My first steps with FreeBSD


This page describes the few things I’ve done with FreeBSD after installing a FreeBSD 12.1 virtual machine.

Shutting down FreeBSD

You can trigger the FreeBSD shut down and power down with the following command (as root):

halt -p # As root.

Tweaking SSH server configuration

You may need to tweak the SSH server configuration, for example to allow root password login (although it’s not recommended in the general case). Edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config as instructed in the SSH page and restart the sshd service (as root) with:

service sshd restart    # If sshd_enable is set to YES in /etc.rc.conf.


service sshd onerestart # If sshd_enable is not set to YES in /etc.rc.conf.

Fixing a slow boot issue (“unqualified host name; sleeping for retry”)

If you have provided an unqualified host name during the installation, you probably have the FreeBSD slow boot issue described here.

Just edit /etc/rc.conf and make sure the hostname value is fully qualified (i.e. contains a dot).

You can output the host name with:


Having root’s shell history stored to file

On FreeBSD, root’s shell is tcsh. The command history is not stored to file by default. The following two commands add lines to the ~/.cshrc file which should cause the command history to be stored to file ~/.shell_history:

echo "set histfile = ~/.shell_history" >> ~/.cshrc       # As root.
echo "alias precmd 'history -S; history -M'" >> ~/.cshrc # As root.

(It is assumed that variables history and savehist were already set by .cshrc.)

Installing bash

For non root users, the default shell on FreeBSD is /bin/sh. Linux users may feel more comfortable with bash instead.

The following command shows that bash is available on FreeBSD:

pkg search bash

(If you’re running a pkg command for the first time, make sure to run it as root because it will fetch and install the package management tool and this will fail if you are not root.)

Install bash as root with:

pkg install bash bash-completion # As root.

Changing user’s shell to bash

As a “normal” (non root) user, you can change your shell to bash with:

chsh -s /usr/local/bin/bash

Create a ~/.bashrc file with the following content to enable the bash completion library:

[[ $PS1 && -f /usr/local/share/bash-completion/ ]]
source /usr/local/share/bash-completion/

Making it possible for a “normal” user to change user to root (with su -)

On FreeBSD, only users who are in the wheel are allowed to change user to root. You can add (as root) a user in the wheel group with:

pw usermod <username> -G wheel # As root

Searching / installing binary packages

You can install binary packages (for example GNU make and Git) with commands like (as root):

pkg install gmake git # As root.

After the installation of a package, a message is sometimes displayed. You can view this message later with a command like:

pkg info -D git

You can search the package repository catalogues with commands like:

pkg search vim