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3.4 Installing OpenBSD 3.2-RELEASE

This Chapter focuses on installing OpenBSD 3.2-RELEASE and multi-booting the system so that it can coexist successfully with the already existing Windows operating system on the computer. Like the Windows and FreeBSD installation, it too focuses on a CD-ROM based installation. Experts may proceed as usual without help, as for the newbies out there, make sure you check out the Frequently Asked Questions for OpenBSD at the "The OpenBSD Project homepage" at For a step-by-step OpenBSD Installation procedure with screenshots, please refer to the "Installing OpenBSD" Online manual at the OpenBSD Project homepage. These and other documentation available on the OpenBSD 3.2-RELEASE CD-ROM provides exhaustive and extensive coverage of all aspects related to OpenBSD. Make sure you grab as much information as you can from this site before proceeding with this guide.

Since both FreeBSD and OpenBSD operating systems are BSD-derivatives, UNIX-related information present in the /usr/share/doc directory on both the 2 systems provide very high-quality technical information on how to install, use and customize a UNIX-system. If you are not yet a FreeBSD/OpenBSD wizard, my humble and honest advice would be to read the "Unix User's Supplementary Documents (USD)", "Unix System Manager's Manual (SMM)" and the "Unix Programmer's Supplementary Documents (PSD)" on these systems.

Note: I hereby assume the reader executing this Chapter possesses a sound understanding and knowledge of BSD-style hard disk partitioning and labeling schemes, device naming conventions and so on before proceeding any further. If in case you have no idea at all of what I am talking about or in general of OpenBSD, I strongly suggest you to go back to the earlier section and read through the entire contents of the Chapter. Though the material is FreeBSD specific, but most of it apply to OpenBSD as well since OpenBSD like any other BSD out there follows the "slicing" scheme.

A few significant points to remember: In Linux, an entry like /dev/hda1 refers to a partition which in FreeBSD is likely to be labeled /dev/ad0s1. The OpenBSD counterpart would be /dev/wd0a for the first hard disk drive, /dev/wd1a for the second hard disk drive and so on. OpenBSD disklabel allows up to 16 partitions. It can detect and represent all primary partitions that exist on the hard disk. OpenBSD disklabel though sees all partitions within an extended partition but it does not list the extended partition container. Readers must note that OpenBSD reserves the c: partition which represents the entire hard disk, i: through p: are reserved for partitions belonging to other operating systems other than OpenBSD (for example Windows or Linux partitions), with a:, b: and d: - h: available for OpenBSD specific partitions. Thus, an important fact to note is that the word "partition", without qualification, usually refers to a UNIX disk area on which a file system will be mounted.

Summary of Installation Steps

For a complete step-by-step coverage of OpenBSD installation, please consult the "Installing OpenBSD Manual" available on the OpenBSD Project web site. As in the previous Chapter, here also, I would be mentioning only the significant steps for the installation. Use these steps to install OpenBSD on your computer and configure it for "multiple-booting":

  1. Right now, we have a computer running Microsoft Windows OS. On my PC, it is Windows 98 (SE). I put a bootable OpenBSD 3.2 CD-ROM in the CD-ROM drive and reboot the system.
  2. The computer boots, reads the CD-ROM, displays the usual hardware probing messages on the screen and presents you with an interactive text-based installation program. Readers must note: There are several ways to install OpenBSD onto a disk. The easiest way, should your computer support it, is to boot off the CD-ROM. Otherwise, you can boot from a 3.5" 1.44MB floppy disk. You should now be ready to install OpenBSD. 
  3. Read the questions that appear on the screen and answer them accordingly. Make sure that is the best choice before committing to the installation. If any question has a default answer, it will be displayed in brackets ("[]") after the question. If you wish to stop the installation, you may hit Control-C at any time, but if you do, you will have to begin the installation process again from scratch.
  4. You will next be asked for your terminal type. You should just hit return to select the default (vt220).
  5. After entering the terminal type you will be asked whether you wish to do an "(I)nstall" or an "(U)pgrade". Enter 'I' for a fresh install or 'U' to upgrade an existing installation.
  6. You will be presented with a welcome message and asked if you really wish to install (or upgrade). Assuming you answered yes, the install program will then tell you which disks of that type it can install on, and ask you which it should use. Check whether OpenBSD correctly assigns the corresponding device file to your hard disk or not. OpenBSD assigned my first IDE hard disk a label /dev/wd0.     
  7. Then, select a [no] and press enter, when OpenBSD asks you whether you want to assign the whole hard disk for installing OpenBSD or not. I select a no here, cause I am preparing a multi-boot system that would run 3 operating systems (one at a time of course!). 
  8. Proceed with the installation as usual till you reach the OpenBSD fdisk. If fdisk is being invoked on your behalf, it will start by displaying the current partitions defined and then allow you to modify this information, add new partitions and change which partition to boot from by default. Here, I have to create a slice with "Partition ID#": A6 that would be used later for installing OpenBSD 3.2. Readers must note: FreeBSD partition ID is A5 and is different from OpenBSD partition ID A6. So while creating the slice, the ID should be A6 and not A5. 
  9. I had an output like this on my screen after I successfully created my OpenBSD slice. 
  10.  Disk:wd0


      geometry: 1274 / 255 / 63

      [ 20466810 Sectors ] 





     LBA Info:



     C  H  S  C  H  S












    Win95 FAT32











  11. Try understanding the geometry. It represents the actual physical geometry or arrangement of my hard disk. The number of sectors available are given. The 2 sections containing the "Starting" and "Ending" C (cylinder), H (heads) and S (sectors) are also given. I started out with the first slice with ID: 0B only available. The information under LBA Info shows me that it is a Microsoft Windows 95 FAT32 filesystem partition. Hey! that is the one I created when I installed Microsoft Windows 98 (SE) in it.
  12. I then create a new slice, with filesystem ID#: A6 to represent an OpenBSD slice, mention the "Starting" and "Ending" cylinders, heads and sectors and finally (very important) set the slice bootable by setting the appropriate flag from the command line. This is shown by the asterisk (*) before the starting of the second slice (#1:) is represented as (*#1:). It tells the MBR code to execute the OpenBSD boot loader cause it will in turn boot my other operating system.
  13. We then enter a "quit" and not an "exit" on the command line and exit the OpenBSD fdisk partition editor. Readers must note: Typing "quit" means to exit the editor saving the changes and "exit" means to exit the editor without saving any changes. So, we do a "quit", not an "exit".
  14. Next the disk label which defines the layout of the OpenBSD file systems must be set up. The installation script will invoke an interactive editor allowing you to do this. I create a swap of about a few thousand bytes, and provide the rest to the "a" partition i.e. to the "root" directory on the filesystem. The install program will now label your disk and ask which file systems should be created on which partitions. It will automatically select the 'a' partition to be the root file system. Next it will ask for which disk and partition you want a file system created on. 
  15. After all your file systems have been created, the install program will give you an opportunity to configure the network. Next, you are prompted to configure your network interfaces, default route and IP address of the primary name server to and the host table. 
  16. Once all these done, you will be able to extract the distribution sets onto your system. When installing from a CD-ROM, you will be asked which device holds the distribution sets. This will typically be "cd0". Next you will be asked which partition on the CD-ROM the distribution is to be loaded from. This is normally partition "a".
  17. Next you will have to identify the file system type that has been used to create the distribution on the CD-ROM, this can be either FFS or ISO CD9660. The OpenBSD CD distribution uses the CD9660 format.
  18. You will also have to provide the relative path to the directory on the CD which holds the distribution, for the i386 this is "3.2/i386".
  19. When all the selected distribution sets has been extracted, you will be allowed to select which time zone your system will be using, all the device nodes needed by the installed system will be created for you and the file systems will be unmounted. For this to work properly, it is expected that you have installed at least the "base32", "etc32", and "bsd" distribution sets. 
  20. A message will appear on your screen telling you that OpenBSD 3.2 operating system has been successfully installed on your computer. Type in halt to halt the system and reboot.
  21. When I reboot for the first time, I get the following prompt on the screen: F1 DOS, F2 BSD each in one line. I press the F1 functional key to boot into Windows 98 (SE) and check whether everything is working perfectly or not. As it so happens, it does! Then I reboot and this time, I press F2, which logs me into OpenBSD 3.2. 
  22. Depending on the configuration of your computer, you will receive bootup messages on your screen when you boot into OpenBSD for the first time. Though the messages scroll off the screen rather fast for you to read anything productive, you can always read it later by using the "/sbin/dmesg | more" command. Finally, you will arrive at the login prompt. Login using the username/password you set during installation. Check if everything is in place or not and try exploring the new system. 
  23. Readers must note: So that is all with OpenBSD this time. We still have Linux to install and configure. So, for doing this and more, we proceed to the next chapter, Chapter 5: Installing Red Hat Linux 7.3 (Valhalla).

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