How to install OpenBSD on x86 GNU GRUB payload


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This guide is written for OpenBSD 6.1, but it can be adapted easily for other versions (of OpenBSD).

If you want an encrypted install, use SeaBIOS instead of GRUB and go here: https://www.openbsd.org/faq/faq4.html (official installation guide, which says how to use encryption)

GRUB supports booting OpenBSD 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.

install61.fs is the installation image for OpenBSD 6.1. Adapt the filename accordingly, for a different OpenBSD version or LibertyBSD.

Prepare the USB drive (in LibertyBSD or OpenBSD)

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

Connect the USB drive and check the system message buffer:

dmesg | tail

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

disklabel sd3

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

doas umount /dev/sd3i

Now write the OpenBSD installer to the drive with dd:

doas dd if=install60.fs 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 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. This will also work with the OpenBSD image.

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 OpenBSD ISO image.

Prepare the USB drive (in GNU+Linux)

If you downloaded your ISO on a GNU+Linux system, here is how to create the bootable OpenBSD 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=install61.fs of=/dev/sdX bs=8M; sync
dd if=install61.fs 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 OpenBSD without full disk encryption

Press C in GRUB to access the command line:

grub> kopenbsd (usb0,openbsd1)/6.1/amd64/bsd.rd
grub> boot

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

Installing OpenBSD with full disk encryption

If you are using SeaBIOS, OpenBSD’s bootloader will be chainloaded automatically and everything will just work.

Alternatively, it would be good to port OpenBSD either natively as a coreboot payload, or port it to libpayload (payload library in coreboot; it has a basic C library and a few functions for certain operations e.g. text/bitmap).

Booting

Press C in GRUB to access the command line:

grub> kopenbsd -r sd0a (ahci0,openbsd1)/bsd
grub> boot

OpenBSD 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 OpenBSD every time, you can create a GRUB configuration that’s aware of your OpenBSD installation and that will automatically be used by Libreboot.

On your OpenBSD 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 "OpenBSD" {
    kopenbsd -r sd0a (ahci0,openbsd1)/bsd
}

If your OpenBSD installation uses a GPT scheme, use the gpt4 partition instead of openbsd1.

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 OpenBSD on the list. After 3 seconds OpenBSD 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 OpenBSD 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/openbsd.md

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