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NetBSD is a free and open source UNIX-like operating system based on the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), and developed by The NetBSD Foundation.

  • 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.
  • It was the first open source BSD descendant officially released after 386BSD was forked.

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.

  • The first version of NetBSD (0.8), released on 20/04/1993, derives from the BSDLite 4.3 operating system, and the 386BSD 0.1 system plus the version 0.2.2 unofficial patchkit, with several programs from the Net/2 release missing from 386BSD re-integrated, the first BSD ported to the Intel 386.

NetBSD takes its name from the 4BSD/Tahoe-Net/1 version of the BSD, as the TCP/IP protocol, the most important protocol on the Internet, was developed on top of it. NetBSD, like FreeBSD, is derived from the latest BSD version, 386BSD 0.1.

Its goal is Portability. Not for nothing is its motto "of course it runs NetBSD". It runs on machines ranging from PDAs to large servers, and has even been used by NASA on space missions. It is an excellent choice for using old non-Intel hardware.


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. It is compatible with binaries from releases from the same branch.
  • NetBSD-current is a nightly distribution of the latest development branch, and includes the latest features, but also potentially experimental changes and bugs. Official package builds are not currently produced for -current.

  • 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.


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.

  • The name "NetBSD" was chosen based on the importance and growth of networks such as the Internet at that time, and the distributed, collaborative nature of its development.

History of NetBSD

NetBSD was originally derived from the 4.3BSD-Reno release of the Berkeley Software Distribution from the Computer Systems Research Group of the University of California, Berkeley, via their Net/2 source code release and the 386BSD project.

The NetBSD project began as a result of frustration within the 386BSD developer community with the pace and direction of the operating system's development. The four founders of the NetBSD project, Chris Demetriou, Theo de Raadt, Adam Glass, and Charles Hannum, felt that a more open development model would benefit the project: one centered on portable, clean, correct code. They aimed to produce a unified, multi-platform, production-quality, BSD-based operating system.

The NetBSD source code repository was established on 21 March 1993 and the first official release, NetBSD 0.8, was made on 19 April 1993. This was derived from 386BSD 0.1 plus the version 0.2.2 unofficial patchkit, with several programs from the Net/2 release missing from 386BSD re-integrated, and various other improvements. The first multi-platform release, NetBSD 1.0, was made in October 1994, and being updated with 4.4BSD-Lite sources, it was free of all legally encumbered 4.3BSD Net/2 code. Also in 1994, for disputed reasons, one of the founders, Theo de Raadt, was removed from the project. He later founded a new project, OpenBSD, from a forked version of NetBSD 1.0 near the end of 1995. In 1998, NetBSD 1.3 introduced the pkgsrc packages collection.

Until 2004, NetBSD 1.x releases were made at roughly annual intervals, with minor "patch" releases in between. From release 2.0 onwards, NetBSD uses semantic versioning, and each major NetBSD release corresponds to an incremented major version number, i.e. the major releases following 2.0 are 3.0, 4.0 and so on. The previous minor releases are now divided into two categories: x.y "stable" maintenance releases and x.y.z releases containing only security and critical fixes.

NetBSD Overview

Items Information & References

Based on Independent

Developer The NetBSD Foundation

First release 0.8, 20/04/1993[1]

Origin International

Architecture FreeBSD supports several processor architectures: Alpha, ARM, x86 (IA-32 and x86-64), PA-RISC, 68k, MIPS, PowerPC, SH3, SPARC, RISC-V, and VAX.

Package manager • pkgsrc

License BSD-2-clause license ("Simplified BSD License")



NetBSD Releases History

NetBSD Releases History
Version Release Date
NetBSD 0.8 20/04/1993
NetBSD 0.9 23/09/1993
NetBSD 1.0 26/10/1994
NetBSD 1.1 26/11/1995
NetBSD 1.2 04/10/1996
NetBSD 1.2.1 20/05/1997
NetBSD 1.3 04/01/1998
NetBSD 1.3.1 09/03/1998
NetBSD 1.3.2 29/05/1998
NetBSD 1.3.3 23/12/1998
NetBSD 1.4 12/05/1999
NetBSD 1.4.1 26/08/1999
NetBSD 1.4.2 19/03/2000
NetBSD 1.4.3 25/11/2000
NetBSD 1.5 06/12/2000
NetBSD 1.5.1 11/07/2001
NetBSD 1.5.2 13/09/2001
NetBSD 1.5.3 22/07/2002
NetBSD 1.6 14/09/2002
NetBSD 1.6.1 21/04/2003
NetBSD 1.6.2 01/03/2004
NetBSD 2.0 09/12/2004
NetBSD 2.0.2 14/04/2005
NetBSD 2.0.3 31/10/2005
NetBSD 2.1 02/11/2005
NetBSD 3.0 23/12/2005
NetBSD 3.0.1 24/07/2006
NetBSD 3.0.2 04/11/2006
NetBSD 3.1 04/11/2006
NetBSD 4.0 19/12/2007
NetBSD 4.0.1 14/10/2008
NetBSD 5.0 29/04/2009
NetBSD 5.0.1 02/08/2009
NetBSD 5.0.2 12/02/2010
NetBSD 5.1 19/11/2010
NetBSD 5.1.2 02/02/2012
NetBSD 5.1.5 15/11/2014
NetBSD 5.2 03/12/2012
NetBSD 6.0 17/10/2012
NetBSD 6.0.1 26/12/2012
NetBSD 6.1 18/05/2013
NetBSD 6.1.1 22/08/2013
NetBSD 7.0 25/08/2015
NetBSD 7.0.1 22/05/2016
NetBSD 7.0.2 21/10/2016
NetBSD 7.1 11/03/2017
NetBSD 7.1.1 22/12/2017
NetBSD 7.1.2 15/03/2018
NetBSD 8.0 17/07/2018
NetBSD 7.2 29/08/2018
NetBSD 8.1 31/05/2019
NetBSD 9.0 14/02/2020
NetBSD 8.2 31/03/2020
NetBSD 9.1 18/10/2020
NetBSD 9.2 12/05/2021
NetBSD 9.3 04/08/2022
NetBSD 10.0 RC1 05/11/2023

NetBSD based distributions

NetBSD based distributions



Active NetBSD derivatives

  1. Force10 Networks FTOS, the operating system for the Force10 TeraScale E-series switch/router.
  2. Jibbed, is a LiveCD
  3. OpenBSD, is a forked project of NetBSD 1.0. The initial release was OpenBSD 1.2.
  4. OS108, is a desktop-oriented operating system based on NetBSD.
  5. PolyBSD/pocketSAN, a multi-purpose framework for building NetBSD-based embedded systems.
  6. Redback Networks SEOS, the operating system for the Redback SmartEdge series router.

Discontinued NetBSD derivatives

  1. BlackBSD, was a NetBSD based LiveCD, with security tools on it, and fluxbox as a window manager.
  2. Debian GNU/NetBSD[2], was a project to combine Debian with the NetBSD kernel. It was abandoned in 2002 and has had no active maintenance since then.
  3. Gentoo/NetBSD, Gentoo/*BSD was a subproject to port features from Gentoo as Portage to the NetBSD operating system.
  4. MaheshaNetBSD, a free operating system of NetBSD 6.0 USB for general use.
  5. SEOS, is the operating system for the Ericsson SmartEdge series of routers.