Installing FreeBSD with netboot

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FreeBSD bootonly

The first step to installing FreeBSD via netboot is to acquire FreeBSD. We'll be using the bootonly-iso, this can be fetched at your nearest ftp.

Download the bootonly-iso:


Mount the iso-image and copy the contents to some location:

mdconfig -a -t vnode -f FreeBSD-8.2-RELEASE-i386-bootonly.iso
mount_cd9660 /dev/md0 /mnt
mkdir /usr/local/pxeboot
cp -R /mnt/ /usr/local/pxeboot
umount /mnt
mdconfig -d -u 0

The main reason for copying the cd is to edit the file /boot/loader.conf adding the following line:

echo 'vfs.root.mountfrom="ufs:/dev/md0"' >> /usr/local/pxeboot/boot/loader.conf

This will cause the lovable FreeBSD sysinstall to start. The pxeboot will mount the rootfs from the file mfsroot.gz instead of the default of mounting a NFS-root.

NIC with PXE boot

For the pxeboot to work you might have to update your NIC with new firmware. See your manufacturer homepage for more information.


Next up is starting a tftp-server from which the firmware can load the network bootstrap program from. This is easiest done by using inetd, remove the leading # from the following line in the file /etc/inetd.conf.

#tftp   dgram   udp     wait    root    /usr/libexec/tftpd      tftpd -l -s /tftpboot

Make the tftpboot directory and copy the boot/pxeboot file to it.

mkdir /tftpboot
cp /usr/local/pxeboot/boot/pxeboot /tftpboot/

Then start inetd by adding it to rc.conf and starting it.

echo 'inetd_enable="YES"' >> /etc/rc.conf
/etc/rc.d/inetd start

It can be a good idea to start a tail of messages and xferlog file to see what is happening. In another terminal run:

tail -f /var/log/messages /var/log/xferlog


Now it's time for the DHCP-server that the firmware will query to get address and path to the network bootstrap program.

Install isc-dhcp31-server

pkg_add -r isc-dhcp31-server

Edit /usr/local/etc/dhcpd.conf adding the following lines.

ddns-update-style none;
server-name "pxe-gw";          # name of the tftp-server
server-identifier;  # address of the tftp-server
next-server;        # address of the NFS-server
subnet netmask {
    option routers;
    option root-path "/usr/local/pxeboot"; # root-path for NFS
    filename "pxeboot";                    # filename of NBP (network bootstrap program)


Add the pxeboot directory to nfs exports file

echo '/usr/local/pxeboot -alldirs -maproot=root -ro' >> /etc/exports

Enable NFS in rc.conf

echo 'nfs_server_enable="YES"' >> /etc/rc.conf

Start nfsd

/etc/rc.d/nfsd start

Reboot your computer and select PXE-boot you should now enter sysinstall, have a nice day!

See also

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