Watchguard X750e running pfSense on a SATA hard drive easily with about $10 mods



  • Hi everyone,

    Just thought I'd leave this here so someone looking to do the same could have the info.

    Since I've had my X750e for about 2 months, I wanted it to have the "full pfSense experience" with logs/graphics and all. Running that on a CompactFlash was a bad idea, so I began looking into running pfSense on a hard drive. I encountered 3 problems for that.

    1. a regular 3.5" IDE drive (commonly available) won't fit inside if I solder a connector on the board (height adds up and not enough clearance for the top cover to fit)
    2. the 2.5" IDE connector is not the kind you can easily find an adapter for
    3. 2.5" IDE drives are getting hard to get a hold of and are often of a "small" capacity.

    So, I wondered if I could install a commonly available 2.5" SATA drive inside. Well well, it sure is possible! Some how-to's online showed how it was done using a PCI-e card, it was a mess and waaaay too complicated. So I began digging.

    Solution: I've found the "proprietary" connector to IDE 44 pin adapter on eBay listed as a Dell connector like some people mentionned. That was perfect. I've had to buy a lot of 5, so I have 3 left over if anyone wants one. Now to fit the SATA drive, I guessed that a male 44 pin to SATA could do the trick if it existed but I found no evidence online about this possibility. All I could find was people struggling with IDE drives and BIOS settings. So I searched for the right adapter with the right angle for the connectors.

    Then I've found this : http://www.ebay.com/itm/251926632597 (7+15P SATA Hard Drive Female to 44Pin 2.5 IDE Male HDD Adapter Converter Z1)

    This thing works wonderfully once you remove the "cable select" jumper. If you leave it on, it will default to Slave and not boot. If you remove it, then the drive will be automatically detected as Master. All this was tested with no CF card so I don't know if it changes anything when a card is installed.

    Also, I didn't need to change ANYTHING about the hard drive in the BIOS. I've let all hard drive settings to AUTO. The only modification I did was enabling UDMA somewhere in the menus.

    The only "negative" point is that the drive sticks out the back of the Firebox by about 1/8-1/4" (see photos below)

    What you need :

    • 2.5" SATA hard drive (mine's a 100GB Seagate ST910021AS if that matters)
    • 44 pin (male) to SATA adapter  (3$ on eBay http://www.ebay.com/itm/251926632597)
    • 44 pin (female) to motherboard connector adapter (5 for 7$ on eBay http://www.ebay.com/itm/220813768916)
    • Rags or rubber to secure the drive in place
    • Just slightly longer screws for the back panel
    • Null modem cable to flash and setup the bios + do the initial pfSense config
    • optional : something to hold the hard drive in place at the back of the box if you have a flat back panel if you can't find long enough screws
    • phillips screwdriver, but I guess that's pretty obvious

    Steps I've followed:

    Prep work

    1. if you are currently running on a CF, backup your settings first, you will be able to restore them
    2. bend or remove (desolder) the jumpers on the 44 pin to SATA adapter as they might short on a metal bump that is directly underneath the adapter when you install it in the Firebox (see photo 3)
    3. find some rags or spare rubber that you can use to prevent the hard drive from moving vertically inside the Firebox (I've used a few layers of neoprene rubber sheets)
    4. make sure you have the B6 or B7 BIOS installed (I guess more recent should work too, I'm running B7). This is covered here : https://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/PfSense_on_Watchguard_Firebox#Flashing_the_BIOS

    Installation

    1. download the "regular" pfSense image and burn it to a USB key or CD (https://www.pfsense.org/download/mirror.php?section=downloads)
    2. install the SATA drive in a laptop, boot the USB key/CD and install pfSense on the drive by following the installer menus
    3. after the installation is complete, remove the drive from the laptop and prepare it for installation in the X750e by adding the adapters (photos 1-2)
    4. remove the bottom plate at the back of the Firebox, slide the hard drive through the opening
    5. shim it vertically (above and under) at the back using the rags or rubber then reinstall the back plate using a tad bit longer screws. Some watchguard have a curved backplate and some have a flat backplate. If you have the curved one you can install it so the curve points outside to allow for the drive to stick out a bit. If you have a flat panel, I guess you might need a thin aluminum flat bar to secure the hard drive and prevent it from poping out if you cant find long enough screws. (photo 4)
    6. boot, press tab to enter the BIOS, make sure your drive is the primary Master, set all the drive's settings to AUTO, and enable UDMA somewhere else in the menus (sorry I don't have it in front of me right now)
    7. save settings and exit
    8. enjoy!

    I hope this will be of any help to at least one person it the world! :)

    Photo 1

    Photo 2

    Photo 3

    Photo 4

    Photo 5

    Photo 6














  • You could have just gone with a Microdrive  :)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microdrive

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/230860368181




  • @fibrewire:

    You could have just gone with a Microdrive  :)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microdrive

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/230860368181

    Yes I could, but due to the rarity, and possibility of cheap chinese knockoff, I prefer going the regular hard drive way. And it was cheaper to get 2 adapters for less than $10 vs getting a microdrive for $15-20 since I already had the hard drive. The turnaround is also quicker if I ever need to replace it.



  • SWEET
    I just ordered the parts to convert my 750 from CF to HD…
    Thank you



  • @harveje:

    SWEET
    I just ordered the parts to convert my 750 from CF to HD…
    Thank you

    Glad I could help. Keep us posted with the result!



  • Parts finally arrived and lesson learned so far…
    Pay attention to the sata to 44 pin adapter..... my pc board is vertical where yours in horizontal and inline with the watchguards port... I do have a 44 pin hard drive that I'm going to try now and if it fails mod something up for the sata drive and adapter to work.
    More to come



  • Yes, that is why I said that I searched for the right adapter with the right angle for the connectors.

    I think the one you got will not fit because the SATA connector will have to go down instead of up and it will hit the bottom of the case



  • well amazon prime to the rescue… but in the mean time I rigged a usb to ide setup and installed pfsense on on old  ide drive I found, loaded it, rebooted laptop to verify, removed cabling, added the dell connector and fitted the ide into the watchguard, slid cf card out, booted to bios, set disk in bios, and it will only boot up to the i/o's box. reset cyl in bios to 2, rebooted and same issue, set udma to auto, still stops at the same point..
    Then I had to leave for work so I'll mess again tonight.
    between this box, a new voip box, a friggin win 10 desktop that crashes and configuring a kodi-pi box my head hurts...



  • well another pickle..
    Finally got the ide to boot
    toshiba 60gb with latest pf release
    while booting it goes into the mountroot> routine
    bios is set to manual, chs, 2 heads if I put it in auto detect it will not boot
    drive is ada0
    I've tried the ufs:/dev/….... that I could find in the forum but it will not get past that point
    tried safe mode, verbose boot, etc..
    Any ideas?
    I'm running bios 6 or 7  checking now
    Thanks,



  • @harveje:

    Any ideas?
    I'm running bios 6 or 7  checking now
    Thanks,

    Try with the Bios 8.1 , then you have ACPI for Cpu temp readings
    and the CF card or Hard drive will be recognized automatically by the Bios without manual settings.

    Good luck.

    Grtz
    DeLorean



  • Bingo…
    That was the missing link.
    Loaded 8.1
    re set bios and she has booted twice so far straight to the console with an old ide drive and that dell connector
    Man the hd makes a Big diff in load up time.
    Now to get the lcd and fan control back working and my ports fixed..
    AwEsOmE...
    I guess I'm a total geek, I had a great running box with the CF card but could not stand that ide adapter not being used...

    Thank to ALL.



  • @DeLorean:

    Try with the Bios 8.1 , then you have ACPI for Cpu temp readings
    and the CF card or Hard drive will be recognized automatically by the Bios without manual settings.

    Strangely it works fine on mine with b7. Maybe something else comes into play somewhere. Any difference between ACPI from B7 and B8.1?



  • Actually I think I had 6 loaded, because I did not have a 7 file in by bios folder.
    And I was not sure 8.1 took because it just went back to the prompt

    The drive I have fits great and even has foam padding around it from the old application. I'll post a pic tonight.

    I am beyond tickled.
    Is there an easy way to load up the fan controller and lcd fix? Would a full backup import those items?
    I think every upgrade wipes them out.

    Thanks again



  • For the fans I use the script described here (option A) : https://www.hexhound.com/quiet-the-fan-on-your-pfsense-watchguard-firewall/

    It allows you to set a threshold temperature and the fan adjusts automatically

    For the LCD fix, what do you mean? I'm using lcdproc-dev and it works fine on my box, and when you backup your settings it should automatically reinstall the packages when you restore from a backup. At least, it did on mine



  • Yep, that's where I got my info last time, got to watch that vi command line tho…
    I finally had to copy everything into a txt doc then copy and paste into pf



  • Well the ide drive fit and works so well I'm just going to use it and make a copy on a sata drive for a backup.
    Updating the Bios was the key factor. Boot up time is way faster too.
    Thanks to All




  • Hi all,

    Sorry for resurrecting this thread but I figured it would be nice to keep the info together.
    I did perform this mod and all is running and booting ok.

    Though I did notice some strange errors in the logs when the devices is running:

    
    (ada0:ata0:0:0:0): READ_DMA. ACB: c8 00 97 9d 6f 49 00 00 00 00 80 00
    (ada0:ata0:0:0:0): CAM status: ATA Status Error
    (ada0:ata0:0:0:0): ATA status: 51 (DRDY SERV ERR), error: 84 (ICRC ABRT )
    (ada0:ata0:0:0:0): RES: 51 84 c6 9d 6f 09 09 00 00 50 00
    (ada0:ata0:0:0:0): Retrying command
    
    

    BIOS (v8) settings:
    IDE master is set to HDD
    Both IDE channel and Access mode are on auto

    IDE primary Master PIO and UDMA are set to Auto
    IDE HDD Block mode and IDE DMA transfer access are enabled

    I think the later two settings are posing these issues though not sure.
    Could anyone tell me how to fix this? or give me some pointers?

    Regards,

    Arganox


  • Netgate Administrator

    That's using a SATA drive with an adapter or an old IDE drive?

    Steve



  • Steve,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I did indeed use a SATA drive with the same connectors as Vizi0n did.
    Forgot to mention that tiny detail  ::)


  • Netgate Administrator

    Hmm, I would guess that's some quirk of the adapter maybe. Assuming the drive itself is good.

    Steve



  • Wery thanks for this manual.
    I was repeat it in myself. And now all is fine.



  • @vizi0n:

    @fibrewire:

    You could have just gone with a Microdrive  :)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microdrive

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/230860368181

    Yes I could, but due to the rarity, and possibility of cheap chinese knockoff, I prefer going the regular hard drive way. And it was cheaper to get 2 adapters for less than $10 vs getting a microdrive for $15-20 since I already had the hard drive. The turnaround is also quicker if I ever need to replace it.

    I just wanted to add that 14 months later, the Microdrive swap has worked really well and is completely idiot-proof. I have a stack of drives on my desk here from that initial buy I made in December 2015 and they are all working great. Probably why Apple elected to use them in their line of iPods so many years ago. They are definitely not counterfeit, there are millions of them ready to go into a landfill and at $2/each its a headache-free way to get hard disk performance into a Watchguard appliance. Super low-power too, if the power goes out and the Watchguard appliance needs to run on a UPS.


  • Netgate Administrator

    Hard to argue with $2.  ;)



  • You can use a 2.5" Sata SSD connected to a Sata controller card,
    thats connected with a PCI-E 1x flex riser cable to the PCI-E 4x slot on the motherboard.
    The differents in navigating speed trough the web UI is like day and night compared to a embedded version run from CF.
    I have a x750e thats converted like this, and runs great.

    Grtz
    DeLorean



  • I was do it!
    But i have a few different moments.
    First, after install i doesn't normally booted. pfsense 2.3.3
    I was stuck after LAN interfaces is initialized.
    So, i going to boot promt, insert
    set console="comconsole"
    boot

    After this i setup my network interfaces and next reboot was fine.
    I use 320 Sata drive with two partition / and swap without any problem.
    Thanks for the manual.



  • The x750e with 32Gb SSD connected to a Sata Controller card conversion that i made a few months ago.

    Grtz
    DeLorean

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  • @DeLorean:

    The x750e with 32Gb SSD connected to a Sata Controller card conversion that i made a few months ago.

    Grtz
    DeLorean

    That is a very nice mod!



  • @vizi0n:

    @DeLorean:

    The x750e with 32Gb SSD connected to a Sata Controller card conversion that i made a few months ago.

    Grtz
    DeLorean

    That is a very nice mod!

    Thank you.
    It was a bit of struggle to get everything together on 1 plexi plate.
    When de power connector is disconnected from the SSD, and after removing the 2 red backplates,
    the total conversion can then be slide out.

    Grtz
    DeLorean


  • Netgate Administrator

    Nice.  :D



  • In last time a have e error on this board.
    Some one have the same issue?
    https://forum.pfsense.org/index.php?topic=128143.msg706598#msg706598
    I can't diagnose problem to resolve this mistake.



  • I am so happy to find this and that I am not the only one still using this hahaha!!

    I just got some COLO on the low low and I have a x550e (post is for a x750e so i'm a lower class :P ) w/16GB flash card in there now but I just got my 160GB IDE H.D.D. that will be install later on this week. However I am having an issue this the LED indicator lights and display, the indicator lights only come on for activity (I guess that is cool) however the display will only show cpu load. I used this https://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/PfSense_on_Watchguard_Firebox#Overview and some other things here on the forum from googling but no luck.

    2.3.4-RELEASE (i386) - NANO
    built on Wed May 03 15:22:11 CDT 2017

    @DeLorean your mod is top of the line :)



  • Netgate Administrator

    The lcdproc package should run pretty reliably in 2.3.4 with whatever option screens you selected.

    To get the NIC LEDs working as expected you need the modified drivers that set the LED registers correctly. However I've seen some reports of them not running nicely in 2.3.X. YMMV.

    Steve



  • @stephenw10:

    The lcdproc package should run pretty reliably in 2.3.4 with whatever option screens you selected.

    To get the NIC LEDs working as expected you need the modified drivers that set the LED registers correctly. However I've seen some reports of them not running nicely in 2.3.X. YMMV.

    Steve

    yeah I will have to work on the LCD a bit and I think I am one of them who is going to have the LED's not run nicely :/ I did modified the drivers and they are still the same. Guess ill have to look into this a bit more.  ::)

    EDIT/ADD TO:
    So I got my IDE drive and installed it, I will make a new post later on to update on the progress



  • I wanted to say a big thanks for this thread, it got me thinking and working away.

    I have been running a Hyper-V VM of pf as my main firewall/VPN in and out to the datacentre for a while but moving to ESXi and having some VM outages led me to wanting hardware appliance to run pf on to avoid having to talk the better half through booting up clustered storage to get pf online and letting me VPN in to fix issues.

    I managed to pick up a WatchGuard X1250E for £125 locally, I then bought a few extras (2x 1GB sticks of PC-8500 RAM, Intel Pentium M 2GHZ CPU, PCIe SATA controller, 4x PCIe flex extender, cables and other misc) and got hacking. I had a stack of 2.5" sata HDD's and SSD's.

    I found that NONE of my CF cards would boot the box (being a photographer, I had lots of cards but none old or slow enough (yes I did change the mode, access and head settings)). I made a clone of the original WG image and then flashed the original 512MB card with FreeDOS and flashed the B7 bios.

    After much batteling with the CF cards I gave in and soldered a USB extension cable to the mobo front connector. I did have difficulty soldering to the ground pad, so I soldered to the shield of the network ports. I also added power from the ATX connector to sata power lead. I know you can use a USB header and have it running at the front but I wanted to route the USB to one of the rear red expansion plates to run my UPS into eventually.

    I then removed the WG PCIe riser and installed my flex extension, added the sata card (mounted to the rear expansion plate as shown below) and by removing the lower plastic card guide, screwed the sata HDD to the existing holes (it needed a gentle file to the rear of the case to fit the HDD in as it is a bit far back).

    With the USB connection working, I flashed a 2.1 serial usbboot image to the stick and got pf installed via serial. From here I left it as a pretty vanilla config, plugged into the network and created a quick allow all rule to get internet access on the box. Then performed an online update to 2.3.4 without any notable issues. From here I restored a backup of my operational pf VM and configured everything as needed (interface names were different, some change in rules etc.)

    I am running a few extra packages, LCDProc, Snort, Squid and it seems to handle these reasonably well. I have noticed though, sometimes after making a few chages to items such as my multiple OpenVPN clients, there would be multiple PHP processes spawned and the CPU would be battered up at 100%. Restarting LCDProc seemed to resolve this. So for now I will stop the service before making a lot of changes and then run once finished (though, making a lot of changes is a rare thing for obvious reasons).

    I have hit an issue today, I normally VPN in via IPSEC over my 4G connection for remote work in the office but in trying to establish the VPN connection today it seems to have half killed the box. I cannot SSH or access the webconfigurator and my OpenVPN connection to the datacentre is down but internet access works fine. That's something to look at during lunch after a drive home.

    TL;DR: Saw this and other posts, bought kit, built firewall. Success.

    Attached are some images of my install for anyone who is interested. I have recently moved house so the rack is in need of a tidy, but as it is in the garage it is neglected currently due to the new family addition! I have a stack of new hardware to go in.

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    ![WhatsApp Image 2017-07-03 at 11.49.35(1).jpg_thumb](/public/imported_attachments/1/WhatsApp Image 2017-07-03 at 11.49.35(1).jpg_thumb)
    ![WhatsApp Image 2017-07-03 at 00.10.26.jpg](/public/imported_attachments/1/WhatsApp Image 2017-07-03 at 00.10.26.jpg)
    ![WhatsApp Image 2017-07-03 at 00.10.26.jpg_thumb](/public/imported_attachments/1/WhatsApp Image 2017-07-03 at 00.10.26.jpg_thumb)


  • Netgate Administrator

    Nice.  :)



  • @magicshine:

    I found that NONE of my CF cards would boot the box (being a photographer, I had lots of cards but none old or slow enough (yes I did change the mode, access and head settings)). I made a clone of the original WG image and then flashed the original 512MB card with FreeDOS and flashed the B7 bios.

    If you flashed Bios version 8.1 , you can forget the settings mode, access and head , because this version
    automatic configure your CF card.

    Grtz
    DeLorean



  • @Fmslick:

    @stephenw10:

    The lcdproc package should run pretty reliably in 2.3.4 with whatever option screens you selected.

    To get the NIC LEDs working as expected you need the modified drivers that set the LED registers correctly. However I've seen some reports of them not running nicely in 2.3.X. YMMV.

    Steve

    yeah I will have to work on the LCD a bit and I think I am one of them who is going to have the LED's not run nicely :/ I did modified the drivers and they are still the same. Guess ill have to look into this a bit more.  ::)

    EDIT/ADD TO:
    So I got my IDE drive and installed it, I will make a new post later on to update on the progress

    I am using these:
    http://www.vizi0n.com/watchguard/if_sk.ko
    http://www.vizi0n.com/watchguard/if_msk.ko

    Solid when link up and no activity
    Blinks when there is activity

    Works fine on 2.3.4

    You can verifiy if the mod is running by running "dmesg | grep LED". You should see an output like this:

    
    [2.3.4-RELEASE][admin@pfSense.localdomain]/root: dmesg | grep LED
    mskc0: <marvell yukon="" 88e8053="" gigabit="" ethernet="" (led="" mod="" 2.2)="">port 0x8000-0x80ff mem 0xd0020000-0xd0023fff irq 16 at device 0.0 on pci1
    mskc1: <marvell yukon="" 88e8053="" gigabit="" ethernet="" (led="" mod="" 2.2)="">port 0x9000-0x90ff mem 0xd0120000-0xd0123fff irq 17 at device 0.0 on pci2
    mskc2: <marvell yukon="" 88e8053="" gigabit="" ethernet="" (led="" mod="" 2.2)="">port 0xa000-0xa0ff mem 0xd0220000-0xd0223fff irq 18 at device 0.0 on pci3
    mskc3: <marvell yukon="" 88e8053="" gigabit="" ethernet="" (led="" mod="" 2.2)="">port 0xb000-0xb0ff mem 0xd0320000-0xd0323fff irq 19 at device 0.0 on pci4
    skc0: <marvell gigabit="" ethernet="" (led="" mod="" 2.2)="">port 0xc000-0xc0ff mem 0xd042c000-0xd042ffff irq 16 at device 0.0 on pci5
    skc1: <marvell gigabit="" ethernet="" (led="" mod="" 2.2)="">port 0xc400-0xc4ff mem 0xd0420000-0xd0423fff irq 17 at device 1.0 on pci5
    skc2: <marvell gigabit="" ethernet="" (led="" mod="" 2.2)="">port 0xc800-0xc8ff mem 0xd0424000-0xd0427fff irq 18 at device 2.0 on pci5
    skc3: <marvell gigabit="" ethernet="" (led="" mod="" 2.2)="">port 0xcc00-0xccff mem 0xd0428000-0xd042bfff irq 19 at device 3.0 on pci5</marvell></marvell></marvell></marvell></marvell></marvell></marvell></marvell> 
    


  • So after running my appliance for a while, it seems to be rather unstable and would fall over daily.
    Mostly when getting a hit of traffic around 50Mb/s.
    The local console would appear normal, but all network traffic would drop and you would not be able to get into the WebGui. I am going to remove the extra 4 ports on the PCIe card and see if this stabilises it, as I know these have been problematic and it does look like a NIC drop to me.



  • @magicshine:

    So after running my appliance for a while, it seems to be rather unstable and would fall over daily.
    Mostly when getting a hit of traffic around 50Mb/s.
    The local console would appear normal, but all network traffic would drop and you would not be able to get into the WebGui. I am going to remove the extra 4 ports on the PCIe card and see if this stabilises it, as I know these have been problematic and it does look like a NIC drop to me.

    I think your problem is the ribbon cable between motherboard
    and PCI-E Sata controller.
    This ribbon seems to be very thin in comparison with a normal PCI-E 1x Risercable.

    Grtz
    DeLorean


  • Netgate Administrator

    Did you add the msi loader variable for the sk driver?
    https://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/PfSense_on_Watchguard_Firebox#Known_Issues_2

    That does only affect the expansion card NICs though and you usually see the timeout errors on the console if you are hitting that.

    Steve