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OpenBSD after 4 years' use

Note added 31 August 2019: OpenBSD has just introduced a new feature, sysupgrade, which makes it even easier to upgrade than it was already.

Why I'm posting this
I started using OpenBSD for my desktop in September 2014 after many years on Linux. I thought it might be useful to summarise my experience since then, particularly for anyone who is thinking of making the same transition. I've blogged a lot about this previously (see the bsd tag) so this is really just an update.

In brief, I still like OpenBSD and have no thought of going elsewhere. I use the -current flavour and update the system about once a week. OpenBSD -current is roughly the equivalent of Debian Sid or Arch; in other words, it's a moving target. This may suggest that you need a lot of experience to use it and that doing so is rather risky, but I've found it to be if anything more stable than either of those linux distributions.

There have been occasional hiccups, mainly with packages rather than the base system (unlike in Linux, these are maintained separately in the BSDs), but there have been no show-stoppers and I've been able to solve problems with help from various kind people on the internet. But OpenBSD differs from Linux when it comes to finding help.

Getting help
OpenBSD users are always advised to read the (excellent) man pages, which often provide the answer, so that's usually the place to start. The online FAQ is also essential reading.

All the Linux distributions I've used have mail lists and these are probably the most widely accessed resources for help with the different distributions. OpenBSD has a general mail list ( but this is not the place to ask newbie questions. Most of the discussion is more technical than what you will find on a typical LInux list and many of the topics are not relevant to desktop users. I read it daily and learn from it, but even after 4 years much of it still goes over my head.

A very good place to go when starting out with OpenBSD is There are some very knowledgeable people there who kindly and patiently answer beginners' questions. Remember to search the site before you ask your question; you'll often find that it's already been answered.

If you think you've found a bug either in the base system or a package you can submit a bug report. Even if you don't do this it can be useful to keep an eye on the bug reports at If the problem is with a package you can email the package maintener whose address is given in the info page for each package; I've had very helpful responses in this way. Incidentally, a useful place to look for ports is

If you are following -current you should certainly keep an eye on

Finally, anyone who has decided they want to use OpenBSD regularly should get a copy of Absolute OpenBSD by Michael W. Lucas.


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