Install pfSense to the same USB stick it booted from?



  • I can only hope that I wound up missing something glaringly obvious or totally over thinking this.

    I've been using this version of pfSense: pfSense-memstick-2.2.6-RELEASE-i386.img.gz

    I've been testing pfSense on a laptop (boot to USB, 1x USB NIC, 1x wired NIC, 1x WiFi), and I could not get pfSense to retain its configuration until I added a second USB stick (and hub) with just the config file.  The laptop had a physically damaged USB port, that's why I needed the hub; I had run out of them.

    I can only hope that this was some kludge that a n00b like me would come up with.  However, I just did some research and was not able to find some other way to make it work.  The laptop did have a hard drive but pfSense would not boot off of it for some odd reason (after installing via the same USB stick).  I also tried several other machines and my only option thus far has been USB boot.

    I found this post https://forum.pfsense.org/index.php?topic=57064.msg304645#msg304645 from several years ago talking about how there is a config partition on the embedded USB image.  In my testing, a power cycle would reset the pfSense box to defaults.  It was an unplanned power outage, so I wasn't looking for trouble, but I had happened to have backed up the config.  When I attempted to reload it, I discovered the kafkaesque nature of trying to load a config file to a pfSense USB stick.  And wound up adding more hardware to my kludge test rig.

    How can I run a pfSense box off of a single USB stick?  I can navigate a command line, iff I have the proper commands.  Otherwise, I would not have a clue what to do in BSD (I'm a Windows user primarily).  I don't think I should have to though.

    Alternatively, do I need a hard drive?  If so, how big of a hard drive should I use?



  • As it turns out, I did overlook something.  I was using the "USB Memstick" version, which is a USB version of the LiveCD, when I wanted the "Embedded (NanoBSD)" version.  Somehow, I had conflated the two; probably because they use similar words and terminology and both talk about how flash have limited write cycles.

    For anyone following behind with the same question, use the "Embedded (NanoBSD)" version.

    Read more here:
    https://www.pfsense.org/download/

    Install pfSense TO USB FROM USB Stick/Flash?
    https://forum.pfsense.org/index.php?topic=79723



  • The mem stick full version (or live cd) can be installed to a usb stick and then run from that one single usb stick.  Been installing and running that way for years.  The trick is knowing which usb stick to select during installation if they are both identical.

    With the full version on usb stick enable the /tmp and /var ram disk to reduce write cycles.

    I also like to use a short usb extension cable for thermal isolation from the computer.  Heat kills.


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