Tag Archives: update

UFS Boot Environments

Yes you read it correctly. The fabulous ZFS Boot Environments – more about them here – https://is.gd/BECTL – if you are not familiar with this concept – are now also possible on UFS filesystems on FreeBSD. Of course in little different form and without using snapshots and clones but the idea and solution remains. You can now have bootable backups of your system before major changes and/or upgrades. This solution does not use UFS snapshots. All bootable UFS variants are supported with and without Soft Updates or Soft Updates Journaling. The idea behind UFS Boot Environments lays in several additional root (/) partitions that will be used as alternate boot environments.

If you are interested in ARM more then in X86 then also check UFS Boot Environments for ARM article.

Concept is similar to Solaris Live Upgrade mechanism which used lucreate/luupgrade/lustatus commands and also to AIX Alternate Disk Cloning and Install with alt_disk_copy/alt_disk_install commands.

In this article I will show you how to setup new FreeBSD system with 3 of such partitions. In my honest opinion its more then enough for most purposes. On my desktop/workstation I have more then 1000 packages installed. With FreeBSD Base System it takes about 11 GB of space with ZFS compression and 15 GB without it. Thus I propose 16 GB partitions. Your needs may of course be different. You may as well create 4 GB or 64 GB partitions.

The UFS Boot Environments would not exist without the inspiration from FreeBSD Upgrade Procedure Using GPT blog post by Mariusz Zaborski (also known as oshogbo) who describes the concept of bootme flags for GPT partitions. That is the heart of this solution. By selecting activate for boot environment the bootme flag is removed from all existing boot environments and set for the new desired one. The ufsbe(8) tool was tested on FreeBSD 12.x and 13.x currently.

FreeBSD Install for UFS Boot Environments

Generally only GPT partitioning is needed to use UFS Boot Environments. Below I will show example install process with 3 root partitions of 16 GB each.

In the FreeBSD Installer select Install.

The select Auto (UFS) option.

Then use Entire Disk option.

Then select GPT partition table.

The FreeBSD Installer will propose the following solution.

Change it into 3 partitions 16 GB each to make it look like that one below and hit Finish.

Then Commit your choice.

… and then the install process will continue as usual.

Besides these option you may select whatever you choose in the install process.

After the system reboots its gpart(8) will look like that one below.

root@fbsd13:~ # gpart show
=>       40  134217648  ada0  GPT  (64G)
         40       1024     1  freebsd-boot  (512K)
       1064    2097152     2  freebsd-swap  (1.0G)
    2098216   33554432     3  freebsd-ufs  (16G)
   35652648   33554432     4  freebsd-ufs  (16G)
   69207080   33554432     5  freebsd-ufs  (16G)
  102761512   31456176        - free -  (15G)

Now fetch(1) the ufsbe.sh script from its GitHub page.

# fetch https://raw.githubusercontent.com/vermaden/ufsbe/main/ufsbe.sh
# chmod +x ./ufsbe.sh
# ./ufsbe.sh

NOPE: did not found boot environment setup with 'ufsbe' label

INFO: setup each boot environment partition with appropriate label

HELP: list all 'freebsd-ufs' partitions type:

  # gpart show -p | grep freebsd-ufs
      2098216   33554432  ada0p3  freebsd-ufs  [bootme]  (16G)
     35652648   33554432  ada0p4  freebsd-ufs  (16G)
     69207080   33554432  ada0p5  freebsd-ufs  (16G)

HELP: to setup partitions 3/4/5 as boot environments type:

  # gpart modify -i 3 -l ufsbe/3 ada0
  # gpart modify -i 4 -l ufsbe/4 ada0
  # gpart modify -i 5 -l ufsbe/5 ada0

It will welcome you with information about needed setup steps.

We will now make these steps marking all boot environment partitions with appropriate ufsbe labels.

# gpart modify -i 3 -l ufsbe/3 ada0
ada0p3 modified
# gpart modify -i 4 -l ufsbe/4 ada0
ada0p4 modified
# gpart modify -i 5 -l ufsbe/5 ada0
ada0p5 modified

Now ufsbe.sh will setup bootme flag for currently used root (/) partition.

# ./ufsbe.sh
INFO: flag 'bootme' successfully set on / filesystem
  ufsbe.sh list
  ufsbe.sh activate
  ufsbe.sh sync  

Setup is complete.

All three root partitions have the ufsbe label. To make it more simple the /dev/ada0p3 device gets the ufsbe/3 label and /dev/ada0p4 device gets the ufsbe/4 … you see the pattern.

# gpart show -p -l
=>       40  134217648    ada0  GPT  (64G)
         40       1024  ada0p1  (null)  (512K)
       1064    2097152  ada0p2  swap  (1.0G)
    2098216   33554432  ada0p3  ufsbe/3  [bootme]  (16G)
   35652648   33554432  ada0p4  ufsbe/4  (16G)
   69207080   33554432  ada0p5  ufsbe/5  (16G)
  102761512   31456176          - free -  (15G)

You can now use our UFS Boot Environments on this system.

Using UFS Boot Environments

Lets list our boot environments with list command. The short ‘l‘ option also works.

# ./ufsbe.sh list
ada0p3   ufsbe/3      NR  
ada0p4   ufsbe/4      -   
ada0p5   ufsbe/5      -  

Its output is similar to mine ZFS Boot Environments tools beadm(8). The N flag shows that this is the boot environments we are using NOW. The R flag shows which one we will use after the reboot(8).

Currently only the 3 boot environments is populated (by FreeBSD Installer that is). The 4 and 5 boot environments are empty filesystems.

You can either extract your own FreeBSD version there with base.txz and kernel.txz or use the sync option of ufsbe.sh which will use rsync(1) for the process. Below is an example of syncing boot environment 3 (the one we installed) with currently empty boot environment 4.

# ./ufsbe.sh sync 3 4
NOPE: rsync(1) is not available in ${PATH}
INFO: install 'net/rsync' package or port

# pkg install net/rsync

# ./ufsbe.sh sync 3 4
INFO: syncing '3' (source) => '4' (target) boot environments ...
INFO: boot environments '3' (source) => '4' (target) synced

You can now see that boot environment 3 and 4 have same size.

# df -h
Filesystem     Size    Used   Avail Capacity  Mounted on
/dev/ada0p3     15G    1.3G     13G     9%    /
devfs          1.0K    1.0K      0B   100%    /dev
/dev/ada0p4     15G    1.2G     13G     9%    /ufsbe/4
/dev/ada0p5     15G     32M     14G     0%    /ufsbe/5

If we would like to activate an empty boot environment 5 then ufsbe.sh will not let us do that because that will make our system unbootable. Of course is quote fast/naive check but at least makes sure some files exists on the soon to be active boot environment. Currently these files are checked but this list may be increased in the future:

  • /boot/kernel/kernel
  • /boot/loader.conf
  • /etc/rc.conf
  • /rescue/ls
  • /bin/ls
  • /sbin/fsck
  • /usr/bin/su
  • /usr/sbin/chroot
  • /lib/libc.so.*
  • /usr/lib/libpam.so.*

Below this ‘protection’ in action.

# ./ufsbe.sh activate 5
NOPE: boot environment '5' is not complete
INFO: critical file '/ufsbe/5/boot/kernel/kernel' is missing
INFO: use 'sync' option or copy file manually

The boot environment 4 activation process works as desired as we populated it with files from boot environment 3 first.

# ./ufsbe.sh activate 4
INFO: boot environment '4' now activated

Same as with beadm(8) the ufsbe.sh also checks if boot environment is already activated.

# ./ufsbe.sh activate 4
INFO: boot environment '4' is already active

The list of our boot environments looks like that now.

# ./ufsbe.sh list
ada0p3   ufsbe/3      N   
ada0p4   ufsbe/4      R   
ada0p5   ufsbe/5      -   

… and that is how output of gpart(8) looks like.

# gpart show -p -l
=>       40  134217648    ada0  GPT  (64G)
         40       1024  ada0p1  (null)  (512K)
       1064    2097152  ada0p2  swap  (1.0G)
    2098216   33554432  ada0p3  ufsbe/3  (16G)
   35652648   33554432  ada0p4  ufsbe/4  [bootme]  (16G)
   69207080   33554432  ada0p5  ufsbe/5  (16G)
  102761512   31456176          - free -  (15G)

We will now reboot into the activated boot environment 4.

# shutdown -r now

After the reboot(8) we see that we are now booted from the 4 boot environment.

# ./ufsbe.sh list
ada0p3   ufsbe/3      -   
ada0p4   ufsbe/4      NR  
ada0p5   ufsbe/5      -   

Closing Notes

Keep in mind that this is only first 0.1 version of ufsbe.sh. Do not use it in production or important systems and make sure you have restorable backups. Like with beadm(8) in the past I plan to improve it with more useful options and also add it to the Ports tree in the future.

Feel free to share your thoughts about this tool.

I must wait till midnight to make it shown as posted on 2nd of April because if I would post it on 1st of April it would be taken as April Fool Joke which is definitely not.


Updating or Upgrading

You may use the Upgrade FreeBSD with ZFS Boot Environments method with these UFS Boot Environments as well but now you will chroot(8) into /ufsbe/4 for example.


Upgrade FreeBSD with ZFS Boot Environments

I am known as a strong ZFS Boot Environment supporter … and not without a reason. I have stated the reasons ‘why’ many times but most (or all) of them are condensed here – https://is.gd/BECTL – in my presentation about it.

The upcoming FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE looks very promising. In many tests it is almost TWICE as fast as the 12.2-RELEASE. Ouch!

The detailed tests are available on the phoronix.com site.

Having 12.2-RELEASE installed I wanted to check 13.0-BETA* to check if things that are important for me – like working suspend/resume for example – work as advertised on the newer version. It is the perfect task that can be achieved by using ZFS Boot Environments.

In the example below we will create entire new ZFS Boot Environment with clone of our current 12.2-RELEASE system and upgrade it there (in BE) to the 13.0-BETA3 version … and there will only be required on reboot – not three as in typical freebsd-update(8) upgrade procedure.

I assume that you have FreeBSD 12.2-RELEASE installed with ZFS (default ZFS FreeBSD install) and its installed in UEFI or UEFI+BIOS mode.

Here are the steps that will be needed.

(host) # beadm create 13                        # create new '13' ZFS Boot Environment
       Created successfully
(host) # beadm mount 13 /var/tmp/BE-13          # mount new '13' BE somewhere
       Mounted successfully on '/var/tmp/BE-13'
(host) # chroot /var/tmp/BE-13                  # make chroot(8) into that place
  (BE) # mount -t devfs devfs /dev              # mount the devfs(8) in that BE
  (BE) # rm -rf /var/db/freebsd-update          # remove any old patches
  (BE) # mkdir /var/db/freebsd-update           # create fresh dir for patches
  (BE) # freebsd-update upgrade -r 13.0-BETA3   # fetch the patches needed for upgrade
  (BE) # freebsd-update install                 # install kernel and kernel modules
  (BE) # freebsd-update install                 # install userspace/binaries/libraries
  (BE) # pkg upgrade                            # upgrade all packages with pkg(8)
  (BE) # freebsd-update install                 # remove old libraries and files
Β  (BE) # exit                                   # leave chroot(8) environment
(host) # umount /var/tmp/BE-13/dev              # umount the devfs(8) in that BE
(host) # beadm activate 13                      # activate new '13' BE
       Activated successfully

I am using mine sysutils/beadm for the process but you as well may use the bectl(8)Β from FreeBSD base system.

We will also need new FreeBSD loader(8) which will be updated this way – thanks to @JeffSipek for pointing that out.

On my system FreeBSD is installed on ada1 device.

(host) # gpart show -p ada1 | grep efi                # find UEFI msdosfs(5) partition
               40     409600  ada1p1  efi  (200M)     # <-- this one
(host) # mount_msdosfs /dev/ada1p1 /mnt               # mount it under /mnt
(host) # find /mnt                                    # display its contents
       /mnt/efi/boot/bootx64.efi                      # update bootx64.efi file
(host) # cp /boot/boot1.efi /mnt/efi/boot/bootx64.efi # copy from /boot/boot1.efi file
(host) # umount /mnt                                  # unmount /mnt filesystem

There is small chance that you will not be able to mount the efi partition. Even fsck(8) is not able to help here.

Typical errors that some users faced look like that:

(host) # mount_msdosfs /dev/ada1p1 /mnt # error when trying to mount efi partition
       mount_msdosfs: /dev/ada1p1: Invalid argument

(host) # fsck_msdosfs -y /dev/ada1p1    # error when trying to fsck(8) that partition
       ** /dev/ada1p1
       Invalid signature in boot block: 0b6a

If you hit that problem then first backup your current efi partition to for example /BACKUP.ada1p1 file.

(host) # dd < /dev/ada1p1 > /BACKUP.ada1p1 bs=1m

Now we will create fresh efi partition from scratch.

(host) # newfs_msdos -F 32 -c 1 /dev/ada0p1            # create new FAT32 partition
(host) # mount_msdosfs /dev/ada0p1 /mnt                # mount it under /mnt
(host) # mkdir -p /mnt/efi/boot                        # create needed directories
(host) # cp /boot/loader.efi /mnt/efi/boot/bootx64.efi # copy from /boot/loader.efi file
(host) # umount /mnt                                   # unmount /mnt filesystem

Now you should have new ‘working’ efi partition.

The last step is to reboot(8) into the new 13.0-BETA3 system.

(host) # reboot

If you find any problems with new bootloader not being able to load your new FreeBSD then you may alternatively copy the /boot/boot1.efi instead of /boot/loader.efi into the /mnt/efi/boot/bootx64.efi place.

Keep in mind that if you boot from geli(8)encrypted system then /boot/loader.efi is mandatory and you will not be able to boot if you would use /boot/boot1.efi file instead.


You should now see the new FreeBSD loader(8) in all its glory πŸ™‚

You may now enjoy latest FreeBSD 13.0-BETA3 installation.

Same steps will be required to update to soon to be available FreeBSD 13.0-RC* (RC1/RC2/RC3) version and finally FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE hopefully somewhere in March 2021.

UPDATE 1 – What if Everything Went Fine

You now have most up to date FreeBSD system that should work faster then 12.2-RELEASE and you still has your older 12.2-RELEASE Boot Environment that you can go back to if you find any problems with 13.0 version.

On my system it looks like that:

(host) # beadm list
       BE   Active Mountpoint Space Created
       12.2 -      -           6.5G 2021-02-12 10:15
       13   NR     /          18.8G 2021-02-13 11:32

The Space column is little misleading as it takes into account snapshots space used for example. To get exact information each Boot Environment takes use -D option. This way you will get information about each Boot Environment space separately.

(host) # beadm list -D
       BE   Active Mountpoint  Space Created
       12.2 -      -            9.8G 2021-02-12 10:15
       13   NR     /            9.6G 2021-02-13 11:32

I will be keeping the 12.2-RELEASE Boot Environment for a while – maybe I will delete it a month or so after 13.0-RELEASE is available but if you tested all your needs and feel that 13.0 fulfills all your needs the same way or better then 12.2-RELEASE then you may delete that older Boot Environment with below command.

(host) # beadm destroy 12.2

UPDATE 2 – What if Something Goes Wrong

Generally if the new BE named ‘13‘ does not boot (or hangs at boot) then just select your earlier Boot Environment that you used before the upgrade – the one that has 12.2-RELEASE inside it.

You now have the system that worked for you before we proceed to the upgrade process.

If that fails (or bootloader is broken) then grab the FreeBSD-13.0-BETA3-amd64-memstick.img image and write it on some pendrive with dd(8) command.

# dd if=FreeBSD-13.0-BETA3-amd64-memstick.img of=/dev/da0 bs=1M status=progress

As you now have the pendrive with FreeBSD 13.0-BETA3 then you may boot from it and fix your installation. Pick LiveCD after its loaded. Then type root at login: prompt and hit [ENTER] for empty password.

The list of tasks that can be done now depends on what is broken and I can not guess every possible error and fix scenario so if you hit any problems during that upgrade process then just contact me with your preferred way and we will figure something out.