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Installing NetBSD/i386 on MITnet

NetBSD is a freely distributable Unix-like operating system for many platforms including Intel 386-class machines. This document explains how you can install NetBSD/i386 using MITnet if you have a machine on the network. If you have any questions or problems during the installation, please send mail to

These instructions explain how to install a binary release of NetBSD/i386 version 1.2 and NetBSD-Athena version 7.7.2.

Before you start, you may want to find out if NetBSD and XFree86 support your computer's hardware. To find this out, use a web browser (such as Mosaic) to look at the URLs and Also, if you have an ISA-bus network card, the installation kernel may only support it at certain I/O ports and IRQs:

If you have an ISA-bus network card which is supported by NetBSD but isn't supported by the installation kernel, either reconfigure the card to a supported port and IRQ, or contact SIPB via the mailing list (or phone 3-7788) and we can create custom install disks for your machine. If you have an NE2000 compatible card at port 0x300 IRQ 4, 5, 9, or 11, you can find premade custom install disks in /mit/netbsd/release/athena-7.7.2/i386/custom.

  1. Back up any important data on your hard disk. Any time you change your disk's partition layout, you run the risk of making mistakes which could render the contents of the disk unreadable. If you are installing over an existing NetBSD or Linux partition and you have an /etc/athena/srvtab file, save a copy of it to avoid having to request another srvtab.
  2. Clear up space on your hard disk and set up a dual-boot loader. We have several tools to help you do this available in /mit/netbsd/i386/utils, including:

    To use these utilities, make a bootable DOS floppy, put it in the drive of an Athena Sun workstation, and copy the utilities to it:

    attach netbsd
    add mtools
    cd /mit/netbsd/i386/utils/fips12
    mcopy FIPS.EXE a:
    mcopy RESTORRB.EXE a:
    mcopy ERRORS.TXT a:
    cd ../bteasy14
    mcopy bootinst.exe a:
    mcopy boot.bin a:
    cd ../os-bs-2.0beta8
    mcopy osbs20b8.exe a:

    You should also read FIPS.DOC in the fips12 directory and readme in the bteasy14 directory. You should generally only use utilities of this sort when you have booted from your utilities floppy, since they may interact poorly with Windows or whatever else your hard drive's DOS partition runs on startup.

    You should set aside at least 120 megabytes for NetBSD. To reduce the size of your DOS partition, you should first run the DOS program defrag (this requires DOS 6 or greater) and tell it to completely optimize your hard disk, moving all of the data to the first part of the disk. There may be some complications related to immovable files; read FIPS.DOC to find out how to deal with those. Then, boot from your utilities floppy and just enter fips.

    FIPS will have split your DOS partition into two DOS partitions, the first one containing all your old data and the second one empty. At this point, since you have two partitions and want to be able to boot off either one, run bootinst or osbs20b8 to install the dual boot loader. (BOOTEASY is a little easier to install; OS Boot Select is fancier and more flexible.)

    Now run the DOS program fdisk and delete the second DOS partition, so that the installation process can create a NetBSD partition there.

  3. Second, get the installation disk from the image in /mit/netbsd/release/athena-7.7.2/i386/floppies. To copy the image onto a formatted disk from an Athena Sun workstation, do:

    attach netbsd
    cd /mit/netbsd/release/athena-7.7.2/i386/floppies
    dd if=image of=/vol/dev/aliases/floppy0 bs=18k

    image should be adp.fs if your machine uses an Adaptec SCSI adaptor, or other.fs otherwise.

  4. Now, on your PC, boot off of the floppy you made. Enter your machine's IP address when you are asked for it. Accept the default values for the network interface and flags by pressing return at each question.

    After a minute or so, the installation program will begin asking you questions about how you want your system configured. After you have answered all of the questions, it will show you your answers and ask you to confirm them. After that point, the installation proceeds with no manual intervention.

    Once the installation is finished and your system is halted, remove the floppy, reboot your machine, and boot off your NetBSD hard disk partition using the boot loader you installed earlier.

  5. Configure X. Log in as root and run:

    attach netbsd

    It will ask five fairly easy questions about your mouse, monitor, and video card and generate an X configuration. Test the resulting X configuration by running startx. You can run xconfig as many times as you like if it doesn't work the first time. If it doesn't work for you, please send mail to detailing the problem. Two other tools provided with XFree86 may help you if xconfig does not; they are the commands xf86config, which runs in text mode, and XF86Setup, which has a point and click interface. If you try using XF86Setup, be sure to read the onscreen instructions carefully.

    After you get X working, you can enable xlogin by modifying the line of /etc/ttys which executes the command /etc/athena/dm to be on rather than off, and then running the command kill -HUP 1.

  6. You're ready to use your machine as an Athena workstation. If you want to be able to log into your machine remotely from other Athena machines, you should get a srvtab; to do this, send email to with your hostname and follow their instructions when they respond. To add and remove Athena accounts on your machine (to allow or disallow people from logging in remotely), log in as root and run adduser username or remuser username. (Currently the adduser and remuser scripts generate spurious error messages; ignore them.)
  7. If you have a DOS partition on the same disk as your NetBSD parition which you wish to be able to access from NetBSD, log in as root and run:

    attach netbsd
    mount /dosc

    It will be mounted automatically on subsequent reboots.

Document revision: . The latest version of this document may be obtained in person from the SIPB office (W20-557), or may be printed out with: attach sipb; dvips -hduplex -Pprinter /mit/sipb/doc/netbsd-install.dvi.

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Sat Mar 21 23:25:44 EST 1998