FreeBSD Minimum Memory Requirements

In my last post I mentioned installing FreeBSD 6.1 on a Pentium 200, specifically a Dell Dimenson XPS P200S. This box is so old-school it has that old bug that caused so much trouble for Intel. It has a "Windows 95" sticker on front and was built in 1996!
FreeBSD 6.1-SECURITY #0: Mon Aug 28 05:21:08 UTC 2006
Timecounter "i8254" frequency 1193182 Hz quality 0
CPU: Pentium/P54C (199.43-MHz 586-class CPU)
  Origin = "GenuineIntel"  Id = 0x52c  Stepping = 12
real memory  = 33554432 (32 MB)
avail memory = 23379968 (22 MB)
Intel Pentium detected, installing workaround for F00F bug

Despite its age, CPU, and RAM, I am doing real work with it. Sure, I'm not serving Web pages or handling email, but I am testing IPv6. In fact, I just connected to IRC with it.
p200:/home/richard$ irssi -n user6 -c
22:14 -!- user6 [n=richard@2001:5c0:925d:0:204:5aff:fe79:43a7] has joined 

Using FreeBSD Update I installed all binary patches, and I am adding binary packages with pkg_add. The SSH session is very responsive. I could not run the latest version of Windows XP on this box, and Windows Vista is Right Out (TM).

If you want to see just how "low can you go," check out this great post by Nikolas Britton on FreeBSD's minimum memory requirements. I expect to see it in official documentation soon.


Anonymous said…
The 200MHz Pentium doesn't have "that old bug that caused so much trouble for Intel", i.e., the FDIV bug. It does have the F00F bug, but that caused far less trouble for Intel, mostly because it couldn't be demonstrated via spreadsheet.
Hi Colin,

Of course you're right. I do have a Pentium 90 with the FDIV bug you mention. I confused the two. That box has 80 MB RAM -- I should install FreeBSD on it. :)
John Ward said…
I have an old Gateway P90 with 16 meg of ram that works just great as a SSH and web proxy running FreeBSD 5.5. The only issue it has is that I have to manually interact with the boot loader to get it to boot, but it did the same thing with Linux using both GRUB and LILO as the bootloader. I never experienced an issue with it dieing while trying to load acpi.ko. The forum post author may have encountered a bug with VMWare, or at least the architecture it emulates, not necessarily FreeBSD.
Anonymous said…
Web server for low-volume static content:

OpenBSD 3.8-stable (GENERIC) #2: Wed Jan 25 16:45:37 CST 2006
cpu0: Intel Pentium (P54C) ("GenuineIntel" 586-class) 133 MHz
cpu0: F00F bug workaround installed
real mem = 33136640 (32360K)
avail mem = 22245376 (21724K)
using 430 buffers containing 1761280 bytes (1720K) of memory


OpenBSD 3.6-stable (GENERIC) #20: Mon Oct 3 13:20:56 CDT 2005
cpu0: Intel Pentium II ("GenuineIntel" 686-class, 512KB L2 cache) 232 MHz
real mem = 66695168 (65132K)
avail mem = 53338112 (52088K)
using 839 buffers containing 3436544 bytes (3356K) of memory

Finally had to retire the 486-SX/33MHz w/ 8MB DRAM to get an IPv6-capable firewall. That was a nostalgic day.
Anonymous said…
The link to the mailing list post seems wrong.
I found it at

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