OpenBSD vs. FreeBSD: What Is the Difference, Which Is Best?

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Key Takeaways

  • OpenBSD and FreeBSD person different installation processes, pinch OpenBSD assuming much machine acquisition and featuring a spartan interface while FreeBSD has a much polished installation program.
  • OpenBSD is focused connected information and is known for its committedness to codification correctness. FreeBSD, connected nan different hand, is positioned arsenic a general-purpose strategy pinch a history of powering dot-com infrastructure.
  • FreeBSD has amended documentation, including a well-written Handbook that serves arsenic some a reference for experts and an preamble for beginners. OpenBSD's archiving is much geared towards experts and is visually rooted successful nan 1990s.

OpenBSD and FreeBSD are server-focused descendants of nan original Berkeley Software Distribution, aliases BSD developed astatine UC Berkeley from nan precocious 1970s done nan 1990s.

As celebrated open-source projects, they person dedicated followings arsenic alternatives to Linux. How do they differ, and which 1 whitethorn beryllium correct for you?

Installation Process: OpenBSD vs. FreeBSD

Both OpenBSD and FreeBSD person installation programs that fto you partition and instal these systems connected a computer, akin to those of Linux distributions. Still, nan acquisition of installing nan 2 OSes is very different.

OpenBSD installation successful console mode

OpenBSD assumes a batch of machine experience, and nan interface is alternatively spartan. You download nan installation image from nan website, conscionable arsenic you would pinch Linux, extract it to nan media, and footwear nan machine.

When your instrumentality boots, you're greeted pinch a console. There's nary graphical installation aliases unrecorded media that you would get connected a awesome Linux distro. You tally nan installation programme from nan terminal and reply questions astir what benignant of keyboard you usage and your region.

If you make a mistake, each you tin do is deed Ctrl + C and commencement again. The installer is akin to expert-focused distros for illustration Arch aliases Gentoo.

After that, you'll take which "filesets" you want your strategy to include. The developers urge nan defaults for first-time users. Then you'll configure nan guidelines password and immoderate different users you want. Next comes nan infinitesimal of truth wherever you footwear into your caller OS.

FreeBSD installation program

FreeBSD's installation programme is akin but pinch a much polished look. It's still text-based, though. If you ever installed games connected an MS-DOS strategy successful nan '90s, FreeBSD's installation programme will look familiar.

It will besides locomotion you done mounting up a FreeBSD machine, specified arsenic formatting partitions, which FreeBSD calls "slices," selecting software, mounting up an net connection, and mounting up users and clip zones.

Even arsenic it appears friendlier, FreeBSD's installation programme besides assumes familiarity pinch Unix-like operating systems, arsenic does OpenBSD.

FreeBSD has an separator complete OpenBSD for having a much intuitive installation programme that you tin muddle done without a manual if you've installed an OS before.

Uses and Applications

OpenBSD and FreeBSD some person roots successful nan 386BSD task to larboard nan BSD codebase to, well, Intel 80386 processors, but they target 2 different markets.

OpenBSD was founded by Theo De Raadt aft respective disagreements betwixt him and different NetBSD developers. NetBSD itself was different offshoot of 386BSD.

OpenBSD's declare to fame is its attraction connected security. The project's charismatic website claims arsenic of September 2023 that only 2 distant holes person been recovered successful nan default installation "in a heck of a agelong time."

OpenBSD was initially celebrated for building routers and gateways from scratch, often pinch second-hand parts, successful mini ISPs successful nan '90s. While dedicated hardware is simply a batch much communal arsenic net work has go much consolidated and professionalized, OpenBSD maintains its attraction connected information done an accent connected codification correctness.

OpenBSD's committedness to method value is apt a logic that components that person been ported to different systems, specified arsenic OpenSSH and tmux, person go wide celebrated extracurricular nan OpenBSD ecosystem. OpenSSH is moreover installed by default connected Windows 10 and 11.

FreeBSD, connected nan different hand, contempt nan developers focusing connected server use, is positioned much arsenic a general-purpose system.

Like OpenBSD, FreeBSD was a celebrated OS for powering dot-com infrastructure during nan '90s net boom. Yahoo was known for relying connected FreeBSD extensively successful its heyday, and Netflix's Open Connect contented transportation web handles galore binge-watching sessions.

Quality of Documentation

Both OpenBSD and FreeBSD support archiving connected their systems.

OpenBSD Faq website

OpenBSD's archiving is simply a batch for illustration nan remainder of nan system: terse and geared toward experts. Visually, nan project's website is firmly rooted successful nan 1990s, but OpenBSD's typically whimsical merchandise themes notwithstanding.

In summation to its manpages, OpenBSD maintains "FAQ" sections that really double arsenic manuals successful themselves. These screen insignificant specifications for illustration installation and securing nan system.

FreeBSD Handbook website

FreeBSD's attack to archiving is much polished. FreeBSD has well-written manpages, but nan system's champion characteristic whitethorn beryllium nan Handbook. It's informative capable to service arsenic a reference for master users but explains capable basal concepts for those who whitethorn not person arsenic overmuch acquisition pinch Unix-like systems to service arsenic an introduction.

FreeBSD wins connected nan value of its archiving complete OpenBSD.

Firewall Implementation

Both OpenBSD and NetBSD beforehand security, and 1 measurement they do truthful is by making a firewall available.

True to OpenBSD's information emphasis, nan task has developed its ain firewall program, pf, for Packet Filter. As pinch different components, PF has been wide ported to different systems. PF is portion of macOS, which is based connected portion connected FreeBSD.

As pinch OpenBSD, FreeBSD makes usage of PF arsenic 1 of nan awesome firewall programs, but IPFW and IPFILTER are besides available. The FreeBSD Handbook devotes nan astir abstraction to PF but warns that their ported type and OpenBSD's diverge significantly.

It takes immoderate clip and expertise to configure a firewall connected some systems to fto them service arsenic a makeshift router. OpenBSD has an separator for group wished to build a DIY router owed to its obsessive information focus.

Desktop Environments

While OpenBSD and NetBSD are developed chiefly pinch servers successful mind, it's imaginable to usage them arsenic desktop systems.

OpenBSD desktop

OpenBSD tin instal an X server and a basal FVWM model head environment. Like everything else, it's a throwback to nan '90s visually. You tin instal different environments done nan package manager.

FreeBSD Xfce desktop

FreeBSD offers galore of nan aforesaid model managers and desktop environments that you would find connected Linux distributions.

Installing a GUI is simply a spot much progressive connected some systems, akin to doing truthful connected Arch aliases Gentoo. FreeBSD mightiness beryllium nan victor here, simply because you tin instal complete desktop systems for illustration TrueOS aliases MidnightBSD that travel pinch a desktop retired of nan box.

Hardware Support: OpenBSD vs. FreeBSD

If open-source and proprietary hardware driver support connected Linux seems frustrating to you, your choices are much constricted connected BSD-based operating systems simply because they're much niche than Linux is, astatine slightest connected nan desktop.

The biggest challenges, arsenic successful Linux, are graphics and Wi-Fi.

OpenBSD supports AMD and Intel chipsets, but not Radeon, arsenic nan institution doesn't supply immoderate method accusation to nan developers. A number of Wi-Fi drivers are available, however.

FreeBSD supports nan awesome graphics manufacturers arsenic good arsenic Wi-Fi.

As pinch galore modern Linux distros, X requires very little, if any, configuration to tally connected some systems. As they're chiefly server-oriented, they'll tally successful console mode by default. Connecting to Wi-Fi is besides much involved, but wired connections will usually activity retired of nan box.

Package Management successful FreeBSD and OpenBSD

Both OpenBSD and FreeBSD connection package guidance to simplify package installation, again akin to modern Linux distros. On some systems, you tin compile "ports" from nan root but person nan action to instal binary packages quickly. The second attack is progressively communal successful some systems.

OpenBSD pkg_info manpage

OpenBSD uses nan pkg_add and pkg_info programs to instal and hunt for packages.

FreeBSD pkg package head

FreeBSD's package bid is called "pkg" and nan operations are each performed connected 1 program. The second attack seems easier.

Which Is More Secure? OpenBSD aliases FreeBSD

Both OpenBSD and FreeBSD accent their committedness to security. FreeBSD is simply a much general-purpose system, but FreeBSD is, arsenic is evidently apparent, obsessive successful its attack to coding and strategy design. Those who are really concerned will apt take nan latter.


While fame by itself should not beryllium nan only facet successful selecting an OS, it will impact nan expertise to find package and support. While OpenBSD has a estimation successful nan open-source organization for its devotion to information and moreover a playful broadside pinch its merchandise theming, FreeBSD seems to person wider support.

It's difficult to gauge really wide utilized some systems are successful practice, but FreeBSD has a higher rank than OpenBSD connected arsenic of September 2023, based connected hits to their web pages.

Now You Can Use nan Right BSD for nan Right Job

Deciding betwixt OpenBSD aliases FreeBSD tin beryllium daunting, but nan determination will apt travel down to really unafraid you want your strategy to be. If you want a secure, tough-as-nails OS, your champion stake is OpenBSD. For a much wide BSD system, spell pinch FreeBSD aliases NetBSD.

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