Written by users of the PC-BSD® operating system.

Version 10.3

Copyright © 2005 - 2016 The PC-BSD® Project.

Welcome to PC-BSD®! This Handbook covers the installation and use of PC-BSD® 10.3. This Handbook is a work in progress and relies on the contributions of many individuals. If you are interested in assisting with the Handbook, refer to the documentation README. If you use IRC Freenode, you are welcome to join the #pcbsd channel where you will find other PC-BSD® users.

Previous versions of the Handbook in various formats and languages are available from here.

The PC-BSD® Users Handbook is freely available for sharing and redistribution under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. This means that you have permission to copy, distribute, translate, and adapt the work as long as you attribute the PC-BSD® Project as the original source of the Handbook.

PC-BSD® and the PC-BSD® logo are registered trademarks of iXsystems. If you wish to use the PC-BSD® logo in your own works, ask for permission first from

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Typographic Conventions

  • Names of graphical elements such as buttons, icons, fields, columns, and boxes are enclosed within quotes. For example: click the “Browse Categories” button.
  • Menu selections are italicized and separated by arrows. For example: Control Panel ‣ About.
  • Commands that are mentioned within text are highlighted in bold text. Command examples and command output are contained in green code blocks.
  • File names are enclosed in a blue box /like/this.
  • Keystrokes are formatted in a blue box. For example: press Enter.
  • bold text is used to emphasize an important point.
  • italic text is used to represent device names or text that is input into a GUI field.

1. Introduction

Welcome to PC-BSD®!

PC-BSD® began in 2005 when Kris Moore presented the first beta version of a FreeBSD operating system pre-configured for desktop use. Since then, PC-BSD® has matured into a polished, feature-rich, free-of-charge, open source operating system that meets the desktop or server needs of the beginner to the advanced user alike.

PC-BSD® is essentially a customized installation of FreeBSD, not a forked derivative. Since the underlying FreeBSD system has been kept intact, you have a fully functional FreeBSD system under the hood. PC-BSD® provides a graphical installer which can be used to easily install a desktop or a server version of FreeBSD, known as TrueOS®. Other differences from FreeBSD include:

  • PC-BSD® pre-configures at least one desktop environment during a desktop installation. Installed desktop environments appear in the login menu, allowing the user to select which environment to log into.
  • The PC-BSD® graphical installer supports additional features such as configuring ZFS and encryption during installation.
  • PC-BSD® provides a graphical software management system for the desktop and a command line equivalent for the server.
  • PC-BSD® provides a Control Panel of utilities for configuring the system. The graphical versions of these utilities are available on both versions, the desktop and server.
  • PC-BSD® comes pre-configured with a number of automatic scripts to perform tasks such as connecting digital cameras or USB memory sticks.
  • The PC-BSD® boot menu supports boot environments, or snapshots of the operating system, and the PC-BSD® Update Manager automatically adds a new boot environment to the boot menu before updating the operating system or software. This means that if an update fails, you can reboot into the previous version of the operating system, before the update occurred.

PC-BSD® started off as an independent project, but since October, 2006 PC-BSD® is financially backed and supported by the enterprise-class hardware solutions provider iXsystems.

1.1. Goals and Features

PC-BSD® provides the following features:

  • Easy installation: to install either a graphical desktop or command-line server version of PC-BSD®, simply insert the installation media, reboot the system to start the installer, and answer a few questions in the installation menus.
  • Automatically configured hardware: video, sound, network, and other devices are automatically configured for you.
  • Intuitive desktop interface: PC-BSD® comes with a choice of Desktops to support your day-to-day computing needs.
  • Easy software management: with AppCafe®, installing, upgrading, and uninstalling software is safe and easy.
  • Lots of software available: in addition to its own software, PC-BSD® can install software that has been ported to FreeBSD (currently over 24,700 applications).
  • Easy to update: PC-BSD® provides a built-in Update Manager that will notify you of available updates and allow you to apply operating system security fixes, bug fixes, and system enhancements as well as upgrade to newer versions of the operating system or installed software.
  • Virus-free: PC-BSD® is not affected by viruses, spyware, or other malware.
  • No defragmentation: PC-BSD® hard drives do not need to be defragmented and do not slow down over time. PC-BSD® uses OpenZFS which is a self-healing filesystem.
  • Laptop support: provides power saving and swap space encryption and automatically switches between wired and wifi network connections.
  • Secure environment: PC-BSD® provides a pre-configured firewall and a built-in host-based Intrusion Detection System.
  • Easy system administration: PC-BSD® provides a Control Panel containing many graphical tools for performing system administration tasks.
  • Localization: PC-BSD® supports a number of native languages and locales.
  • Vibrant community: PC-BSD® has a friendly and helpful community.
  • Professional support: professional email and phone support is available from iXsystems.

1.2. What’s New in 10.3

The following features or enhancements were introduced for PC-BSD® 10.3:

  • Based on FreeBSD 10.3 which adds these features.
  • The initial boot menu has changed on the PC-BSD10.3-* boot media.
  • The LibreOffice and Office role packages have been removed from installation media in order to reduce their download size. These can be installed post-installation using AppCafe®.
  • EasyPBI has been removed as it is no longer needed to add meta-data to packages.
  • The “Plugins” tab has been removed from AppCafe® as this functionality is being rewritten for the upcoming 11-RELEASE. In the interim, refer to Managing Jails from the CLI if you wish to manage jails on your PC-BSD® system.
  • The “Search all available PBIs and packages” checkbox has been renamed to “Search all available software” in AppCafe® ‣ App Search.
  • The “Auto-play optical disks” checkbox has been added to Mount Tray ‣ More Options ‣ Change Settings.

1.3. PC-BSD® for Linux Users

PC-BSD® is based on FreeBSD, meaning that it is not a Linux distribution. If you have used Linux before, you will find that some features that you are used to have different names on a BSD system and that some commands are different. This section covers some of these differences.

BSD and Linux use different filesystems during installation. Many Linux distros use EXT2, EXT3, EXT4, or ReiserFS, while PC-BSD® uses OpenZFS. This means that if you wish to dual-boot with Linux or access data on an external drive that has been formatted with another filesystem, you will want to do a bit of research first to see if the data will be accessible to both operating systems.

Table 1.3a summarizes the various filesystems commonly used by desktop systems. Most of the desktop managers available from PC-BSD® should automatically mount the following filesystems: FAT16, FAT32, EXT2, EXT3 (without journaling), EXT4 (read-only), NTFS5, NTFS6, and XFS. See the section on Files and File Sharing for more information about available file manager utilities.

Table 1.3a: Filesystem Support on PC-BSD®

Filesystem Native to Type of non-native support Usage notes
Btrfs Linux none  
exFAT Windows none requires a license from Microsoft
EXT2 Linux r/w support loaded by default  
EXT3 Linux r/w support loaded by default since EXT3 journaling is not supported, you will not be able to mount a filesystem requiring a journal replay unless you fsck it using an external utility such as e2fsprogs
EXT4 Linux r/o support loaded by default EXT3 journaling, extended attributes, and inodes greater than 128 bytes are not supported; EXT3 filesystems converted to EXT4 may have better performance
FAT16 Windows r/w support loaded by default  
FAT32 Windows r/w support loaded by default  
HFS+ Mac OS X none older Mac versions might work with hfsexplorer
JFS Linux none  
NTFS5 Windows full r/w support loaded by default  
NTFS6 Windows r/w support loaded by default  
ReiserFS Linux r/o support is loaded by default  
UFS2 FreeBSD check if your Linux distro provides ufsutils; r/w support on Mac; UFS Explorer can be used on Windows changed to r/o support in Mac Lion

Linux and BSD use different naming conventions for devices. For example:

  • in Linux, Ethernet interfaces begin with eth; in BSD, interface names indicate the name of the driver. For example, an Ethernet interface may be listed as re0, indicating that it uses the Realtek re driver. The advantage of this convention is that you can read the man 4 page for the driver (e.g. type man 4 re) to see which models and features are provided by that driver.
  • BSD disk names differ from Linux. IDE drives begin with ad and SCSI and USB drives begin with da.

Some of the features used by BSD have similar counterparts to Linux, but the name of the feature is different. Table 1.3b provides some common examples:

Table 1.3b: Names for BSD and Linux Features

PC-BSD Linux Description
IPFW iptables default firewall
/etc/rc.d/ for operating system and /usr/local/etc/rc.d/ for applications rc0.d/, rc1.d/, etc. in PC-BSD the directories containing the startup scripts do not link to runlevels as there are no runlevels; system startup scripts are separated from third-party application scripts
/etc/ttys and /etc/rc.conf telinit, init.d/ terminals are configured in ttys and rc.conf indicates which services will start at boot time

If you are comfortable with the command line, you may find that some of the commands that you are used to have different names on BSD. Table 1.3c lists some common commands and what they are used for.

Table 1.3c: Common BSD and Linux Commands

Command Used to:
dmesg discover what hardware was detected by the kernel
sysctl dev display configured devices
pciconf -l -cv show PCI devices
dmesg | grep usb show USB devices
kldstat list all modules loaded in the kernel
kldload <module> load a kernel module for the current session
pbi_add -r <pbiname> install software from the command line
sysctl hw.realmem display hardware memory
sysctl hw.model display CPU model
sysctl hw.machine_arch display CPU Architecture
sysctl hw.ncpu display number of CPUs
uname -vm get release version information
gpart show show device partition information
fuser list IDs of all processes that have one or more files open

The following articles and videos provide additional information about some of the differences between BSD and Linux: