PfSense on a Riverbed Steelhead

  • Where you ever able to recover the bios password? I have the same issue, trying to get into the bios…

  • You could force bypass off permanently by shorting the control pins to either ground or 1v8/3v3/5v

  • Netgate Administrator

    You have identical hardware?

    it's a little out of date these days. No need to mount RW if you're running Nano as it's always mounted RW.

    Always use /boot/loader.conf.local

    That hardware appears to be 32bit which means no 2.4.


  • hi

    i also interested to get the two left NICs working.

    someone been successful?


  • Netgate Administrator

    You have access to the BIOS?

    Any lan bypass or watchdog functions available there?

    Otherwise you will need to switch the relays manually by flipping the control registers. Or by changing the circuit that drives them.
    Are you up for a challenge?  ;)


  • @stephenw10:

    You have access to the BIOS?

    Any lan bypass or watchdog functions available there?

    Otherwise you will need to switch the relays manually by flipping the control registers. Or by changing the circuit that drives them.
    Are you up for a challenge?  ;)


    Unfortunately there is no option in the BIOS to activate the relays manually.

    I read a few posts on other Websites about bridge the relays power feedpin to an Mosfet to power them from boot.

    iam a noob in things like this. But i really want to get it working. do you have some information, maybe some pictures how i had to modify the relais circuit ?

    here is a picture

    thank you so far

  • Netgate Administrator

    Ok, so to be clear there no bypass OR watchdog settings in the BIOS?

    And there are no jumpers on the PCB? I can't make out any from your photo but it's not very high resolution.

    You have two choices. Electrically bridge the relays by powering them from somewhere. Or, more fun IMO, try to find the GPIO that controls the relays and set it in software.

    There will be typically two places that have GPIOs that could have been used, the ICH and the SuperIO chip. They may have used the parallel port but that's crude, unlikely for relays that are on the main board.


  • I'd go the fun route. It's way more fun.  ;D

  • Netgate Administrator

    Yup, immensely more satisfying when (if) you get it to work.  ;D


  • I took some pictures in better  resolution

    maybe you can see something on it

  • I'm afraid the real tracks are on the other side of the board. On top of that, GPIO control is done in software, so you'd have more luck poking around on the GPIO's on the shell.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Mmm, with no jumpers and nothing in the BIOS it's time to start poking GPIOs.

    You might want to read this thread for some ideas how to do that:


  • Have anyone enable this bypass ports?

  • @HarryH:

    Have anyone enable this bypass ports?

    Poke the GPIOs and you'll know :-)

  • Netgate Administrator

    Yup, you'll have to start poking GPIO registers. Tedious but fun when it works!

    I can probably offer assistance as time allows.


  • @stephenw10

    If you reinstall the original Steelhead code you can toggle the bypass NIC to "fail-to-block" i.e. keep both NICs up all the time. See CLI commands below. The interface name is "inpath0_0". You can do a "show run" CLI command to see all the settings and interface names.

    Once you set "fail-to-block", the HW seems to remember the setting (it must be flipping a hidden BIOS setting) so you can install pfsense and have the additional two NICs.

    Fail-to-Block CLI commands:
    • no interface <interface-name> fail-to-bypass enable: Sets the interface to block when there is a failure.
    • interface <interface-name> fail-to-bypass enable: Sets the interface to bypass when there is a failure.

  • Hello everyone,

    I recently got a Rivebed Steelhead 250L identical to the on the image.
    There is a jumper that (J20) located beside the connection between the power supply and the motherboard.
    Just tried it now and it resets the bios settings :( not the bypass ports.

    I am trying to get ESXI or PFsense or FreeNAS to work on it now.

  • Netgate Administrator

    So you also have ports stuck in by-pass mode? No BIOS access?


  • @stephenw10 Thanks for the reply. Yes they are not turning on. I do have bios access ( pressing del on startup) but no option there to change any setting regarding network.

    Fail-to-Block CLI commands:
    • no interface <interface-name> fail-to-bypass enable: Sets the interface to block when there is a failure.
    • interface <interface-name> fail-to-bypass enable: Sets the interface to bypass when there is a failure.

    Curious that i hear no clicks when i execute the commands, maybe power is already applied.

    When running on RIOS, these commands do turn the lights off/on on the ports. After reboot and boot from pfsense on usb, the ports remain off. Pfsense detects all ports but only AUX and Primary usable.

    I have tried also to install ESXI / Freenas on this appliance with no success even booting.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Ok, so unless you can see any jumpers that might set them then, as I said two years ago, you will have to start poking at GPIOs to try to find what controls them. You might find a clue in the RIOS boot logs or filesystem.


  • Regarding GPIOs, rather than poking around thi maybe this can be of use. Using ipmitool under Linux, these commands are said to enable inpath nics. Never tried it myself.

    ipmitool -v raw 0x3e 0x20 0x80 0x7f 0x00 0x00
    ipmitool -v raw 0x3e 0x20 0x80 0x7f 0x01 0x00

    I think the above alters some i2c registers to do the trick. Try it under Linux first. If it works, try a FreeBSD method for setting such registers.

    I took a look at the, again Linux based, approach used by rbMode on github. That guy's script refers to SMBUS and I can't figure how how SMBUS addresses relate to the ipmitool addresses.

  • Quick note: Riverbed used Silicom bypass nics in their larger appliances. Silicom has FreeBSD drivers with source code on their web site. The source code might provide insight into methods for enabling your bypass nics. URL for Silicom 2port bypass nic here....

  • Netgate Administrator

    Hmm, yeah that's interesting. It could almost certainly be done just using shell script then. Just need to figure out the smbus addresses......

    ipmitool is already installed though and takes the same input as Linux so should would if that data in correct. Though it still requires an IPMI device of some kind in raw mode.
    Anyone able to test it?

  • @Okijames said in PfSense on a Riverbed Steelhead:

    ipmitool -v raw 0x3e 0x20 0x80 0x7f 0x01 0x00

    Just tried it on my riverbed 250 and unfortunetly it did not work. Error is:

    Could not open device at /dev/ipmi0 or /dev/ipmi/0 or /dev/ipmidev/0: No such file or directory

    There is a python script that i have tested to work but only on linux, Debian in my case. Pfsense's FreeBSD no luck so far.
    Maybe the script can help : Script

  • Netgate Administrator

    What happened when you ran rbmode in pfSense? What error?

    You probably have to load the smbus drivers for that to work:

    kldload ichsmb
    kldload smb


  • @stephenw10 said in PfSense on a Riverbed Steelhead:

    kldload smb


    Thank you stephenw10 for your help.
    First the script imports smbus module but cant find it. I had to install pip and then smbus2 and change the script. That error went away.
    I executed the kldload commands with "success".

    After that rbmode gave this error:

    [2.3.5-RELEASE][root@pfSense.localdomain]/usr/local/sbin: rbmode u
    Setting mode to universal

    Traceback (most recent call last):
    File "/usr/local/sbin/rbmode", line 78, in <module>
    File "/usr/local/sbin/rbmode", line 70, in main
    File "/usr/local/sbin/rbmode", line 38, in setMode
    s = smbus2.SMBus(0)
    File "/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/smbus2/", line 279, in init
    File "/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/smbus2/", line 308, in open
    self.fd =, os.O_RDWR)
    OSError: [Errno 2] No such file or directory: '/dev/i2c-0'

    Indeed there is no /dev/i2x-0 but there is a /dev/smb0 so i replaced the reference in from i2c to smb but then another error occurred after re-executing rbmode:

    IOError: [Errno 25] Inappropriate ioctl for device

    Note: I got this script to work on Debian flavour of linux with success.

    My knowledge of python is very very low as is FreeBSD so i am stuck at the moment...

  • FWIWI tried compiling the Silicom drivers on a FreeBSD 10.3 (to match pfSense 2.3.5) and turns out the bpmod.ko kernel module (note this is pre-built, NOT actually available as source code in the driver package) won't work, it complains about not finding a Silicom card, as expected I guess...

  • Netgate Administrator

    With those smb modules loaded try running: smbmsg -p

    That should return all the available smbus devices available. But it also might hang the bus or even the whole box so be ready to power cycle it. It will probably list some things though. Hopefully including 0x24.

    The smbus python tools appear to be more like raw i2c tools. The actual output command in rbmode appears to write to a device at 0x24 with subaddress (or smbus command) 0x55 and whatever the output of that checksum function is. My python sucks! 😉


    You can probably do that easily enough with smbmsg.

  • root@:~ # kldload ichsmb
    ichsmb0: <Intel 631xESB/6321ESB (ESB2) SMBus controller> port 0x540-0x55f irq 19 at device 31.3 on pci0
    smbus0: <System Management Bus> on ichsmb0
    root@:~ # kldload smb
    smb0: <SMBus generic I/O> on smbus0
    root@:~ # smbmsg -p
    Probing for devices on /dev/smb0:
    Device @0x10: w
    Device @0x48: rw
    Device @0x5c: rw
    Device @0x60: rw
    Device @0x64: rw
    Device @0x66: rw
    ichsmb0: device timeout, status=0x41
    ichsmb0: device timeout, status=0x41
    ichsmb0: device timeout, status=0x41
    ichsmb0: device timeout, status=0x41

  • That's what I get, and then the "device timeout" messages continue forever. Rerunning smbmsg -p shows nothing but the timeout messages, so pretty much need to reboot after running once. No x24 addresses of course! curses...

  • Netgate Administrator

    Hmm. Have you also seen that script work in Linux?

    I could imagine the device might come up at a different address in FreeBSD perhaps...

  • @pauloalb Since you got the script to work under Linux...

    What were the values for "calcCheckSums" in this bit of the script?

    s.write_block_data(0x24, 0x55, calcChecksums(cmd_0))
    s.write_block_data(0x24, 0x55, calcChecksums(cmd_1))

    This would give us clues as to what we should give smbmsg to send the same values under BSD. Changing the 0x24 address location per what we see from using "smbmsg -p" .

  • Per some docs...

    write_block_data(i2c_addr, register, data, force=None)
    Write a block of byte data to a given register.
    • i2c_addr (int) – i2c address
    • register (int) – Start register
    • data (list) – List of bytes
    • force (Boolean) –

    So I'm thinking the smbmsg equivalent could be something like this per my smbus scan...

    smbmsg -s 0x48 -c 0x55 -o 3 0x?? 0x?? 0x??

    With the ?? pieces being the values the rbmod script calculates in the above bit of python.

  • Netgate Administrator

    With some extra print calls and no actual smbus writes:

    steve@steve-MMLP7AP-00 ~/Documents $ sudo ./ u
    [sudo] password for steve:      
    Setting mode to universal
    [3, None]
    [3, 1]
    [3, 252, 1, 254, 102, 153]
    [3, 0]
    [3, 252, 0, 255, 102, 153]

    So I expect the required smbmsg command to be something like:

    smbmsg -s 0x24 -c 0x55 -o 6 0x03 0xfc 0x01 0xfe 0x66 0x99
    smbmsg -s 0x24 -c 0x55 -o 6 0x03 0xfc 0x00 0xff 0x66 0x99

    BUT I'm unsure how the checksum applies. i2c doesn't have a checksum but the script calculates the checksum from the data because smbus does. So if smbmsg does the checksum for us it might be:

    smbmsg -s 0x24 -c 0x55 -o 2 0x03 0x01
    smbmsg -s 0x24 -c 0x55 -o 2 0x03 0x00

    That all depends on 0x24 being the real device address....


  • Considering this comment was in the rbmode script all along...


    port 0: 06-03-fc-01-fe-66-99 -> 0x03, 0x01

    port 1: 06-03-fc-00-ff-66-99 -> 0x03, 0x00

    Lines up precisely with your converted output and possible smbmsg commands...

    smbmsg -s 0x24 -c 0x55 -o 6 0x03 0xfc 0x01 0xfe 0x66 0x99
    smbmsg -s 0x24 -c 0x55 -o 6 0x03 0xfc 0x00 0xff 0x66 0x99

    I guess the info was staring us in the face this whole time :)

    Now will it work? smbmsg syntax is cryptic, but will give it a go.


  • Huge thanks to Steve, his print output of rbmode filled in the final pieces!

    First a bit of a caveat: I did this with FreeBSD 12.1. I used a full install of a current FreeBSD version to improve chances of stuff working, have access to extra tools, drivers, etc. that are not in pfSense, let alone and old version of pfSense.

    One thing to note BTW is 12.1 installed from a USB key inserted in the front panel directly to an internal SATA without issue. FreeBSD 10.3 and pfSense 2.3.5 based on same were unable to install directly to an internal SATA.

    So anyway...

    Success! Instant relay click and nic link lights with the first smbmsg command below! LAN0_0 (em0) and WAN0_0 (em1) both working!

    Note they nics did require an "ifconfig emX up" before they could be used but that's to be expected.

    smbmsg -s 0x48 -c 0x55 -o 6 0x03 0xfc 0x01 0xfe 0x66 0x99
    smbmsg -s 0x48 -c 0x55 -o 6 0x03 0xfc 0x00 0xff 0x66 0x99

    The second command doesn't seem to do anything but does not return an error. I rebooted, which does reset the relays, and tried the second command alone, still doesn't seem to do anything, good or bad.

    So next steps would entail getting the following on pfSense, if it's not already there...


    Then alter boot-up config to load the kernel modules and issue the smbmsg commands automatically.

    I won't be doing any of the pfSense bits cause I don't actually want to run a 32bit box. It just always bugged me that half the nics wouldn't work without the original software.

    Anybody want to buy one? :)

    I think I have 2 250s and 2 550s. The 550s for sure (because that's been my box for all this hackery) have a Xeon Sossaman and 4GB ECC RAM. IIRC the 250s have a Celeron and 2GB ECC RAM. No USB DOMs, no HDDs, no software.

  • Netgate Administrator

    The modules are there in pfSense, just not loaded. To run that you would need to add to /boot/loader.conf.local:


    Then run that smbmsg with a shellcmd at boot. Pretty easy.
    Of course not if that is 32bit hardware though. 😉

    I assume the second line is for larger models that have two pairs of ports.

    The fact that code was already in the comments there was confusing. The way it's written looked like they got the i2c output from original OS maybe. The extracted the actual commands from it. But then recreate the same string by calculating the checksum... odd.


  • Special thanks to @stephenw10 and @okijames and everyone that helped.

    I am on my lunch break so i couldn't test this much but i call this a SUCCESS! Both nics do light up and show activity.

    I am running this on a Rivebed Steelhead 250 with pfSense 2.3.5 running from a flash drive plugged in the front of the device with no hdd and no subonModule internal flash plugged in.

    The exact sequence that worked for me, gathering all the bits from previous messages is this:

    kldload ichsmb
    kldload smb
    ifconfig em0 up
    ifconfig em1 up
    smbmsg -s 0x48 -c 0x55 -o 6 0x03 0xfc 0x01 0xfe 0x66 0x99
    smbmsg -s 0x48 -c 0x55 -o 6 0x03 0xfc 0x00 0xff 0x66 0x99

    Thanks again for the fantastic comunity support and engagement from everyone 👍 😁


  • Netgate Administrator


    Interesting that it's apparently at a different address in FreeBSD/pfSense.

    I wouldn't expect you to have to ifconfig up the interface assuming it is assigned and enabled. Usually in that sort of setup the relays disconnect the physical ports but the OS can always see the NIC chip.


  • @stephenw10

    Yeah, different drivers so different reference address I guess.

    You're right re "ifconfig up" requirement, under pfSense anyway. Going through the nic assignment process and ticking the "Enabled" box gets them up and running.

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