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 Appendix B.

Changes from the Second Edition

This third edition is the culmination of over two years of work by the dedicated members of the FreeBSD Documentation Project. The following are the major changes in this new edition:

Changes from the First Edition

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:

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.

Chapter 1, Introduction

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

Chapter 2, Installation

Walks a user through the entire installation process. Some advanced installation topics, such as installing through a serial console, are also covered.

Chapter 3, UNIX 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.

Chapter 4, Installing Applications

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

Chapter 5, 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.

Chapter 6, Desktop Applications

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

Chapter 7, Multimedia

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

Chapter 8, 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.

Chapter 9, Printing

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

Chapter 10, Linux Binary Compatibility

Describes the Linux compatibility features of FreeBSD. Also provides detailed installation instructions for many popular Linux applications such as Oracle, SAP R/3, and Mathematica®.

Chapter 11, 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.

Chapter 12, Booting Process

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

Chapter 13, Users and Basic Account Management

Describes the creation and manipulation of user accounts. Also discusses resource limitations that can be set on users and other account management tasks.

Chapter 14, Security

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

Chapter 15, Mandatory Access Control

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

Chapter 16, Storage

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.

Chapter 17, Vinum

Describes how to use Vinum, a logical volume manager which provides device-independent logical disks, and software RAID-0, RAID-1 and RAID-5.

Chapter 18, Localization

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

Chapter 19, The Cutting Edge

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.

Chapter 20, Serial Communications

Explains how to connect terminals and modems to your FreeBSD system for both dial in and dial out connections.

Chapter 21, PPP and SLIP

Describes how to use PPP, SLIP, or PPP over Ethernet to connect to remote systems with FreeBSD.

Chapter 22, Electronic Mail

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

Chapter 23, 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.

Chapter 24, Firewalls

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

Chapter 25, 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.

Appendix A, 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.

Appendix B, Bibliography

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.

Appendix C, Resources on the Internet

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

Appendix D, PGP 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 E:\> indicate a MS-DOS® command. Unless otherwise noted, these commands may be executed from a “Command Prompt” window in a modern Microsoft® Windows® environment.

E:\> 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.

This, and other documents, can be downloaded from

For questions about FreeBSD, read the documentation before contacting <>.
For questions about this documentation, e-mail <>.

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