Choose two GNU/Linux or BSD flavors and see how they compare in features and supported software/hardware.
This may help you select the right operating system for your needs.
Either you're planning on setting up your own dedicated server or just using it as a home desktop, this will point you to the right direction.
Please note that this distro comparison feature is still in beta. We are constantly working on checking the information for correctness, but still lots of data may be a bit outdated. Contact us if you would like to help update the data or even take care of some particular distro on our vortal.
|GENERAL FEATURES||A free (as in freedom) UNIX-like system from the BSD family, that first appeared publicly on April 20th, 1993 (NetBSD 0.8). Together with its twin project FreeBSD, built from 386BSD foundations. It is recognized for its outstanding portability.||A free (as in freedom) UNIX-like system from the BSD family. Created in 1995 as a NetBSD fork, which aimed at stronger security. The founder and leader of the OS is an expert in the computer security domain, a Canadian programmer Theo de Raadt. Familiarize yourself with OpenBSD's project goals.|
|Supported architectures||acorn26, acorn32, algor, alpha, amd64, amiga, amigappc, arc, arm32, atari, bebox, cats, cesfic, cobalt, dreamcast, evbarm, evbmips, evbppc, evbsh3, ews4800mips, hp300, hp700, hpcarm, hpcmips, hpcsh, i386, ibmnws, iyonix, luna68k, mac68k, macppc, mipsco, mmeye, mvme68k, mvmeppc, netwinder, news68k, newsmips, next68k, ofppc, pc532, playstation2, pmax, pmppc, prep, sandpoint, sbmips, sgimips, sh3, sh5, shark, sparc, sparc64, sun2, sun3, vax, x68k, xen, zaurus||Installation from CD-ROM: i386, amd64, macppc, sparc, sparc64.
Installation only from FTP: alpha, armish, hp300, hppa, landisk, luna88k, mac68k, mvme68k, mvme88k, sgi, vax, zaurus.
In preparation: aviion, hppa64, solbourne, romp.
|Minimal hardware requirements||The minimum requirements are 386-family processor (math coprocessor not required), 4 MB RAM memory (16 MB recommended) and 50 MB HDD space. See example partitioning scheme.||For the most popular i386 platform, Intel 80386 processor or compatible is enough. At last 16 RAM. See HDD requirements for other platforms.
Hardware requirements for other platforms are available in the platforms description.
|Software freedom status||Free as in freedom. Most code is BSD licensed, some components are GPL licensed. Nonfree software may be installed via Pkgsrc package system.||Free as in freedom. Most code is BSD licensed, some components are GPL licensed. Nonfree software may be installed via ports mechanism. |
No ATI and NVIDIA closed binary drivers (called blob) are available.
|Installer - overall||(3) Simple text installer. Like FreeBSD's installer, the NetBSD's installer displays dialog windows.||(1) OpenBSD installer is pure text-based. It does not display any dialog windows (like NetBSD's and FreeBSD's installers). Its working is mainly asking questions user.|
|Package selection||(3) The system is divided into components, which are called distributions sets in the NetBSD's terminology.||(3) System is divided into components, which are called distributions sets in the OpenBSD's terminology.|
|Predefined package groups||(0) During the installation we choose only the system's components (by selecting the distributions sets in two modes: "Full installation" or "Custom installation"). This is why there are no predefined choices like "KDE/GNOME Workstation", "FTP Server", "Firewall/Router", like in many Linux distributions. After finishing the installation, additional software may be added from the pkgsrc.||(0) During installation we choose only system's components (by selecting distributions sets, thanks to "all" option, it is possible to mark all distribution sets at once). This is why there are no predefined choices like "KDE/GNOME Workstation", "FTP Server", "Firewall/router", like in many Linux distributions. After finishing installation, additional software may be added from ports.|
|Expert mode install||(1) Installation in expert mode only. Some knowledge about partitioning is required. Thanks to the installer windows, using fdisk and disklabel is not as crude and unfriendly as in OpenBSD. In fact partitioning is the only hard stage that can cause trouble. The installation process is described in details in the handbook.||(0) Installation in expert mode only. Deep knowledge about partitioning (fdisk and disklabel familiarity). In fact partitioning is the only hard stage that can make trouble. However one should remember that OpenBSD is one of the most well documented systems and installation process is also described in details in FAQ.|
|Graphical installer||(2) There is no official one. Unofficial graphical installers: ECBSD (in development), it is based on QT library, OFInst.||(0) There is no graphical installer.|
|Installer speed||(9) If one knows exactly how to divide the hard drive (the number and types of disk partitions), the overall time of installation is shorter than 10 minutes (this is obviously in case of CD installation, if we install from FTP it can take longer, depending on the network bandwitch).||(9) If one knows exactly, how to divide the hard drive (the number and types of disk partitions), the overall time of installation is shorter than 10 minutes (this is obviously in case of CD installation, if we install from FTP it can take longer, depending on the network bandwitch).|
|Graphical system management||(0) No graphical tools. One of course can use wizards from environments like: KDE, GNOME, XFCE.||(0) No graphical tools. One of course can use wizards from environments like: KDE, GNOME, XFCE.|
|Console-based system management||(1) There is no text tools in base system. Some text tools in pkgsrc.||(0) No text tools. Administration is possible only by manually editing configuration files in |
|Number of packages||(7) Currently there is more than 7000 packages available for NetBSD. Including wip (work in progress) packages, which are not yet finished but usable, the total number of packages is increasing to more than 9000. There is an ability to emulate many systems. Commercial software.||(4) About 4200 ports and 4000 ready to installation binary packages.|
|Package management, automatic dependency resolving||(5) In contrast to the FreeBSD and OpenBSD, in the NetBSD terminology word "port" means platform and has nothing to do with ports collection. In NetBSD pkgsrc is called Packages Collection (in short or The NetBSD Packages Collection in full). pkgsrc allow you to install the additional software directly from the source code. The advantage is ability to customize all settings to one's preferences. The disadvantage is sometimes long compilation time, especially for such big programs like KDE or GNOME. Installing software is trivial. All you have to do is go to a proper directory in pkgsrc and type |
Precompiled binary packages do not give us such flexibility, but installation time is much shorter (installing ratpoison is as simple as
Pkgsrc installation time can be shortened by downloading and unpacking pkgsrc.tar.gz file (current version) or
|(7) The FreeBSD ports system has been borrowed in the project. Currently the development of both projects goes separately so the systems are not compatible, but they are quite similar.
Ports allow you to install the additional software directly from the source code. Installing software is trivial. You have to go to proper directory in ports and type
Precompiled binary packages do not give such flexibility, but installation time is much shorter (ratpoison window manager installation:
The ports need to be regularly upgraded through cvs or much faster cvsup. One may download and uncompress
|Graphical package management tools||(0) No graphical tool for software installation.||(1) PortBrowser|
|System boot-up speed||(4) About 40 seconds, it depends on hardware configuration. Clear and rich commented BSD startup scripts. All not essential services are disabled by default and if one want to use them, has to manually activate them.||(3) About 50 seconds, dependent on the hardware configuration. Clear and rich commented BSD startup scripts. All not essential services all disabled by default and if are needed must be manually enabled.|
|System responsiveness||(7) For the best performance, pkgsrc gives ability to tweak compilation flags. Please read the proper handbook chapter and description of ||(4) Tweaking compilation flags for better performance is strongly not recommended.|
|Popularity||(1) Around 80 position on DistroWatch ranking.||(3) Around 45 position on DistroWatch ranking.|
|Security focus||(9) The security level is very high. Both system and pkgsrc vulnerability database are regularly updated.
One can activate CGD (CryptoGraphic Disk Driver), to enable encryption of data transfer when writing and reading from HDD. More information can be found in guide and in Inside NetBSD's CGD article. A combination of CGD and Vnode Disk Driver called CGF (CryptoGraphicFile) is also possible to set up. This can be useful for notebook systems.
Some interesting comparisons between NetBSD and other systems in terms of security can be found in the Wikipedia entry: Comparison of operating systems (security). And here are the NetBSD security statistics by Secunia. Many NetBSD's security features is described in Recent Security Enhancements in NetBSD article.
|(9) OpenBSD includes a lot of mechanisms increasing the security level in the system. To name a few:
In contrast to other operating system creators, OpenBSD's developers do not make an assumption that the user is a computer security expert. The system is fully secured out-of-the-box. Laborious tweaking and security hardening is not necessary. There's been only two remote holes in the default install, in more than 10 years! That's why the OpenBSD motto is "Secure by Default".
The programmers react fast for any security dangers publishing the patches soon after the problem is found. Also software in ports is updated if security vulnerabilities are found. This is result of one of OpenBSD's assumptions — "Do not let serious problems sit unsolved."
Some interesting comparisons between OpenBSD and other systems in terms of security can be found on the Wikipedia entry: Comparison of operating systems (security). And here are the OpenBSD security statistics by the respected Secunia company.
|Stability and maturity||(9) The NetBSD's developers track and implement well known standards, system is mature, stable and well designed.||(9) System is mature and stable, its reliability is very high. OpenBSD's developers track and implement standards: ANSI, POSIX and partialy X/Open.|
|Does the installer support multiple languages?||(4) Yes. Available languages are: English, French, German, Polish and Spanish.||(0) The installer is only in English language.|
|Is the system localized after installation?||(2) TODO||(2) ?|
|Is manual system localization easy?||(1) TODO||(1) ?|
|Support for restricted formats||(6) How to use the 5.1 surround sound with NetBSD. The restricted components in pkgsrc:
||(3) The restricted components in ports:
No ATI and NVIDIA closed binary drivers (called blob) are available.
|Sagem DSL modem support||(3) There is a uEagle 1.5 driver for the BSD-family systems.||(3) There is uEagle 1.5 driver for BSD-family systems.|
|Alcatel DSL modem support||(3) There is a driver for the BSD-family systems.||(3) Driver for BSD-family systems.|
|Wireless support||(4) Supported network cards (section Network interfaces):||(6) Wireless Ethernet Adapters for i386 platform. List of supported wireless devices is separate for each platform. Compare wireless drivers.|
Each system gets a mark from 0 (min) to 9 (max). In most cases the description precises the mark. A question mark (?) means that we do not have any information about certain feature.