How to Build a pfSense Router?
If you are looking for a way to protect your network from the evil “cyber” world, then this is the tutorial for you! In this article, I will show you how to build a Pfsense router. This powerful open source firewall operating system has many configurable features that can be used to customize it exactly as needed. It is free and can be installed on most hardware. If you are interested in getting started with building your own Pfsense router, please read on!
What is a pfSense Router?
A pfSense router is a device that acts as a firewall and a network address translation (NAT) gateway. Pfsense is a free and open-source customized distribution of an operating system based on FreeBSD.
This type of device can be very useful in homes or small businesses that don’t have much networking experience, as the pfSense router will give them access to advanced features without requiring extensive configuration knowledge.
How to Build a pfSense Router
To build a pfSense router, you will need hardware that meets or exceeds the following specifications:
- A 64-bit x86 processor (Intel EMT64 or AMD64) OR 32-bit x86 processor with Intel VT or AMD-V enabled.
- At least 512 MB of RAM for embedded systems; at least 256MB of RAM if running as a virtual machine/container.
- One gigabit network interface card (NIC). This may sound like overkill but it is actually quite important to have this much bandwidth available in order to avoid bottlenecking your connection during high traffic periods. You want the firewall to be able to handle all incoming and outgoing data without problems!
- Hardware to support virtualization (Intel VT-x or AMD-V). This is required in order to run pfSense as a VM on your device.
- Preferably at least one gigabyte of hard drive space, although this will vary depending on how you configure the system and what packages are installed.
pfSense Router Setup Part One: Installing pfSense on Your Hardware
Now that we have all of our hardware together, let’s get started! First, install your operating system to your hard drive if you haven’t already done so (usually an option during initial computer setup). Next, boot up the machine and press F12 to access Boot Menu. Select/DVD/CD-ROM Drive as your first boot device, then hit Enter. Now select pfSense Live CD from the list of options and press enter to start up the installation wizard.
It should automatically detect that you are using UEFI mode, so just accept all other detected settings by pressing Enter for each option until it begins installing itself to disk. This may take a few minutes depending on hardware specifications but shouldn’t be longer than five or ten minutes at most! Once finished successfully, reboot the computer with F12 Boot Menu again and remove any disks before hitting the ESC key to bring yourself back into Windows if installed.
pfSense Router Setup Part Two: Configure Networking in BIOS
Now we need to ensure your network card is configured correctly in BIOS. If you have a UEFI motherboard, enter your system’s BIOS settings and find the network card configuration section. In most cases, this is listed as Advanced or Integrated Peripherals on page one of options inside of your main menu for setup. Under Network Stack Configuration , set Onboard LAN Controller to Disabled .
If you do not see any mention of an “Onboard LAN Controller” at all, then that means your computer does not support either legacy ACPI/PCIe devices or UEFI natively (most computers built after 2011 use UEFI). You will need to switch from Legacy mode to EFI mode if possible before installing pfSense router; otherwise it may during install! See How to Boot from a CD for more information.
Once you have finished properly configuring your network card, press F12 and select pfSense Live CD again to boot back up into the live environment we created earlier in order to install pfSense router! For installation here on out, I will assume that you are using UEFI mode.
pfSense Router Setup Part Three: Installing pfSense OS
Installation Wizard Steps When at “Welcome” screen, hit Enter key . Now it should bring up an option menu asking what type of installation do you want? Choose Standard Kernel Installer (for newer hardware) or Legacy BIOS Installer , then hit enter when done reading each option list. This is important as it sets the stage for the type of installation we will be doing.
Now you should see a list of available hard drives detected on your machine including the pfSense router’s target disk (which is usually labeled as wd0). If you have multiple disks, select which one holds pfSense and hit enter when done reading each option. Now it shows an overview screen with a progress bar to show the current state while installing the operating system onto our hardware! At this point, wait until completed successfully before moving forward to the next step.
pfSense Router Setup Part Four: Reboot & Connect to pfSense Router
Once finished successfully, reboot the computer and press F12 Boot Menu again. Now select pfSense Live CD from the list of options and hit enter to boot back up into our live environment! When at the desktop now, open a web browser on any device in your network (laptop/tablet/smartphone) and your router’s IP should be the one that you chose during installation/setup wizard! You can also find it in pfSense Router Console under Status > System Information if needed. Congratulations, your new PFSense router is now ready for use and configuration of all basic services like VPN , DHCP , DNS , etc.
pfSense Router Setup Part Five: Configure DHCP Settings on pfSense Router
Now we need to setup DHCP service so it knows which addresses are able to use what services over our network connection(s). Go ahead and click inside the checkbox next to Enable option located under Services >DHCP Server section at the top to enable service! When that radio button is checked, it will automatically bring you to the DHCP Server Setup menu.
Configuration tips & tricks – pfSense Router Services
Under Bind interfaces , make sure all three checkboxes are selected here for LAN interface only . If you have multiple NICs on your machine, this setting would be for each appropriate subnet separately. For example if you want to use another WAN connection besides pfSense router’s default one, just create a new port forward rule with different IP details and select matching network card(s) from dropdown menus under “Bind interfaces” box. Now hit Save changes when done there! To configure DHCP range options of how many addresses available to use, change the value of “Maximum clients” below. This is how many devices can connect simultaneously to your router’s DHCP service without manual intervention.
pfSense Router Setup Part Six: Configure WAN Connection on pfSense Router
Now it’s time to configure our WAN interface of the pfSense router. You can get a list of active interfaces under Status > Interfaces menu. If you have multiple NICs on your machine, the one with label “WAN” is probably what we need for this guide! So go ahead and click inside the checkbox next to Enable option located under Services >Wan section at the top to enable service! When that radio button is checked, it will automatically bring you to the WAN Interface Setup menu where all required network information needs to be filled out before hitting Save changes !
Configuration tips & tricks – pfSense ROUTER SERVICES
Once again here in the WAN setup screen, make sure all three checkboxes are selected ( Bind interfaces , Description, and DHCP client) under the Bind interfaces section. If you have multiple NICs on your machine just select which one is appropriate for each subnet separately! For the description field enter whatever details are needed to recognize the interface in future if needed. A new feature since pfSense version v0.91+ allows users to choose an IP address automatically via DHCP from ISP provided by external WAN connection whenever the router boots up . This setting should be enabled otherwise manually assign the settings yourself with Static IPv* configuration.
Connecting it All Together and Testing it Out
Now let’s test out our new pfSense router by connecting computers to it one-by-one. If everything went well, they should automatically receive an IP address from the DHCP server! Also try accessing the internet with them now and all other basic online services like web browsing or checking emails. Make sure you are able to access your pfSense router’s local system status page in a browser at least once via its WAN connection (IP Address). This step is just making sure that TCP/UDP ports 80 & 443 forwarded correctly when adding port forward rules above since those two are default for most network devices including NAS , routers, etc.
If you are able to reach your pfSense router’s status page successfully via WAN connection, congratulations! Everything is working as planned.