11 Great Choices for pfSense Hardware (Updated for 2024)

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If you have read a few of my articles, you know I think running pfSense router software is a great idea. It is probably better than your router software. I rebuilt my home lab and bought new hardware to run pfSense which has worked great. A few years ago I wrote an article about good choices for pfSense hardware. Even though I’ve kept that article up to date, after going through the research myself again, I’ve decided it’s time to write a brand new article on the subject. So let’s take a look at 11 great choices for pfSense hardware.

Editor’s Note: I also have an article specifically for those of you looking for 2.5GbE pfSense hardware or those of you looking for 2.5GbE Proxmox hardware and USB NICs.

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using an affiliate link I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Affiliates do not influence my recommendations. Read my disclosures for more information.

pfSense hardware requirements

Everyone will have different hardware needs but here are some common requirements for pretty much any build:

  • The CPU must be powerful enough to route your Internet traffic. The faster your traffic, the more powerful the CPU you will need.
  • Sufficient RAM for the packages you want to run. pfSense doesn’t normally require much RAM, but if you are going to do a lot with it you may need more than the average user. This is especially true if you want to run intrusion detection/protection systems like Snort and Suricata.
  • The CPU should support AES-NI. This is an encryption instruction set that helps pfSense performance, especially with VPNs.
  • At least 2 network interface cards (NICs). You can get away with one using VLAN tagging, but that adds unnecessary complications. In general, you want one NIC for each interface (LAN, WAN, etc.). You probably want an Intel NIC for the best performance and reliability.

For reference, the minimum pfSense hardware requirements are:

  • 64-bit amd64 (x86-64) compatible CPU
  • 1GB or more RAM
  • 8 GB or larger disk drive (SSD, HDD, etc)
  • A compatible network card (again, best two have at least two NICs)
  • A bootable USB drive or CD/DVD-ROM/Blu-Ray drive for installation

Netgate (the company behind pfSense) says the above specs are good if you’re okay with less than 100 Mbps of unencrypted throughput. I think you should look to achieve speeds faster than that, which all of the hardware choices in this article will greatly exceed. Let’s look at some appropriate hardware choices. These are listed in no particular order; they are all great choices. You’ll have to pick the one you want based on your budget and needs.

First Choice: Protectli Vault 4 Port Mini PC

Protectli Vault FW4B - 4 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Quad Core (Celeron J3160), AES-NI, Barebone
  • THE VAULT (FW4B): Secure your network with a compact, fanless & silent firewall. Comes with US-based Support & 30-day money back guarantee!
  • CPU: Intel Quad Core Celeron J3160, 64 bit, up to 2.2GHz, AES-NI hardware support
  • PORTS: 4x Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports, 2x USB 3.0, 1x RJ-45 COM, 2x HDMI
  • COMPONENTS: Barebones for maximum customizability (no RAM or mSATA). coreboot BIOS optional, must be installed by user.
  • COMPATIBILITY: No OS pre-installed. All hardware tested with pfSense, untangle, OPNsense and other popular open-source software solutions.

This is an extremely popular choice for pfSense builds. With its hardware it should easily be able to achieve gigabit speeds and perform well with multiple pfSense packages installed. The version listed above is a barebones version, meaning you’ll need to buy an hard drive and RAM to complete the build. Below are a few different versions of this hardware that might better suit your needs:

Protectli Vault FW4B - 4 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Quad Core, AES-NI, 8GB RAM, 120GB mSATA SSD
Protectli Vault FW4B - 4 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Quad Core, AES-NI, 8GB RAM, 120GB mSATA SSD
CPU: Intel Quad Core Celeron J3160, 64 bit, up to 2.2GHz, AES-NI hardware support; PORTS: 4x Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports, 2x USB 3.0, 1x RJ-45 COM, 2x HDMI
$319.00 Amazon Prime
Protectli Vault FW2B - 2 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Dual Core, AES-NI, 8GB RAM, 120GB mSATA SSD
Protectli Vault FW2B - 2 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Dual Core, AES-NI, 8GB RAM, 120GB mSATA SSD
CPU: Intel Dual Core Celeron, 64 bit, 1.6GHz (Turbo 2.48 GHz), AES-NI hardware support; PORTS: 2x Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC ports, 4x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, 1x RJ-45 COM, 2x HDMI
$249.00 Amazon Prime
Protectli Vault FW6A - 6 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Dual Core, AES-NI, Barebone
Protectli Vault FW6A - 6 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Dual Core, AES-NI, Barebone
PORTS: 6x Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC ports, 4x USB 3.0, 1x RJ-45 COM, 1x HDMI
$329.00

Second Choice: Qotom Mini ITX Q330G4 Intel Core i3

This is the hardware I recently purchased to run pfSense. It easily achieves the near gigabit speeds offered by my ISP, CenturyLink. I run Snort, and a few other packages and this box doesn’t break a sweat. Qotom makes a ton of other devices and configurations, some of which I’ll list below:

Barebones I3 Linux Appliance Q330G4 Core I3-4005U (Barebone WiFi) AES-NI,Fanless,4*Intel Gigabit Ethernet,Support Ubuntu,Linux,OPNsense,Sophos,Vyos,Untangle
Barebones I3 Linux Appliance Q330G4 Core I3-4005U (Barebone WiFi) AES-NI,Fanless,4*Intel Gigabit Ethernet,Support Ubuntu,Linux,OPNsense,Sophos,Vyos,Untangle
NO RAM NO SSD With WIFI; PORTS: 4xIntel I211-AT/I210 Gigabit LAN, 1x USB 3.0,3x USB 2.0, 1x HD Video
$197.00
Qotom-Q555G6-S05 6 Gigabit LAN Ports Mini PC Core i5 7200U Router Firewall Support Win Linux (4G DDR4 RAM + 128GB MSATA SSD)
Qotom-Q555G6-S05 6 Gigabit LAN Ports Mini PC Core i5 7200U Router Firewall Support Win Linux (4G DDR4 RAM + 128GB MSATA SSD)
Main Port: 1 HD Video + 1 COM + 2 USB 2.0 + 2 USB 3.0 + 6 LAN.; Configuration: 4GB DDR4 RAM, 128GB mSATA SSD, NO 2.5″ SATA HDD, NO WiFi, Fanless
$305.56
Qotom-Q575G6-S05 AES-NI Mini PC i7 7500U Core 6 Gigabit NIC Router Support Linux Fanless Mini PC Firewall (4G DDR4 RAM + 16GB MSATA SSD + WiFi)
Qotom-Q575G6-S05 AES-NI Mini PC i7 7500U Core 6 Gigabit NIC Router Support Linux Fanless Mini PC Firewall (4G DDR4 RAM + 16GB MSATA SSD + WiFi)
Main Port: 1 HD Video + 1 COM + 2 USB 2.0 + 2 USB 3.0 + 6 LAN.; Configuration: 4GB DDR4 RAM, 16GB mSATA SSD, WiFi, NO 2.5″ SATA HDD, Fanless
$336.11

Third Choice: Beelink Mini PC

Beelink Mini PC, EQ12 16GB DDR5 500GB SSD, Intel Alder Lake-N100 (up to 3.4GHz), 2.5G Dual LAN Mini Computer Supports WiFi6, BT5.2, USB3.2, 4K@60Hz Triple Display, Home-Server/Network Firewall
  • ⬆️【Powerful Intel N100 Processor】Beelink EQ12 Mini PC is powered by 2023 NEWEST 12th Gen Intel AIder Lake N100 (10nm) Processor (4Cores 4Threads, 6M Cache, up to 3.4GHz), 6W TDP. Performance is up to 39% faster than N5105. A fast, smooth and power-saving mini computer for both daily productivity and entertainment needs. Mini desktop computer is only 4.88 x 4.48 x 1.53 inches and takes up only 1/40 volumn of a traditional host computer. Easy to carry everywhere, your ideal business trip partner!
  • ⬆️【Large Capacity & Expand Friendly】Beelink mini pc comes with single channel SODIMM 16GB DDR5 4800MHz memory and 500GB M.2 PCIe 2280 SSD (expandable up to 2TB), you can also add a 2.5-inch 7mm HDD/SSD to expand the storage (max 2TB, not included) . Large capacity helps to save more large programes like PS, PR, DW, Ai and your favorite movies in the PC and brings quicker load times across your entire catalogue of apps and programs, less idle time waiting and more quality time for work and play.

This is a nice-looking model with dual 2.5GbE LAN ports for extra speed. It also comes with all the RAM (16GB) and hard drive (500GB SSD) that you’ll need for a great pfSense box. Beelink is a well-known and trusted brand.

See also  7 Settings to Configure on Your WI-FI Router Now

Fourth Choice: Netgate models

Netgate 1100 w/pfSense+ Software - Router, Firewall, VPN w/Lifetime TAC Lite Support
  • [Business Ready] Software updates included for product lifetime. Netgate TAC Lite technical support included. One year hardware warranty included.
  • [Easy to Set Up] Pre-loaded with pfSense Plus software to get up and running fast - simply unbox it and start customizing for your secure networking needs.
  • [Powerful Dual Core] A dual core ARM Cortex-A53 1.2 GHz delivers near gigabit routing of common home iPerf3 traffic and in excess of 650 Mbps of firewall throughput.
  • [Efficient Operation] Low power draw, a compact form factor, and silent operation allow it to run unnoticed when placed on a desktop, wall, or rack.
  • [Flexible Configuration Options] Three (3) 1 GbE switched (WAN/LAN/OPT) ports allow you to configure three separate 1 GbE switched ports for nearly a gigabit of bi-directional traffic.

Netgate is the best place to go for an out-of-the-box, fully working, and supported solution. They are the maintainers of pfSense and they sell a few relatively affordable models appropriate for home users. The 1100 above has 3-gigabit ports which means you can use this for multi-WAN or VLANs. It’s fairly low-powered but suitable for most home applications unless you plan on running a lot of intensive packages.

The 2100 is a step up from the 1100. It has 1 WAN port and 4 LAN ports (which can be used for multi-WAN), as well as more processing power and RAM. If you are looking for higher throughput and running more packages this option might be more suitable. The 4200 is big step up in processing speed, power, and price. It also has 2.5GbE ports for more speed. If you have a large network, a fast ISP, and want to run IPS/IDS with VPN this will definitely get the job done.

See also  My 8 Favorite Home Assistant Integrations

Netgate offers more options if you buy from them directly. Keep in mind, you’ll be getting pfSense Plus instead of pfSense CE if you buy a Netgate model.

Netgate 4200 w/pfSense+ Software - Firewall, Router, VPN w/Lifetime TAC Lite Support
Netgate 4200 w/pfSense+ Software – Firewall, Router, VPN w/Lifetime TAC Lite Support
FLEXIBLE – 4 discrete, unswitched 2.5 Gbps capable WAN / LAN ports.; SECURE – Intel AVX2 encryption, plus IPsec, OpenVPN and WireGuard VPN.
$569.00

Fifth Choice: MOGINSOK 4X 2.5GbE Intel I225-V

MOGINSOK 4X 2.5GbE Intel I225-V Ethernet Firewall Appliance Mini PC, Intel Celeron J4125 AES-NI VPN Router PC HDMI VGA 4GB RAM 64GB MSATA SSD
  • 【CPU&Ports】MOGINSOK Firewall Appliance Router MGSRCJ4 with Gemini Lake 10th Gen Intel Celeron J4125 Quad cores Four threads 2.0GHz up to 2.7GHz 4MB cache with Intel UHD Graphics 600,supported AES-NI . Support HDMI+VGA Dual Display,2xUSB 3.0
  • 【Intel Ethernet I225-V 2.5GbE】This Firewall Router with 4*Intel I225 Network card Suppot 2.5GbE, bring you more faster and professional network usage(some system suppliers maybe have not released compatible driver to match yet, suggest to install newest version of following systems: compatiable with pf-sens CE 2.7.X/plus 23.0X, OPNsense 22.1, OpenWrt, ROS7, ESXI, Proxmox, CentOS etc).

This nice little package comes with plenty of RAM and hard drive space pre-installed. You just install pfSense and go! Also great if you are looking for 2.5GbE ports.

Sixth Choice: AWOW Mini PC

AWOW Mini PC Intel Celeron J3455 6GB DDR4, 128 GB SATA SSD, Mini Desktop Computer with Windows 10 Pro, Quad Core, Dual Gigabit Ethernet NIC, Dual HDMI, 5X USB3.0, 4K UHD, Bluetooth AK34 Micro PC
  • 【Excellent Hardware and OS】AK34 mini desktop computer designed by Intel Apollo Lake platform motherboard with Intel Celeron quad core CPU J3455 up to 2.3 GHz, 6GB DDR4, built-in M.2 128GB SSD, 2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz dual band WIFI, dual Gigabytes LAN NIC, dual HDMI for 4K UHD, 5x USB 3.0, Pre-installed licensed Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64bit) and supports Linux. AK34 Mini PC offers excellent performance for HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer), NAS etc.
  • 【Dual LAN ports】This AWOW Micro PC AK34 comes with two Gigabytes LAN ports which provide you much more network usage, such as software router(OpenWRT/ddWRT/Tomato etc.), firewall, NAT and network isolation etc.

Another fully built, and ready-to-go option for pfSense. Its processor is plenty for even power pfSense users. Here are a few different hardware options if you want different specs to suit your needs.

See also  TP-Link EAP 620 V3 Review: Smaller Size + Wi-Fi 6

Seventh Choice: TRIGKEY Mini PC

Sale
TRIGKEY Dual LAN Mini PC OS Pro, New 12th Generation Intel N100(4C, 4T) 16G DDR4 500G PCIE1 SSD G5 Mini Computers, 4K@60Hz HDMI Dual HD Output, Wi-Fi 6, BT 5.2 for Personal, Office PC
  • 🎀【Compact size & incredible performance】TRIGKEY GREEN G5 Mini PC is about 4.88*4.44*1.65 inch, allowing you to take it anywhere you go. Equipped with 12th Gen N100 processor (4C/4T, 4M Cache, up to 3.4 GHz), and Supports OS、Linux-Ubuntu, etc.. The compact size makes the mini pc a top choice for your light OFFICE work, such as AI, PS, CAD, Office, PR, Keyshot.
  • 🎀【UHD Graphics & WIFI 6, BT 5.2】G5 Mini Desktop Computer has equipped with UHD Graphics supporting 4k video playback and web surfing. Dual HDMI allows you to connect two monitors at the same time. It also supports WIFI 6(Max 2400MBPS), BT 5.2 and 1000M LAN ensuring the net speed and performance.

This is an extremely compact mini pc with two gigabit ports and plenty of power to fulfill your pfSense router needs. It comes with the 16GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive meaning it has everything you need to get going right away. It also has a couple of USB slots, including a USB-C slot, for additional expansion.

Eighth Choice: Vnopn Mini PC

Sale
VNOPN Micro Firewall Appliance Intel N3700 Quad Core, 4 Intel 2.5GbE NIC Ports Fanless Mini PC, 4GB RAM DDR3, 64GB mSATA SSD, Network Soft Router Mini Computer, Support AES NI, WiFi
  • 【Processor & OS】: This 4 nic mini pc uses Intel N3700 Processor Quad core 4 threads 2M Cache at 1.6GHz (Burst up to 2.4GHz), supports AES NI; The performance of CPU and GPU are better than J3160/N2940. It supports windows 10, linux ubuntu and more open-source firewall systems, etc. Support Auto Power On, Wake on LAN, RTC wake and PXE boot (“DEL” key to enter BIOS)
  • 【4x Intel 2.5Gigabit Ethernet ports】: This fanless mini pcs all use Intel i225 network card chips, supports 4x 2.5gigabit ethernet to keep stable and high speed. It has a good compatibility for soft routing, firewall and other network applications. This compact pc has more I/O Interface to meet your more needs: 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, 4x RJ45 LAN, 2x USB3.0, 1x DC IN

This mini PC comes with 4 Intel NICs, perfect for those who want to run VLANs. Memory and hard drive are included. Just install pfSense and go. The model below is similar but with fewer network ports but more RAM and a bigger hard drive.

VNOPN Mini PC Intel N3150 Quad Core,Fanless Mini Computer 8G DDR3 128G SSD Windows 10 Pro with License,Dual NIC Ports Micro PC, Desktop PC Support Triple Display, Dual Band WiFi BT4.2
  • 【Excellent Performance】This fanless mini PC is installed with activated windows 10 pro with license, powered by Intel Celeron N3150 4C/4T, which makes this mini desktop PC able to run various programs and load videos stably and smoothly. It is perfect for home entertainment, streaming media, internet surfing, office work, business use and more
  • 【Rich I/O & Compact Size】This mini computer has many different ports to meet your different needs: 2x HDMI, 1x VGA, 2x LAN, 6x USB, 1x Type-C, 1x RS232 COM, 1x MIC&SPK. This small computer is just 7.8 x 4.9 x 1.9 inch and 1.3lbs, which is very lightweight, compact and portable. Also, it has a L-shaped back mount, you can hang it on the back of the monitor, which makes you saving more space and gives you a neat and tidy desktop

Ninth Choice: Teklager

If you don’t want to go through the install yourself you can buy from a 3rd party vendor like Teklager. They allow you to purchase hardware barebones or have pfSense preinstalled.

Tenth Choice: Repurpose an existing desktop

If you have an old desktop lying around, you can probably re-purpose it to being a router. You might need to buy an additional network card for LAN and WAN connections, but chances are the rest of the hardware will work fine. The downside is that this machine will probably use much more electricity than the other options, and it will need to always be on.

Eleventh Choice: Go virtual!

You can also use your old hardware (or new) to make a virtual pfSense router. I decided to go virtual for a while and it worked out well for me. A virtual router can have a lot of advantages, including:

  • Snapshots – Easy to roll back if you mess up a configuration
  • Scalability – Need a more powerful router? No need to buy new hardware, just allocate more power to your virtual router
  • Portability – You can easily move a VM from one machine to another

You can read more about my virtual pfSense install here. You can also find good choices for small-form-factor virtualization servers here.

Bonus Choices: Hardware readers have recommended

Looking for other hardware and home technology recommendations? Be sure to check out the HomeTechHacker Shop and our Home Technology Buyer’s Guide!

Final Thoughts

There are tons of great and affordable pfSense router hardware options available. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them. Just pick the best one that works for you.

Netgate makes good solid options, but you can save some money by going virtual or building your own hardware. No matter how you go, pfSense is a great choice for a home router. If you think pfSense might not be for you, check out these Wi-Fi router recommendations.

Before you build your pfSense router, check out my article about things you should consider before installing pfSense and decide which pfSense version is right for you. After you get it installed, be sure to check out my pfSense tips and make sure you review my advice on the 6 post-installation configurations you should do immediately. Also, if you are running pfSense and need to upgrade, follow these tips to upgrade pfSense the right way.

One last thing – these hardware options will work for OPNSense as well. OPNSense is another BSD-based router distribution that you should also consider as an alternative to pfSense. Here are the top alternatives to pfSense, and this hardware will work for them too.

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2 thoughts on “11 Great Choices for pfSense Hardware (Updated for 2024)”

  1. Very interesting. This is the first time I’ve heard of this piece of hardware. I’m planning to run wired and wireless in my new home, so where would this piece of hardware sit in a wireless access point HW and network switch HW?

    • Hi Brad. A pfSense router would sit right behind your Internet connection (e.g. cable modem) and your switches and wireless access points would connect to it. Most pfSense hardware isn’t great for Wi-Fi, so it is important to have good Wi-Fi access points. I prefer to separate my Wi-Fi access points from my router anyway.

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11 Great Choices for pfSense Hardware (Updated for 2024)

by HomeTechHacker time to read: 6 min