About NetBSD

What is NetBSD?

NetBSD is an entirely free and open-source UNIX-like operating system developed by an international community. It isn't a "distribution" or variant, but has evolved over several decades to be a complete and unique operating system in the BSD family.

NetBSD was originally released in 1993. Over time, its code has found its way into many surprising environments, on the basis of a long history of quality, cleanliness, and stability. The NetBSD code was originally derived from 4.4BSD Lite2 from the University of California, Berkeley.

NetBSD is distributed as a set of fully reproducible binaries:

  • Releases are cut periodically from stable branches after a period of testing and are supported for several years.
  • NetBSD-stable is a nightly distribution of the latest release branch, and includes fixes and improvements that will make it into the next point release.
  • NetBSD-current is a nightly distribution of the latest development branch, and includes the latest features, but also potentially experimental changes and bugs.

Why use NetBSD?

NetBSD users enjoy a simple, well-documented, and fully integrated UNIX-like system that feels minimal, and in many ways traditional, while including many modern and interesting features, and support for recent hardware.

As a community, the people who make NetBSD have a wide area of interests, which has resulted in a system with some diverse features:

  • Security and memory hardening features - including PaX MPROTECT (W^X) enforced globally by default with an option to exclude binaries, among others. File integrity protection is provided by veriexec, and the traditional BSD securelevels further restrict operations that can be performed by even the superuser. NetBSD includes its own native firewall, NPF, and has been used successfully on security-critical networking devices. NetBSD's kernel and userspace have undergone extensive checks by code sanitizers and automated testing.
  • Powerful package management - NetBSD's pkgsrc has its own release schedule of quarterly stable branches and a "rolling release" branch, which can be combined in any way with the NetBSD base system. pkgin is a user-friendly binary package manager for pkgsrc, but on its own pkgsrc itself allows power users a great deal of flexibility. pkgsrc has been widely adopted in the high-performance scientific computing community, including at NASA, and supports other platforms, but NetBSD is prioritized.
  • Modern storage capabilities - including the ZFS file system, RAIDframe software RAID system, and cgd disk encryption. There is support for the Logical Volume Manager, as well as the traditional BSD filesystem (with logging extension) and disklabel system.
  • ARM hardware support for a wide range of open, low-cost, and high-end devices, including powerful SBBA/SBBR servers, open hardware laptops, and pocket-sized development boards. Entirely in the mainline kernel, supported by a single image, and maintained by NetBSD developers with long-term support in mind.
  • Virtualization support - including the well-established enterprise solution in Xen, and the native NetBSD kernel module and library making up the NVMM hypervisor, which provides hardware acceleration for QEMU in a clean and secure way.
  • Support for modern x86 hardware including NVMe, UEFI, accelerated graphics, and a range of laptops.
  • Continuing stable support for a wide range of "legacy" hardware and ABIs. There's long-term backwards compatibility to even the earliest NetBSD releases without compromising on feature like 64-bit time. We intend to keep these systems running long after Year 2038.

The NetBSD Project's goals

A project has no point if it doesn't have goals. Thankfully, the NetBSD Project has enough goals to keep it busy for quite some time. Generally speaking, the NetBSD Project:

In summary: The NetBSD Project provides a freely available and redistributable system that professionals, hobbyists, and researchers can use in whatever manner they wish.

Why the name?

NetBSD was one of the first major open source projects to be organized collaboratively entirely over the internet, using a network-connected version control system to develop the OS and organizing the project over email since 1993. The Internet was an enabling technology that made NetBSD possible. The Net in our name was thus chosen as a tribute to the Internet.

The BSD in our name is an obvious recognition of our heritage as a derivative of 4.4BSD and 386BSD.

Read more about the history of NetBSD.

The people who make NetBSD happen

A large number of people have put a lot of time and effort into making the NetBSD operating system what it is today, either by developing the system itself, supporting its development, or simply using it. Those people can be broken down into the following groups:

Additionally, without the University of California, Berkeley's Computer Systems Research Group and the many contributors to the Berkeley Software Distributions, the NetBSD Project surely would not exist. We thank them for their efforts.

The NetBSD Foundation is incorporated in the United States as a tax-exempt corporation (under Section 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code) that devotes itself to the traditional goals and spirit of the NetBSD Project and owns the trademark of the word NetBSD.