9.1 Feature: Multiple Boot Environments

If you’re using ZFS (or looking for a reason to do so), one of the new features in 9.1 is support for multiple boot environments. Imagine the following scenarios:

  • you upgrade your operating system, hate it, and wish you could go back to the old version
  • you upgrade some software which breaks something else
  • you want to perform some tests without permanently affecting the files on your current operating system

Multiple boot environments make those scenarios do-able in two easy to use commands. Before making changes to your system, simply use the beadm create command to create a copy of the current filesystem. Do your stuff. To go back to what the system used to look like, use the beadm activate command to instruct the system to boot into the copy of the previous boot environment and reboot. It really is as easy as that!

Documentation for multiple boot environments can be found in this page of the upcoming 9.1 PC-BSD Users Handbook. This feature became available with the 9-STABLE 20120622 snapshot and will also be in the upcoming BETA1.

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Written by dru. Posted in 9.1, new features

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Comments (7)

  • Bryan Drewery
    July 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm |

    Great to see this being embraced for 9.1!

  • RyanBram
    July 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm |

    Great News.
    Is it possible to do something like that with Unix File System (UFS)?
    How about multi boot several operating system with PC-BSD 9.1, do it still need 3rd party tool such as EasyBCD? Or will it be configured automatically by PC-BSD system?

    • July 11, 2012 at 6:30 am |

      I haven’t heard of anything similar for UFS (or any other filesystem other than ZFS).

      Regarding the boot menu, it depends upon the disk layout and OS. I’ve found that the FreeBSD boot manager picks up Windows if it’s installed first on the primary disk (haven’t tested other scenarios). It’s ugly, but it works. In 9.1, the FreeBSD boot mgr is installed by default unless you go to Advanced in the disk layout and uncheck the box for it.

  • user10508
    July 11, 2012 at 4:37 am |

    The 20120622 snapshot left me in a makeboot environment after a few successful boots to the kernel.

    The installation was zfs, encryption, gnome on an intel i5 laptop with 8GB ram.

    I was unable to boot from the boot partion, the system would go into a hard system restart instead of booting the kernel.

    I was testing this snapshot to see if rc6 was present in this kms snapshot.; it has not been in previous snapshots.

    Without rc6, for an intel iga. I experienced high temperatures – 190F when compiling and high operating temperatures generally.

    As this was true during driver development of software for linux, this should not be surprising to anyone.

    I’m not going to fry my laptop because rc6 isn’t in intel iga support.

    I mentionred this problem on the x11 mailing list and one person replied that it was my laptop that was the problem – turned out this person was not running with pcbsd-9 or kms and has spent the better part of a month trying to get the right patch set working. As no one was interested in the rc6 problem and I no longer subscribe to the x11 mailing list.

    Laptop users should not attempt to use intel kms – they will risk their machines.

    It was a mistake on my part not getting a laptop with an nvidia chip.

    Though the intel iga is well supported on linux and windows – by intel, on bsd, I doubt it will ever even get close to either of those environments in features or performance because these environments are a rapidly moving target which moves too quickly to ever expect non linux, non windows environments to keep up.

    Nvidia is well supported on freebsd.

    Laptops may not be freebsd’s core market, but it may perhaps be of interest to pcbsd.

    That vesa doesn’t work, has never worked, with intel kms is just icing on the cake.

    • July 11, 2012 at 9:59 am |

      RC6 support is a bit tricky. The feature itself is complicated, is part of the Intel driver, and there are no publicly available specs. Since FreeBSD does not want to diverge from the open source version of the driver, it has been porting the Linux commits to the driver. The person doing this has fallen a bit behind due to his work demands and we are looking into finding another person to assist.

  • Francis Ridder
    July 17, 2012 at 8:26 am |

    This is awesome! This feature was in Opensolaris and was, by far, one of the most intelligent uses of zfs snapshots. Thank you for implementing this. Now we just need a “time slider” feature for dolphin.

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