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Introduction to pfSense-An Open Source Firewall and Router Platform

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Sam works as a network analyst for an algorithmic trading firm. He obtained his bachelor's degree in information technology from UMKC.

pfSense Dashboard

pfSense Dashboard

What Is pfSense?

pfSense is a free, customized distribution of FreeBSD that can turn an old computer into a full featured router and firewall.

pfSense was created in 2004 as a fork of the popular m0n0wall project. The main difference between pfSense and m0n0wall is that pfSense is designed mainly to be installed on PCs instead of embedded devices which allows pfSense to offer more flexibility and features.

pfSense is very flexible and can easily be adapted to numerous applications ranging from a home router to a firewall for a large corporate network. pfSense is easy to install and maintain offering a very useful web based user interface. pfSense includes many features that are often only found in expensive commercial routers.

  • LAN/WAN Router
  • Internet Cafes
  • Wireless Hotspot (Captive Portal)
  • VPN Router
  • Firewall
  • DHCP / DNS Server
  • Wireless Access Point
  • Transparent Squid Proxy Server
  • Multi Wan Router or Load Balancer
  • DNS Blacklist
  • Port Forwarding / NAT (Network Address Translation)

Why Use pfSense Instead of Another Router?

pfSense is fast, free, and stable offering tons of great features.

If you have an existing router that doesn't offer the features, or performance you need pfSense is a great choice to replace it with. Offering complete control of the hardware you can customize your pfSense system with the components you want.

If you've ever shopped for routers or firewalls before, you probably know that depending on the features you are looking for they can be quite expensive. By using pfSense you can save a ton of money without compromising on features.

Embedded Installation

pfSense can also be installed on several different embedded platforms such as PC-Engines, Soekris, Alix, and others.

Embedded installs are a good option if you are looking to create a small, quiet, low power appliance to run your network. If you are a consultant it's going to look a lot more professional to set up an embedded pfSense device for a customer instead of an old PC.

If you decide to do your install on an embedded device be sure to download the embedded version of pfSense. The embedded release is designed to be installed on hardware that uses compact flash for storage. The embedded platform has special tweaks that will greatly extend the life of the storage media.

Soekris net5501

Soekris net5501

Getting Started With pfSense

In order to setup your own pfSense router, you'll need an old computer with at least two network cards installed. If you don't have a spare computer you can probably find one at a low cost on Craigslist, eBay, or local garage sales. pfSense can also run on a number of embedded devices like the Soekris Net5501.

For a complete walkthrough of the installation process, check out this article on setting up a pfSense router.

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Support Options

There are several options for getting support for pfSense. Free support is available through the forums, mailing list, and also on IRC.

BSD perimeter, the company that founded pfSense also offers commercial support which is designed for users running pfSense in an enterprise environment.

A one-year support subscription includes five hours of support that can be used for configuration questions, network design, migrations to pfSense , as other issues you may encounter.

Commercial support subscribers also gain access to the automatic configuration backup utility which can automatically backup the configuration of your pfSense system. You also get online access to the pfSense book.

Learning More

There is a great community built around pfSense that offers excellent support and
documentation. If your looking to learn more about pfSense or to become an expert I highly recommend checking out the book pfSense: The Definitive Guide by co-founder Chris Buechler.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the default address for pfSense?

Answer: The default address is


markiy071384 on January 22, 2019:

What is the minimum requirements of the pfSense to intall on a pc and serve as firewall server?

Roy T. on October 22, 2017:

As you know, a recent issue of Maximum PC featured pfSense as a project. I got about half way into an install before I got lost in the weeds. Thank you so much for your video. With the ability to pause and repeat sections, I can finally create a custom router for my humble home network. Great work!

Kanusha on March 12, 2017:

thanks for explaining :)

Sam Kear (author) from Kansas City on January 28, 2015:


A bare bones install only needs about 2GB. As you add various packages the disk space requirements can go way up. In most cases an old 40GB hard drive is plenty of space for a caching proxy.

The embedded version can fit on a 1GB flash card but does not support package installation.

TTGReviews on January 26, 2015:

This is good to know, I will refer back to this later. Do you know how much space does pfSense take up on the HDD?

Sam Kear (author) from Kansas City on September 13, 2011:

Hey Jsea21,

There isn't a version of pfSense that runs directly on Windows, pfSense includes it's own operating system (FreeBSD).

Although, it is possible to run pfSense inside a virtual machine on windows. The networking can get a bit tricky but if you want to experiment with it I've included a link to a guide below.

jsea21 on September 13, 2011:

can i use PFsense in windows XP?is there a version for WIndows?

Azhar KHan on August 05, 2011:

Great Work,

aymane on June 06, 2011:

hey. i'm working on a pfsense l7 filtering project and i wanted to ask you if you have ever tried to deny, not an web page to open, but the videos in it. i tried with the l-7 section in pfsense and the http-video but i couldn't.

anyhow your web site is very usefull !

Sam Kear (author) from Kansas City on June 05, 2011:

You're welcome nesrine, thanks for your comment!

nesrine on June 04, 2011:

thanks for explaining :)

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