• Hello, folks.  I've got an older machine I'm trying to use for pfSense duty.  I realize the system is a bit anemic since it is a Pentium Pro 180 with 96 MB of RAM, but I'm sort of nostalgic for this system and would like to utilize it for my router.  I've got 256 MB of RAM for it that will be available soon and will put me solidly above the "above minimum hardware requirements" line.  I wouldn't think my slight lack of RAM would prevent the boot loader from even trying to load.

    While pfSense is installed, the boot loader doesn't seem to work.  I'm presented with a pound sign every time the machine automatically attempts to load a slice or I manually try to do so.  I see there's some other system with the same issue, but I don't have the option of a BIOS update.  Do note that the system can boot using the NT boot loader for doing Win2k, etc.  I wouldn't be opposed to installing GRUB or LILO to bypass the BSD boot loader, but I don't know how to get that going without some assistance.

    I've attached an image of what is happening.  I'd be curious to know if anyone knows how I might solve this problem.

  • Sure you can't get a BIOS update? Could very well fix it.

    Alternatively, try resetting your BIOS settings to defaults in case it has something weird set in there.

  • Unfortunately, yes.  The board is an old Gateway 2000 model.  This hardware is about 15 years old.

    I figured out some interesting facts.  Part of my issue is likely disk geometry.  I had to do a "transplant install" because the target system can't boot from non-emulated CD boot loaders.  The disk, a WD2500JB, was auto-detecting as about 8 GB.  The cluster count was way under.  The newer system I did the install on had no such issue.  I added a Silicon Image PATA controller which would be able to handle the disk better.

    That alone didn't account for the problem, however.  As it turned out, I can install and successfully use 1.2.2.  I'm going through it right now!  1.2.3 and 2.0 RC1 both refuse to boot.  They get further than before and don't give me pound signs, but they each hang on the first spinner progress meter, either on - or /.

    It's neat that the system appears to run on such light weight hardware.  :)  Heck, it only has 96 MB of RAM for now and still runs.  I even get full bandwidth (10/1).  I guess my only question at this point is if it's dangerous to run 1.2.2 in the wild or if it still provides solid security.  Feature wise, I think it's got what I'm after.

  • Netgate Administrator

    First off you could try manipulating the bios disk geometry settings manually.
    You may find that simply setting it to LBA or CHS instead of auto allows it to boot.
    On my box I have to have heads set to 2 in order to boot anything over 1GB. Buggy bios. It then reports the wrong disk size but is points the bootloader at the right place of the disk.

    Alternatively use a different bootloader like you suggest.

    Here's a good blog post about doing just that:


  • Using the GAG bootloader, I was able to boot even pfSense 2.0 without any difficulty so long as I stuck to a <= 250 GB drive (controller limit, surely).

    2.0 does present another issue past the boot loader, however.  I get a page fault shortly after the main menu (press 1 for default, 2 for no ACPI, etc–that menu).  I have to wonder if it's trying to use memory addresses that aren't available on a system with 96 MB.  2.0 may genuinely require it I suppose.  Sound about right?

  • Netgate Administrator

    It would be useful to document exactly how you installed GAG since there seem to be a number of users asking.
    128MB is the minimum RAM requirement. Hard to justify spending time troubleshooting with 96MB.
    Good to know you got going.  :)


  • No need to troubleshoot.  I was just asking out of curiosity in case someone knew for sure right off that was it.  I've got 256 MB of RAM coming for the machine anyway, so it'll only be a few more days until I can find out for sure.

    Installing GAG is dead easy.  I do plan to make a Youtube clip about it later.

  • No luck with the RAM.  I installed 256 MB of memory in the system today since it came in the mail.  I then installed the latest snapshot of pfSense 2.0 RC1.  I receive the same error as before:  Page fault while in kernel mode.  (Supervisor write, page not present)  It even stops on the same CPU instructions.

    Since I do meet system requirements now as far as I know, does anyone have any ideas for how I might progress?

  • Actually, this no longer really applies to the original post.  I'm going to post the new problem in the correct subforum since it isn't related to installation or booting anymore.