Is it possible to install all of FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD and DragonFly BSD on a single disc?

What would be the proper procedure for success, and what are the caveats?

  • 1
    I guess you want to put all these 4 OS on 1 hard-drive? Would this means you want some kind of multiboot thingy? The current "procedure for success" for this kind of thing is to use Virtual Machines, multiboot is a thing of the past. – Ouki Sep 3 '15 at 6:53
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    @Ouki, I'm interested in driver development, and porting drivers from one system to the next, so, VM won't do it. This is not so much a problem of multi-boot (I would trust that FreeBSD's or DragonFly's MBR would be capable of booting OpenBSD and NetBSD) as it is of making sure that, for example, NetBSD doesn't trash the disklabel of other systems (a few years ago, I had FreeBSD and DragonFly disklabels apparently go kaput after installing NetBSD, never fully traced what has happened). – cnst Sep 5 '15 at 3:50
  • Driver dev is a noble cause. You have all my sympathy for this (and my empathy for the pain to set such a multi-boot system). – Ouki Sep 5 '15 at 10:39
  • Another approach: using 1 disc per OS (bit more costly) or 1 USB device or 1 SD card per OS. – Ouki Sep 5 '15 at 10:55

Yes, it is possible, but quite complicated.

However, your question does not supply enough information on the hardware used to be able to answer it completely. Especially since modern computers can be quite a pain in the neck when it comes to booting and partitioning (for instance, with UEFI).

Essentially, using the different fdisk commands, create partitions for each BSD, then install the different versions in their respective partitions.

Finally, use grub or equivalent and configure it to boot the different BSD by indicating which partition will boot which BSD.

As usual OpenBSD probably has the best documentation on that subject, and you can read it here: http://www.openbsd.org/faq/faq4.html#Multibooting

Mind the warning at the very beginning of this documentation:

Multibooting is having several operating systems on one computer, and some means of selecting which OS is to boot. It is not a trivial task! If you don't understand what you are doing, you may end up deleting large amounts of data from your computer.

Also relevant: https://www.freebsd.org/doc/handbook/bsdinstall-pre.html

  • I believe this may be more involved than that, for example, because there's only one disklabel per disc on e.g. OpenBSD, so, it may or may not conflict with other systems. – cnst Sep 4 '15 at 5:39
  • @cnst At least FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD use different MBR partition identifiers, so they won't tread on each other's toes. This also goes with GPT partitions for FreeBSD and NetBSD (I think OpenBSD still doesn't support GPT). I don't know about DragonflyBSD. But why not use a VM for each? – Gilles Sep 4 '15 at 21:08
  • @Gilles, yes, they do -- bxr.su/OpenBSD/sbin/fdisk/part.c#part_type -- however, does it mean that disklabel is stored within such partitions, and not within the MBR? what if there are two openbsd partitions? – cnst Sep 4 '15 at 22:08
  • @cnst The normal way to install FreeBSD, OpenBSD or NetBSD on MBR partitions is to have a single MBR partition containing the BSD disklabel. Some variants may support other configurations, I haven't looked at this in years. – Gilles Sep 4 '15 at 22:38
  • @Gilles, I just recall that I had a disk with FreeBSD and DragonFly installed, and, after installing NetBSD, both FreeBSD and DragonFly were gone. So, are you confirming that disklabel is stored within MBR, or what? I'm not sure I understand your advice to have a single partition -- don't all of these systems have their own partition type? – cnst Sep 5 '15 at 2:58

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