Step by Step USB Install of OpenBSD Unix

OpenBSD Unix was born in the 1990's after its creator, Theo de Raadt, separated from the NetBSD Unix project, which he was also a founder of. Shortly after its creation, OpenBSD focused on being a strong and secure operating system free of defects that could be exploited by bad actors such as cybercriminals. OpenBSD Unix now has an excellent reputation as being a secure operating system and also is ported to many different Platforms, including the common AMD64, as well as ports for ARM and SPARC. OpenBSD Unix has minimal hardware requirements and can be run effectively even on older, slower computing platforms. OpenBSD is also used as a base operating system for various firewall appliances sold and distributed by different companies.

Theo de Raadt is the founder and lead developer for OpenBSD Unix. Before starting the OpenBSD project in the 1990's, he was a founder and developer on the NetBSD Unix project. He was born in South Africa in 1968, but his family immigrated to Canada while he was still a child in 1977.  In 1992, he graduated from the University of Calgary with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science. In 2004, de Raadt was awarded the Free Software Award for his work on OpenBSD and also OpenSSH.

The widely used OpenSSH utility was also created out of the OpenBSD project. OpenSSH allows for the creation of a fully encrypted connection between client and server, that is immune to eavesdropping, using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

OpenBSD Unix is freely distributable for any person that wishes to use it, and is available on various mirror servers across the globe offering both FTP and also HTTP and HTTPS downloads of OpenBSD Unix. Also, packages available for use on OpenBSD. OpenBSD uses the permissive BSD License, which is different than the copy-left GPL license used by Linux. Theo de Raadt objected to changing to the more restrictive GPL license for wireless networking wifi drivers, concerned it would make OpenBSD a more restrictive, less open operating system.

OpenBSD Unix is based upon BSD Unix, short for Berkeley Software Distribution, which was created at the University of California, Berkeley as part of an effort to create a freely distributable computer operating system unencumbered by proprietary, commercial licensing. The NetBSD Unix project, and later OpenBSD Unix project, were created by developers unhappy with the slow pace of BSD Unix development.

In this blog post, I will show how to install OpenBSD Unix, version 6.6, on a Dell laptop using a USB drive, and also provide guidance on how to avoid some of the common pitfalls during install.

Before attempting the install, be sure the target computer is connected to the internet through a hard wire Ethernet cable connection.


Since we are doing a USB install, we will not use the common .ISO file like with an install disk, but instead will download an .FS file from the OpenBSD website at the following link:

OpenBSD Download Page CLICK HERE

Burn Install File to Install Media USB Drive

The FS file cannot be simply copied onto the USB drive, but should be burned onto the USB drive using a tool like Win32 Disk Imager for Windows 10, available for free download at the following website.

SourceForge Win32 Disk Imager Download CLICK HERE

First, before starting Win32 Disk Imager, insert your USB drive into one of the USB slots on your computer.

After you start up Win32 Disk Imager, you will be prompted to allow changes to your computer, choose "yes" when this appears. You will then see the following screen that will allow you to select a file to burn to USB. In this case the USB drive defaults to being the E drive on the computer. Click the folder icon like in the image to open the .FS install file.

VERY IMPORTANT!!!! Make sure your drive on the screen is not the C: drive!! your main hard drive on your windows computer! Burning to your C: drive will permanently wipe out all of your files and applications!

Next, you will see the following screen, in the drop down list listing IMAGE FILES, click on it and then you will see a *.* option, choose that option and then you should be able to see and select the OpenBSD Install .FS file, like in the following:

After selecting and opening the OpenBSD .FS file, you  can then Burn the file to the USB drive by clicking the WRITE button, you will then be prompted an "Are You Sure?" prompt, choose YES to start the Burn to USB Drive.

When the Win32 Disk Imager is finished writing the FS file to the USB drive, you will get a message saying the write is complete.

Attach USB Drive and Select Boot Option to USB

Next, insert your USB drive into one of the available USB ports on your computer you wish to install OpenBSD on, then start up the computer. Since we are installing to a Dell Latitude laptop, we press the F12 button to get the BIOS settings screen, and then select BOOT SEQUENCE option, choose USB STORAGE DEVICE to be the primary boot option with number 1 next to it. Then save your changes and exit and then our laptop will then boot from the USB drive.

Welcome to the OpenBSD/amd64 Installation Program

After running for a few seconds with blue background text, you will then be given this prompt, choose the option (I) for a full install.

Choose your Keyboard Layout?

This is the next step during install, choosing DEFAULT should be fine for most computers, including laptops.

System Hostname?

This option allows you to designate the name of your computer on the network. For our Dell Latitude laptop, I chose hostname OPENBSD-DELL, and since I am using AT&T DSL internet, the end hostname I get is OPENBSD-DELL.ATTLOCAL.NET. You are free to use any hostname you wish, but good practice is to use a hostname that identifies the kind of computer you are using.

Which Network Interface Do You Wish to Configure?

Out of good practice, use the default selection for this field. An important note, OpenBSD often does not work with Wifi, wireless networking, by default, so the best practice is to use your hard wire ethernet cable connection for this field.

ipv4 address? choose dhcp

ipv6 address? choose none

Then choose DONE when prompted again for network interface.

PW for ROOT Account?

You will be prompted twice to enter a root password, be sure to enter one of sufficient complexity, a good idea is to write it down on paper or in a notebook, a piece of paper or a notebook are usually fully protected from cyber criminals on the internet.

Start SSHD By Default? YES

Do you expect to run The X Window System? YES, unless you only want to use OpenBSD at the command line.

Do you want X Windows to be started with XENODM(1)? YES

Change the default console to com1? YES

Speed for default console com1? whatever you prefer, slower is better though.

Setup a user? definitely a yes, enter the username you want for your user account, for Unix/Linux I usually use mworkman72, you will then be prompted twice for a password for the username.

Full name? Enter the full name you want for your new user.

Allow root ssh login? NO, if you need to change something on the computer after install and want to login remotely, it is best to use your username and not the root account, you can always use SU at the command line to get root permissions after login with your username.

What Timezone are you in? Normally you can use the default setting for this question, in my case it was NEWYORK since I live in Florida in the Eastern Time Zone.

Which disk is the root disk? You always want to choose the hard drive for install and not the usb drive, both will be listed here at this prompt. To see which one is the hard drive, enter ? and info about the drives will then be listed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your hard drive is not listed at this root disk prompt, you may have to change the SATA SETTING in BIOS to AHCI, then try again to install OpenBSD.

Use whole disk? YES, W for whole disk, unless you are trying to setup a dual boot system, in which case you enter the name of the partition on the disk that you want OpenBSD to be installed to.

Use auto layout? A for auto layout. Everything else is for advanced users.

The hard drive will then be formatted, this may take a few minutes.

Which disk do you wish to initialize? DONE option

Location of sets? HTTP, supposedly the sets are already in the FS install file, but I was never able to locate them locally, so I used the HTTP option to download and install the sets from the internet.


HTTP Server? for my install I chose, but to avoid latency it is always good to select a server that is near your location, you can get a list of the available servers by entering ? at this prompt.

Server directory? pub/OpenBSD/6.6/amd64

Next you should get a list of all the sets that are available and there should be an X next to each set name, it is good practice to allow the default of all sets being selected, picking and choosing sets is something best left to advanced users. Enter DONE at the prompt to indicate you are ready to install the sets. Installing the sets may take several minutes, depending on the speed of your internet connection.

Enter DONE when prompted again for the sets after they are installed.

Install Complete!

That is it!! You should get a message that the install is complete, next reboot your computer and then you should get a login screen like the following.

I hope this blog post has been useful for anyone wanting to install, use, and learn OpenBSD Unix.

A free OpenBSD Unix shell account is available on Also, there are many free Operating System options on the Tildeverse.

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 If you have any questions about CC++Microsoft C# .NET,  Microsoft Azure Cloud, Unix, Linux, and/or Mobile Apps, please feel free to contact me by email at:

michael DOT g DOT workman AT gmail DOT COM


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