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FreeBSD CDROMs - Boot Problems

If you have a boot problem, First check the media checksum & content, only after that continue to read below.

Boot Problems

  • FreeBSD sometimes gets blamed for something of which it's innocent: Don't blindly accuse your FreeBSD CDROMs of not being bootable ! People often use older spare computer to test FreeBSD, before deciding whether to convert their newer other better PC from some other operating system to FreeBSD. Sometimes the older system may have hardware problems. Do actually prove to yourself. that your computer is actually capable of booting off of some other operating system's bootable CDROMs before considering you have a particular problem with bootable FreeBSD CDROMs. It's nearly always faulty hardware or configuration, not so often faulty media etc.

    Don't let your computer hard disk fool you by doing any of the boot work: Either disconnect it, or EG if you usually boot Microsoft, then boot your computer with another Linux or OpenBSD or NetBSD or FreeBSD CDROM, Don't be fooled by allowing your hard disk to silently provide some stage of boot support.

  • Some main boards will not boot if the CDROM is on the second IDE cable, so configure your cdrom as the slave device, & put it on the first IDE cable. (This may be hard to remember to do, as one main board I have (A Pentium-S 100MHz board reporting itself as "Award BIOS 05/24/1997 S"), only allows me to later "mount /cdrom" when the cdrom drive is on the secondary IDE ribbon cable (the 4.8 generic kernel wouldn't for some reason mount the cdrom as slave on the first cable).
  • Older CDROM drives may fail to boot or even read 700M media (only 650M media is standard. (CDROM sizes are listed here.)
  • Some older cdrom drives, EG My Goldstar GCD R532B, Manufactured December 1995, can start reading a factory written 4.4 FreeBSD CDROM, & report a 2.8M image to be booted, but then fail to boot & pass control back to the BIOS (maybe it needs a new EPROM/ more BIOS support ?) Later this same drive was proven capable of reading an entire 4.9 CDROM complete .iso (when configured as the master on the 2nd ribbon.
  • Some older CDROM drives fail to read self burnt CD-R media, even though they can read factory mass produced media.
  • Some older CDROM drives fail to read some colours of self burnt CR-Rs EG green with half translucent (see through) media
  • Some older drives (EG my 166MHz Digital Laptop) can read & successfully boot off 5.* CD-RW media, but do it slowly, with lots of read errors (visible via ALT F2)
  • Some newer high speed CDROM drives apparently may fail if paper labels are not perfectly aligned.
  • Older CDROM drives fail to read CD-RW media.
    A 5.2.1-RC2 CD-RW reported:
    Found CDROM: Matshita Cr-584
    Boot from ATAPI CD-ROM :    Failure
  • Boot software:, FreeBSD-4.* uses emulated El Torito. FreeBSD-5.* uses non emulated. Some very new (approx. end of 2003 onward) main boards support non emulated only. If you have any doubts try both 4.* & a 5.* series boot cdrom. It looks like the 4.x version of only supports Emulated El-Torito, and the EMUL_BOOT option in the 5.x release/Makefile isn't well documented.

    A Pentium-S 100MHz board reporting itself as "Award BIOS 05/24/1997 S" would boot a 4.* CDROM, but on a 5.* it would error like this:

    Found CDROM: Matshita Cr-584
    Boot from ATAPI CD-ROM :
    CD Loader 1.01
    Building teh boot loader arguments
    Looking up /BOOT/LOADER... Found
    Reloacating the loader and the BTX
    Starting the BTX loader
    BTX loader 1.00  BTX version is 1.01
    Console: internal video/keyboard
    after which it would pretty much hang, just sporadicly moving the cursor horizontally on bottom line.
  • If you still have no luck, boot any computer under any operating system, insert the cdrom, go to the top directory, read the README or INSTALL file, then format & write the first 3 boot floppies from the images on the CDROM, using the tools on the CDROM, using the methods described on the CDROM.
  • After booting off of those floppies, your computer can usually access the cdrom to continue the install. If your computer still can't access the CDROM, if you have an ethernet or local area network, you can put the CDROM on someone else's computer that is configured as a server, & install via ethernet, or even from the internet.
  • Don't be a lame brain ! Some say "How am I supposed to read the README if it won't boot ? - Realise you can read those README & INSTALL cdrom files on any PC running any operating system ! You do Not need to install BSD before you can read a trivial Ascii file on this standard ISO 9660 compliant CDROM !
  • Instead/ as well as reading files on the CDROM, you can also read similar info in the FreeBSD handbook on the web.

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