Is pfSense what I need?

  • I'm trying to replace the wireless router in my office so I thought I wanted to try using a computer. The main reason is stability because all the routers we buy dies in less than 1 year and I'm tired of rebooting them over and over. I plan to use an old Dell desktop (circa 2007) and add a dual port Intel gigabit NIC and a wireless NIC. Am I correct in thinking that I can connect the DSL modem into 1 of the Intel port, connect a switch into the other Intel port, then have the wireless NIC do Wifi? Would all the NIC work together on a single network?

  • Hello.

    That what I'm already doing for years now.
    A stripped down Dell Dimension PC with extra network cards.

    Consider using one LAN segment, add a switch and to that switch you add a stand alone access point.
    This way, the pfSense is  just doing what's it does best and you could lock it away.

    Give it its own UPS and you will see up times that last for months …

  • Netgate Administrator

    Yes you can do that. However the range of wifi cards that will work with pfSense is limited. There is no support for 802.11n at all, though some 'n' cards will function at 'g' speeds. Many people choose to use a separate access point instead. If you choose to use a card your best bet is to get an older Atheros based card.

    See this spreadsheet for more detail:


  • LAYER 8 Global Moderator

    Yeah you could go as Gertjan suggests and just connect a AP to your switch your connecting to one of the ports in your desktop hardware running pfsense.

    Or you could get fancier and add another nic to your box and run a new segment that you connect your AP(s) too or just connect to your pfsense nic.

    There are so many advantages to running a AP vs a wireless card you put in pfsense box.  For starters the supported hardware is very limited.  Another is that you could have multiple AP around the location.  Even if just one - pfsense can be in a corner somewhere your internet connection comes in.  While your AP could be centrally located for best coverage.  AP normally have better antennas than just some wireless card, etc.

    If need be you could just leverage whatever wireless router your using now as just an AP..  Just turn off its dhcp server, and connect it to your network via one of its LAN ports = shazam instant AP ;)

    You might want to look into some of these for your wireless network as your AP(s)

  • It seems like computer running pfsense + AP is the better way to go as you suggested. Currently I have a single wireless router hooked up to the DSL modem and it never seems to  be up more than a week. Plus, the router is right next to one of the employee and he's getting annoyed of setting right next to the router. I will give it a try then.

  • I'd second what Steve and John are saying (I have to, since I learned a lot from them  ;D). The link John posts I can recommend: it is exactly what I bought based on recommendations on this very fine forum, and my neighbors are wondering why the NASA headquarters (the name of my AP) is blowing away their wireless  ;D ;D ;D

    I have the 'Pro' version, by the way, since that is also 5Ghz. The normal one is only 2,4Ghz.

  • Any other reliable AP maker besides ubiquiti you can recommend? All I would need is stability and QoS for the VoIP apps, no need other any fancy VPN or security stuff.

  • You might find that your wireless router is far more stable if it's not acting as a router but as an AP.

    I had a couple of truly awful D-link DIR-685 wireless routers that someone gave me.  They got re-used as APs and are pretty solid in that role.

  • Ok I will repurpose my router as AP for now. I just need to acquire some NIC and then I can start with this.

  • Do I need 3 NIC total to set this up?

    pfsense box - NIC 1 = WAN
                          NIC 2 = switch
                          NIC 3 = connect to wireless AP

    It is possible to do this with 2 NIC?

  • @godlyatheist:

    Do I need 3 NIC total to set this up?

    pfsense box - NIC 1 = WAN
                          NIC 2 = switch
                          NIC 3 = connect to wireless AP

    It is possible to do this with 2 NIC?

    If you don't want your AP to be on the switch/LAN, yes, you will need three NICs.

  • Ok I have the AP connected to the switch right now, easier this way I think. BTW, is there a way to make the pfsense box automatically start? I have to press F1 everytime the computer boots up to start pfsense, else it just stays at the screen awaiting command.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Hmm, that shouldn't happen. Does it have more than one choice, F1 F2 etc?


  • It says something like:

    F1 pfsense
    F2 PXE


    I'd have to wait til the office is empty to reboot to get the exact wording on the screen. It would stay that way unless I did something, like press F1.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Hmm, not too sure what to suggest here. Normally the boot loader should timeout and automatically select F1. Quite why it isn't I don't know. Have you changed anything in the box since you installed, like perhaps added or enabled something that provided the PXE boot option?

    You could try this:

    That carries some risk though. Make sure you know which disk you're using!


Log in to reply