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Advanced Installation Tasks in FreeBSD 6

This chapter explains the ins and outs of non-standard FreeBSD installations. If you are installing FreeBSD on a system with another operating system previously installed, or if you aren't using a CD or DVD to install FreeBSD, you'll want to read this chapter before performing the installation.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book


  • Backing Up an Existing Windows or Linux Filesystem
  • Nondestructive Hard Disk Partitioning with FIPS
  • Working with FIPS
  • Potential Problems with and Limitations of Dual-Boot Systems
  • The FreeBSD Boot Manager
  • Alternate Installation Methods

Chapter 2, "Installing FreeBSD," discussed a standard installation without complicating factors such as dual-boot disk configurations and coexistence with other operating systems. It also assumed that you were installing FreeBSD from a CD-ROM rather than via one of the many alternative installation media available.

This chapter serves mostly as a supplement to Chapter 2, by explaining a number of essential preinstallation tasks for those whose systems don't fit the previously mentioned assumptions. If you are installing FreeBSD on a system with another operating system previously installed, or if you aren't using a CD or DVD to install FreeBSD, you'll want to read this chapter before performing the installation. After you have completed the necessary preinstallation tasks you learn here, you should return to Chapter 2 and proceed with the normal installation.

Many new users who are curious about FreeBSD install it on a workstation that is already running Windows. This chapter shows how to prepare for a FreeBSD installation that will enable the two systems to operate side by side. We'll also look briefly at installing FreeBSD on a system that is running Linux. After reading this chapter, you will know how to install FreeBSD in such a way that you can choose at startup time whether to boot your computer into FreeBSD or into Windows or Linux.

In addition, we'll briefly cover NFS and FTP network installs for situations where an installation CD or DVD is not available.

Backing Up an Existing Windows or Linux Filesystem

Before you go any further, back up any existing Windows or Linux filesystem you want to maintain. Although the next section shows you how to nondestructively create space for FreeBSD, mistakes can still happen, and programs can cause errors. It is best to have a backup of anything you want to keep—it's small comfort, after losing your precious data, to reflect that at least you saved yourself the time and cost of a backup solution.

Media that can be used for backup purposes include recordable CDs or DVDs, Zip or Jaz disks, tape drives, externally mounted USB or FireWire hard drives, or even floppy disks, if the amount of data you need to save is small. Keep in mind that backing up the operating system and installed applications is not necessary because they can be easily reinstalled as long as you still have the installation discs. The primary things to worry about are your files containing data that cannot easily be replaced. (These days, of course, a large MP3 collection or a photo library can easily necessitate that you buy a cheap external hard drive and copy them onto it for safekeeping.)

If you do not have an actual backup program, you can use an archiving program such as WinZip to help you compress data for backup and also to place that data onto disks. You also might find a program called Partimage, available at http://www.partimage.org, to be helpful in this capacity.

After you have backed up any existing files that you want to keep, you will need to free up some space on your hard disk for installing FreeBSD. There are a few ways that this can be done:

  • Simply delete the partitions and start over. This causes you to lose all the existing data on your system and you will have to reinstall everything that is currently on your system once you have re-created the partitions. This is a desirable option when you don't really care what's on the disk, or if you don't have a nondestructive partitioning program such as Partition Magic—and if you aren't daunted by the idea of reinstalling Windows or Linux after you have made space for FreeBSD and installed it.
  • Use a commercial nondestructive partitioning program such as Partition Magic. If you have Symantec's Norton Partition Magic, by all means use it. This $69 solution is the "best of both worlds," allowing you to reallocate the space on your hard disk for a FreeBSD installation without losing any of your data or configurations. A discussion of how to use this commercial program is beyond the scope of this book. See the Partition Magic documentation for instructions. Partition Magic's website is http://www.symantec.com/home_homeoffice/products/system_performance/pm80/. There's also a non-commercial, open-source clone of Partition Magic called QtParted, available at http://qtparted.sourceforge.net/.
  • Use the FIPS utility. This freely available program, written by Arno Schäfer, allows you to split an existing partition to create free space. FIPS is included on the DVD with this book, and it is the method we'll discuss in this chapter. It's not as polished a solution as Partition Magic, but it's free and can give you similar results.

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