Comparison: Gentoo Vs FreeBSD, Tweak Tweak Little Star

Gentoo and FreeBSD are both Unix / Unix-like operating systems which have many features in common, for instance, both enable tweaking the system out of the box. However they also have a fair share of differences as well. Following is a comparison of the two.

Updated Nov 3, 2016Comparisons

The following comparison will not cover each and every aspect / tiny detail of both OSs, rather, it will focus on notable features each holds and compare them one another.

If you’d like to get to know more aspects of each OS, perhaps the following pages would be a good place to start: 5 Reasons why use Gentoo-Linux, A Look Into: FreeBSD 10.1.

Gentoo Vs FreeBSD – Installation

Both Gentoo and FreeBSD can be installed via a range of different ways, however, the following section will focus primarily on the default method as described by the distributions own wikis (+ author recommendations which will be pointed out as such).


Installing Gentoo is done via CLI (Command Line Interface) which allows for a great flexibility and control over the installation process.

However, on the other hand, it also requires the user to be better skilled and acquainted with the command line itself.

Furthermore, the installation also requires the user to frequently access the installation wiki and follow the steps mentioned there in order to get it done.

By default, the user is guided how to compile and install a custom kernel, although a default “genkernel” is also available for installation.

The recommended way to get through this kind of installation in case you’ve never done such before, is to use a live CD which has a graphical environment on it, then launch a terminal and a web browser from there, and go on with the installation.

Alternatively, if you own a portable device (laptop, iPad, etc…) which you could use for Internet browsing while you’re installing Gentoo, just in case you’ll encounter difficulties which require googling, is also a good way that might work for you.

  • Advantages: Flexible, enables the user more control
  • Disadvantages: Requires prior knowledge, less user friendly
  • Skill Level: Advanced

Gentoo installer


FreeBSD uses a script-based installer called BSDinstall, which means that instead of issuing commands yourself (which may still be required for non-default options) all you have to do is simply mark and select them when prompted.

The installation process of FreeBSD can be considered as semi-automated since the installer is highly interactive, yet at the same time releases the user from the need to remember commands or steps by heart.

The installation of FreeBSD may require the user to frequent the wiki from time to time, however, in-case the user chooses to always go with the defaults then it can also be done without it.

By default, the user isn’t required nor encouraged to compile and install a customized kernel, which may set the prior-knowledge bar not too high as one might expect.

  • Advantages: Semi-automated, more user friendly
  • Disadvantages: Less flexible
  • Skill Level: Intermediate – advanced

FreeBSD bsdinstall

Installation Aftermath

After installing both Gentoo and FreeBSD, by default, the user will then find himself booting into a text based environment (console) which might be highly suitable for a server oriented machine, yet not for the average home user.

Since both OSs are of the DIY (Do It Yourself) type, the user will now build / install the packages he wants / need for daily usage.

COMMENTS (beta 4)

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EmeraldBot Jan '15
This was a very insightful read! I'm a longtime FreeBSD user who's recently been looking to try out Gentoo. What they've done (with Portage and all) seemed completely backwards and alien to me at first, but this article does a very good job of bridging the terminology and the different ways of accomplishing the same thing (in particular, what exactly USE flags are is nice).
Manolis Kiagias Jan '15
Interesting. I have never used Gentoo, but I can share some info on the FreeBSD installation: - You don't really have to use bsdinstall (the text based installer). Using the live CD functionality you can actually partition/format the disk, install the boot blocks and either uncompress the installation files manually, or restore a dump of a ready system. You can of course script this process to your liking. Bsdinstall is much easier for a beginner to use than the older sysinstall utility but it does (still) have some rough edges. - When compiling from ports you can avoid any configuration dialogs by using make install clean -DBATCH. Use this when either you don't care setting anything but the defaults or to make sure you don't get any more dialogs after performing a make config-recursive step. - The latest pkg tools (commonly known as pkgng) are actually quite usable at this point and they get updated very frequently. The official package repository has been expanded and is updated regularly. It is now completely viable to create a desktop system without compiling a single port. For servers you may still wish to use the ports system to specify other-than-defaults options for some services. Pkgng is shaping up very well.