M.2 2230 WiFi NIC - or USB NIC for guest WiFi?



  • I'm new here, and I don't understand why there are two place to pose questions about hardware.  Here's the question I posed in the "official" hardware forum:

    I've decided to build my own router/firewall for home use.  The reasons for my decision are not pertinent to this discussion.

    After much searching on this forum, I haven't found the answer to my questions.

    I plan to use an ASUS H110T/CSM motherboard (Intel H110 chipset).  It has two NIC's… one is a Realtek 8111H, the other is an Intel I219V.  As far as I can tell, both of these are supported by the version of FreeBSD used in pfSense 2.3.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    I plan to use my existing router (ASUS RT-AC66U) as an AP.  The AP will be connected to the pfSense machine via an unmanaged switch, which is also connected to the wired clients in my home.

    If, at some point in the future, I decide to setup a "guest WiFi", I would like to know what hardware will work in my setup.

    The motherboard has a connector for an M.2 2230 (E key) WiFi adapter.  It also has several USB connectors.

    My choices, as I see them, are:

    1. Find a compatible USB NIC, and connect it to a second AP.
    2. Find a compatible M.2 2230 WiFi NIC, and add antennae to my rig.

    Please give me hardware recommendations for either of the above.

    Cost, of course, is a big factor in my decision.  The ability for future expansion is also important.

    Thanks for your help.


  • Banned

    The Official Hardware forum is for the hardware sold in the netgate/pfsense store. Like the SG series.

    This is the right place to ask these questions  :).

    Realtek drivers are supported, but people still report quite a few problems with them. Enough that they aren't typically recommended unless you have to use them. Generally speaking a PCIe Intel NIC is prefered, used is what is usually recommended due to price and people very rarely have issues with used NICs if they source a decent seller.
    That being said, if price is a limiting factor keeping you from buying another component, the supported Realteks will probably work for you in lower end applications. Just understand that realtek stuff is generally crap and you might run into some troubleshooting and ass pain you otherwise wouldn't. I can tell you that I used a realtek NIC for a guest network for a short time with zero issues.

    USB NIC's are never recommended. Avoid them at all costs. It doesn't mean it can't work just that there is a high chance that it either won't work or will cause you a lot of headaches.
    The m.2 NIC might work, never heard of them being used.

    That being said, are you stuck with that motherboard? You said "plan" to use. If your plans are flexible there are better/cheaper options out there. In this case, don't buy that motherboard and let us know what your specific needs are (what packages you need, or if you don't know what you are trying to accomplish and we can tell you which packages do that, what your line speeds are) and we can recommend a better option. The lack of PCIe and one of two NICs being a realtek on that board make it not a great pfSense buy.
    If you are stuck with that board then read on.

    For the wifi network integrating it into your pfSense box is another thing that will work but is generally not recommended. pfSense just isn't very good at being a wifi AP.

    Your best/cheapest option if you are stuck with that mobo is probably to :
    buy a switch that supports VLANs
    buy another cheap SOHO router and use it as an AP. Even crap routers will work great as an AP, all you need to consider are range, wirelass a,b,g,n,ac and throughput. Probably a cheap 100Mbps Wireless-N router will work.

    https://www.amazon.com/TP-Link-Gigabit-Ethernet-Managed-TL-SG105E/dp/B00N0OHEMA/ref=sr_1_1?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1491958718&sr=1-1&keywords=vlan&refinements=p_36%3A1253503011
    https://www.amazon.com/TRENDnet-Wireless-Pre-Encrypted-Bandwidth-TEW-731BR/dp/B0062KA4VM/ref=sr_1_23?s=pc&rps=1&ie=UTF8&qid=1491958536&sr=1-23&refinements=p_36%3A1000-1800%2Cp_n_feature_keywords_three_browse-bin%3A8514073011%2Cp_85%3A2470955011

    ~$42 if you buy them new, you can probably get what you need for half that used on eBay or at garage sales, etc.



  • Thanks for your advice on the inexpensive managed switch.

    Regarding the motherboard… I've already purchased it... but I'm open to suggestions.  Especially if I am able to use the same CPU/RAM/SSD that I've (also) already purchased.

    It seems from your reply, and the reply that I received in the "official" hardware forum... the way to go is to setup a VLAN between my "guest" AP and the router.

    For now, I think that's how I'll proceed.  Hopefully, the Realtek NIC won't be an issue.  If it becomes one, I'll look for a different motherboard.

    Thanks again.


  • Banned

    If you already have the hardware i agree, don't replace it unless you have to. It will probably work great for you with VLANs!



  • I agree that VLAN's are the way to go… on the LAN side of the firewall.

    Now... I'm stuck as to how to install pfSense.

    I downloaded the 64-bit "memstick installer" gzip file and created a bootable USB flash drive, as per the instructions.

    It boots from the USB flash drive.

    From there, the installation instructions on the pfSense site don't match what I see on the screen.

    I tried typing the letter "i" and "99" per the instructions.

    None of that works.

    I see this (attached image).  No matter what I type (I, 99, whatever)... I don't see an option to install pfSense.



  • Banned

    I'm pretty sure it's just option (1) Boot to Multi User and it goes from there.

    Youtube Video


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