Server set up

Jerry McAllister jerrymc at
Fri Jan 15 21:56:18 UTC 2010

On Fri, Jan 15, 2010 at 06:12:53PM +0000, davidoweir3 at wrote:

> Can i install free bsd on a Window's 98 machine and what do i need on 
> the machine to set it up as a server and what software and hardware 
> does it need 

Sure you can install it on a machine running W98.
First a question:  Do you intend to continue running the W98 or
convert it completely to FreeBSD?

In the first case, it is called 'dual booting', meaning there are
more than one OSen on the machine and it can be booted to one or
the other at any given time.  So, it this case you would preserve
the W98 while installing FreeBSD.

In the second case you just wipe out the W98 and dedicate the 
whole machine to FreeBSD.

In general, the main thing you need is a compatible machine.  If
it has been successfully running W98, then it is most probably
a compatible machine.   

And you need enough space.
In spite of what the hot shots like to claim - they like to say it
can be run in a tiny minimal space - to run comfortably with any
of the recent versions of FreeBSD, Xwindows, a windows manager,
a reasonably feature-full web browser and an office package -
most probably OpenOffice, you need at least 512 MBytes memory
and 20 GBytes of disk.   You would be happier with double the 
memory and at least 3 or 4 times the disk or more.   Sure it can
be done with less, but we are talking comfort here, not running
embedded systems or being out to prove something.

Of course, if you plan to dual boot FreeBSD along with the existing
installation of W98, then you need enough disk for both of them.
Probably 20 Gbytes each as a minimum.  More is nicer.

Although it is possible to get away without one, it is much easier
nowdays if you have a CD or DVD reader (and burner if possible).
Otherwise you are stuck with needing a floppy drive (USB is OK).
The CD or DVD drive needs to be bootable.  You may have to go in
to BIOS and set it to be bootable.  Also make it higher in the
boot list than the hard disk.

If you want to dual boot, then you will need to acquire a utility
that will allow you to shrink down the W98 portion of the disk
to make room for FreeBSD.   There are several available, both for
a price and free.   The most common one to buy is Partition Magic.
I have used that successfully until I came to dividing a USB disk
and it failed on that.   It has some other quirks and limits too.

The most common free one is gparted which you can download and
burn to a CD from the net.  Just do a Google search for it.
There are other free ones.  Two limited ones come with FreeBSD.

I don't remember back to W98.  Does it use NTFS file system type?
It the Windos file system is of type NTFS, most of the free partition
utilities will not work.    I think that gparted is supposed to,
but I haven't tried it on that.   

Partition Magic does work on NTFS.  That is the main reason I have paid 
the money to get it.   But, if you can get it, buy the Version 7 of PM.
It is better, in my experience, than Version 8.   In fact, when I got 
version 8 - because it was advertised to work on USB disks - I ended 
up sending it back for a refund.  Not only did it NOT work on USB, but 
some other things I don't remember now were less or not functional 
that worked [better] in Version 7.

If you get either Partition Magic or gparted, make a bootable media
for them.   For PM it seems to want to be on Floppy.   gparted could
make a bootable CD.   You need to run from that media rather than the
main disk because you will be working on that main disk.

Boot up the utility and squeeze down the W98 primary partition to
make room for another primary partiton.   Then have the utility make
a _primary_ partition in the newly emptied space.   The utilities will
complain about there being two primary partitions and want to make one
of them in to an extended one, but stick with primary partition and
ignore their complaints.   It has to be a primary to be bootable.  Later
W98 will just ignore it anyway.   I think you also have to designate it
as a FAT32 type for the utility, though that becomes irrelevant after
FreeBSD acts on it.   So, if it insists on a type, give it FAT32.  If
it asks, but doesn't force a selection, ignore it.   I can't remember
if it forces a selection or not.

Some systems have two primary partitions already - one that the hardware 
vendor puts there with maintenance utilities.  They make that "hidden" 
from Windows stuff (but it will be seen by FreeBSD).   The other will be
the W98 installation.   In that case, FreeBSD will go in to a third
primary partition.    

Once you have that all done with the disk successfully modified,
then you are ready for the FreeBSD install.   

If you are not going to preserv the W98 (probably the better choice
since W98 is lousy and obsolete) then just skip all that stuff
about Partition Magic and gparted above and continue from here.

Download and burn the FreeBSD install ISO disk 1 just according to
the Handbook.   Choose the latest RELEASE version.  At the moment
that is 8.0.   Pop it in to the machine and boot from it.   

If you have any reasonable net access speed, do your install over the net.
Then you only need that disk 1.   If your net speed is glacial, then you 
need to download and burn the next 2 or 3 or buy a set at minimal cost 
from one of the places packaging them.  There is a list on the FreeBSD 
website.   They all are pretty cheap and donate a bit of the money back 
to the FreeBSD project.

If you are doing the dual boot, just watch and choose slice 2 (or 3 if
there is a vendor maintenance slice) to install on and follow all the
installation instructions in the FreeBSD Handbook.   Make sure you do 
select the FreeBSD MBR when it asks which one.   That will allow you
to choose which bootable system to boot from each time you boot.  The
default each time will be whichever one you last booted.

If you do not dual boot, then select to use the whole disk for FreeBSD.
You can still use the FreeBSD MBR, but you don't need it.  You can just
take the default one.   NOTE, that if there is a hardware maintenance
slice on the drive and you choose to keep it, then it is really a 
dual boot with the maint and #1 and FreeBSD as #2, using the whole
previous W98 slice.

Also, note that I have switched to using the term 'slice'.   In FreeBSD
the slice is the primary division of the disk drive.   It is the same
thing as Microsoft calls a Primary Partition.   In FreeBSD, partitions
are further divisions of slices.   Somewhat akin - but incompatible with - 
what MS calls extended partitions.    FreeBSD can read, but not always
write, pretty much all of those MS things, but MS can only handle its own.

Make sure you install the ports tree and run csup on the base system,
the ports tree and documentation before doing any ports installs.

Here is a suggested supfile for FreeBSD 8.0

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

# IMPORTANT: Change the next line to use one of the CVSup mirror sites
# listed at
*default base=/var/db
*default prefix=/usr
*default tag=RELENG_8_0
*default release=cvs 
*default delete use-rel-suffix

*default compress

## Main Source Tree.
# The easiest way to get the main source tree is to use the "src-all"
# mega-collection.  It includes all of the individual "src-*" collections.

ports-all tag=.

doc-all tag=.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

You may have some learning curve time with getting X going and some of 
the ports installed.  But, have some patience and perserverance.  You 
will catch on and after a while, most of it will seem second nature.
There is good documentation available.  The first is the FreeBSD Handbook.
There are also many web sites out there with good information  (and a few
with bogus claims, of course).   There are several good books available.
Most are available at those same sites where you can buy a CD set.

The issue of video card is complex.   If this will be used mostly as
a server, then you really only need a basic graphics card.  If you
want to play games, you will need a major hot one.   Probably, since
it is running W98, the machine is old enough that its graphics card
is supported, though maybe not its wildest features.   Someone else
will have to talk about that.  I do not do much with graphics, just
the little that comes from a browser.   I don't even have KDE or Gnome
on most of the machines I work on.

Good luck and have fun,


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