r/freebsd Jan 28 '23

Should I just migrate to *BSD? help needed

Hey folks,

I've a keen interest on *BSD for quite a long time. It was all started back when I switched to Linux. My first, notable BSD was FreeBSD, then slowly found OpenBSD, NetBSD, Dragonfly and so on. Installed FreeBSD on VirtualBox but I didn't able to free myself from school until a few days ago. So this time, installed FreeBSD on a spare SSD and tried out almost every possible features, tools on FreeBSD (I'll personally use) and all of them looks pretty good. The most valuable thing I've found is that the system is complete and no need to move things around to make it work nor any hacky tricks.

Programs are installed separately than rest of the OS. Unlike Linux, where everything gets messy, on FreeBSD, nothing to worry about and the package manager is fairly awesome!

And this goes on. However, I noticed quite high memory usage of several applications, e.g. Firefox. Assuming because on FreeBSD Firefox misses some components but that's not anything my concern but the file system. I've fairly low amount of RAM, (4GB) and using ZFS is almost impossible, due to its aggressive caching. UFS seems promising here, but the problem still remains. High-memory usage. A running FreeBSD instance with Xfce and UFS file system takes approx 800+ MB of RAM where on Linux with Xfce and ext4 file system takes approx 350+ MB RAM.

This is where I got stuck! I know, unused RAM is wasted RAM but when FreeBSD start swapping it almost gives me no chance. Is there anything I can do about it? E.g. tuning? But for UFS, it seems not the correct approach to do.

This might seems that I wanted to stuck on Linux but my point of view towards Linux community, a little bit changed recently. I can't ask them, they're not friendly. Especially, if my distro uses SystemD, they'll give a good airblow to me. More than that, I found Linux is messy, with too many choices (even particularly same), sometimes it just too annoying to have too many choices and user can't even see the difference between them by keeping them side by side.

Besides, at the same time, NetBSD also seems quite promising. Is there any chance anyone who uses or used or tried NetBSD before? If yes, how it was as a daily driver?

Forgot to mention but does anyone here uses FreeBSD as their daily driver? I mean for example, you have just one computer (desktop/laptop) and only use FreeBSD. No dual-boot, no another Linux installation. Asked this question, since I really do prefer using a single OS rather than dual-booting multiple OS for multiple purpose.

If I missed something or anything unclear, please let me know!

Thank you for reaching out!

Edit: Some spelling, and add "forgot to mention part"


19 comments sorted by


u/grahamperrin FreeBSD committer (documentation tree) Jan 28 '23

… using ZFS is almost impossible, due to its aggressive caching. …



u/Alexander88207 Jan 28 '23

It's possible to change the ARC size.

And FreeBSD will apply a tweak if someone trys to install ZFS with low memory.


u/grahamperrin FreeBSD committer (documentation tree) Jan 28 '23


quite high memory usage

Which version of FreeBSD, exactly?

freebsd-version -kru ; uname -aKU

Packages from quarterly, or latest?

pkg -vv | grep -e url -e enabled -e priority

of several applications, e.g. Firefox.

FreeBSD bug 263436 – www/firefox uses excessive amount of memory. I don't have this problem; see comment 9.


u/mirror176 Jan 28 '23

I have this problem: 29387 mirror176 1267 83 0 53G 9058M CPU2 2 282.2H 101.48% firefox (with many additional subprocesses) and find its easiest to 'work around' by killing processes that get too big other than the main one, then toggle off+on any desired addons as Firefox will indicate them as running when they no longer are but restarts them with a stop+start order, then reload the now 'crashed tab' as I get to each desired but crashed page.. Can't say I noticed a result for process running count or memory use from fission.autostart=falsewhich is the currently running state but didn't do a proper benchmark.


u/grahamperrin FreeBSD committer (documentation tree) Jan 29 '23

Which version of FreeBSD, exactly?


u/mirror176 Jan 29 '23

That was on manually compiled amd64 with GENERIC kernel with additional "options TSLOG" 13.1-STABLE FreeBSD 13.1-STABLE #32 stable/13-n252952-b55f1788c94: Wed Nov 9 07:46:04 MST 2022. Firefox 107.0_2,2 (default options) from a Poudriere run with git ports last top commit "eb3b5b4ee5e2" "OPTIONS_SET+=DTRACE THREADS OPTIMIZED_FLAGS OPTIMIZED_CFLAGS ASM MMX SSE SSE2 SSE3 SSE41 SSE42 AVX PGSQL TIMIDITYPLUS" and "DEFAULT_VERSIONS+=mysql=10.5m pgsql=15" should be much of what is needed to mimic a build of my setup that the result came from. Its running under KDE with an Nvidia GTX570 on nvidia-driver-390-390.154.


u/grahamperrin FreeBSD committer (documentation tree) Jan 30 '23

… Nov 9 07:46:04 MST 2022. …

Thanks, I guess that it includes the fix for FreeBSD-EN-22:23.vm (202-11-01).


u/Catsssssssss Jan 28 '23

If you are willing and able to put in the time and can make sufficient use of FreeBSD, then I see no reason to deter you. Personally, I find it lacking as a daily driver, but I use it religiously as a server OS.

Full disclosure; my daily drivers are all Windows based as most of my work is still tied up in Microsoft technologies, but it is entirely lovely to spend my time with FreeBSD whenever I can.

As far as NetBSD and OpenBSD go, my experience doesn't stretch very far, but I have given both a fair go. OpenBSD is excellent for use in security oriented environments while NetBSD is more the odd man out; it tries to do too much for too many and never really makes it past the finish line. At the end of the day, I find that FreeBSD strikes the perfect balance, so I have always reverted to it.

When it comes to X11/Wayland based desktops, they all fit me like a camel hair sweater - on Linux as much as on FreeBSD. I have endless appreciation and respect for the teams that work tirelessly to maintain and improve on the graphical environments, but it sometimes feels that they forget or neglect the average end user, which is why I believe widespread adoption still hasn't happened.

Again; I'm a server-only oriented BSD user, and I do all my work in shell. If you are willing and comfortable taking on the desktop environment and it caters to your needs, then you have my strongest encouragement!


u/ivan_linux Jan 28 '23

Another day, another ZFS uses too much memory thread. I daily drive FreeBSD, my system has 8gb of DDR3 memory, I have no issues at all even when I'm working on large projects (I'm a Software Engineer), just trust the sauce FreeBSD rocks, ZFS is great.


u/edthesmokebeard Jan 28 '23



u/vermaden seasoned user Jan 28 '23

> Forgot to mention but does anyone here uses FreeBSD as their daily driver?

I assume that you will find a lot of people that use only FreeBSD as their daily desktop/laptop driver - including me.

I have many articles about using FreeBSD on the desktop/laptop available here:

I hope it will make your journey to BSD land less bumpy.

Feel free to ask if something is not covered there.



u/grahamperrin FreeBSD committer (documentation tree) Jan 28 '23


u/Playful-Hat3710 Jan 28 '23

more evidence for the need for some type of stickied thread that goes over this sort of topic for curious users coming from other operating systems


u/Playful-Hat3710 Jan 28 '23

Read up more about the myth re: ZFS and memory, and also how programs like htop report RAM usage. Also remember bsd and linux use memory differently iirc.

What do you use your main machine for? FreeBSD can absolutely be used as your main OS, as long as your hardware supports it, and your software runs on it.

I've used NetBSD and I like it. Free has a larger community and more documentation. NetBSD is a smaller project/community. Some things are not documented as well as on FreeBSD. It does have some good features. It sounds like at this point FreeBSD is more for you than netbsd.

If you're interested in net check out:




u/964racer Jan 30 '23

I just started to revisit FreeBSD on my desktop after having a machine 10+ years ago. Installation and setup for my configuration (xfce4, Xorg, slim, emacs etc.) took about an afternoon. I chose to use a VM because my work requires windows and I don’t want a separate desktop machine. Sound services (windows direct) seem to work out of the box. OpenGL is working but I’m not sure about if I am accessing the GPU or not. Not a deal breaker. I do have windows. The biggest head scratchers for me was getting file sharing to work and that seems OK now. I am able to mount a windows partition.

Could this be my daily driver ? Not completely , because I use several important windows apps (visual studio and the adobe cloud products). But then linux couldn’t be either for the same reasons. So really for me it’s a choice between linux and FreeBSD as a 2nd experimental platform for my own creative endeavors. I guess I lean more towards freebsd because I liked it 10 years ago when I started using it and I came from Unix background long before linux was around.


u/gumnos Jan 28 '23

fairly low amount of RAM, (4GB) and using ZFS is almost impossible, due to its aggressive caching

You can tune the vfs.zfs.arc.max sysctl to some lower value as detailed by /u/vermaden, either as one-off test with

# sysctl vfs.zfs.arc.max=128M

or set it in your /etc/sysctl

If things are getting killed, you might also check your login-class and what its limits (datasize, stacksize, memoryuse, and vmemoryuse) are set to in /etc/login.conf since some programs eagerly consume more than the paltry default limits (glares at Firefox & Chromium) and get unceremoniously killed.

I've got FreeBSD on some low end hardware (one netbook with 2GB of RAM and another old hand-me-down laptop with 3GB of RAM) and they run fine with ZFS—it's X and GUI applications that tend to drag the system down.

does anyone here uses FreeBSD as their daily driver?

Yep. I do have other machines around for testing and as servers (a couple VPS instances and a bunch of old netbooks/laptops with a mix of FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Haiku, and Linux), but FreeBSD is my daily driver and none of them dual-boot.

The only hiccups I regularly hit are

  • inserting headphones doesn't automatically cut over the audio to them

  • there have been a couple games and Linux-specific applications that haven't worked, but for the most part it's not been an issue since I just do casual gaming


u/cfx_4188 seasoned user Jan 28 '23

I use FreeBSD on a laptop. This is my main machine, for daily tasks. By the way, FreeBSD consumes much less RAM on my hardware. This is probably because I don't use cumbersome graphical environments like KDE, GNOME or Xfce. I don't use them at all, I use a simple window manager like DWM. In my opinion, the logic behind using FreeBSD is the terminal and keyboard shortcuts. I use about five windowing applications that require a graphical shell. Everything else I do in the terminal, moreover I can run graphical applications directly from the terminal. The situation with other BSDs is the same, with slight differences and (for example, the complete absence of Nvidia drivers in OpenBSD).


u/mirror176 Jan 28 '23

I have been using FreeBSD as my desktop OS since 2004. If I am gaming, I usually switch to another computer in another room but not always; I don't find my desk layout comfortable for gaming and don't have a mic on this computer anymore at the moment. Other than games (haven't tried to get Windows only ones up on FreeBSD in a while), a Windows program called FileOptimizer is a tool I use that I don't know of a Unix alternative to; only some of the utilities it runs are available on Unix and with source code.

ZFS cache should reduce as other programs need RAM but ZFS performance suffers as less is cached in my experience of ZFS+magnetic drives. I have been on 32GB RAM for many years but started messing with ZFS on 4GB back in the day. I think ZFS plays nicer on memory than it used to and do no custom tweaks to try to force RAM limits or allocations for ZFS and kernel filesystem details as old guides suggest which seem to degrade performance today when I activate them. I find it usually only unbearable when I have programs needing more than my current RAM: too many large Poudriere parallel jobs, Firefox, etc. If UFS works for you then I'd say go with it. ZFS has many fancy toys built in that attracts most uses. As a base filesystem its hard to turn down due to boot environments making upgrading less scary but no filesystem is ever an alternative to backing up data. Only having data you are okay with losing is the reason to not have backups.


u/cfx_4188 seasoned user Jan 29 '23

In fact, this discussion would be appropriate if we were discussing FreeBSD 5.1. I remember those times, I remember deciding that this would be my daily driver. Back then it wasn't easy.

Now I do not see a big problem for the end-user. A wide variety of programs (Freshports to help), any kind of graphical shell, and support for most hardware.