Building firewall based on AMD Phenom II X4 965 PC

  • Hello,

    This is my first post:-)

    I'd like to re-purpose my older PC to build a pfsense firewall.

    Here's the PC config:
    Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 965.
    RAM: 12GB.
    MB: GIGABYTE GA-880GMA-UD2H with on-Board Gigabit/100/1000T Ethernet.
    HD: 120GB.

    I've a few questions:

    1. Is this PC powerful enough for pfsense to sustain 75mbps internet throughput?
    2. What 4-port ethernet NIC would you recommend to add to the PC?
    3. Do I need any additional components?

    Thank you in advance for taking your time to respond to my questions!

  • Hi there,

    Not knowing where you are located and how expensive electric power is in your area I'd like to caution that the cost of running your old PC as a router will be quite high. The motherboard with the processor and all the cards alone will pump close to 150 Watts, with the inefficiency of the PC power supply, the hard drive, etc. my guess is that you should budget 200 Watts. We are not even talking about turning on the monitor, which you don't need. So that gives you a monthly power bill of 0.2x24x30x0.25=$36.00 (assuming you are in NE USA, 30 days, and 25 cents per KWH)
    That gives you an annual power budget of 36x12=$432

    Rather than using your old hardware, you might want to invest in a newer, more cost effective, more pfSense suited hardware which, under those figures would pay for itself probably within 6 months.

    Now, if electricity cost is no problem - because someone else is paying the bill  ;D your hardware is still an overkill; way too much power just idling all day long generating heat.

    As for the network adapter, whether it's a single, double or quad, go for an intel product. I wouldn't suggest a quad as usually they are "smart" controllers with additional on board processing and much more complex device drivers which may or may not play well with pfSense. In any event you have truck load of on board processing power, so why to offload to the net card?

    Also remember, quad net adapters are notoriously expensive because of the special purpose that they serve (none of which is really required for your configuration), so why to spend more money and make your system more complex and prone to compatibility issues.

    One additional component that people often overlook is a UPS unit. It's not so much to power the router when electricity is lost, but to ensure an orderly, clean and gracious powering down of your router. It also helps eliminating voltage spikes and noise on the supply line. You should size it so that you have about 15mn worth of running time on battery. (in a year those 15mn will become 7-8 mn because of battery ageing) And of course the bigger and more power hungry is your router hardware, the larger - therefore more expensive will be your UPS. So, another reason to not use your old hardware.  ;)

    Best of luck.

  • Thank you Halea for your detailed response.

    I'd like to build a pfsense box just to familiarize myself with pfsense capabilities.

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