Recovering from Syntax Errors in /etc/rc.conf in FreeBSD

I have been exploring FreeBSD over the last few weeks. In fact, I moved this blog over to a server running FreeBSD tonight. Naturally, while fiddling around with /etc/rc.conf (the default init file of FreeBSD) with vi I made a syntax error. Upon rebooting, FreeBSD yells at me and starts a shell in a read only file system.

Loading configuration files.
/etc/rc.conf: 16: Syntax error: Unterminated quoted string
Enter full pathname of shell or RETURN for /bin/sh:

At first, I was super sad and thought I had to reinstall everything (which would not have been so bad since the installation just takes a few minutes), but then I realized that it is not possible that I am the first person to ever make an error in this file, there has to be a way to recover. Sure enough, there is.

  1. Remount the Root File System First we must remount the root files system. Go ahead and press RETURN to pop into /bin/sh
    /sbin/mount -o rw /
    
  2. Edit /etc/rc.conf Now that we have a read/write file system mounted we can edit our /etc/rc.conf file and fix the syntax error using vi
  3. Reboot

    Reboot, and FreeBSD will be back in action.

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