tbku / Imaging-FreeBSD-With-tbku.txt
How To Image FreeBSD Systems Using ``tbku``

This document describes how to use the TundraWare Inc. ``tbku``
utility to "image" or "clone" FreeBSD systems.

        .. Warning::

            What follows is a description of activities that can (and
            will) clobber the contents of a hard drive.  Never do any
            of this until you understand what's going on fully.
            Obviously, you should have backups of whatever machine
            you're targeting so that if (when) you make a mistake, you
            can recover your data.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!  If you
            proceed, you do so at your own risk ... and no, I will
            *not* come to your house and help you recover your hard

Why Bother Imaging?

Suppose we need to build a new instance of a ``FreeBSD`` system.
Perhaps we need to replace one that just had a hard drive failure.
Maybe we want to build a new server that is based on our "standard"
system configuration.  In other words, we want to go from "bare metal"
hardware to a fully running *and configured* system as quickly as

There are a number of commercial and open source solutions to this
problem, but they all have one thing in common: We want to minimize
the amount of manual labor needed to install, configure, and otherwise
customize the final system.  This is especially important in large
data centers where it is impractical to manually (re)install each and
every server, its applications, and its customization information.

"Imaging" or "Cloning" allows us to keep a copy of the entire OS *as
configured* - that means with all its applications and configuration
options set up as desired.  We then load or "Provision" a new hard
drive with this image and *voila'*, "instant" running system.

When Does Imaging NOT Make Sense?

Imaging works best when the system you are targeting is very similar
or identical to the system that made the image in the first place.
For example, Imaging is a great way to restore a single machine from
its own backups - say after a hard disk crash or upgrade.

Imaging is more complex when the source of the image and the target
machines are different.  The more different they are, the harder it
will be to get the image running on the new target machine.

As a practical matter, production Data Centers tend to keep a separate
restore image around *for each different system variant*.  So, for
example, you might find a separate image for IBM web servers, IBM
applications servers, Dell database servers, Toshiba laptops, and so

Imaging may- or may not make sense when initially installing a new
configuration.  Say you have a system that is a web server, but you
now want to build a separate machine that is a database server.
Typically, you would initially install FreeBSD with the installation
disk, configure the database and *then* create a system image of your
database server.  However, this is kind of time consuming (unless you
already have an ``AutoYAST`` configuration ready to go).  It may be
simpler to image the target machine with your web server image, boot
it, reconfigure it as a database server, and then take the image.

What Is ``tbku``?

``tbku`` is a shell script that makes it easy to create tarballs of
some of all of your filesystems.  ``tbku`` does not help you with
*restoring* your image, it's just handy for creating the image in the
first place.

If you've never used it before, take a moment to download it and read
the documentation.  You'll find the latest copy at:

There is no fee for using ``tbku`` in any context, personal or
commercial.  However, there are some licensing terms you have to abide
by to use it, so take a moment to read the license in the distribution

        .. Note::

               You don't *have* to use ``tbku`` to create your backup
               image.  The description below should work fine so long
               as you have a backup of all the relevant files that
               preserves all the appropriate file information such as
               ownership and permissions.  ``tbku`` just makes it easy
               to automate the creation of such backups.

The Big Picture

Before diving into the details, it's good to get a sense of the
overall process.  Imaging a system requires the following steps:

    A. Create the master image:

       - Create a baseline system configured as you want it.
       - Take an "image" of it.  (That's where ``tbku`` is helpful.)
       - Save the image somewhere (DVD, USB drive, network drive ...)
         you can get at when you need it to (re)install a system.

    B. Use the master image to (re)provision a machine:

       - Prepare the target hard disk to receive the image.
       - Dump the image onto the hard disk.
       - Adjust the configuration if/as needed for the new hardware.

Creating The Master Image

Unlike other approaches that make an image of *the disk*, ``tbku``
creates an image of *files* on the disk.  This means that your new
target disk does not have to be physically the same as the one on
which the master image (sometimes called a "snapshot") was made.  You
can clone systems back and forth between SCSI, IDE, and SATA.  You can
clone from smaller disks to larger ones or go the other way.

        .. Note::

               The whole point of imaging is to avoid having to do
               custom configuration for each new installation.
               However, some configuration changes may be necessary
               when the target environment or hardware is different
               than the system on which the master image was created.
               This is discussed a bit more below in the `Gotchas`_

    Creating The Master Image

       1. Select the machine whose existing FreeBSD installation
          you want preserved or used as a standard installation image.

       2. Image that system with ``tbku`` using the following


          Notice that we do *not* backup the dynamic kernel-created
          filesystems like ``/dev`` or ``/proc``, nor do we backup
          utility mountpoints like ``/mnt`` or ``/tmp``.

          Also, if you have ``tbku`` writing your backup to the local
          disk, make sure that directory is *not* included in the
          fileset.  Doing so would create a recursive backup wherein
          the backup would be copied to itself.

          The exact fileset you use will vary somewhat depending on
          how you've laid out your directory tree and just what you
          want included in your image.  Use the fileset above as a
          point of departure, and tune it for your exact needs.

       3. Save the resulting ``.tar.gz`` (tarball) file somewhere
          it can be retrieved later when you want to image another
          machine.  This can be a network server, a USB drive,
          a DVD or whatever makes sense in your environment.  As
          with all backup systems, it's pretty important to make
          multiple copies of the backup image, and keep a couple
          of them off-site.

Provisioning With The Master Image

Now that we have a "snapshot" or master image, we can use it to
(re)provision machines.  The general idea here is to take advantage of
the tools already present on the FreeBSD installation CD.  However,
instead of actually installing an operating system, we'll just use the
paritioning and disk labeling tools to prepare the target disk to
receive our FreeBSD image.  Then, we'll jump into the "Fixit" shell
and actually do the restore from there.

    Provisioning Machines With A Master Image

       1. Boot the FreeBSD installation disk.

       2. Now we have to prepare the disk to receive a FreeBSD


                Select the target drive

                Partition as desired

                Select the partition that will boot
                  S  - To make it bootable)


                Select the boot manager you want


              Layout your partition(s) as desired
                The Automatic option is a good choice
                  You'll need them later

              W - Write the changes out (Answer "Yes" at the prompt)

            Exit back to the main menu

          At this point, your target disk has been partitioned,
          labeled, and had the Master Boot Record installed.  The copy
          of FreeBSD you booted from CD is pretty smart about this.
          It has already mounted your mountpoints (the ones you wrote
          down above, right?) under its own ``/mnt`` directory.  We'll
          take advantage of this in the next step.

       3. Now we're ready to actually dump the image onto our
          newly prepared disk.  The FreeBSD team helpfully provides
          a fairly complete shell environment where we can do
          what is needed.  Simply select the ``Fixit`` option
          from the main menu, and the ``CD/DVD`` suboption,
          and you'll find yourself in a shell.  You can
          prove that your new disk mountpoint are ready to
          be loaded, by doing this::

            ls -al /mnt

          But ... we need to take a small detour here.  You may
          need to do a few things to be able to get to your

We're DONE!  Well ... maybe.  If the environment or hardware of your
target machine is similar/same as the machine from which you took the
original image OR if the kernel you plan to boot has support for your
new target hardware, you should just be able to boot and run at this
point.  If not, read the following `Gotchas`_ section for further

This may all seem complex the first time you do it, but after a couple
of times, you'll be able to do this in your sleep.  This is one of
those things where describing it is more complicated than just doing

Depending on how large your backup image is, a complete system restore
can typically be done in less than an hour.  That's less than an hour
to a *completely configured system* with all your applications, custom
configuration, and so on as you last left them.


If you use the approach described above to reprovision the same
machine - say after a disk failure or disk upgrade - then that's all
you have to do.  Your "target" machine is essentially identical to the
one from which you got the backup image ... the same machine.

However, there are circumstances where you cannot avoid doing some
configuration on the newly provisioned machine.  This is the case
where there is a significant difference between the machine that took
the snapshot and the machine receiving it.  This might be because the
target machine has different hardware, needs a different IP address,
uses a different chipset, and so on.

What Problems Can I Expect?

So, you've decided to image a machine that is somehow different
than the original source of the image.  Here's what you'll
possibly encounter:

    A. Environmental Differences

       Your newly imaged machine may work fine except that its
       environment needs to change.  The most common thing here is
       the need to reconfigure the NIC with new network parameters
       like IP address, netmask, DNS server, default route, and
       so on.  Similarly, you may want to change the machine
       name or domain name.  This is why you need to edit
       ``/mnt/etc/rc.conf`` before booting your newly imaged

       Keep in mind that changing the OS environment may also require
       changes in your applications' configuration.  For instance,
       changing your machine name, IP, and so forth can break Apache.
       You may need to edit ``/mnt/etc/rc.conf`` to temporarily
       prevent these applications from starting so that you can
       successfully boot boot the newly imaged system.  Once the
       system is running, you can correct any applications'
       configuration that need to be changed.

    B. Different Hardware

       This is the tougher situation to handle after a machine has
       been newly imaged.  Modern FreeBSD kernels come with enough
       standard driver support built-in that they should boot on most
       standard hardware ... unless you've hand tuned the kernel on
       the machine where the image was taken.  You should therefore
       always build an image with a system that have a GENERIC kernel
       boot option.  This kernel is likely to boot on almost all but
       the strangest hardware configurations.  However "booting" and
       "running properly" are two different things.

       Hardware differences show up in a number of places:

          1. CPU Architecture

             If you built your image on a machine that is configured
             exclusively to run, say, on Pentium 4 chipsets, and then
             try to image another machine with an 80386, um ... it's
             not going to work.  The kernels in your image have to be
             compatible with the CPU architecture on your target

          2. Motherboard Chipset

             Motherboards have so-called "Northbridge" and
             "Southbridge" chipsets.  The Northbridge chip(s) control
             memory and high speed graphics (like AGP).  The
             Southbridge chip(s) control the slower I/O functions and
             peripherals of the motherboard.  If the machine you're
             imaging uses wildly different chipsets than the machine
             where the image was taken, you may have problems.

             If you have different Southbridges, you'll run into this
             with any of the on-board controllers:

                 - Audio
                 - Buses
                 - Disk
                 - Joystick
                 - Network
                 - Video

         3. Peripheral Cards

            If your newly imaged machine has different PCI and/or
            video cards than the machine that produced the image,
            you may, again, have to install additional or different

       The good news is that FreeBSD is much more forgiving
       than Linux or Windows are in this regard *so long as
       you can boot a GENERIC kernel*.  The whole point
       of the GENERIC kernel is to be able to get the
       machine to boot.  Once you're able to boot,
       it's a fairly straightforward matter to build
       a custom kernel or have the boot loader dynamically
       load the additional necessary kernel modules.

        .. Tip::

              *Always* build your image on a machine that has a
              GENERIC kernel on it even if you boot a different or
              custom kernel by default.  This will save your bacon
              later when you are imaging to other hardware


    Tim Daneliuk -

    Comments and/or improvements welcome!

Document Information

This document was produced using the very useful ``reStructuredText``
tools in the ``docutils`` package.  For more information, see:

This document is Copyright (c) 2008, TundraWare Inc., Des Plaines, IL
Permission is hereby given to freely distribute, copy, or otherwise
disseminate this document without charge, so long as you do so without
modifying it in any way.

$Id: Imaging-FreeBSD-With-tbku.txt,v 1.103 2008/03/14 22:30:29 tundra Exp $