Epic Router – pfsense at home

So, my journey started about a year ago,

My family is meshed, meaning there are a large number of users in one household. Allow me to elaborate.

  • 3 dedicated streaming devices (Amazon Fire sticks)
  • 2 game consoles (none of which are mine)
  • 2 laptops
  • 3 desktops
  • 7 smart phones
  • 2 access points

I think that covers it

crap forgot tablets 2-3

This equates to around 20 clients on the network at any given time, not to mention random devices that appear and disappear as people come and go. Now this wouldn’t be so bad if they were all just checking email but that’s very much not the case. One system belongs to a work at home user for a call center, meaning there is a large amount of data over VPN and thin client traffic daily. The Xbox One uses more data when playing online than I ever imagined. I was shocked and appalled. I’ll get back to that later.

I’m an avid Linux fan and user so i started poking around the internet. Several options came up immediately, but for the sake of this article I settled on pfsense for its features and the ability to add and remove plugins, I like the modular ability to add or remove wanted or unwanted items. It being open source and free were huge selling points as well.

The average higher powered combo router at a big-box retail store is around $120-$200 USD so I set my goal there. around 2 months of online window shopping landed me some sweet deals on fairly powerful tech. I knew that pfsense would run well on relevantly low powered hardware so keeping that in mind I went with an embedded Intel Atom based system with dual gigabit NIC’s. I also decided I’d go with an SSD since I was building an overkill router, might as well. Pfsense doesn’t require much storage space so a small sized SSD is relevantly inexpensive. Without further blabber the build log WITH LINKS! …

The only thing not listed here is one 40mm fan which I will be replacing with 2 as the single 40mm doesn’t seem to be keeping the system as cool as I’d like and the old 40mm I had been rather loud but cooling is cooling and it will do for the time being. After an hour of up time the temperature is holding solid at 45C (113F) which is higher than I’d like but its ok for now. Also, the 24port Gigabit switch and cabling witch I’m not including as they were not part of the router build its self and are not required to make the network function in its most basic since.

So far, the build cost is around $167 USD which is a little higher than I would have liked but it’s well with in the $120-$200 USD big-box store router costs for basic devices. I plan to expand my network with Ubiquity access points. A $55 each for the entry level devices the cost for the entire project will increase quickly however an extreme home router like a Night hawk or Asus AC5300, I’m still with in my cost per features.

Gaming routers include some really powerful hardware coupled with fancy 802.11 features and coverage but at a roughly $300 price of admission it was way more than I wanted to spend. Yes, I know after I buy 2 access points I’ll be sitting at $270 USD total cost of project. Let me say this, for sub-$300 USD my home network will be more powerful and have more enterprise class features than either of the gaming routers with better traffic handling. I hope to back this claim up in the near future if possible.

In closing I don’t claim to be a networking expert or anything like that. I do know for a fact that after I installed my new router and configured it my network performed a ton better. little to no loading or buffering on my streaming devices over my 30Mb down / 5Mb up ISP connection. I hope this post is somewhat helpful to someone in some way.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Epic Router – pfsense at home

  1. Thank you for posting this. Doing a similar router build myself based off this exact same board (I found it before finding your blog post here) and you helped me find the power supply. I did want to note to other people though that this motherboard -CAN- be powered entirely off the 4-pin CPU POWER plug from a standard ATX power supply. You -DO NOT- need the power adapter! Or it could be adapted to power from any 12vDC source if you create an adapter to the 4 pin CPU Power plug. It should only pull 10 watts power total, more like around 8 from DC. It could be very useful as a portable desktop run off some sort of battery easily.

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  2. Also according to Intel spec this CPU is rated for 100c (212F) max operating temp, and the board it’s self is rated to 125c (257 F) max operating temp. It’s totally okay to let this thing run hot and fanless. You do not need a fan what so ever.

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