Installing FreeBSD remotely via serial console

Jonathan McKeown jonathan+freebsd-questions at
Tue Mar 4 16:48:27 UTC 2008

On Tuesday 04 March 2008 17:37, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
> I'm getting a new Dell server delivered to our corporate
> datacenter. There is a serial console available there.
> What is the process for installing FreeBSD remotely by logging
> in to the serial console? I'm assuming that I can get a tech
> in the datacenter to put a FreeBSD install disc into the CD
> drive, and take it from there, but I've never used a serial
> console and don't know what the process is.

Not sure whether Dell hardware has any special management features, but on 
generic server hardware, I always make sure BIOS console redirection is 
enabled (gives you BIOS access), and that it's set to stop redirecting once 
the OS boots.

Generally you will have network access (ssh or so) to a console server in the 
datacentre which presents the FreeBSD system's console.

It's much easier to make sure you have an install CD which has the serial 
console enabled - download an ISO image, unpack it, add


to loader.conf and rebuild the ISO image, making it bootable. There was a 
thread about this a few months ago when Martin McCormick asked the question - 
there are a couple of tricky issues with getting the ISO unpacked and rebuilt 
without it doubling in size.

If you do this, you'll see the boot process from the Beastie menu onwards 
(from which you can drop back to the loader if you need to), and it'll boot 
into sysinstall.

Do the install normally. At the end, before exiting, I normally go to the 
config menu to edit /etc/ttys - to make sure I get a login on the serial 
console even if networking is stuffed for some reason.

Feel free to give me a shout if you want more details.


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