Seven BSD distributions that stand the test of time

BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) is a UNIX derivative originally created at the University of California at Berkeley. Your free software license, so permissive that it is close to the public domain, it has allowed it to remain active through various open source distributions and has even facilitated the use of part of its code also in proprietary software.

UNIX is one of the most important operating systems in the history of computing and surely the most influential. It was born in the late 60s and although its use has been decreasing, remains the basis for multiple derivatives for all types of machines, from supercomputers to smartphones. Here we must point to Linux as a great reference in variants that use it, but also others such as Android, iOS or macOS.

BSD is another group of derived operating systems. In the early years of UNIX, its creators at AT&T Bell Labs authorized UC Berkeley (and others) to use its source code, and its developers used it for research purposes. When AT&T, withdrew the user license for commercial reasons and in an absurd decision that ended up becoming a legal battle. University ended creating its own version and thus a BSD was born who has made notable contributions in various software components, file system, TCP / IP stack, virtual memory, or others.

Today the original version is no longer active, but there are other open source community developments that using its license (very permissive) they have continued it. In addition, as it allows its use in proprietary software, part of its code is present in commercial developments such as Mac OS X, Solaris, PlayStation 4, routers of different brands or Windows itself that uses it in the console or in the stack of TCP / IP networks.

BSD distributions

As always when we talk about these alternative operating systems, it must be said that They are not complete and direct replacements as a major version of use to the big three (Windows, macOS and Linux). They are not updated with the same frequency, nor are they useful for everything and for all users. But they are free, open source, they can be installed on independent machines or virtual machines and at the consumption level, it is good entertainment for the user who wants to try other things by introducing himself in BSD and by extension in UNIX.


Maybe the best known of this group of systems and like the rest, although it cannot be called as such for licensing reasons, it is a full-blown UNIX. It has been on the market since 1993 and the latest FreeBSD 13 version arrived last year with major performance improvements for 64-bit Intel, PowerPC and ARM CPUs. It also increased hardware support and improved the entire EFI boot and networking section, while AES-NI encryption was included by default for generic kernel builds.

It is used for networks, servers, storage, security, integrated platforms and in general on any machine with x86, IA-64, MIPS, PowerPC and UltraSPARC architecture. It has thousands of free-to-use applications and is compatible with UNIX-like system binaries such as Linux. Versions 12 and 13 are in development, and they are available on its web portal.


Another of the best known and oldest (1993) stands out for its multiplatform support since it is available for – no less – than 56 of them, x86, ARM, PowerPC or the new RISC-V, among others. Its managers focus on the quality and portability of the code, implementation of new technologies, security and stability.

NetBSD includes the GNU development tools and other packages that are covered by the GPL and other open source licenses. One of NetBSD’s most interesting projects is its powerful package system, pkgsrc, a meta system unto itself. This development has been used in machines as diverse as servers, the Dreamcast SEGA console, and in various NASA space projects. The latest version is 9.2 March 2021.


Another of the best known BSDs, is specialized in cybersecurity and cryptography tasks and it came as a variant of NetBSD in the face of “differences in approach” among founding members common to these community developments. Self-rated as “safe by default” for its extreme revision and supervision of the code of its versions, at the same time it activates the least amount of services possible on production machines.

It is widely used in the IT security segment as an operating system for firewalls or intrusion detection systems. Multiplatform and highly portable (it can run on almost twenty different hardware platforms), it includes binary emulation for FreeBSD, Linux, BSD / OS and others, and its code bases are also used to extend the functionalities of Windows and macOS. The latest version available is 7.0 from last October.

DragonFly BSD

Less known than the previous ones, it is a fork of FreeBSD that arrived in 2003 with the aim of rewrite all concurrency management, SMP and most of the kernel subsystems. Its installer, BSD Installer, which has been adopted by other distributions of this group, and its HAMMER file system stand out as its own contribution.

DragonFly includes a powerful kernel with efficient SMP mechanisms to deliver high-performance, server-side transactional computing. Like the rest of BSD, it gives users direct access to many applications in binary form and source code. The latest version available is 6.2.1 and it was updated this week.


Another created on the basis of FreeBSD. If DragonFly is more intended for servers, it focuses on the user who approaches this platform and look for an easier to use BSD.

To do this, it offers GTK-assisted desktop environments (KDE, GNOME, etc.) and a ready-to-use design as soon as installation is complete, with pre-installed applications for common computing and office needs and standard MATE packages. The latest version is 21.11.24.


A distribution that mix code from almost all of the above and it includes GNU modules such as and GCC and a default Xfce environment that will be very familiar to Linux users. It is committed to the ordinary user with out-of-the-box development, although there is no shortage of advanced software with a variety of server development and deployment tools for network engineering.

The latest version available is 1.1 for 32-bit and 64-bit x86 versions, and it also serves virtual machine-ready images on top of VMWare.


Another of those who use the FreeBSD base confirming that it is today the most important development of the platform. Nomad is focused on serving as “portable UNIX” on USB bootable media for system repair, data recovery, or software testing.

With an attractive interface, it is ideal for testing BSD from a USB without touching the main system, although most of the above also allow it. The latest version is version 130R-20210508 and it can be recorded to the pendrive with applications like Rufus.

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