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.

If you made it this far, you should probably follow me on twitter. 🙂

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