Free BSD-based Operating Systems

Systems based on the BSD derivative of Unix

Free BSD-based Operating Systems

This page lists free operating systems based on BSD, a derivative of Unix which was developed at the University of California Berkeley. (The term "BSD" stood for "Berkeley Software Distribution".) While arguably less well-known among non-geeks than Linux, some of the operating systems here are, like Linux, used to operate web servers for a number of web hosts.

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Free BSD-based Operating Systems


FreeBSD is probably one of the most popular BSD-based operating systems. Derived from 386BSD and 4.4BSD-Lite, it supports x86 processors, including Pentium and Athlon, as well as Opteron, Athlon64, EM64T, IA-64, PC-98, UltraSPARC and ARM. You can install from CD-ROM, DVD, floppy disk, an MS-DOS partition, anonymous FTP, NFS, and even magnetic tape. If you are installing from CDROM or DVD, ISO images can be downloaded from the site, and burned to a CD or DVD for installation. Like Linux, it is used by a number of web hosts for their web servers. The software is licensed under a variety of licences, including the FreeBSD license, the GNU General Public License and the GNU Library General Public License.


NetBSD is designed to be multiplatform and portable. Based originally on 386BSD, a port of BSD to the 386 (now defunct), it supports a huge number of platforms from servers to handhelds and embedded devices. For example, it supports Intel-based PCs, Compaq Alpha, SPARC, SPARC64, Atari, Cobalt, Mac 68k, Mac PPC, VAX, Sega's DreamCast, Playstation, HP 9000 series 300 and 400 workstations, and so on (there're too many to list). If your aim is to port BSD to a new device, this is the operating system to choose, since portability is its primary goal.


OpenBSD is the BSD-based operating system that is reputed to be the most secure out of the box. Based originally on an early version of NetBSD, it includes strong integrated cryptography and proactive security that includes comprehensive code audits. It supports a number of platforms including Alpha, AMD64, ARM, HP 9000 series 300 and 400 workstations, Hewlett Packard Precision Architecture (PA-RISC), i386 (x86), 680x0-based Macintosh, PPC Mac, SGI, SPARC, UltraSPARC, VAX, Zaurus, etc. ISOs of OpenBSD are available from their FTP sites.


Darwin is the base operating system behind Apple's Mac OS X. It incorporates elements from Mach and BSD. Unlike the other systems listed on this page, this link leads only to the source code for the operating system proper. There are no binaries, applications or utilities.

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