Managing Software Updates and Upgrades in FreeBSD

Jul 19, 2023 • FreeBSDSoftware

Maintaining any operating system involves regular updates and upgrades to ensure system stability, security, and access to newer features. FreeBSD is not an exception. One of the first tasks any FreeBSD user should familiarize themselves with is how to manage software updates and upgrades.

Updating and upgrading FreeBSD can be achieved using different methods. This post walks you through the key concepts and the steps to do it. Our guide includes direct explanations and practical examples, making it a practical handbook for anyone interested in FreeBSD.

The Difference Between Updates and Upgrades

Despite sounding similar, updates and upgrades are not the same: an update generally refers to minor system enhancements or fixes, while an upgrade implies more significant changes, like moving to a new version of FreeBSD.

Updates target FreeBSD’s base system, addressing security vulnerabilities, and minor updates that don’t necessitate to change the entire system version. Upgrades focus on transitioning from an older version of FreeBSD to a newer one.

How to Update FreeBSD

FreeBSD offers a built-in utility called freebsd-update. It makes the task of updating the FreeBSD system a lot easier. The simplest way to update your system using this tool is to download the update patches, install them, and reboot your system.

Below are a series of commands to achieve this:

# freebsd-update fetch
# freebsd-update install
# shutdown -r now 

Remember to always perform system backups before making system changes.

How to Upgrade FreeBSD

FreeBSD’s upgrade process necessitates a little more investment than updates. It is still manageable using the freebsd-update tool.

The following series of commands demonstrate how to upgrade FreeBSD:

# freebsd-update upgrade -r 13.0-RELEASE
# freebsd-update install
# shutdown -r now
# freebsd-update install

13.0-RELEASE is used as an example. You should replace it with the version you wish to upgrade to.

After running these commands, you should update your FreeBSD Ports tree using portsnap. FreeBSD Ports allow you to compile and install third-party applications. Find more about it in our Ports and packages post.

# portsnap fetch update

Next, you will need to upgrade the third-party packages installed on your system. FreeBSD offers pkg, a built-in package management tool, to achieve this.

# pkg upgrade

Remember, upgrading your system affects all the software installed on it - including your services and daemons. Make sure to check their status and reconfigure them if needed. Managing services and daemons in FreeBSD provides important details on this subject.


Mastering the way you manage updates and upgrades on FreeBSD is a crucial aspect of FreeBSD system administration. With frequent updates and system maintenance, you ensure your system to be more stable, secure, and efficient. The process may seem daunting initially, but once understood, it becomes a routine administrative task, just like disk management and file systems or user and group management in FreeBSD.

Remember, practice is the key to mastering these concepts. Our advice is to experiment on a non-production environment or virtual machines. If you encounter any errors, our post about common FreeBSD errors and their solutions has many useful pointers. Happy updating and upgrading!

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