1.2. Overview

The boot process is an extremely machine-dependent activity. Not only must code be written for every computer architecture, but there may also be multiple types of booting on the same architecture. For example, a directory listing of /usr/src/sys/boot reveals a great amount of architecture-dependent code. There is a directory for each of the various supported architectures. In the x86-specific i386 directory, there are subdirectories for different boot standards like mbr (Master Boot Record), gpt (GUID Partition Table), and efi (Extensible Firmware Interface). Each boot standard has its own conventions and data structures. The example that follows shows booting an x86 computer from an MBR hard drive with the FreeBSD boot0 multi-boot loader stored in the very first sector. That boot code starts the FreeBSD three-stage boot process.

The key to understanding this process is that it is a series of stages of increasing complexity. These stages are boot1, boot2, and loader (see boot(8) for more detail). The boot system executes each stage in sequence. The last stage, loader, is responsible for loading the FreeBSD kernel. Each stage is examined in the following sections.

Here is an example of the output generated by the different boot stages. Actual output may differ from machine to machine:

FreeBSD ComponentOutput (may vary)
F1    FreeBSD
F2    BSD
F5    Disk 2
boot2 [a]
>>FreeBSD/i386 BOOT
Default: 1:ad(1,a)/boot/loader
BTX loader 1.00 BTX version is 1.02
Consoles: internal video/keyboard
BIOS drive C: is disk0
BIOS 639kB/2096064kB available memory

FreeBSD/x86 bootstrap loader, Revision 1.1
Console internal video/keyboard
(root@snap.freebsd.org, Thu Jan 16 22:18:05 UTC 2014)
Loading /boot/defaults/loader.conf
/boot/kernel/kernel text=0xed9008 data=0x117d28+0x176650 syms=[0x8+0x137988+0x8+0x1515f8]
Copyright (c) 1992-2013 The FreeBSD Project.
Copyright (c) 1979, 1980, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
        The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
FreeBSD is a registered trademark of The FreeBSD Foundation.
FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE #0 r260789: Thu Jan 16 22:34:59 UTC 2014
    root@snap.freebsd.org:/usr/obj/usr/src/sys/GENERIC amd64
FreeBSD clang version 3.3 (tags/RELEASE_33/final 183502) 20130610

[a] This prompt will appear if the user presses a key just after selecting an OS to boot at the boot0 stage.

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at https://download.freebsd.org/ftp/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
Send questions about this document to <freebsd-doc@FreeBSD.org>.