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Remote Installation of the FreeBSD Operating System Without a Remote Console

<email>danger@FreeBSD.org</email>
<personname> <firstname>Daniel</firstname> <surname>Gerzo</surname> </personname> <affiliation> <_:address-1/> </affiliation>
FreeBSD is a registered trademark of the FreeBSD Foundation.
Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this document, and the FreeBSD Project was aware of the trademark claim, the designations have been followed by the <quote>™</quote> or the <quote>®</quote> symbol.
<year>2008</year> <holder>The FreeBSD Documentation Project</holder>
$FreeBSD: head/en_US.ISO8859-1/articles/remote-install/article.xml 51348 2017-12-30 22:56:56Z eadler $
This article documents the remote installation of the FreeBSD operating system when the console of the remote system is unavailable. The main idea behind this article is the result of a collaboration with Martin Matuska <email>mm@FreeBSD.org</email> with valuable input provided by Paweł Jakub Dawidek <email>pjd@FreeBSD.org</email>.
Background
There are many server hosting providers in the world, but very few of them are officially supporting FreeBSD. They usually provide support for a <trademark class="registered">Linux</trademark> distribution to be installed on the servers they offer.
In some cases, these companies will install your preferred <trademark class="registered">Linux</trademark> distribution if you request it. Using this option, we will attempt to install FreeBSD. In other cases, they may offer a rescue system which would be used in an emergency. It is possible to use this for our purposes as well.
This article covers the basic installation and configuration steps required to bootstrap a remote installation of FreeBSD with RAID-1 and <application>ZFS</application> capabilities.
Introduction
This section will summarize the purpose of this article and better explain what is covered herein. The instructions included in this article will benefit those using services provided by colocation facilities not supporting FreeBSD.
As we have mentioned in the <link linkend="background">Background</link> section, many of the reputable server hosting companies provide some kind of rescue system, which is booted from their <acronym>LAN</acronym> and accessible over <application>SSH</application>. They usually provide this support in order to help their customers fix broken operating systems. As this article will explain, it is possible to install FreeBSD with the help of these rescue systems.
The next section of this article will describe how to configure, and build minimalistic FreeBSD on the local machine. That version will eventually be running on the remote machine from a ramdisk, which will allow us to install a complete FreeBSD operating system from an <acronym>FTP</acronym> mirror using the <application>sysinstall</application> utility.
The rest of this article will describe the installation procedure itself, as well as the configuration of the <application>ZFS</application> file system.
Requirements
To continue successfully, you must:
Have a network accessible operating system with <application>SSH</application> access
Understand the FreeBSD installation process
Be familiar with the <citerefentry><refentrytitle>sysinstall</refentrytitle><manvolnum>8</manvolnum></citerefentry> utility
Have the FreeBSD installation <acronym>ISO</acronym> image or <acronym>CD</acronym> handy
Preparation - <application>mfsBSD</application>
Before FreeBSD may be installed on the target system, it is necessary to build the minimal FreeBSD operating system image which will boot from the hard drive. This way the new system can be accessed from the network, and the rest of the installation can be done without remote access to the system console.
The <application>mfsBSD</application> tool-set can be used to build a tiny FreeBSD image. As the name of <application>mfsBSD</application> suggests (<quote>mfs</quote> means <quote>memory file system</quote>), the resulting image runs entirely from a ramdisk. Thanks to this feature, the manipulation of hard drives will not be limited, therefore it will be possible to install a complete FreeBSD operating system. The <application>mfsBSD</application> <uri xlink:href="http://mfsbsd.vx.sk/">home page</uri> includes pointers to the latest release of the toolset.
Please note that the internals of <application>mfsBSD</application> and how it all fits together is beyond the scope of this article. The interested reader should consult the original documentation of <application>mfsBSD</application> for more details.
Download and extract the latest <application>mfsBSD</application> release and change your working directory to the directory where the <application>mfsBSD</application> scripts will reside:
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