Question about FreeBSD installation procedure

Ian Smith smithi at
Wed Sep 30 06:40:38 UTC 2009

In freebsd-questions Digest, Vol 278, Issue 4, Message 2
On Tue, 29 Sep 2009 12:36:00 +0800 (WST) Bret Busby <bret at> wrote:
 > On Sat, 26 Sep 2009, Manolis Kiagias wrote:
 > > Bret Busby wrote:
 > >> Hello.
 > >>
 > >> I have been interested in installing FreeBSD on my laptop (HP/Compaq
 > >> NX5000, 2MB RAM), in a free 20MB partition.


 > See

Presumably from your screenshot, what Linux Gparted calls /dev/sda8

 > However, with the response above, and, with all of the responses thus 
 > far, to the query, it appears that I cannot install FreeBSD on the 
 > computer, without a full system rebuild, involving removal of all of the 
 > installed operating systems and software from the computer, then 
 > repartitioning, or, slicing up, the hard drive, and then creating new 
 > logical, extended partitions, and then reinstalling each of the 
 > operating systems, and all of the software for each of the operating 
 > systems, trying to ensure that I then have at least all of the software 
 > that is currently installed on each operating system on the computer, 
 > and, the data that is currently present on the computer.

Bret, none of that much drama will be necessary :)  Manolis nailed it, 
but I'll add a little reinforcement if it helps reassure you that what 
you want to do is a) entirely possible and b) not terribly difficult.

 > And, with being required to do all of that, I do not know what would 
 > happen, regarding issues such as the interrupt conflict that I 
 > encountered when trying to initially install Debian 3.1 on the computer, 
 > the interrupt conflict being between the WiFi card and the ethernet 
 > card, which reuired Ubuntu to resolve the conflict, then (at the time, 
 > as I was then a strictly Debian user) uninstalling Ubuntu to reinstall 
 > Debian 3.1, with the solution to the interrupt conflict, having used 
 > Mandriva Linux to do the partitioning, so as to retain the initial 
 > installation of MS Win XP, which I would probably lose, and have to 
 > install from scratch, as part of installing BSD on the system.

I can't comment on your wifi or interrupt issues, but there's no reason 
you need to lose any of your existing systems to install FreeBSD here. 

First, make SURE you have good backups, whatever else you do.  Sooner or 
later the HD is going to fail anyway, so be prepared and be comfortable.

More or less as Manolis later said, using gparted since you have it:

a) delete the 20GB logical partition /dev/sda8 for the space you need.

b) move the free space in the extended partition to the end, after the 
present sda9 and sda10.  these may then become sda8 and sda9, and you 
may later need to edit references to these to account for renumbering.

c) shrink the extended partition sda2 to the end of (now) sda9, which 
will provide 20GB of unallocated free space on the disk.

d) create a new slice (primary partition in DOS terms) using all of the 
20GB free space.  gparted will call it /dev/sda3, and it'll be the third 
partition in the MBR.  FreeBSD will see this as slice /dev/ad0s3, and 
there you can install FreeBSD, probably in several FreeBSD partitions.

 > So, getting the system set up, initially, to get Debian 3.1 running (it 
 > has been superseded on the system, first by Debian 4, and, now, by 
 > Debian 5), took a fair bit of time and effort, and problem solving, 
 > using various operating systems, to get the one extra operating system 
 > installed.

Sure, and you learned quite a lot in the process :)

 > Due to the time and effort involved, and the apparent complexity, it all 
 > seems too difficult, to install BSD.

Nope.  Just a bit more learning, shifting a bit further from 'DOS-think'

 > If FreeBSD would be able to be installed in a logical partition, within 
 > an extended partition, as can be done with Linux, it would probably be 
 > able to be done by me - in the meantime, it is simply too difficult.

It's only too difficult until you know how to do it.  Manolis and I have 
both shown you a fairly straightforward way of doing it, and others have 
provided good background info on how FreeBSD uses diskspace.  Go for it!

As a bonus, you should be able to access all of the other filesystems on 
your disk from FreeBSD, at least read-only.  FAT32 (mount_msdosfs), NTFS 
(I don't, but many people here have done), ext3 - not sure about write 
capability, but certainly ext2.  Way back on FreeBSD 3.3 I salvaged many 
OS/2 HPFS filesystems from various extended partitions, readonly, and 
last time I looked (FreeBSD 7.0) the HPFS code was still in the tree.

You'll find that FreeBSD knows the (covering) extended partition as 
/dev/ad0s5 and the logical partitions within as /dev/ad0s6, s7 etc.

FAT32 is reliable read-write, and most useful for shipping files between 
different OS, especially if you enclose them in a tar(1) or zip(1) file 
if you need to maintain file ownerships and permissions.

cheers, Ian

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