Help with First Pfsense Build

  • Seeking a solution to constantly having to reboot my consumer-grade router in my home network, I have decided to build a system to run Pfsense.  My needs are fairly basic: my local telco company supplies a 15Mbit/1Mbit DSL connection that is fairly stable; fiber is not on the table right now, but if it becomes available in the area in which I live during the next five years or so I doubt that I would purchase anything higher than a 50Mbit/10 Mbit package; I am using DynDNS and am not currently using VPN; I just need to keep five computers and an X-Box running without having to throw my router's power switch off and on two or three times per day.

    I am seeking input on building a Pfsense system from experienced users.  After researching the Pfsense hardware forum for a number of days, I am considering purchasing the following hardware:

    SUPERMICRO MBD-X7SPA-HF-D525-O Mini-ITX Server Motherboard   $200.00
    CRUCIAL 8GB 204-Pin DDR3 CT2KIT51264BC1067 SO-DIMM                $35.00
    MINI-BOX M350 Universal Mini-ITX enclosure                                   $40.00
    MINI-BOX Pico PSU-120 + 60W Adapter Power Kit                            $45.00
    MINI-BOX DF124010BM FANS (2)                                                    $6.00

    I have yet to decide upon a suitable hard drive.

    I have read many posts in this forum recommending an i3-based motherboard over an Atom-based one; however, given my relatively low throughput needs, I believe that the processor/motherboard combination I am considering would be a sufficient and stable platform–and it has a number of neat software installation features which I like (e.g., IPMI 2.0).  Some users have said that the Atom will allow for only 4 GB of RAM, but I plan on installing the 64-bit software and I have read posts from other users who say that 8 GB of RAM works on the motherboard I am considering.  The Mini-Box enclosure I am looking at has a small footprint and allows for better ventillation than any other enclosure that I have yet found (I would be locating the system in a closet that does get warm during the summer), and its external power supply seems to be sufficient to run the motherboard, one or two small fans (if needed), and a hard drive--the fans are cheap and I wouldn't mind replacing them occasionally, considering their low price.

    The only part of the system upon which I have yet to decide is the hard drive.  It would be nice to use a solid state drive, but most of the posts that I have read in this forum advise that a SSD would limit my software feature options.  Hard drives are expensive right now, but I would think that a relatively small drive (e.g., 20-40 GB--if I can find one) would be more than sufficient.  I am looking for an enterprize-grade 2.5" drive that does not cost an arm and a leg.  Stability and reliability are my primary goals.

    Any recommendations that any member of this forum can offer would be welcome as I consider building my system.  Thank You. :o

  • Do you just want a basic router?  Unless you want to run a squid proxy or some other thing that writes data to disk, I can't think why a solid state disk wouldn't be fine.  I just bought a SATA DOM module which is neat - (only $30 on ebay)

    The fans are probably not required.  I have a D525 setup with no fans in an M350.

    8GB RAM seems overkill.  Again, unless you're running something on this that requires a bunch of RAM for some reason, even 2GB is overkill.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Even if you are running Snort and Squid you won't need more than 2GB of ram (you probably won't use most of that!).
    The dual core Atom will easily handle your connection speeds.


  • @stephenw10:

    Even if you are running Snort and Squid you won't need more than 2GB of ram (you probably won't use most of that!).


    Well it depends on how you setup snort and squid. Here using AC-BNFA on three interfaces. Total memory usage is at 73% of 4GB. Best to have some headroom than run out of RAM and use swap. And memory is cheap these days.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Impressive ram use!
    On a single WAN at 15Mbps I think it unlikely though.
    I was really trying to show that the 4GB limit of an Atom system is very unlikely to be a problem.  :)


  • How large of a SATA DOM do I need for the enbedded 64-bit version of PfSense?

    Also, so do you think I should buy only 4 GB of RAM?

  • I used a 2GB DOM for the full 64-bit version of pfSense.. and there's 1.7GB free :)

    The embedded can be installed on a 512MB CF card so that gives you an idea.

  • @Nonsense:

    Also, so do you think I should buy only 4 GB of RAM?

    I think if it is not to much more for the 8GB why not get it. But on other hand if you don't plan to use packages that will use a lot of RAM. 2-4GB should be plenty, like others have said.

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