This is a survival guide to keeping Free BSD up-to-date ('ish).
This note covers the automated tools (freebsd-update and portsnap) and manual methods for updating Free BSD.
While the Free BSD Handbook is generally a terrific resource - always check it first - but it can either make assumptions about background knowlege or it keeps things as simple as possible to minimize errors. We check the security advisories, nod sagely when we read 'em, and using the new automated tools (portsnap and freebsd-update) we keep our systems updated.
As we all know Free BSD, like Perl, provides at least 8,000 ways to do the same thing. And occasionally even upgrade the ports we have installed. A major version upgrade only when it gets to a minimum of x.1.
Note on the move from CVS to subversion: The notes on manual methods have been updated to reflect the Free BSD change from CVS to subversion that from March 2013 covers both source upgrades and the ports system. We do nothing exciting, nothing even remotely interesting and if it smacks of risk, we lie down in a dark room for a couple of hours, then check that we have access to emergency medical assistance, before doing anything. Free BSD finally stops maintaining our release and we gotta do something. Hell can freeze over before we break that last rule.
This survival guide was written because we suspect we are not alone and besides, the down-side of the 'slothful' maintenance theory is we are not constantly doing stuff and so forget....a lot....frequently.
Note on Extreme Sloth: By extreme application of the 'slothful' method of maintenance you could find yourself more that one major version behind (say, using 6.x when the current version is 9.x).
The best advice here is to never try a multi-version upgrade, say, from 6.x to 9.x - always pass through the intervening major version(s) - certainly as far as Step 6 since ABI (Application Binary Interface) changes may cause serious problems.
In such cases one of the CD based direct install methods may be quicker and less risky.
As with all things Free BSD there are about 100,000 million ways of doing things which can leave folk confused when they read three different HOWTOs all describing different ways to accomplish the same goal. The author of the HOWTO has always done it that way.
There is no attempt to analyze the reasons - it just works.