OpenBSD vax

OpenBSD/vax runs on a large set of the VAX computers manufactured by Digital (then Compaq, now Hewlett-Packard).

A mailing list dedicated to the OpenBSD/vax port is available at To join the OpenBSD/vax mailing list, send a message body of "subscribe vax" to Please be sure to check our mailing list policy before subscribing.

The OpenBSD/vax port was discontinued after the 5.9 release.



VAX has been a supported OpenBSD architecture since early 2000, when code was synchronized with NetBSD's port. Being the second architecture to run BSD Unix (in 1979!), it seems appropriate that these venerable vaxen should still have a modern OS.

The current codebase is mostly from Berkeley, with contributions of free code from Digital, Mt Xinu, NetBSD, OpenBSD and others.

After the port was synchronized with the NetBSD codebase, fixes and improvements were made, such as support for 16 partitions per drive, support for more VAX models, improved emulation of unimplemented instructions, and so on.

The result of this work is an operating system that is stable and familiar to any OpenBSD user.

Current status:

Currently, all the hardware listed in the supported hardware section below boots multi-user, and supports enough of the on-board devices to be generally usable. Some models can only run diskless at the moment, though.

As of OpenBSD 4.0, most of the VAXstation frame buffers are supported.

Of course, regardless of frame buffer support, a complete set of X clients and utilities is available, allowing OpenBSD/vax machines to behave as X11 font servers, or run X clients on remote display.

There a few problems still left in the OpenBSD/vax port, though:

Supported hardware:

The list of supported hardware below is not meant to be exhaustive. Due to a limited inventory of systems available to developers, not all hardware combinations have been tested.

As a result, OpenBSD/vax may actually run on your machine even if it's not listed here, and we rely on your testing and feedback to keep this list up to date. To help us improve the accuracy of this list, PLEASE send your dmesg after installation to

Supported models

QBUS devices

Ethernet controllers

SCSI controllers

Either one of the first two controllers are found onboard most 3100s and VAXstation 4000s, as well as the VAX 4000 10x series.

Serial ports

Frame buffers

The VXT2000 monochrome frame buffer, the LEGSS 16 plane option and the SPXg/SPXgt options for VAXstation 4000s are not supported yet.

Input devices

Documentation wanted:

Getting and installing OpenBSD/vax:

The last supported OpenBSD/vax release was OpenBSD 5.8. Here are the OpenBSD/vax 5.8 installation instructions.