Chapter 3. Example installation

Table of Contents

3.1. Introduction
3.2. The installation process
3.3. Keyboard layout
3.4. Starting the installation
3.5. MBR partitions
3.6. Disklabel partitions
3.7. Setting the disk name
3.8. Last chance!
3.9. The disk preparation process
3.10. Choosing the installation media
3.10.1. Installing from CD-ROM or DVD
3.10.2. Installing from an unmounted file system
3.10.3. Installing via FTP
3.10.4. Installing via NFS
3.11. Extracting sets
3.12. System configuration
3.13. Finishing the installation

3.1. Introduction

This chapter will guide you through the installation process. The concepts presented here apply to all installation methods. The only difference is in the way the distribution sets are fetched by the installer. Some details of the installation differ depending on the NetBSD release: The examples from this chapter were created with NetBSD 5.0.


The following install screens are just examples. Do not simply copy them, as your hardware and configuration details may be different!

3.2. The installation process

The installation process is divided logically in two parts. In the first part you create a partition for NetBSD and write the disklabel for that partition. In the second part you decide which distribution sets (subsets of the operating system) you want to install and then extract the files into the newly created partition(s).

3.3. Keyboard layout

The NetBSD install program sysinst allows you to change the keyboard layout during the installation. If for some reason this does not work for you, you can use the map in the following table.

- ' ß )
/ - - !
= ì ' -
: ç Ö M
; ò ö m
# £ § 3
" ° Ä %
* ( ( 8
( ) ) 9
) = = 0
' à ä ù
` \ ^ @
\ ù # `

3.4. Starting the installation

To start the installation of NetBSD, insert your chosen boot media (CD/DVD, USB drive, floppy, etc.) and reboot the computer. The kernel on the installation medium will be booted and start displaying a lot of messages on the screen about hardware being detected.

Figure 3.1. Selecting the language

Selecting the language

When the kernel has booted you will find yourself in the NetBSD installation program, sysinst, shown in Figure 3.1, “Selecting the language”. From here on you should follow the instructions displayed on the screen, using the INSTALL document as a companion reference. You will find the INSTALL document in various formats in the root directory of the NetBSD release. The sysinst screens all have more or less the same layout: the upper part of the screen shows a short description of the current operation or a short help message, and the rest of the screen is made up of interactive menus and prompts. To make a choice, use the cursor keys, the Ctrl+N (next) and Ctrl+P (previous) keys, or press one of the letters displayed left of each choice. Confirm your choice by pressing the Return key.

Start by selecting the language you prefer to use for the installation process.

The next screen Figure 3.2, “Selecting a keyboard type” will allow you to select a suitable keyboard type.

Figure 3.2. Selecting a keyboard type

Selecting a keyboard type

This will bring you to the main menu of the installation program (Figure 3.3, “The sysinst main menu”).

Figure 3.3. The sysinst main menu

The sysinst main menu

Choosing the Install NetBSD to hard disk option brings you to the next screen (Figure 3.4, “Confirming to install NetBSD”), where you need to confirm that you want to continue the installation.

Figure 3.4. Confirming to install NetBSD

Confirming to install NetBSD

After choosing Yes to continue, sysinst displays a list of one or more disks and asks which one you want to install NetBSD on. In the example given in Figure 3.5, “Choosing a hard disk”, there are two disks, and NetBSD will be installed on wd0, the first IDE disk found. If you use SCSI or external USB disks, the first will be named sd0, the second sd1 and so on.

Figure 3.5. Choosing a hard disk

Choosing a hard disk

The installer will then ask whether you want to do a full, minimal or custom installation. NetBSD is broken into a collection of distributions sets. Full installation is the default and will install all sets; Minimal installation will only install a small core set, the minimum of what is needed for a working system. If you select Custom installation you can select which sets you would like to have installed. This step is shown in Figure 3.6, “Full or custom installation”.

Figure 3.6. Full or custom installation

Full or custom installation

If you choose to do a custom installation, sysinst will allow you to choose which distribution sets to install, as shown in Figure 3.7, “Selecting distribution sets”. At a minimum, you must select a kernel and the Base and System (/etc) sets.

Figure 3.7. Selecting distribution sets

Selecting distribution sets

3.5. MBR partitions

The first important step of the installation has come: the partitioning of the hard disk. First, you need to specify whether NetBSD will use a partition (suggested choice) or the whole disk. In the former case it is still possible to create a partition that uses the whole hard disk (Figure 3.8, “Choosing the partitioning scheme”) so we recommend that you select this option as it keeps the BIOS partition table in a format which is compatible with other operating systems.

Figure 3.8. Choosing the partitioning scheme

Choosing the partitioning scheme

The next screen shows the current state of the MBR partition table on the hard disk before the installation of NetBSD. There are four primary partitions, and as you can see, this example disk is currently empty. If you do have other partitions you can leave them around and install NetBSD on a partition that is currently unused, or you can overwrite a partition to use it for NetBSD.

Figure 3.9. fdisk


Deleting a partition is simple: after selecting the partition, a menu with options for that partition will appear (Figure 3.10, “Partition options”). Change the partition kind to Delete partition to remove the partition. Of course, if you want to use the partition for NetBSD you can set the partition kind to NetBSD.

You can create a partition for NetBSD by selecting the partition you want to install NetBSD to. The partition names a to d correspond to the four primary partitions on other operating systems. After selecting a partition, a menu with options for that partition will appear, as shown in Figure 3.10, “Partition options”.

Figure 3.10. Partition options

Partition options

To create a new partition, the following information must be supplied:

  • the type (kind) of the new partition

  • the first (start) sector of the new partition

  • the size of the new partition

Choose the partition type NetBSD for the new partition (using the type option). The installation program will try to guess the start position based on the end of the preceding partition. Change this value if necessary. The same thing applies to the size option; the installation program will try to fill in the space that is available until the next partition or the end of the disk (depending on which comes first). You can change this value if it is incorrect, or if you do not want NetBSD to use the suggested amount of space.

After you have chosen the partition type, start position, and size, it is a good idea to set the name that should be used in the boot menu. You can do this by selecting the bootmenu option and providing a label, e.g., NetBSD. It is a good idea to repeat this step for other bootable partitions so you can boot both NetBSD and a Windows system (or other operating systems) using the NetBSD bootselector. If you are satisfied with the partition options, confirm your choice by selecting Partition OK. Choose Partition table OK to leave the MBR partition table editor.

If you have made an error in partitioning (for example you have created overlapping partitions) sysinst will display a message and suggest that you go back to the MBR partition editor (but you are also allowed to continue). If the data is correct but the NetBSD partition lies outside the range of sectors which is bootable by the BIOS, sysinst will warn you and ask if you want to proceed anyway. Doing so may lead to problems on older PCs.


This is not a limitation of NetBSD. Some old BIOSes cannot boot a partition which lies outside the first 1024 cylinders. To fully understand the problem you should study the different type of BIOSes and the many addressing schemes that they use (physical CHS, logical CHS, LBA, ...). These topics are not described in this guide.

On modern computers (those with support for int13 extensions), it is possible to install NetBSD in partitions that live outside the first 8 GB of the hard disk, provided that the NetBSD boot selector is installed.

Next, sysinst will offer to install a boot selector on the hard disk. This screen is shown in Figure 3.11, “Installing the boot selector”.

Figure 3.11. Installing the boot selector

Installing the boot selector

At this point, the BIOS partitions (called slices on BSD systems) have been created. They are also called PC BIOS partitions, MBR partitions or fdisk partitions.


Do not confuse the slices or BIOS partitions with the BSD partitions, which are different things.

3.6. Disklabel partitions

Some platforms, like PC systems (amd64 and i386), use DOS-style MBR partitions to separate file systems. The MBR partition you created earlier in the installation process is necessary to make sure that other operating systems do not overwrite the diskspace that you allocated to NetBSD.

NetBSD uses its own partition scheme, called a disklabel, which is stored at the start of the MBR partition. In the next few steps you will create a disklabel(5) and set the sizes of the NetBSD partitions, or use existing partition sizes, as shown in Figure 3.12, “Edit partitions?”.

Figure 3.12. Edit partitions?

Edit partitions?

When you choose to set the sizes of the NetBSD partitions you can define the partitions you would like to create. The installation program will generate a disklabel based on these settings. This installation screen is shown in Figure 3.13, “Setting partition sizes”.

Figure 3.13. Setting partition sizes

Setting partition sizes

The default partition scheme of just using a big / (root) file system (plus swap) works fine with NetBSD, and there is little need to change this. Figure 3.13, “Setting partition sizes” shows how to change the size of the swap partition to 600 MB. Changing /tmp to reside on a RAM disk (mfs(8)) for extra speed may be a good idea. Other partition schemes may use separate partitions for /var, /usr and/or /home, but you should use your own experience to decide if you need this.

The next step is to create the disklabel and edit its partitions, if necessary, using the disklabel editor (Figure 3.14, “The disklabel editor”). If you predefined the partition sizes in the previous step, the resulting disklabel will probably fit your wishes. In that case you can complete the process immediately by selecting Partition sizes ok.

Figure 3.14. The disklabel editor

The disklabel editor

There are two reserved partitions, c, representing the NetBSD partition, and d, representing the whole disk. You can edit all other partitions by using the cursor keys and pressing the return key. You can add a partition by selecting an unused slot and setting parameters for that partition. The partition editing screen is shown in Figure 3.15, “Disklabel partition editing”.

Figure 3.15. Disklabel partition editing

Disklabel partition editing

3.7. Setting the disk name

After defining the partitions in the new disklabel, the last item is to enter a name for the NetBSD disk as shown in Figure 3.16, “Naming the NetBSD disk”. This can be used later to distinguish between disklabels of otherwise identical disks.

Figure 3.16. Naming the NetBSD disk

Naming the NetBSD disk

3.8. Last chance!

The installer now has all the data it needs to prepare the disk. Nothing has been written to the disk at this point but, and now is your last chance to abort the installation process before actually writing data to the disk. Choose no to abort the installation process and return to the main menu, or continue by selecting yes.

Figure 3.17. Last chance to abort

Last chance to abort

3.9. The disk preparation process

After confirming that sysinst should prepare the disk, it will run disklabel(8) to create the NetBSD partition layout and newfs(8) to create the file systems on the disk.

After preparing the NetBSD partitions and their filesystems, the next question (shown in Figure 3.18, “Selecting bootblocks”) is which bootblocks to install. Usually you will choose the default of BIOS console, i.e., show boot messages on your computer's display.

If you run a farm of machines without monitor, it may be more convenient to use a serial console running on one of the serial ports. The menu also allows changing the serial port's baud rate from the default of 9600 baud, 8 data bits, no parity and one stopbit.

Figure 3.18. Selecting bootblocks

Selecting bootblocks

3.10. Choosing the installation media

At this point, you have finished the first and most difficult part of the installation!

The second half of the installation process consists of populating the file systems by extracting the distribution sets that you selected earlier (base, compiler tools, games, etc). Before unpacking the sets, sysinst asks what information you would like to see during that process, as shown in Figure 3.19, “Choosing the verbosity of the extraction process”. You can choose between a progress bar, a display of the name of each extracted file, or nothing.

Figure 3.19. Choosing the verbosity of the extraction process

Choosing the verbosity of the extraction process

Now sysinst needs to find the NetBSD sets and you must tell it where to find them. The menu offers several choices, as shown in Figure 3.20, “Installation media”. The options are explained in detail in the INSTALL documents.

Figure 3.20. Installation media

Installation media

3.10.1. Installing from CD-ROM or DVD

When selecting CD-ROM / DVD, sysinst asks the name of the CD-ROM or DVD device and the directory in which the set files are stored, see Figure 3.21, “CD-ROM/DVD installation”. The device is usually cd0 for the first CD-ROM or DVD drive, regardless of whether it is IDE or SCSI (or even USB or FireWire).

Figure 3.21. CD-ROM/DVD installation

CD-ROM/DVD installation

The CD-ROM/DVD device name

If you don't know the name of the CD-ROM/DVD device, you can find by doing the following:

  1. Press Ctrl-Z to pause sysinst and go to the shell prompt.

  2. Type the command:

    # dmesg

    This will show the kernel startup messages, including the name of the CD-ROM device, for example cd0.

  3. If the display scrolls too quickly, you can also use more:

    # dmesg | more
  4. Go back to the installation program with the command:

    # fg

3.10.2. Installing from an unmounted file system

Figure 3.22, “Mounting a file system” shows the menu to install NetBSD from an unmounted file system. It is necessary to specify the device ("Device"), the file system of the device ("File system") and the path to the install sets ("Set directory"). The setting for the "Base directory" is optional and can be kept blank.

In the following example the install sets are stored on a MSDOS file system, on partition "e" on the device "sd0".

Figure 3.22. Mounting a file system

Mounting a file system

It is usually necessary to specify the device name and the partition. Figure 3.23, “Mounting a partition ” shows how to specify device "sd0" with partition "e".

Figure 3.23. Mounting a partition

Mounting a partition

In Figure 3.24, “Accessing a MSDOS file system” the file system type is specified. It is msdos but it could also be the NetBSD file system ffs or ext2fs, a Linux file system. The Base directory item is left blank and the binary sets are stored under /sets. Choosing Continue will start the extraction of the sets.

Figure 3.24. Accessing a MSDOS file system

Accessing a MSDOS file system

3.10.3. Installing via FTP

If you choose to install from a local network or the Internet via FTP, sysinst will configure the system's network connection, download the selected set files to a temporary directory, and then extract them.

NetBSD currently supports installation via ethernet, USB ethernet or wireless, and wireless LAN. Installation via DSL (PPP over Ethernet) is not supported during installation.

The first step shown in Figure 3.25, “Which network interface to configure” consists of selecting which network card to configure. sysinst will determine a list of available network interfaces, present them and ask which one to use.


The exact names of your network interfaces depend on the hardware you use. Example interfaces are wm for Intel Gigabit interfaces, ne for NE2000 and compatible ethernet cards, and ath for Atheros based wireless cards. This list is by no means complete, and NetBSD supports many more network devices.

To get a list of network interfaces available on your system, interrupt the installation process by pressing Ctrl+Z, then enter

# ifconfig -a
        address: 00:06:0d:c6:73:d5
        media: Ethernet autoselect 10baseT full-duplex
        status: active
        inet netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast
        inet6 fe80::206:dff:fec6:73d5%ne2 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x1
lo0: flags=8009<UP,LOOPBACK,MULTICAST> mtu 33196
        inet netmask 0xff000000
        inet6 ::1 prefixlen 128
        inet6 fe80::1%lo0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x2
ppp0: flags=8010<POINTOPOINT,MULTICAST> mtu 1500
ppp1: flags=8010<POINTOPOINT,MULTICAST> mtu 1500
sl0: flags=c010<POINTOPOINT,LINK2,MULTICAST> mtu 296
sl1: flags=c010<POINTOPOINT,LINK2,MULTICAST> mtu 296
strip0: flags=0 mtu 1100
strip1: flags=0 mtu 1100 

To get more information about all the devices found during system startup, including network devices, type

# dmesg | more

You can return to the NetBSD installation by typing

# fg

Figure 3.25. Which network interface to configure

Which network interface to configure

Next, you have a chance to set your network medium.


It is unlikely that you will need to enter anything other than the default here. If you experience problems like very slow transfers or timeouts, you may, for example, force different duplex settings for ethernet cards. To get a list of supported media and media options for a given network device (ne2, for example), escape from sysinst by pressing Ctrl+Z, then enter:

# ifconfig -m ne2
        address: 00:03:0d:c6:73:d5
        media: Ethernet 10baseT full-duplex
        status: active
        supported Ethernet media:
                media 10baseT
                media 10baseT mediaopt full-duplex
                media 10base2
                media autoselect

The various values printed after media may be of interest here, including keywords like autoselect but also including any mediaopt settings.

Return to the installation by typing:

# fg

The next question will be whether you want to perform DHCP autoconfiguration as shown in Figure 3.26, “Using DHCP for network configuration”. Answer Yes if you have a DHCP Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) running somewhere on your network, and sysinst will fetch a number of defaults from it. Answer No to enter all the values manually.

We will assume you answered No and go into all the questions asked in detail.

Figure 3.26. Using DHCP for network configuration

Using DHCP for network configuration

Figure 3.27, “Entering and configuring network data” shows the questions asked for the network configuration. The values to be entered are:

Your DNS Domain:

This is the name of the domain you are in.

Your hostname:

The name by which other machines can usually address your computer. Not used during installation.

Your IPv4 number:

Enter your numerical Internet Protocol address in dotted quad notation here, for example,

IPv4 Netmask:

The netmask for your network, either given as a hex value (0xffffff00) or in dotted-quad notation (

IPv4 gateway:

Your router's (or default gateway's) IP address. Do not use a hostname here!

IPv4 name server:

Your (first) DNS server's IP address. Again, don't use a hostname.

Figure 3.27. Entering and configuring network data

Entering and configuring network data

After answering all of your network configuration info, it will be displayed, and you will have a chance to go back and make changes (Figure 3.28, “Confirming network parameters”).

Figure 3.28. Confirming network parameters

Confirming network parameters

sysinst will now run a few commands (not displayed in detail here) to configure the network: flushing the routing table, setting the default route, and testing if the network connection is operational.

Now that you have a functional network connection, you must tell the installer how to get the distribution sets, as shown in Figure 3.29, “Defining the FTP settings”.

When you are satisfied with your settings (the defaults work most of the time), choose Get Distribution to continue.

Figure 3.29. Defining the FTP settings

Defining the FTP settings

3.10.4. Installing via NFS

If you want to install NetBSD from a server in your local network, NFS is an alternative to FTP.


Using this installation method requires the ability to set up an NFS server, a topic which is not discussed here.

As shown in Figure 3.30, “NFS install screen”, you must specify the IP address of the NFS server with "Host", the "Base directory" that is exported by the NFS server, and the "Set directory", which contains the install sets.

Figure 3.30. NFS install screen

NFS install screen

Figure 3.31, “NFS example” shows an example: Host is the NFS server that provides the directory /home/username/Downloads The NetBSD install sets are stored in the directory /home/username/Downloads/sets on the NFS server. Choose Continue to start the installation of the distribution sets.

Figure 3.31. NFS example

NFS example

3.11. Extracting sets

After the method for obtaining distribution sets has been chosen, and (if applicable) after those sets have been transferred, they will be extracted into the new NetBSD file system.

After extracting all selected sets, sysinst will create device nodes in the /dev directory and then display a message saying that everything went well.

Another message (see Figure 3.32, “Extraction of sets completed”) will let you know that the set extraction is now completed, and that you will have an opportunity to configure some essential things before finishing the NetBSD installation.

Figure 3.32. Extraction of sets completed

Extraction of sets completed

3.12. System configuration

The first thing you can configure is your timezone. It is Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) by default, and you can use the two-level menu of continents/countries and cities shown in Figure 3.33, “Selecting the system's time zone” to select your timezone with the Return key. Next, press x followed by Return to exit timezone selection.

Figure 3.33. Selecting the system's time zone

Selecting the system's time zone

At this point, you are given the option to choose a password encryption scheme. While DES is the standard algorithm used on most Unix systems, MD5, Blowfish, and SHA1 allow longer passwords than DES, which only uses the first eight characters of the password that is entered. DES is still useful for interoperability with other operating systems.

Figure 3.34. Selecting a password encryption scheme

Selecting a password encryption scheme

After choosing the password cipher you are asked if you want to set the root password. It is recommended to set a root password at this point for security reasons.

Figure 3.35. Set a root password?

Set a root password?

When you agree to set a root password, sysinst will run the passwd(1) utility for you. Please note that the password is not echoed.

Figure 3.36. Setting root password

Setting root password

The next menu allows you to choose which command line interpreter - also known as a shell - will be used for the root account. The default is the Bourne-compatible Almquist shell, sh(1). Other choices are the Korn shell (ksh(1)) and the C shell (csh(1)). If, upon reading this, you don't have some idea of which shell you prefer, simply use the default, as this is a highly subjective decision. Should you later change your mind, root's shell can always be changed.

Figure 3.37. Choosing a shell

Choosing a shell

3.13. Finishing the installation

At this point the installation is finished.

Figure 3.38. Installation completed

Installation completed

After passing the dialog that confirms the installation, sysinst will return to the main menu. Remove any installation media (CD, floppy, etc.) and choose Reboot the computer to boot your new NetBSD installation.

Figure 3.39. Reboot to finish installation

Reboot to finish installation