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# Installing NetBSD: Preliminary considerations and preparations

## Preliminary considerations

### Dual booting

It is possible to install NetBSD together with other operating systems on one 
hard disk.

If there is already an operating system on the hard disk, think about how you 
can free some space for NetBSD; if NetBSD will share the disk with other 
operating systems you will probably need to create a new partition (which you 
will do with sysinst). Often times this will not be possible unless you resize 
an existing partition.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to resize an existing partition with sysinst, 
but there are some commercial products (like Partition Magic) and some free 
tools (GNU Parted, FIPS, pfdisk) available for this.

You can also install NetBSD on a separate hard disk.

*Advice*: Unless you are comfortable with setting up a partitioning scheme for 
two or more operating systems, and unless you understand the risk of data loss 
if you should make a mistake, it is recommended that you give NetBSD its own 
hard disk. This removes the risk of damage to the existing operating system.

### NetBSD on emulation and virtualization

It is possible to install and run NetBSD on top of other operating systems 
without having to worry about partitioning. Emulators or virtualization 
environments provide a quick and secure way to try out NetBSD. The host 
operating system remains unchanged, and the risk of damaging important data is 

Information about NetBSD as a Xen host and guest system is available on the 
[NetBSD/xen web page](

The [NetBSD on emulated hardware]( 
web page provides detailed information about various emulators and the supported 
NetBSD platforms. It should also be noted that NetBSD runs as a VMware guest.

## Install preparations

### The INSTALL document

The first thing to do before installing NetBSD is to read the release 
information and installation notes in one of the `INSTALL` files: this is the 
official description of the installation procedure, with platform-specific 
information and important details. It is available in HTML, PostScript, plain 
text, and an enhanced text format to be used with more. These files can be found 
in the root directory of the NetBSD release (on the install CD or on the FTP 
server). For example (replacing `6.1` with your release number, and `port` with 
your port):

### Partitions

The terminology used by NetBSD for partitioning is different from the typical 
DOS/Windows terminology; in fact, there are two partitioning schemes involved 
when running NetBSD on a typical PC. NetBSD installs in one of the four primary 
BIOS partitions (the partitions defined in the hard disk partition table).

Within a BIOS partition (also called *slice*) NetBSD defines its BSD partitions 
using a *disklabel*: these partitions can be seen only by NetBSD and are 
identified by lowercase letters (starting with `a`). For example, wd0a refers to 
the `a` partition of the first IDE disk (wd0) and sd0a refers to the `a` 
partition of the first SCSI disk. In the following figure, there are two primary 
BIOS partitions, one used by DOS and the other by NetBSD. NetBSD describes the 
disk layout through the disklabel.


*Note*: The meaning of partitions `c` and `d` is typical of the i386 port. On 
most other ports, `c` represents the whole disk.

*Note*: If NetBSD shares the hard disk with another operating system (like in 
the previous example) you will want to install a *boot manager*, i.e., a program 
which lets you choose which OS to start at boot time. sysinst can do this for 
you and will ask if you want to install one. Unless you have specific reasons 
not to, you should let sysinst perform this step.

### Hard disk space requirements

The exact amount of space required for a given NetBSD installation varies 
depending on the platform being used and which distribution sets are selected. 
In general, if you have 1GB of free space on your hard drive, you will have more 
than enough space for a full installation of the base system.

### Network settings

If you plan to fetch distribution sets over the network (not necessary if you 
downloaded a full-size install ISO) and do not use DHCP, write down your basic 
network settings. You will need:

 * Your IP address (example:
 * the netmask (example:
 * the IP address of your default gateway (example:
 * the IP address of the DNS server you use (example:

### Backup your data and operating systems!

Before you begin the installation, make sure that you have a reliable backup of 
any operating systems and data on the used hard disk. Mistakes in partitioning 
your hard disk can lead to data loss. Existing operating systems may become 
unbootable. "Reliable backup" means that the backup and restore procedure is 
tested and works flawlessly!

### Preparing the installation media

The NetBSD installation system consists of two parts. The first part is the 
installation kernel. This kernel contains the NetBSD install program sysinst and 
it is booted from a CD (or DVD), memory card, USB flash drive, or floppy disk. 
The sysinst program will prepare the disk: it separates the disk space into 
partitions, makes the disk bootable and creates the necessary file systems.

The second part of the install system is made up of the binary distribution 
sets: the files of the NetBSD operating system. The installer needs to have 
access to the distribution sets. sysinst will usually fetch these files from the 
CD or DVD you burned, but it can also get them via FTP, NFS, or local 

The NetBSD Project provides complete install media for every supported hardware 
architecture. This is usually in the form of bootable CD images (`.iso` files). 
For example (replacing `6.1` with the release you want to install):

*Note*: To improve net flow, and especially download speed, you should have a 
look at the [list of mirrors]( and choose a local 
server near you.

#### Booting the install system from CD

To use a bootable NetBSD install CD download the `iso` file for your hardware 
architecture and burn it to a CD or DVD. You will need to handle this step 
alone, as burning programs vary widely. Ensure that your computer is set up to 
boot from CD-ROM before hard drives, insert the disc, and reboot the computer.

#### Booting the install system from floppy

If you need to create installation floppies, you need to copy floppy images to a 
diskette. The floppy images are available on the NetBSD FTP servers or on a 
NetBSD install CD. To perform this operation in DOS you can use the rawrite 
program in the `i386/installation/misc` directory. For Windows, there's a 
version in ``. The image files are `i386/installation/floppy/boot1.fs` 
and `i386/installation/floppy/boot2.fs` for installation of a "normal" PC. The 
other floppies that are available are described in more detail in the `INSTALL` 

*Note*: Before you write the boot images to floppies, you should always check 
that the floppies are good: this simple step is often overlooked, but can save 
you a lot of trouble!

The procedure to write floppies is:

 1. Format the floppy.
 2. Go to the `I386\INSTALLATION\FLOPPY` directory of the CD-ROM.
 3. Run the **`..\MISC\RAWRITE`** program (or extract `..\MISC\RAWR32.ZIP` if 
    you're on a Windows system, and run the RAWRITE32 program in that file). 
	Usually the `Source file`s are `BOOT1.FS` and `BOOT2.FS` and the 
	`Destination drive` is `A`:

To create a boot floppy in a Unix environment, the
command can be used: For example:

    # cd i386/installation/floppy
    # dd if=boot.fs of=/dev/fd0a bs=36b

*Note*: A 1440K floppy contains 1474560 bytes and is made up of 80 cylinders, 2 
tracks, 18 sectors and 512 bytes per sector, i.e., 80 \* 2 \* 18 = 2880 blocks. 
Thus `bs=36b` copies one cylinder (18 \* 2 blocks) at a time and repeats the 
operation 80 times instead of 2880.

## Checklist

This is the checklist about the things that should be clear and on-hand now:

 * Available disk space
 * Bootable medium with the install system
 * CD/DVD or server with the distribution sets
 * Your network information (only if you will be fetching distribution sets via 
   the network and do not use DHCP)
 * A working backup
 * A printout of the INSTALL document

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