HP Pavilion a6242N for PFSense Machine



  • I found this HP Pavilion at the trash in my apartment…took it home and it worked...so; my light bulb bright idea suggested turning it into a PFSense machine. I will maxed out the RAM (8GB - Crucial) and thinking of installing the Intel-Pro 1000 NIC (I haven't bought it yet)...would this work? Could I install PFSense only without assigning WAN/LAN before I get NIC which would take a few days to arrive? I would use a Monitor to aid install...so, should I select the VGA version? The machine would run headless after the install and the upgrade

    I am familiar with PFSense as I had set up on a VirtualBox machine on my Mac.



  • Okay, I got PFSense installed; however, I have not complete the configuration and will have to wait for the NIC and memory to arrive. Thinking of the Intel-Pro 1000 dual port card as the stock card is only 100.



  • So, I have ordered both the memory and the NIC, which won't arrive towards the end of the month from China. I chose the Intel i350 t2 card and will place in the PCIE✕16 slot…the price was right.

    Any hint in installing the NIC would be appreciated.



  • It's been a while since I set up a new box like this, but if memory serves correct, you won't be able to assign the NICs until they can be seen by the OS. You might still be able to use the built-in NIC for the LAN side (at least temporarily), which would let you go ahead and get that part working (DHCP, web GUI access, etc). Then it could (in theory) just be as simple as assigning those new NICs once you get them installed.

    Installing a network card in a tower-style desktop like that is pretty simple. Here's a video of installing one in a generic computer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOT73ermd9c
    Probably the only thing that will differ for you is how the case is actually opened: https://www.manualshelf.com/manual/hp/hp-pavilion-a6242n-desktop-pc/upgrading-and-servicing-guide/page-7.html
    Here is the walkthrough of installing a PCIe card in that machine: https://www.manualshelf.com/manual/hp/hp-pavilion-a6242n-desktop-pc/upgrading-and-servicing-guide/page-31.html

    Disclaimer: I'm basing all this off of these specs. I assume they're correct : https://www.engadget.com/products/hp/pavilion/a6242n/specs/

    Don't forget to protect against static electricity. https://www.wikihow.com/Ground-Yourself-to-Avoid-Destroying-a-Computer-with-Electrostatic-Discharge



  • @ericseastrand:

    It's been a while since I set up a new box like this, but if memory serves correct, you won't be able to assign the NICs until they can be seen by the OS. You might still be able to use the built-in NIC for the LAN side (at least temporarily), which would let you go ahead and get that part working (DHCP, web GUI access, etc). Then it could (in theory) just be as simple as assigning those new NICs once you get them installed.

    Installing a network card in a tower-style desktop like that is pretty simple. Here's a video of installing one in a generic computer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOT73ermd9c
    Probably the only thing that will differ for you is how the case is actually opened: https://www.manualshelf.com/manual/hp/hp-pavilion-a6242n-desktop-pc/upgrading-and-servicing-guide/page-7.html
    Here is the walkthrough of installing a PCIe card in that machine: https://www.manualshelf.com/manual/hp/hp-pavilion-a6242n-desktop-pc/upgrading-and-servicing-guide/page-31.html

    Disclaimer: I'm basing all this off of these specs. I assume they're correct : https://www.engadget.com/products/hp/pavilion/a6242n/specs/

    Don't forget to protect against static electricity. https://www.wikihow.com/Ground-Yourself-to-Avoid-Destroying-a-Computer-with-Electrostatic-Discharge

    Thank you ericseastrand for responding with real care. I was concerned about whether I would have issue installing the NIC since I already PFSense OS; however, upon further reading, I discovered the OS already has the drivers built-in…so it will be plug-n-play.  I launched the OS just to make sure all was well, then shut it down. I didn't assign anything as well as I never plan on using the on-board Ethernet port since its only 100mb.

    This PFSense machine will supplement my Mikrotik and Apple extreme.



  • Well, the memory (Crucial DDR2 800mhz - 8GB) and NIC - (Chinese Intel-i350-t2) came today; however, when I installed only the memory, the machine boots up but, when I installed the NIC, the machine doesn't boot at all…I don't understand as the OS supports this NIC. The OS is PFSense 2.3.

    I cannot enter the BIOS either...is there any solution? If necessary, I could wipe the hard drive and install Windows 7 Ultimate...thanks!



  • @NollipfSense:

    Well, the memory (Crucial DDR2 800mhz - 8GB) and NIC - (Chinese Intel-i350-t2) came today; however, when I installed only the memory, the machine boots up but, when I installed the NIC, the machine doesn't boot at all…I don't understand as the OS supports this NIC. The OS is PFSense 2.3.

    I cannot enter the BIOS either...is there any solution? If necessary, I could wipe the hard drive and install Windows 7 Ultimate...thanks!

    Not all motherboards support a NIC in the PCIE✕16 slot.
    HP can be very picky sometimes.
    Before installing the Dual Nic card, you can search for a setting that sets the onboard VGA card manually as primairy,
    on auto, the motherboard can assume you installed a PCIEX16 VGA card while its a NIC, and auto-disable the onboard VGA.
    The result is then no screen output.

    When this option will not help, you can try after installing the Dual NIC,
    to reset the BIOS by removing the battery for a minute.
    HP's can be a hassle if hardware configuration is changed.

    Best regards
    DeLorean



  • Keep in mind the AMD X2 4800+ chip will not be very fast, probably has no AES (thus won't work with upcoming pfSense versions and will be slow with VPN), and eats a lot of power.

    Also:

    In the minimum performance state (P-state) the processor runs at 1000 MHz and 1.1 Volt core voltage. Thermal Design Power in the minimum P-state is 46.6 Watt

    While the TDP is more about how much heat it can put out, it is not uncommon for this old type of CPU to eat 40Watt idle. Add the rest of the system to that and you'll be running at 55Watts idle or more! Depending on where you live, that means about 100 euros per year (117 USD?). If your power is cheap, it might be a whole lot less.



  • @DeLorean:

    @NollipfSense:

    Well, the memory (Crucial DDR2 800mhz - 8GB) and NIC - (Chinese Intel-i350-t2) came today; however, when I installed only the memory, the machine boots up but, when I installed the NIC, the machine doesn't boot at all…I don't understand as the OS supports this NIC. The OS is PFSense 2.3.

    I cannot enter the BIOS either...is there any solution? If necessary, I could wipe the hard drive and install Windows 7 Ultimate...thanks!

    Not all motherboards support a NIC in the PCIE✕16 slot.
    HP can be very picky sometimes.
    Before installing the Dual Nic card, you can search for a setting that sets the onboard VGA card manually as primairy,
    on auto, the motherboard can assume you installed a PCIEX16 VGA card while its a NIC, and auto-disable the onboard VGA.
    The result is then no screen output.

    When this option will not help, you can try after installing the Dual NIC,
    to reset the BIOS by removing the battery for a minute.
    HP's can be a hassle if hardware configuration is changed.

    Best regards
    DeLorean

    Thank you DeLorean for responding…I searched the web and HP...one source said the PCIE✕16 is for graphic card only; however, HP made no mention of that. With the NIC installed, I actually got the cursor flashing...it just didn't boot. Now, the monitor I borrowed is no longer available for me to check the BIOS...so, I am looking for a cheap monitor on eBay...it will be a few more days to follow up.



  • @johnkeates:

    Keep in mind the AMD X2 4800+ chip will not be very fast, probably has no AES (thus won't work with upcoming pfSense versions and will be slow with VPN), and eats a lot of power.

    Also:

    In the minimum performance state (P-state) the processor runs at 1000 MHz and 1.1 Volt core voltage. Thermal Design Power in the minimum P-state is 46.6 Watt

    While the TDP is more about how much heat it can put out, it is not uncommon for this old type of CPU to eat 40Watt idle. Add the rest of the system to that and you'll be running at 55Watts idle or more! Depending on where you live, that means about 100 euros per year (117 USD?). If your power is cheap, it might be a whole lot less.

    I was aware of the limitations as well as the electricity draw when I made the decision to put this trashed computer to use…It was solely for a temporary use and for learning...that's why I maxed out the memory.

    I wondered whether there is a way to share screen to supplement the web configuration...is there? All my other computers are Mac.



  • @NollipfSense:

    @johnkeates:

    Keep in mind the AMD X2 4800+ chip will not be very fast, probably has no AES (thus won't work with upcoming pfSense versions and will be slow with VPN), and eats a lot of power.

    Also:

    In the minimum performance state (P-state) the processor runs at 1000 MHz and 1.1 Volt core voltage. Thermal Design Power in the minimum P-state is 46.6 Watt

    While the TDP is more about how much heat it can put out, it is not uncommon for this old type of CPU to eat 40Watt idle. Add the rest of the system to that and you'll be running at 55Watts idle or more! Depending on where you live, that means about 100 euros per year (117 USD?). If your power is cheap, it might be a whole lot less.

    I was aware of the limitations as well as the electricity draw when I made the decision to put this trashed computer to use…It was solely for a temporary use and for learning...that's why I maxed out the memory.

    I wondered whether there is a way to share screen to supplement the web configuration...is there? All my other computers are Mac.

    There is no actual need to see what's on the screen, nothing there is unavailable remote unless all your networking is busted. There is SSH access which you might like, all Macs have Terminal and SSH preinstalled so you can just open up Terminal.app and use ssh root@ <firewall ip="">with your admin password.</firewall>



  • @NollipfSense:

    Thank you DeLorean for responding…I searched the web and HP...one source said the PCIE✕16 is for graphic card only; however, HP made no mention of that. With the NIC installed, I actually got the cursor flashing...it just didn't boot.

    Maybe a stupid question, but did you use a program like Win32 Disk Imager to place the .IMG file on your
    USB memory stick ?
    Did you use the normal and not serial version of pfSense ?
    It seems that the USB memory stick to install pfSense is not properly prepared.

    Grtz
    DeLorean



  • @johnkeates:

    @NollipfSense:

    @johnkeates:

    Keep in mind the AMD X2 4800+ chip will not be very fast, probably has no AES (thus won't work with upcoming pfSense versions and will be slow with VPN), and eats a lot of power.

    Also:

    In the minimum performance state (P-state) the processor runs at 1000 MHz and 1.1 Volt core voltage. Thermal Design Power in the minimum P-state is 46.6 Watt

    While the TDP is more about how much heat it can put out, it is not uncommon for this old type of CPU to eat 40Watt idle. Add the rest of the system to that and you'll be running at 55Watts idle or more! Depending on where you live, that means about 100 euros per year (117 USD?). If your power is cheap, it might be a whole lot less.

    I was aware of the limitations as well as the electricity draw when I made the decision to put this trashed computer to use…It was solely for a temporary use and for learning...that's why I maxed out the memory.

    I wondered whether there is a way to share screen to supplement the web configuration...is there? All my other computers are Mac.

    There is no actual need to see what's on the screen, nothing there is unavailable remote unless all your networking is busted. There is SSH access which you might like, all Macs have Terminal and SSH preinstalled so you can just open up Terminal.app and use ssh root@ <firewall ip="">with your admin password.</firewall>

    Thank you Johnkeates…I actually purchased this monitor on eBay: http://tinyurl.com/y79d5lz6 as well as PS/2 keyboard and mouse just to be sure I can access the BIOS to enable the NIC. The items will arrive by the end of the week.



  • @DeLorean:

    @NollipfSense:

    Thank you DeLorean for responding…I searched the web and HP...one source said the PCIE✕16 is for graphic card only; however, HP made no mention of that. With the NIC installed, I actually got the cursor flashing...it just didn't boot.

    Maybe a stupid question, but did you use a program like Win32 Disk Imager to place the .IMG file on your
    USB memory stick ?
    Did you use the normal and not serial version of pfSense ?
    It seems that the USB memory stick to install pfSense is not properly prepared.

    Grtz
    DeLorean

    No…I used Gparted to format the hard drive and burned PFSense 2.3 onto a DVD then installed...it's the normal version.



  • Why not using a USB memory stick and version 2.4.1 ?
    I think your dvd is just not bootable/readable.
    The reason for that can be many things :

    1. Burnerror(s)
    2. Wrong type of burning method
    3. Problem with the dvd-reader/writer

    In the begin with my first steps in pfSense, i have used also cd's to install,
    but wasted a lot cd's and more problems to get it working.
    Since then i always use a USB memory stick and Win32 Disk Imager to place the .IMG file ,
    less problems to install, and much faster then from cd or dvd.

    Grtz
    DeLorean



  • @DeLorean:

    Why not using a USB memory stick and version 2.4.1 ?
    I think your dvd is just not bootable/readable.
    The reason for that can be many things :

    1. Burnerror(s)
    2. Wrong type of burning method
    3. Problem with the dvd-reader/writer

    In the begin with my first steps in pfSense, i have used also cd's to install,
    but wasted a lot cd's and more problems to get it working.
    Since then i always use a USB memory stick and Win32 Disk Imager to place the .IMG file ,
    less problems to install, and much faster then from cd or dvd.

    Grtz
    DeLorean

    The machine boots up PFSense 2.3…it's only when the Intel -i350 dual installed that it will not boot...please note that PFSense 2.3 is already installed. I just learn that the Intel - i350 T2 will not work in the one PCIe✕16 slot as that slot per the manufacturer is for graphics card only. I have a PCIe✕1 slot so I am wondering whether the Intel - i350 in there...will it? Just tried...no, it won't work...I have to get a PCIe✕1 NIC.



  • Well, finding out that the BIOS is rigged by HP…there is no way to enable PCIe LAN and disabling onboard LAN causes the computer not to boot...which implies the only way around is to update the BIOS from its current version v.5.18 to 5.27; however, HP claimed that could mess up HP recovery...who cares. It's the manufacturer of the motherboard is the real boss! The question now is whether to flash the BIOS with the Intel - i350 installed.

    Lesson learned is a computer from the trash, despite working, may not be good for a PFSense machine.



  • @NollipfSense:

    The question now is whether to flash the BIOS with the Intel - i350 installed.

    I always update BIOS with least necessary hardware installed, so add-on cards like NIC etc….. always removed.
    The less hardware is installed, the less hardware can interfere with the BIOS update proces.

    Grtz
    DeLorean



  • @DeLorean:

    @NollipfSense:

    The question now is whether to flash the BIOS with the Intel - i350 installed.

    I always update BIOS with least necessary hardware installed, so add-on cards like NIC etc….. always removed.
    The less hardware is installed, the less hardware can interfere with the BIOS update proces.

    Grtz
    DeLorean

    Thank you Delorean…well, after the slight disappointment with the NIC issue, I decided to pimp it by upgrading the machine more for the learning. I will install this: AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ 3.1GHz Dual-Core Processor 89W and a 16GB SSD as well as use the current HD for date logging storage. The processor is coming from Hong Kong, hopefully, in couple of days...I also bought ths: Dual Port PCI-E Intel 82575 Gigabit PCIe Ethernet Server Adapter Network Card 1x, also from Hong Kong, just in case the flashing to v.5.27 has no effect to enable PCIe✕16 for non-graphic card. I got the BIOS from another forum in that name.



  • Got BIOS flashed…no luck getting the PCIe✕16 slot to accept and enable the Intel-i350 NIC...so, will have to wait a week or two  for the NIC - Dual Port PCIe✕1 Intel 82575 Gigabit card to arrive. The machine boots PFSense v2.3 just fine and eagerly expects a robust performance with the SSD.



  • Just to follow up, NIC arrived and installed…had only two problems which had been resolved that was posted here: https://forum.pfsense.org/index.php?topic=140315.0

    So now, I am waiting for the processor (AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ 3.1GHz Dual-Core Processor 89W) to arrive. However, here's an insight of the performance after running Snort, Suricata, pfBlockerNG, and Squid. After the processor is installed, I'll continue with further fine tuning. I am extremely happy with results so far despite the machine will last just a year (AES-NI issue).

    ![Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 3.48.48 PM.png](/public/imported_attachments/1/Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 3.48.48 PM.png)
    ![Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 3.48.48 PM.png_thumb](/public/imported_attachments/1/Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 3.48.48 PM.png_thumb)


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