How Long Does it Take to Install?
I installed Debian and FreeBSD to compare how long it takes to get to a minimal, yet ready-for-use install. I know both installers well, so I'm very quick to get through them. This gives a good feel for how much time the installer requires and not the user.
- Platform: MacBook Pro M2 (ARM) with VMware Fusion 13
- FreeBSD ISO: FreeBSD-13.2-RELEASE-arm64-aarch64-bootonly.iso
- Debian ISO: debian-12.1.0-arm64-netinst.iso
- File Systems: ZFS for FreeBSD, Btrfs for Debian. Both full disk encrypted.
- Strategy: minimal. No optional installs, desktops, etc.
From power on until I was able to log in as root:
- FreeBSD: 2 minutes and 30 seconds
- Debian: 4 minutes and 56 seconds
That makes the FreeBSD install twice as fast for roughly the same feature set. Both OSes boot up with what I'd consider a complete operating system (though FreeBSD's is arguably more complete as many advanced features are part of the OS, but I digress).
Who Cares? Installation is a One-Time Thing, Right?
As with anything, it depends on your use case. I tinker a lot. If I want to experiment with a feature or new software that's almost guaranteed to destroy my system somehow, I do it in a virtual machine or a jail. For a VM, you have to install the OS. A fast installs mean I can experiment quickly with all sorts of permutations.
Quick starts bring me joy. And it's quick without skipping important setup options like full disk encryption. We get the same result with Debian, just in twice the time. If you don't install OSes often, five minutes is pretty great too.
FreeBSD is quick and easy to install. No friction. No compromises.
But How Do You Actually Install It?
I won't cover that as the FreeBSD Handbook details the install process nicely.