Jetway HBJC200F99-525-B

Build a Low Power pfSense Router

When I was setting up my home file server, I wanted to have external access to it when I was away. Simple enough, I would just open the admin panel of my wireless router, open a few ports and viola. I can now access it remotely. Then, as I wanted to start doing more things like configuring multiple public IP addresses, multiple LAN sub-nets, bandwidth allocation, it became apparent that my seemingly robust router only scratched the surface. If I was going to configure my network to handle the connections I needed, I would need something a little more sophisticated. That is where pfSense comes in.

pfsense logo

Because I’m the type of person that would prefer to build something myself than just buy something off the rack, I looked into a handle of options. One was to flash the firmware of a Linksys router with http://www.dd-wrt.com/, but the reviews seemed hit and miss. I did look into commercial options, but while I was willing to spend some money, most of these were out of my price range. I then came across http://www.pfsense.org/. After reading through all the documentation, reading reviews and a handful of YouTube videos it became apparent that this would do what I needed, and I could build it too.

Jetway HBJC200F99-525-B
Jetway HBJC200F99-525-B used to build a PfSense Router

I began looking at hardware. My main requirement was that it needed to be completely functional and be able to handle any of the features I was planning to use in the software while at the same time using the least amount of power. Since this would be running all the time, I didn’t want it to be running on a machine that would have a high base line of power consumption. After a day of scouring the internet, the Jetway JBC200F99-525-B that came with a JetWay JNF99FL-525-LF motherboard seemed like the best fit.

It is running an Intel Atom D525 processor, has 2 integrated NICs and allows me to add a Jetway AD3INLAN-G 3 x Gigabit LAN Daughterboard to expand up to five total NICs. The machine has built in VGA out to hook up a monitor during installation and the unit itself is fairly small. So I ordered it along with an Intel NIC daughterboard. Once it arrived I threw 8GB of memory in that I had left over from my MacBook, and a 320GB 2.5″ hard drive I stole out of my other laptop.

I threw the latest build of pfSense on a usb drive, configured the bios to how I liked it and then installed it based on the documentation from pfSense. I set the bios to automatically restart after a power failure, and this has worked successfully after a few power failures to restart the machine automatically. This is important to maintain access when you have a power failure at home while you are away. Everything installed fine, without any issues. Once it was ready, I hooked up my desktop and hopped into the admin panel. Right away it was apparent that there was much more available than my old router.

First thing I did was set my firewall rules, then configured the DHCP server for each subnet. I have each subnet running off each NIC. Once that was done, I could then statically map each public IP to an internal device, or specifically forward a port from one public IP to an internal device. After that was done, I was pretty happy since that was the main issue that I couldn’t do with my old router.

But then I needed to figure out how to create my wireless network. Most of what I read online was people hooking up a standard Wireless Access Point and I was about to go that route when I figured that I could probably just hook up my old wireless router to a new subnet and configure the settings on both. I did just that and it worked. I set the wireless router gateway to be a client on the wireless subnet of the pfSense router and set the wireless router to have a new DHCP range. After doing that it worked as I expected, and I didn’t have to buy a new wireless access point.

After using my D-Link DIR-655 router for over a year in this configuration, it starting having issues. I had to start rebooting the router almost every day. Since I had been using the router for over 5 years, I figured it was about time to retire it. I went with a Ubiquiti UAP-AC-LR Networks Enterprise Wi-Fi System. For about $100, it has fit the bill nicely. It is powered with Power Over Ethernet and includes the POE adapter if you don’t already have one. I turned off the DHCP settings, assigned a static IP to it, configured the authentication and encryption, connected it to the pfSense network and it was ready to go.

I have been running the pfSense router for about two years now and have no complaints. During this time, I have updated the software a handful of times since I first installed it, and the automatic upgrade process has been completely painless. I’ve always made sure to save a local copy of the config file before upgrading in case I hit a snag and needed to re-install the software. For about $200 and the additional parts I already had on hand I was up and running. Plus there are many other options available like setting up a VPN connection.

Issues I Encountered

I will admit I did run across two problems with the router. The first one was, I tried to install pfSense onto a compact flash card using a CF to SATA adapter. I kept getting errors during the installation and finally decided to install the traditional hard drive. After I installed it, everything went smoothly. Secondly, I had an issue with receiving a “Strict” NAT type when playing Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer. Nothing I tried seemed to work. Even completely opening the firewall would still give me this error. After a long and frustrating period of trying to get it work, I finally found out that I needed to configure the outbound NAT settings to manual and change it to a static port. Once I did this, the NAT type switched to open.

Leave a Reply