Sparc - Installing FreeBSD

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Installation of FreeBSD on the Sparc architechture is nearly identical to the x86 architecture installation, although booting from media differs somewhat from the x86 install procedures:

For a more in-depth guide, please see this article based on on the Ultra 5 model from Sun Microsystems.

Booting from the Install disc

The first step is getting your target machine to boot off of your install media. Sun's Sparc machines have a few quirks, the most relevant of which for you right now is Open Boot Firmware.

Boot from the console (or console via terminal,) and during boot-up -- if you have a SUN keyboard -- hit the STOP button and the letter "a" on the keyboard. If you're on the console port of the machine, you should not have to do this. If this does not halt the POST and bootup, and there is already a version of unix on the machine (e.g., Solaris,) then you can get to the firmware prompt by executing

  init 0

as root.

This will drop you to the OK prompt. This is the Open Firmware prompt, which is a close cousin of the Mac OS X Open Firmware (off-site link). It may help to think of it as a BIOS-commandline.

The OK prompt may be displayed thus:




this can be one of the other depending on which version of the Open Firmware the machine is running.

If you're running on a machine with multiple processors, you may see

  OK {0} 


  OK {1}

this will only be seen on machines with multiple processors and the number within the brackets is to let you know which processor you're currently running on.

At the OK> prompt, type in "boot cdrom" (if you've got a bootable cdrom for the sparc arch in the cd drive of the machine) or "boot net" if you're trying to do a net install from a network server. From here on in, the install should be nearly identical to an x86 install.

It won't automatically boot from the hard drive!

Relax, young padwan, if you're still getting the OK prompt. You have to fool around in the OpenBoot prompt to get OpenBoot to auto-load the OS from the disk. The command(s) that you want are:

OK> setenv boot-device disk1:a
OK> setenv auto-boot? true

Where disk1:a is the second disk's first partition. If you are unsure which disk is which, do a

OK> probe-ide


OK> probe-scsi

to show your disks. Please see the Sun Documentation on OBP booting options for more info.

Note that if you've tried to install a non-Solaris Unix on SUN hardware, e.g., a sparc-capable linux variant like debian or gentoo, then you might expect that you'd have to make a sunlabel disk label -- you don't. Just let the OS partition (or partition yourself) without worrying about it.

see also: Open Boot Firmware (off-site link to's info on Open Boot parameters).

See also Sparc_-_Gotchas

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