FreeBDS release cycle

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FreeBSD is an open source Unix-like operating system based on the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). It is known for its powerful networking and security features, stability, and performance. The FreeBSD project has been continuously developed since 1993, and released new versions every six months or so. This article will discuss what exactly a FreeBSD release cycle is and how it works, as well as providing examples of how and why it is used.

FreeBSD Release Cycle

What is a FreeBSD Release Cycle?

A FreeBSD release cycle is the process of releasing new versions of the FreeBSD operating system. This process typically occurs every six months and consists of two phases. The first phase includes a period of active development, where developers work to stabilize new features and bug fixes. During this period, no new features are added until the development branch has gone through rigorous testing. During the second phase, stable versions of the development branch are released as official releases.

Each phase is divided into four distinct versions: Alpha, Beta, Release Candidate and Production. Alpha versions are considered early editions of the software and are typically used for testing and experiments only. Beta versions are considered more stable, but still may have bugs that need to be corrected. Release candidate versions are released shortly before the final version and are used for community review and feedback. Finally, production versions are the official releases of the software and most users should use these versions.

Benefits of the Release Cycle

The FreeBSD release cycle provides multiple benefits to both users and developers. For users, the regularity of the release schedule is beneficial as it allows users to receive important security updates and bug fixes in a timely manner. Additionally, the release cycle provides users with access to the newest features and technologies available.

For developers, the release cycle ensures that all bug fixes and new features are thoroughly tested before being released. Additionally, as new releases are developed in an isolated branch, developers are able to experiment with new code without disrupting existing stable versions of FreeBSD.

History of the Release Cycle

The FreeBSD release cycle has been used since the early days of the BSD project. Initially, the release cycle was quite rudimentary, consisting of just two main releases each year. Over time, the process has been refined and improved, resulting in the quarterly release schedule that is currently used today.

The initial versions of the release cycle consisted of a single snapshot release that was sent out for general testing and evaluation. As the project grew, a more formalized release process was developed, which allowed for three versions of the software to be released - Alpha, Beta and Production.

As time went on, developers began to add additional features such as Release Candidates. This allowed developers to gather additional feedback and perform any necessary bug fixes before the official release. Nowadays, the average release cycle is quite optimized and allows users to receive the latest bug fixes and features in a timely manner.

Examples of Usage

FreeBSD’s release cycle is used by many organisations for various purposes. One of the most common uses of the release cycle is to ensure that their systems are kept up to date with the most recent security updates and bug fixes. Additionally, many organisations use the release cycle to test out new features before deploying them to production systems.

Another common use of the release cycle is to provide feedback and testing to FreeBSD developers. By participating in the Release Candidate program, organisations can provide valuable feedback on potential bugs or feature requests that may eventually be implemented in future releases of FreeBSD. Many organisations also use the Alpha and Beta versions of the software to test out new hardware or software before deploying the production version.

Finally, the release cycle is also used to keep track of different versions of FreeBSD. By tracking the version numbers, organisations can quickly determine if they are running the latest version of FreeBSD, or if they need to upgrade to a newer version.

Code Example

Below is a simple example of how to use the FreeBSD release cycle. In this example, we will be querying our local system to see what version of FreeBSD is currently installed.

First, we need to find the latest version of FreeBSD that’s available. To do this, we can use the ‘freebsd-version’ command. This command will output the version number of the latest release:


Next, we need to check what version of FreeBSD is currently installed on our system. We can do this with the ‘sysctl’ command. This command will output the version number of the currently installed version of FreeBSD:

sysctl kern.osrelease
kern.osrelease: 11.3-RELEASE-p15

From this output, we can see that we are currently running version 11.3-RELEASE-p15, which is one version behind the latest release. We can then use the ‘pkg’ command to update our system to the latest version:

pkg upgrade

Once the upgrade is complete, we can now verify that our system is running the latest version of FreeBSD by running the ‘sysctl’ command again:

sysctl kern.osrelease
kern.osrelease: 11.4-RELEASE

As we can see from the output, our system is now running the latest version of FreeBSD - 11.4-RELEASE.


In conclusion, the FreeBSD release cycle is an important part of maintaining the stability and security of the operating system. It allows users to receive the newest versions of FreeBSD in a timely manner, while at the same time providing a safe environment for developers to experiment with new ideas. Additionally, the Release Candidate program allows users to provide feedback and testing to FreeBSD developers before the official release. Finally, the cycle also allows organisations to easily keep track of their systems and make sure that they are running the latest version of FreeBSD.

October 30, 2022 by