The main differences between OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD and DragonFly BSD

Published on 2023-10-30.

People who consider trying out one of the different BSD variants, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD or DragonFly BSD, often ask about the main differences between the four projects. In this article I am going to address that issue.

Even though all the four BSDs share a common ancestry with the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), and even though all the BSDs can serve as a multi-purpose operating system, they are independent projects and they are very different.

None of the BSDs are distributions, they are all complete operating systems.


Each developer working on OpenBSD has their priorities, but the main focus of the project is to be the number one most secure and robust operating system.

Other common goals are:

OpenBSD in a nutshell:

Picture of a tank


FreeBSD is an operating system for a variety of platforms which focuses on features, speed, and stability.

Some of the main goals of the project are:

FreeBSD in a nutshell:

Picture of a Mercedes Brabus


NetBSD users enjoy a simple, well-documented, and fully integrated UNIX-like system that feels minimal, and in many ways traditional, while including many modern and interesting features, and support for recent hardware.

Some of the main goals of the project are:

NetBSD in a nutshell:

Picture of a multi-purpose camper

DragonFly BSD

One of the original goals of the DragonFly BSD project was performance-oriented, the project sought to do SMP in more superior ways to the work being done in other operating system kernels. The results of this process has been an immense improvement in scalability.

Some of the main goals of the project are:

DragonFly BSD in a nutshell:

Picture of a large train

Final comments

Even though the technologies and goals listed here are correctly attributed to each project, this article does not do any of the projects justice - it was mostly meant as a humorous post (the pictures).

Sorry :)