OpenBSD 3.3 Installation

The following are installation/configuration notes from OpenBSD 3.3 based on my experience installing OpenBSD on an Apple G4 Cube (macppc). These instructions are not as complete as the ones available from OpenBSD and elsewhere on the web.


To install from a CD, insert the CD in the CD drive and hold down the "C" key at boot. Type "i" to install. The default terminal type and keyboard encoding should be fine. You will then be asked to partition your hard disk, select a partition for OpenBSD, and use disklabel to label a partition for OpenBSD. Note that the offsets used in disklabel are absolute. If you have data already on your disk that you do not wish to erase, be very, very careful; having a backup is also a good idea. For more information see the installation section of the OpenBSD FAQ and the disklabel manpages.

After formatting your partition(s), you will be prompted to specify a hostname, configure the network, and enter a root password. Finally, you will be asked for the location of install sets that you wish to install. After installation, y ou will be asked a few more questions, namely whether you want to run X and what timezone you are in. Reboot with reboot or shutdown with halt -p.


If OpenBSD doesn't boot by itself, the following should work on any New World Mac:

  1. Boot to open firmware by holding down apple-option-O-F on boot.
  2. Type boot hd:,ofwboot

Eventually you'll want to be able to boot to OpenBSD or a boot manager (such as yaboot) if you have multiple operating systems.

Initial Configuration:

So you've booted your system and logged in. Now what? The answer is man afterboot. This man page will tell you a lot of what you should know about your new system and what configuration changes you should make. It's extremely thorough, and you should probably stop reading my page and read the afterboot man page (and the other pages to which it refers) instead.

If you tried logging in as root, you may have noticed a message telling you to use su. But if you try to use su, you'll find it doesn't work. Why? Because only certain users are allowed to use su, namely those users in group wheel. As root, edit /etc/group and add yourself to group wheel. You should now be able to su, although it's preferable to use sudo to execute commands with root privileges. The list of users who are allowed to use sudo is contained in /etc/sudoers. To modify sudoers, run visudo.

Next you might want to poke around. Run dmesg, and df, poke around the filesystem, and all of that. You should also see if the date and time are set correctly by typing date. You can also use the date command to set the date. The timezone is controlled by /etc/localtime, which should be a symlink to the appropriate file in /usr/share/zoneinfo/. You'll also want to see if local mail delivery works and specify that (at least) three addresses redirect email to you. The aliases file is /etc/mail/aliases; it should be modified so that "root", "manager", and "dumper" redirect to your username. After modifying /etc/mail/aliases, the command newaliases must be run.

Network and Services:

Check to make sure you have network connectivity. Running ifconfig -a should give you an idea if you have an IP address and other important network settings. The file /etc/hostname.if contains IP configuration. Additionally, dhclient and /etc/dhclient.conf contain settings for DHCP. DNS settings can be found in /etc/resolv.conf.

You also want to check what services are running with ps and netstat. /etc/rc.conf (and more generally /etc/rc.*) contain startup information. Additionally, services started out of inetd are listed in /etc/inetd.conf. If you make changes to inetd.conf (for example, to stop services you won't be using), remember to restart inetd after modifying inetd.conf. Other important processes include those which are started via cron. Check cron jobs with crontab -l, and read the files /etc/daily, /etc/weekly, and /etc/monthly.

Installing Packages:

Eventually (and sooner rather than later) you'll want some more software. OpenBSD has both ports and packages. Useful package management commands include pkg_info, pkg_add, and pkg_delete. Packages may be obtained from or the installation CD. The following describes how to add a package from a CD.

  1. mount /dev/cd0a /cdrom
  2. cd /cdrom/3.3/packages/macppc
  3. pkg_add -v packagename (substituting for packagename)
  4. pkg_info -a (to see what you've installed)
  5. umount /dev/cd0a

X and KDE:

Start X by typing startx. It should just work; if not, you'll want to modify /etc/X11/XF86Config. You might want to install a desktop environment, such as KDE. KDE can be easily installed using pkg_add. To launch KDE whenever X is started, add the line "/usr/local/bin/startkde" to the file /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/xinit/xinitrc. Once in KDE, use kcontrol to customize you display.


Even though OpenBSD is very secure by default, there are security fixes. See the errata page and make the necessary changes. You'll want to apply patches and update and install new packages from time to time. Subscribe to the security-announce mailing list to keep informed.


(Last modified September 29 2003)