How to install NetBSD on x86 GNU GRUB payload


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GRUB supports booting NetBSD kernels directly. However, you’re better off simply using the SeaBIOS payload; BSD works well with BIOS or UEFI setups.

GRUB is acceptable for booting unencrypted BSD installations. However, encrypted BSD installations will probably require the use of SeaBIOS/Tianocore.

Prepare the USB drive (in NetBSD)

This page on the NetBSD website shows how to create a NetBSD bootable USB drive from within NetBSD itself. You should use the dd method documented there.

Prepare the USB drive (in FreeBSD)

This page on the FreeBSD website shows how to create a bootable USB drive for installing FreeBSD. Use the dd on that page. You can also use the same instructions with a NetBSD ISO image.

Prepare the USB drive (in OpenBSD or NetBSD)

If you downloaded your ISO on a OpenBSD or NetBSD system, here is how to create the bootable NetBSD USB drive:

Connect the USB drive. Check dmesg:

dmesg | tail

Check to confirm which drive it is, for example, if you think its sd3:

disklabel sd3

Check that it wasn’t automatically mounted. If it was, unmount it. For example:

doas umount /dev/sd3i

dmesg told you what device it is. Overwrite the drive, writing the NetBSD installer to it with dd. For example:

doas netbsd.iso of=/dev/rsdXc bs=1M; sync

You should now be able to boot the installer from your USB drive. Continue reading, for information about how to do that.

Prepare the USB drive (in GNU+Linux)

If you downloaded your ISO on a GNU+Linux system, here is how to create the bootable NetBSD USB drive:

Connect the USB drive. Check dmesg:

dmesg

Check lsblk to confirm which drive it is:

lsblk

Check that it wasn’t automatically mounted. If it was, unmount it. For example:

sudo umount /dev/sdX\*
umount /dev/sdX\*

dmesg told you what device it is. Overwrite the drive, writing your distro ISO to it with dd. For example:

sudo dd if=install60.fs of=/dev/sdX bs=8M; sync
dd if=netbsd.iso of=/dev/sdX bs=8M; sync

You should now be able to boot the installer from your USB drive. Continue reading, for information about how to do that.

Installing NetBSD without full disk encryption

You might have to use an external USB keyboard during the installation. Press C to access the GRUB terminal.

grub> knetbsd -r sd0a (usb0,netbsd1)/netbsd
grub> boot

It will start booting into the NetBSD installer. Follow the normal process for installing NetBSD.

Installing NetBSD with full disk encryption

TODO

Booting

Press C in GRUB to access the command line:

grub> knetbsd -r wd0a (ahci0,netbsd1)/netbsd
grub> boot

NetBSD will start booting. Yay!

Configuring Grub

If you don’t want to drop to the GRUB command line and type in a command to boot NetBSD every time, you can create a GRUB configuration that’s aware of your NetBSD installation and that will automatically be used by libreboot.

On your NetBSD root partition, create the /grub directory and add the file libreboot_grub.cfg to it. Inside the libreboot_grub.cfg add these lines:

default=0
timeout=3

menuentry "NetBSD" {
    knetbsd -r wd0a (ahci0,netbsd1)/netbsd
}

The next time you boot, you’ll see the old Grub menu for a few seconds, then you’ll see the a new menu with only NetBSD on the list. After 3 seconds NetBSD will boot, or you can hit enter to boot.

Troubleshooting

Most of these issues occur when using Libreboot with coreboot’s ‘text mode’ instead of the coreboot framebuffer. This mode is useful for booting payloads like memtest86+ which expect text-mode, but for NetBSD it can be problematic when they are trying to switch to a framebuffer because it doesn’t exist.

won’t boot…something about file not found

Your device names (i.e. usb0, usb1, sd0, sd1, wd0, ahci0, hd0, etc) and numbers may differ. Use TAB completion.

Markdown file for this page: https://libreboot.org/docs/bsd/netbsd.md

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