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Free BSD-based Operating Systems

Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD, sometimes called Berkeley Unix) is A UNIX-like operating system, a family of Unix versions developed by Bill Joy and others at the University of California at Berkeley. BSD Unix incorporates paged virtual memory, TCP/IP networking enhancements and many other features. BSD pioneered many of the advances of modern computing.

This page lists free and popular operating systems based on BSD (BSD descendants).


FreeBSD has been characterized as “the unknown giant among free operating systems.” It is an advanced operating system for modern server, desktop, and embedded computer platforms. FreeBSD’s code base has undergone over thirty years of continuous development, improvement, and optimization. PC-BSD and DesktopBSD are originally forked from or based on FreeBSD .


The OpenBSD project produces a FREE, multi-platform 4.4BSD-based UNIX-like operating system. Our efforts emphasize portability, standardization, correctness, proactive security and integrated cryptography. OpenBSD supports binary emulation of most programs from SVR4 (Solaris), FreeBSD, Linux, BSD/OS, SunOS and HP-UX.


NetBSD is a free, fast, secure, and highly portable Unix-like Open Source operating system. The NetBSD Project is an international collaborative effort of a large group of people, to produce a freely available and redistributable UNIX-like operating system, NetBSD. In addition, NetBSD contains a variety of other free software, including 4.4BSD Lite from the University of California, Berkeley.


DragonFly BSD is a free Unix-like operating system created as a fork of FreeBSD 4.8. DragonFly gives the BSD base an opportunity to grow in an entirely different direction from the one taken in the FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD series. Intended to be “the logical continuation of the FreeBSD 4.x series”, DragonFly’s development has diverged significantly from FreeBSD’s, including a new Light Weight Kernel Threads (LWKT) implementation and a light weight ports/messaging system. Many concepts planned for DragonFly were inspired by AmigaOS.


DesktopBSD is a UNIX-derivative, desktop-oriented operating system based on FreeBSD. DesktopBSD is based on FreeBSD.


PC-BSD is a free, open-source operating system based on rock-solid FreeBSD. PC-BSD is a complete desktop operating system, which has been designed with the “casual” computer user in mind. Like DesktopBSD, PC-BSD is also based on FreeBSD.


Apple builds its proprietary operating system, OS X, on Darwin. Darwin is the core of Apple Mac OS X, open UNIX-based computer operating based on BSD. Darwin is built on the XNU kernel (part Mach, part FreeBSD, part Apple-derived code). Darwin forms the core set of components upon which Mac OS X and iPhone OS are based. It is composed of code developed by Apple, as well as code derived from NEXTSTEP, FreeBSD, and other free software projects.

[ References – Berkeley Software Distribution ]

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