How To Install FreeBSD 13.0 with KDE Plasma 5

In this article, we’re going to learn how to install FreeBSD 13 with KDE Plasma 5 using the desktop-installer script, and the latest supported NVIDIA drivers – which at the time of writing this article is NVIDIA 440.

I will perform a bare-metal installation on one of my test machines, but if you prefer to give it a try on an Oracle VirtualBox VM first, you can follow this installation guide too. This guide was tested with success on the newest release of FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE as well as the older FreeBSD 12.2-RELEASE.

This installation requires a minimum of 8GB USB stick and a connection to the Internet.

Note: If you are using a Realtek 8811au wireless chipset, the FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE and FreeBSD 12.2-RELEASE installers will automatically detect your WiFi chipset during the installer. If you are not sure, connect your computer to the Internet using the LAN port.

The whole installation process will take about 1 hour if you have a decent machine and good Internet connection.

Before we start: If you are not yet ready to install FreeBSD on bare-metal, you can get the OS installed on a virtual machine first. My guide on How To Install FreeBSD on Parallels Desktop will get you up-and-running in no time if you are a Mac user. If you use VMWare/Virtual Box instead, you can follow this guide to install FreeBSD on VM.

Let’s get to work!

Step 1: Download FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE ISO.

First, head over to the FreeBSD website download page. Your machine most likely supports amd64 architecture (unless it is ages old), so click on amd64. You will see a list of images (.iso, .img) of different sizes (CD, DVD, net installer). For this installation, we’re going to use FreeBSD-13.0-RELEASE-amd64-dvd1.iso.

Install FreeBSD 13.0 with KDE Plasma 5
Download FreeBSD 13.0 DVD image.

Step 2: Prepare the USB installer.

Go to the Balena Etcher website. Download the installer based on the OS you are using (Windows, macOS, Linux). Insert your USB stick in one of your USB ports.

Install and run Etcher. You will be greeted with an interface like this:

install freebsd kde using etcher
Prepare FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE ISO installer using Etcher

Click Flash from file, locate and click on the FreeBSD-13.0-RELEASE-amd64-dvd1.iso you downloaded earlier. Then, click on the Select target button. Your USB stick should be listed as one of the options.

Warning: If you have other drives attached to your computer, make sure you chose the right USB stick!

Note: Etcher will label the high capacity HDD/SSD drives as “Large drives” to warn you not to select those drives as target. 

install freebsd usb etcher
Prepare FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE ISO installer using Etcher

Click the Flash! button, insert your password when asked, and grab a cup of coffee. This process will take ~5-10 minutes. 

Once the FreeBSD-13.0-RELEASE USB installer is done, it’s time to get our hands dirty.

Step 3: FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE Installation

Before we begin: If you plan to install FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE on bare-metal and/or dual-boot configuration, it is highly recommended to disconnect all other HDD/SSD drives in your machine and leaving only the drive you plan to install FreeBSD. This way, you prevent data loss in case something goes wrong during the installation process. Better be safe than sorry!

I will be using a single 200GB SSD drive for this install.

Assuming your computer is turned off, plug-in the FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE USB installer and turn on your computer. 

Launching The FreeBSD 13.0 Installer

You will need to enter the Boot Menu to chose your USB as a startup device. The Boot Menu is usually assigned to F10F11, or F12 keys – depending on the motherboard you’re using. Typically, the first screen after powering on your machine will show the key assignment for Boot Menu, Bios, etc. In my case, the Boot Menu is triggered by the F11 key. 

On the Boot Menu, select your USB device.

If all goes well, you will be greeted by the FreeBSD installer boot menu. 

freebsd installer boot menu
Install FreeBSD 13.0 – Boot Menu

Select 1. Boot Multi user [Enter]

On the FreeBSD Welcome screen, select Install [Enter]

freebsd installer welcome
Install FreeBSD – Welcome Screen

On the Keymap Selection, use the arrow keys to select your keyboard layout [Enter]. I am using a US keyboard so that I will select the United States of America keymap. Once you selected your keymap, click on Continue with <your keymap> then [Enter].

install freebsd keymap selection
Install FreeBSD – Keymap Selection

In the Set Hostname window, type your desired hostname and select OK [Enter].

install freebsd set hostname
Install FreeBSD – Set Hostname

You can choose the optional system components to install in the Distribution Select window, such as 32-bit libraries, ports, system resource tree, system & kernel debugging, and test suite. Let’s select the 32-bit support, ports, and source tree for this install.

install freebsd distribution select
Install FreeBSD – Distribution Select

Disk Partitioning

In the Partitioning window, we have 4 options: 

  • Auto (UFS) – Guided Disk Setup will automatically format your disk using the Unix File System.
  • Manual – Manual Disk Setup (experts) will allow you to partition your disk manually via GUI. This option assumes that you already know what you’re doing.
  • Shell – Open a shell and partition by hand. Again, this assumes you are not new to manual partitioning, and you know what you are doing.
  • Auto (ZFS) – Guided Root-on-ZFS if you want to use pooled storage via multiple discs. You can read more about the Z File System (ZFS) in this awesome post.
install freebsd partitioning ZFS
Install FreeBSD – Auto (ZFS) Partitioning

Let’s keep things interesting and select the last option: Auto (ZFS) – Guided Root-on-ZFS [Enter].

On the ZFS Configuration window, you can increase the Swap Size and enable Disk Encryption in case you need it. I will proceed with the defaults and select >>> Install [Enter].

install bsd zfs configuration
Install FreeBSD – ZFS Configuration

You can configure mirroring or RAID on the ZFS Configuration (Virtual Device type) window if you use multiple disks. We use only one disk; therefore, we will select Stripe – No Redundancy for this install. Select OK [Enter] to continue.

Select the disk you want to install FreeBSD. In my case, the disk is shown as ada0 – SAMSUNG HD080HJ. Choose your disk and click OK [Enter]

install freebsd ZFS Configuration
Install FreeBSD – ZFS Configuration

FreeBSD Installer will now warn you this is the Last Chance to review your settings before proceeding with disk partitioning. Once you select YES, all your data on that disk will be lost! If you are not sure, chose NO, and review your settings. If you are sure, go ahead and select YES [Enter].

install freebsd partitioning warning
Install FreeBSD – ZFS Configuration

The FreeBSD installer will proceed with disk partitioning and system installation.

install freebsd
FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE – Installation

Setting The ROOT Password

During the installation, you will be prompted to type a password for the system management account (root). Make sure you type a strong password for your root account.

freebsd root password
Setting Root Password

Network Configuration

On the Network Configuration window, select which network interface you want to use. I am using the onboard network LAN interface and an EDUP Dual Band Wireless USB in my system, and the FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE installer is kind enough to detect both interfaces during the installer!  

Select Yes [Enter] when asked to configure IPv4 for your interface.

install freebsd ipv4 setup
IPv4 Network Configuration

Select Yes [Enter] when asked to configure DHCP for your interface.

install freebsd DHCP
DHCP Network Configuration

Note: I do not use IPv6 for my interface, so I select No [Enter] when asked.

If your Network Connection is working, FreeBSD will automatically configure your network interface with the appropriate IPv4/DNS settings. Click OK [Enter].

install freebsd Network Configuration
FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE Installer – Network Configuration

On the Time Zone Selector, choose your region, country, and city. Click OK [Enter].

install freebsd Timezone Selection
FreeBSD Time Zone Selector

On the Time & Date windows, you can select Skip [Enter] as this will be configured later.

System Configuration

On the System Configuration, you can choose which services you would like to start during boot. I usually go with the default settings. You can change these settings later – if needed. Click OK [Enter].

install freebsd system configuration
FreeBSD System Configuration

In the System Hardening window, you can select additional security options to reduce any system vulnerabilities. Here are my usual hardening settings but feel free to select all if you are using your machine in a production environment. Click OK [Enter].

install freebsd system hardening
FreeBSD System Hardening

Add User Accounts

Let’s add a new user to our FreeBSD system. Select Yes [Enter] when prompted.

<Add user accounts> 

Here, we only need to fill a few fields – marked with red bold text below. For the rest, you can leave the defaults by just pushing the Enter key.

Username: <your username

Full name: <your full name>

UID (Leave empty for default): [Enter]

Login group: [Enter]

Login group is <xyz>. Invite <xyz> into other groups? [ y]: wheel video operator

Login class [default]: [Enter]

Shell (sh csh tcsh nologin) [sh]: [Enter]

Home directory [/home/<xyz>]: [Enter]

Home directory permissions: [Enter]

Yous password-based authentication? [Yes]: [Enter]

Use and empty password? [no]: [Enter]

Use a random password? [no]: [Enter]

Enter password: <enter your user password>

Enter password again: <confirm your password>

Lock out the account after creation? [no]: [Enter]


OK? (yes/no): Yes

Add another user? (yes/no): No

install freebsd new user creation done
FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE Installer – Create New User

Final Configuration

On the Final Confirmation windowyou can review your settings once more before completing the installation process. Select OK [Enter].

install freebsd apply
FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE Installer – Final Confirmation

If you need to do any additional changes to your FreeBSD installation via a shell, you can do it in the Manual Confirmation window. Otherwise, click No [Enter].

install freebsd manual configuration
FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE Installer – Manual Configuration

Your installation is now completed. Click Reboot when prompted and remove the FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE installation USB stick from your computer.

install freebsd installation reboot
FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE – Installation Completed

Congratulations! You completed your FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE installation! 

Step 4: FreeBSD Post-installation Tasks

Your computer will boot into the now-familiar FreeBSD Welcome boot screen. Chose the first option (1) and push Enter to boot into the multi-user mode

If everything is OK, you will be greeted with a beautiful login prompt. 

FreeBSD Login prompt
FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE Login

I know, I know. You expected to see at least a basic GUI, and now you’re worried something went wrong during the installation. Worry no more – this is absolutely normal. 

We will install KDE for our new FreeBSD system in a moment, but first, there are a few post-installation tasks we need to perform to make sure everything goes smooth.

Log in as root using the root password you configured during the installation.

Updating The System

Our first task is to make sure our FreeBSD system is up to date. 

First, we will inspect the system and fetch the necessary updates by using the following command:

freebsd-update fetch

A list with files to be updated will appear. Press Enter until you reach the bottom of the list, press the q key to quit the list.

freebsd system update
FreeBSD – Fetch updates

Let’s proceed with installing the FreeBSD system update by using the command:

freebsd-update install

freebsd install updates
FreeBSD – System Update

Your freshly installed FreeBSD system is now up to date.

Step 5: Installing KDE Plasma Desktop Environment

There are a few ways to install a desktop environment or window manager in FreeBSD. Most ways include installing the necessary components such as display server, desktop environment, GPU driver, and additional configuration manually. 

Though I might cover those methods in a future article, I will keep things simple for now and go for the fastest and easiest way to get a FreeBSD desktop environment up and running.  

First, jump in the terminal and install desktop-installer — type y when prompted [Enter].

pkg install desktop-installer

desktop installer freebsd
Desktop-installer post-installation script

Launching desktop-installer

Now, launch desktop-installer by typing:


Note: This process will take ~15 minutes, and you will be presented with a detailed explanation for every option you select. Since every computer is different, I advise you to slowly go through the options and select the right choice that matches your system configuration. 

desktop installer freebsd welcome screen
Desktop-installer welcome screen

Press return to continue… [Enter]

When prompted to configure your firewall, choose the default choice y [Enter]. 

On the warning, type y [Enter] – unless you are doing this installation via SSH. 

desktop installer warning
Desktop-installer – Firewall Config

When prompted about switching to the latest binaries instead of quarterly snapshots, go with the default n [Enter]. 

Note: At this point, you may get an error such as “mv: rename /usr/ports to /usr/ports.0: Operation not supported” and the desktop-installer script will terminate. 

To solve this problem, delete everything in the /usr/ports folder using the following command:

rm -Rf /usr/ports

Then rerun the desktop-installer script, and repeat Step 5. 

The script will quietly populate the /usr/ports folder again and not throw any error this time.

When prompted to update the system before proceeding, choose n [Enter] as we already performed an update. 

When prompted about disabling the write cache, leave the default n [Enter]. 

When prompted to build from the source, go with the default n [Enter]. The desktop-installer script will search for the fastest mirror now.

Choosing a DE or WM

Finally, you will be prompted to select the Desktop Environment or Window Manager of your choice. As you can see, the choices presented are quite generous. 

We will choose the KDE 5 Desktop in this installation, but I had equal success installing Gnome, Cinnamon, XFCE, and Mate in the past.

For XFCE fans, here’s my latest guide on How To Install FreeBSD With XFCE 4 Desktop Environment.

The KDE Plasma 5 Desktop is number 8 in the list so let’s type: 8 [Enter].

desktop installer chose desktop environment
Desktop-installer – Desktop Environment

If you are using a wireless network card or adaptor, chose [y] when prompted. Otherwise, push [Enter] to go with the default option n [Enter].

desktop installer wifi
Desktop-installer – Wireless Config

If your system has a sound interface, chose y [Enter] to load the appropriate driver into the kernel. Otherwise, go with the default option n [Enter].

Desktop-installer – Sound Interface Config

You will be asked if you want to install from source or packages. Installing from source can take a very long time – 1-2 days on a good computer. Chose n to install from packages.

install freebsd DE from pkg

The desktop-installer script will proceed now with fetching, extracting, and installing the necessary libraries required by the KDE installation. If prompted for Reading/Accepting the License for fusefs-exfat, select Accept [Enter]. 

desktop installer fusefs license agreement
Desktop-installer – Fusefs License Agreement

NOTE: If you are installing FreeBSD on bare-metal, the desktop-installer script will auto-detect your NVIDIA/AMD GPU card and will automatically download, install and configure the latest working driver. If you are installing FreeBSD on a Oracle VM Virtualbox, you will be asked if you want to install guest-ose-additions. Type y [Enter] as shown below.

desktop installer virtualbox-guest
Desktop-installer Oracle VM Virtualbox Guest Additions

You will be prompted for Xorg installation. Press any key to continue… 

desktop installer Xorg
Desktop-installer – Xorg installation

When asked if you want to reconfigure X11, chose y [Enter].

freebsd X reconfigure
Desktop-installer – Xorg reconfigure

Chose y [Enter] when asked to install Xorg mouse drivers.

frebsd moused configuration
Install FreeBSD 13 KDE: Desktop-installer Xorg mouse drivers

Chose n [Enter] when asked to generate a new xorg.conf.

freebsd xorg.conf
Desktop-installer – xorg.conf

Chose y [Enter] to enable software cursor.

freebsd enable software cursor
Desktop-installer – software cursor

It is time to test X11 first time. Select y [Enter].

freebsd X11 configuration
Install FreeBSD 13 KDE: Desktop-installer X11 test

If everything went well, you should be greeted with the KDE Plasma 5 GUI on the latest FreeBSD 13.0 Release.

This is just the X11 test and not the final configuration so DO NOT REBOOT/SHUTDOWN your computer here, just LOG OUT to return to the shell and continue the installation.

FreeBSD KDE 5 Plasma X11 Test
Desktop-installer – KDE Plasma

When asked about testing the sddm (Simple Desktop Display Manager), chose y [Enter]. Login using the password for your username (not root). Test your login and then reboot the system.

KDE SDDM Login test
Desktop-installer – SDDM

Once the reboot is completed, your system should boot directly into the KDE Plasma 5 login screen. Type your password to login.

Enabling SUDO

Open the terminal (Konsole). Sudo is not installed by default so and let’s install and configure it. To install new software, we will use the pkg command with root privileges. To switch to root, use the following command and type your root password when prompted:

su - root

Once you are on the root prompt, use the following command to install sudo. Chose y [Enter] when prompted.

pkg install sudo

freebsd KDE Plasma 5 install sudo
Install & Configure sudo

In order to make sudo work, we will need to edit sudoers file using the visudo command as root.


Once vi shows up, use your down arrow to navigate to the line that says root ALL=(ALL) ALL and add below the following:

<your username> ALL=(ALL) ALL

In my case, the username is leonard. Your sudoers edit should look like this.

Install & Configure sudo

Note: the visudo command uses the vi editor to edit the sudoers file. Use the i key to switch to edit mode, edit the file, and push the ESC key once, to exit the edit mode. In order to save your changes, type :wq!

edit sudoers file using vi in freebsd
Edit sudoers using vi

Now you should be able to use sudo in your newly installed FreeBSD system. To test that, open a new terminal and type sudo.

Install Additional Software

Last but not least, let’s install some additional software to start using our newly installed system. As you can see, we can use sudo without having to switch to the root user to run elevated commands. Type your root password when asked.

sudo pkg install firefox libreoffice kdenlive vlc

Note: There are two ways to install software on FreeBSD: from packages and build from sources. In this article, we installed our software using packages (pkg command). To search for the available packages, you can use the pkg search <package name> command as shown below:

pkg search command in freebsd
Search and Install Packages in FreeBSD

There is an alternative way of building the packages from source using ports which I will discuss in more details in a future post.

This method is not limited to installing KDE only. You can use the desktop-installer post-installation script to install any other Desktop Environment and/or Window Manager listed in Step 5 – Choosing a DE or WM of this guide. You can also check my latest guide on How To Install FreeBSD with XFCE 4 Desktop Environment.


I’ve been using FreeBSD for about 3 years now, and I can’t be happier about it. I use FreeBSD as the main machine daily for coding, audio & video editing, graphic design, etc. It is fast, very stable, well documented, and overall, a fantastic OS! It takes a bit of getting used to but once there, you won’t look for any other alternative – trust me!

If you have any questions or suggestions on how I should improve this article further, drop me a comment below, and I will do my best to help – I promise you!

Finally, special thanks to the FreeBSD Reddit users for helping me improve this guide further.

I hope you will enjoy your newly installed FreeBSD system, as much as I do.

 Looking for more FreeBSD Installation guides? Check the latest tutorials on:

How To Install FreeBSD 13 with GNOME Desktop

How To Install FreeBSD 13 with XFCE 4 Desktop

How To Install FreeBSD on Parallels Desktop

Stay safe!

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