SEAGATE ST34501W  0015
dva0.               DVA0
ewa0.               EWA0              00-00-F8-75-6D-01
pkc0.7.0.1009.0            PKC0                  SCSI Bus ID 7  5.27
pqa0.               PQA0                       PCI EIDE
pqb0.               PQB0                       PCI EIDE

This example is from a Digital Personal Workstation 433au and shows three disks attached to the machine. The first is a CDROM called dka0 and the other two are disks and are called dkc0 and dkc100 respectively.

You can specify which kernel file to load and what boot options to use with the -file and -flags options, for example:

>>> boot -file kernel.old -flags s

To make FreeBSD/alpha boot automatically, use these commands:

>>> set boot_osflags a
>>> set bootdef_dev dkc0
>>> set auto_action BOOT

1.5.1 Installing from a Network CDROM

If you simply wish to install from a local CDROM drive then see Section 1.4. If you don't have a CDROM drive on your system and wish to use a FreeBSD distribution CD in the CDROM drive of another system to which you have network connectivity, there are also several ways of going about it:

  • If you would be able to FTP install FreeBSD directly from the CDROM drive in some FreeBSD machine, it's quite easy: You ensure an FTP server is running and then simply add the following line to the password file (using the vipw(8) command):


    On the machine on which you are running the install, go to the Options menu and set Release Name to any. You may then choose a Media type of FTP and type in ftp://machine after picking “URL” in the ftp sites menu.

    Warning: This may allow anyone on the local network (or Internet) to make “anonymous FTP” connections to this machine, which may not be desirable.

  • If you would rather use NFS to export the CDROM directly to the machine(s) you'll be installing from, you need to first add an entry to the /etc/exports file (on the machine with the CDROM drive). The example below allows the machine to mount the CDROM directly via NFS during installation:

    /cdrom          -ro   

    The machine with the CDROM must also be configured as an NFS server, of course, and if you're not sure how to do that then an NFS installation is probably not the best choice for you unless you're willing to read up on rc.conf(5) and configure things appropriately. Assuming that this part goes smoothly, you should be able to enter: cdrom-host:/cdrom as the path for an NFS installation when the target machine is installed, e.g. wiggy:/cdrom.

1.5.2 Installing from Floppies

If you must install from floppy disks, either due to unsupported hardware or just because you enjoy doing things the hard way, you must first prepare some floppies for the install.

First, make your boot floppies as described in Section 1.3.

Second, peruse Section 2 and pay special attention to the “Distribution Format” section since it describes which files you're going to need to put onto floppy and which you can safely skip.

Next you will need, at minimum, as many 1.44MB floppies as it takes to hold all files in the bin (binary distribution) directory. If you're preparing these floppies under DOS, then these floppies must be formatted using the MS-DOS FORMAT command. If you're using Windows, use the Windows File Manager format command.

Important: Frequently, floppy disks come “factory preformatted”. While convenient, many problems reported by users in the past have resulted from the use of improperly formatted media. Re-format them yourself, just to make sure.

If you're creating the floppies from another FreeBSD machine, a format is still not a bad idea though you don't need to put a DOS filesystem on each floppy. You can use the disklabel(8) and newfs(8) commands to put a UFS filesystem on a floppy, as the following sequence of commands illustrates:

# fdformat -f 1440 fd0
# disklabel -w fd0 floppy3
# newfs -i 65536 /dev/fd0

After you've formatted the floppies for DOS or UFS, you'll need to copy the files onto them. The distribution files are sized so that a floppy disk will hold a single file. Each distribution should go into its own subdirectory on the floppy, e.g.: a:\bin\bin.inf, a:\bin\bin.aa, a:\bin\bin.ab, ...

Important: The bin.inf file also needs to go on the first floppy of the bin set since it is read by the installation program in order to figure out how many additional pieces to look for when fetching and concatenating the distribution. When putting distributions onto floppies, the distname.inf file must occupy the first floppy of each distribution set.

Once you come to the Media screen of the install, select “Floppy” and you'll be prompted for the rest.

1.5.4 Installing from QIC/SCSI Tape

When installing from tape, the installation program expects the files to be simply tar'ed onto it, so after fetching all of the files for the distributions you're interested in, simply use tar(1) to get them onto the tape with a command something like this:

# cd /where/you/have/your/dists
# tar cvf /dev/sa0 dist1 .. dist2

When you go to do the installation, you should also make sure that you leave enough room in some temporary directory (which you'll be allowed to choose) to accommodate the full contents of the tape you've created. Due to the non-random access nature of tapes, this method of installation requires quite a bit of temporary storage. You should expect to require as much temporary storage as you have stuff written on tape.

Note: When going to do the installation, the tape must be in the drive before booting from the boot floppies. The installation “probe” may otherwise fail to find it.

Now create a boot floppy as described in Section 1.3 and proceed with the installation.

1.5.5 Installing over a Network using FTP or NFS

After making the boot floppies as described in the first section, you can load the rest of the installation over a network using one of 3 types of connections: serial port, parallel port, or Ethernet. Serial Port

SLIP support is rather primitive, and is limited primarily to hard-wired links, such as a serial cable running between two computers. The link must be hard-wired because the SLIP installation doesn't currently offer a dialing capability. If you need to dial out with a modem or otherwise dialog with the link before connecting to it, then the PPP utility should be used instead.

If you're using PPP, make sure that you have your Internet Service Provider's IP address and DNS information handy as you'll need to know it fairly early in the installation process. You may also need to know your own IP address, though PPP supports dynamic address negotiation and may be able to pick up this information directly from your ISP if they support it.

You will also need to know how to use the various “AT commands” for dialing out with your particular brand of modem as the PPP dialer provides only a very simple terminal emulator. Parallel Port

If a hard-wired connection to another FreeBSD or Linux machine is available, you might also consider installing over a “laplink” style parallel port cable. The data rate over the parallel port is much higher than what is typically possible over a serial line (up to 50k/sec), thus resulting in a quicker installation. It's not typically necessary to use “real” IP addresses when using a point-to-point parallel cable in this way and you can generally just use RFC 1918 style addresses for the ends of the link (e.g.,, etc).

Important: If you use a Linux machine rather than a FreeBSD machine as your PLIP peer, you will also have to specify link0 in the TCP/IP setup screen's “extra options for ifconfig” field in order to be compatible with Linux's slightly different PLIP protocol. Ethernet

FreeBSD supports most common Ethernet cards; a table of supported cards is provided as part of the FreeBSD Hardware Notes (see HARDWARE.TXT in the Documentation menu on the boot floppy or the top level directory of the CDROM). If you are using one of the supported PCMCIA Ethernet cards, also be sure that it's plugged in before the laptop is powered on. FreeBSD does not, unfortunately, currently support “hot insertion” of PCMCIA cards during installation.

You will also need to know your IP address on the network, the netmask value for your subnet and the name of your machine. Your system administrator can tell you which values are appropriate to your particular network setup. If you will be referring to other hosts by name rather than IP address, you'll also need a name server and possibly the address of a gateway (if you're using PPP, it's your provider's IP address) to use in talking to it. If you want to install by FTP via an HTTP proxy (see below), you will also need the proxy's address.

If you do not know the answers to these questions then you should really probably talk to your system administrator first before trying this type of installation. Using a randomly chosen IP address or netmask on a live network is almost guaranteed not to work, and will probably result in a lecture from said system administrator.

Once you have a network connection of some sort working, the installation can continue over NFS or FTP. NFS installation tips

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

If this server supports only “privileged port” access (this is generally the default for Sun and Linux workstations), you may need to set this option in the Options menu before installation can proceed.

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

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

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

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

If you are installing from some other FTP site not listed in this menu, or you are having troubles getting your name server configured properly, you can also specify your own URL by selecting the “URL” choice in that menu. A URL can contain a hostname or an IP address, so something like the following would work in the absence of a name server:

There are three FTP installation modes you can use:

  • FTP: This method uses the standard “Active” mode for transfers, in which the server initiates a connection to the client. This will not work through most firewalls but will often work best with older FTP servers that do not support passive mode. If your connection hangs with passive mode, try this one.

  • FTP Passive: This sets the FTP "Passive" mode which prevents the server from opening connections to the client. This option is best for users to pass through firewalls that do not allow incoming connections on random port addresses.

  • FTP via an HTTP proxy: This option instructs FreeBSD to use HTTP to connect to a proxy for all FTP operations. The proxy will translate the requests and send them to the FTP server. This allows the user to pass through firewalls that do not allow FTP at all, but offer an HTTP proxy. You must specify the hostname of the proxy in addition to the FTP server.

    In the rare case that you have an FTP proxy that does not go through HTTP, you can specify the URL as something like:

    In the URL above, port is the port number of the proxy FTP server.

1.5.6 Tips for Serial Console Users

If you'd like to install FreeBSD on a machine using just a serial port (e.g. you don't have or wish to use a VGA card), please follow these steps:

  1. Connect some sort of ANSI (vt100) compatible terminal or terminal emulation program to the COM1 port of the PC you are installing FreeBSD onto.

  2. Unplug the keyboard (yes, that's correct!) and then try to boot from floppy or the installation CDROM, depending on the type of installation media you have, with the keyboard unplugged.

  3. If you don't get any output on your serial console, plug the keyboard in again. If you are booting from the CDROM, proceed to step 5 as soon as you hear the beep.

  4. If booting from floppies, when access to the disk stops, insert the first of the kernX.flp disks and press Enter. When access to this disk finishes, insert the next kernX.flp disk and press Enter, and repeat until all kernX.flp disks have been inserted. When disk activity finishes, reinsert the boot.flp floppy disk and press Enter.

  5. Once a beep is heard, hit the number 6, then enter

    boot -h

    and you should now definitely be seeing everything on the serial port. If that still doesn't work, check your serial cabling as well as the settings on your terminal emulation program or actual terminal device. It should be set for 9600 baud, 8 bits, no parity.

1.6 Question and Answer Section for Alpha/AXP Architecture Users

1.6.1. Can I boot from the ARC or Alpha BIOS Console?
1.6.2. Help! I have no space! Do I need to delete everything first?
1.6.3. Can I mount my Compaq Tru64 or VMS extended partitions?
1.6.4. What about support for Compaq Tru64 (OSF/1) binaries?
1.6.5. What about support for Linux binaries?
1.6.6. What about support for NT Alpha binaries?

1.6.1. Can I boot from the ARC or Alpha BIOS Console?

No. FreeBSD, like Compaq Tru64 and VMS, will only boot from the SRM console.

1.6.2. Help! I have no space! Do I need to delete everything first?

Unfortunately, yes.

1.6.3. Can I mount my Compaq Tru64 or VMS extended partitions?

No, not at this time.

1.6.4. What about support for Compaq Tru64 (OSF/1) binaries?

FreeBSD can run Tru64 applications very well using the emulators/osf1_base port/package.

1.6.5. What about support for Linux binaries?

FreeBSD can run AlphaLinux binaries with the assistance of the emulators/linux_base port/package.

1.6.6. What about support for NT Alpha binaries?

FreeBSD is not able to run NT applications natively, although it has the ability to mount NT partitions.

This file, and other release-related documents, can be downloaded from

For questions about FreeBSD, read the documentation before contacting <>.

All users of FreeBSD 6-STABLE should subscribe to the <> mailing list.

For questions about this documentation, e-mail <>.