Netgate Blog

Next generation of pfSense embedded now available

Embedded has historically been a second class citizen, with most development focus and most users ( > 80% of downloads) using full installs. Taking advantage of what a full install offers was in fact the original reason for this project, though embedded was later added. This has now changed considerably, with the introduction of the next generation of pfSense embedded. It’s been on the snapshot server for quite some time and been a work in progress for months, but now we want to alert people of its presence for wider testing. It is based on nanobsd, a standardized build methodology for FreeBSD embedded applications.

The changes it brings:

  • Reliable upgrades - Finally, no longer is there a need to re-flash your CF and restore your configuration.
  • Multiple firmware support - there are two partitions, each containing their own separate pfSense install. To test upgrades, you can upgrade the second partition, and roll back to the first if necessary.
  • Package support - packages that are suitable for an embedded platform are supported.
  • Multiple hardware architecture support - with some additional changes that are currently in the works, this will allow us to support non-x86 architectures in the future, where FreeBSD supports those architectures and specific platforms. Expect to see MIPS and ARM first, with others possible. Historically, these platforms had such limited CPU, RAM and flash that we would have been forced to spend an inordinate amount of time trimming things down, removing numerous features only to end up with a much less attractive offering. That development time is better spent elsewhere. With new MIPS and ARM platforms offering considerably more flash and RAM, this is no longer the case. Though these hardware limits are still applicable to your typical consumer grade Linksys and similar routers, they will never be supported. Specific information on supported hardware will come in the future.

There are 512 MB, and 1, 2 and 4 GB images available. The 4 GB images work fine with larger size CF cards. For now there won’t be any images larger than 4 GB, though expect that to change for 2.0.

1.2.3 embedded will be released based on nanobsd, and the old means of doing embedded will be discontinued. This means the minimum CF size for 1.2.3 embedded will be 512 MB. This is necessary because of the dual firmware support, it has to be twice as big, and we want to leave plenty of space for future upgrades.

What about my smaller than 512 MB CF card?

There isn’t an easy way to accommodate CF cards less than 512 MB. A 512 MB card can be found for under $20 USD including shipping, you’ll need to upgrade.


You’ll find images in the nanobsd folders on the snapshot server.


For problem reporting, please use the 1.2.3 board on the forum, or the mailing list.