Install OpenBSD from USB stick

Today, I feel like testing OpenBSD again. I want to see how it works as a workstation. So I’m gonna run a 4.9 (snapshot) on a Asus EeePC 901.

AFAIK, OpenBSD doesn’t provide official bootable USB stuff. I tried burning the various iso files on the USB stick but it wouldn’t boot… surprise! Then I tried using unetbootin which, of course, doesn’t support OpenBSD… Success came using a virtualisation software to install a minimal OpenBSD system on the USB stick and (re)run the install from there.

I used VMware Fusion but it would probably work with any other virtualisation software that can grab an external USB device. So I created a disk-less virtual machine and used cd49.iso as a virtual CD. While the bootloader was waiting for orders, I attached the USB stick to the virtual machine and waited for the OpenBSD installation to proceed. Nothing special here ; run the install, format the USB stick and install the files. I only installed the bsd and bsd.rd files on the stick. Hence, the OpenBSD installation tool asked me “Are you *SURE* your install is complete without ‘base49.tgz’?”. Which I was. At the end of the installation, shut the VM down and stick the USB key in the machine to be installed.

Power the machine on and, when the OpenBSD boot loader appear, enter “bsd.rd“. This will launch the installation process from the USB installation. Run the OpenBSD installation as usual. Nothing special here ; just follow the white rabbit.

The installation went smoothly and OpenBSD seem to run quite well on this machine.
Lately, I’ll write a bit of review on using OpenBSD as a workstation on this little box.

[UPDATE 23/04/2011]: woops, there seem to be a problem with the ath0 card… I can’t connect to any wireless network…

That’s All Folks!


  • Randy Sat, 14 May 2011 00:35:22 +0000 Reply

    Hello, I found this page while trying to set up the ath0 card on the eee pc 901 using OpenBSD on a USB-stick installation.

  • Randy Sun, 15 May 2011 00:31:58 +0000 Reply

    When I ran

    # inconfig ral0 scan

    it returned the info on the various networks in my vicinity, so the ral drivers are working fine and I just need to figure out how to get connected to my access point.

    • Joel Carnat Sun, 15 May 2011 10:56:40 +0000 Reply Author

      During installation process, the wizard takes you by the hand 🙂

      On a running system, just go for:

      # ifconfig wpi0 nwid my_net wpakey my_passphrase

  • Randy Sun, 15 May 2011 23:12:48 +0000 Reply

    Thank you Joel. Except during the installation process the wizard did not get the wireless working.

    However, after several hours of reading I find that it is easy once I know how. gives me a SSID, which in my case is BELL917
    and they give me a 26 digit WEP key where all the digits are numerals.

    when I type in:> ifconfig ral0 nwkey 12345678901234567890123456
    the response is : ifconfig: strings too long

    the problem is that the key is a hexadecimal number and must be proceeded by 0x.

    so I type in:> ifconfig ral0 nwkey 0x12345678901234567890123456

    and dhclient ral0 now connects me to the net.

    • Joel Carnat Mon, 16 May 2011 20:34:27 +0000 Reply Author

      great 🙂

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