DragonFly BSD images are 'live', meaning these images on whatever media will boot your system and let you log in as root (no password). You can use this feature to check for hardware compatibility and play with DragonFly a little before actually installing it on your hard drive. The CD includes an installer that can be run at the console. To activate the installer, boot and login as installer.
If you use a GUI DVD, you can login as root and start a GUI with startx. Note that there is no GUI release for the current release. You will need to install Xorg directly. If you use a USB .img file, it needs to be copied to a USB key directly. Use dd on unix-like systems, or a similar program on Windows. You could also try Image Writer for Windows.
DragonFly belongs to the same class of operating systems as other BSD-derived systems and Linux. It is based on the same UNIX ideals and APIs and shares ancestor code with other BSD operating systems. DragonFly provides an opportunity for the BSD base to grow in an entirely different direction from the one taken in the FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD series.
DragonFly includes many useful features that differentiate it from other operating systems in the same class.
The most prominent one is HAMMER, our modern high performance filesystem with built-in mirroring and historic access functionality.
Virtual kernels provide the ability to run a full-blown kernel as a user process for the purpose of managing resources or for accelerated kernel development and debugging.
The kernel uses several synchronization and locking mechanisms for SMP. Much of the work done since the project began has been in this area. A combination of intentional simplification of certain classes of locks to make more expansive subsystems less prone to deadlocks, and the rewriting of nearly all the original codebase using algorithms designed specifically with SMP in mind, has resulted in an extremely stable, high-performance kernel that is capable of efficiently using all cpu, memory, and I/O resources thrown at it.
DragonFlyBSD has virtually no bottlenecks or lock contention in-kernel. Nearly all operations are able to run concurrently on any number of cpus. Over the years, the VFS support infrastructure (namecache, vnode cache), user support infrastructure (uid, gid, process groups, sessions), process and threading infrastructure, storage subsystems, networking, user and kernel memory allocation and management, process fork, exec, and exit/teardown, time keeping, and all other aspects of kernel design have been rewritten with extreme SMP performance as a goal.
DragonFly is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the wide availability of affordable Solid Storage Devices (SSDs), by making use of swap space to cache filesystem data and meta-data. This feature, commonly referred to as "swapcache", can give a significant boost to both server and workstation workloads, with a very minor hardware investment.
The DragonFly storage stack comprises robust, natively written AHCI and NVME drivers, stable device names via DEVFS and a partial implementation of Device Mapper for reliable volume management and encryption.
Some other features that are especially useful to system administrators are a performant and scalable TMPFS implementation, an extremely efficient NULLFS that requires no internal replication of directory or file vnodes, our natively written DNTPD (ntp client) which uses full-bore line intercept and standard deviation summation for highly-accurate timekeeping, and DMA, designed to provide low-overhead email services for system operators who do not need more expansive mail services such as postfix or sendmail.