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 Bibliography.

Fourth Edition

The current version of the Handbook represents the cumulative effort of a working group that has been reviewing and updating all Handbook content. These are the major updates since the fourth edition of the Handbook.

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:

  • WINE has been added with information about how to run Windows® applications on FreeBSD.

  • DTrace has been added with information about the powerful DTrace performance analysis tool.

  • Other File Systems have been added with information about non-native file systems in FreeBSD, such as ZFS from Sun™.

  • Security Event Auditing has been added to cover the new auditing capabilities in FreeBSD and explain its use.

  • Virtualization has been added with information about installing FreeBSD on virtualization software.

  • Installing FreeBSD has been added to cover installation of FreeBSD using the new installation utility, bsdinstall.

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:

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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 PPP.

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

  • 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 Advanced Networking were moved here to improve the presentation.

  • 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.

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:

  • A complete Index has been added.

  • All ASCII figures have been replaced by graphical diagrams.

  • A standard synopsis has been added to each chapter to give a quick summary of what information the chapter contains, and what the reader is expected to know.

  • The content has been logically reorganized into three parts: "Getting Started", "System Administration", and "Appendices".

  • FreeBSD Basics has been expanded to contain additional information about processes, daemons, and signals.

  • Installing Applications: Packages and Ports has been expanded to contain additional information about binary package management.

  • The X Window System has been completely rewritten with an emphasis on using modern desktop technologies such as KDE and GNOME on XFree86™ 4.X.

  • The FreeBSD Booting Process has been expanded.

  • Storage has been written from what used to be two separate chapters on "Disks" and "Backups". We feel that the topics are easier to comprehend when presented as a single chapter. A section on RAID (both hardware and software) has also been added.

  • Serial Communications has been completely reorganized and updated for FreeBSD 4.X/5.X.

  • PPP has been substantially updated.

  • Many new sections have been added to Advanced Networking.

  • Electronic Mail has been expanded to include more information about configuring sendmail.

  • Linux® Binary Compatibility has been expanded to include information about installing Oracle® and SAP® R/3®.

  • The following new topics are covered in this second 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.


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

Installing FreeBSD

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

FreeBSD 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.

Installing Applications: Packages and Ports

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

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.


Describes the Wayland display server in general and using Wayland on FreeBSD in particular. Also describes common compositors such as Wayfire, Hikari and Sway.

Desktop Applications

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


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

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.


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

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®.


Describes WINE and provides detailed installation instructions. Also describes how WINE operates, how to install a GUI helper, how to run Windows® applications on FreeBSD, and offers other tips and solutions.

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.

The FreeBSD Booting Process

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


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


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

Mandatory Access Control

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

Security Event Auditing

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


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.

GEOM: Modular Disk Transformation Framework

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

The OpenZFS storage platform

Describes the OpenZFS storage platform and provides a quick-start guide and information about advanced topics running OpenZFS under FreeBSD.

Other File Systems

Examines support for non-native file systems under FreeBSD like ext2, ext3 and ext4.


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

Localization - i18n/L10n Usage and Setup

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

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.


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

USB Device Mode / USB OTG

Explains the use of USB Device Mode and USB On The Go (USB OTG) on FreeBSD.


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

Electronic Mail

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

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.


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

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.

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.


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.

Resources on the Internet

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

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.

C:\> 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. The third printed edition has been split into two volumes. Both volumes have been published as The FreeBSD Handbook 3rd Edition Volume 1: User Guide (ISBN 1-57176-327-9) and The FreeBSD Handbook 3rd Edition Volume 2: Administrators Guide (ISBN 1-57176-328-7).

Last modified on: March 9, 2024 by Danilo G. Baio