PCEngines ALIX boards and pfSense

March 4th, 2008 by Scott Ullrich

We have been receiving a lot of requests for help in getting pfSense working on the ALIX board.  The good news is that it does work if you have the latest BIOS version.

Anyone looking to install pfSense on an ALIX, please see this link.

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7 Responses to “PCEngines ALIX boards and pfSense”

  1. StarScream Says:

    I have an Alix 2c3 router board up and running with pfsense 1.2 full (!) on a microdrive. I can install packages and “unlock” all other stuff what is in the full version :)

    Here is the procedure:
    1: buy a microdrive or at least a compact flash II Ultra Card (but i recommend microdrive)
    2: insert your card a CF2IDE adapter, or an USB Card reader
    3a: insert the pfsense 1.2 full install disc to your cd rom and install the normal way…
    3b: use your cf card as physical disc in vmware, virtualbox or whatever you want use the pfsense image in the cdrom section and install…

    The point is the pfsense installer see your cf card and the most important thing: while the pfsense kernel loading see the booting display and write down what is the device name of your cf card! (my cf card is da0)

    4: install pfsense and leave all settings in default but in the end use Embedded Kernel(!) and the bootloader section use GRUB(!)
    5: boot again from the install CD and select shell from the menu
    6: in the shell:
    pfsense#: ls /dev
    search your device name (da0 or something) and you see what is the full name of the pfsense partition. if your device name is da0 the full name is da0s1a
    7: mount this partition to the mnt
    pfsense#: mount /dev/da0s1a /mnt
    8: and then edit the fstab file, replace all da0 or whatever is your device name to ad0!
    pfsense#: vi /mnt/etc/fstab
    da0s1a change to ad0s1a and then replace all da0 string
    9: save the file and exit from the shell
    10: halt your pc or virtual pc place your card to the alix board use, connect a console cable and power up. Your board is booting and ready for configuration :)

    Enjoy!

    If any question you have contact me: vadonka@bluebottle.com

  2. Robert Says:

    Two questions on these instructions, after you reprogram the BIOS.

    1) Can you leave the drive configuration in LBA mode for the CF card?

    2) Does this change the instructions if you use a microdrive in the ALIX with the full version of pfSense? Same for LBA.

  3. Chris Buechler Says:

    The default BIOS configuration on the latest BIOS revision works fine for CF. I haven’t tried a microdrive in one yet, so I can’t comment there. I know one of the pfSense developers has tried a 40 GB drive in one, and ran into a known bug in the latest BIOS revision where it can’t properly address large drives. I believe if you’re under 4 GB you’ll be ok, but check the release notes on the latest ALIX BIOS for the details.

  4. StarScream Says:

    I use LBA mode but CHS mode work too. Microdrive or CF is equal. The one have moving parts the other not.

  5. StarScream Says:

    Oh yes, i have a 2GB Hitachi microdrive, i know tha anomaly that the card size is larger than 4gb.

  6. David Samms Says:

    I have had very good luck with ALIX and 40G seagate IDE drives. I mount the laptop drives inside the ALIX case and have a neat mini PC running the full version of pfSense. If any of you want to try it, I have extra 44 pin connectors and cables available. If you are having trouble with the ALIX and want to ask questions feel free to email me. dsamms at nw-ds.com

  7. Bill Says:

    When buying a ALIX board from Netgate, either separately or as part of a “kit”, be aware that you will have to perform the following steps (details of which are outlined by other posts on the pfSense lists.):
    1. Update the ALIX BIOS to the latest version. Go to this link for the latest download (http://www.pcengines.ch/alix2.htm) and there is a link there for the instructions for using FreeDOS.
    2. Download the latest version of pfSense to a CF card (many ways to do that), but make sure you download the embedded version. We use a CF reader/writer and physdiskwrite.
    3. Set up pfSense. I am surprised how many people try to plug-n-play a raw download of pfSense. Starting with the assignment of interfaces, the set up must be done or either nothing or unpredictable results will occur.
    4. Suggest that once you get a running system, use the backup capabilty to save your configuration in XML.

    If you order an assembled system, such as any of the Netgate m1n1wall products, Netgate will perform steps 1, 2 and assign at least one interface (vr0) to the LAN.

    Hope this helps everyone understand what they are getting.

Please don’t post technical questions or off-topic comments. It is far more likely that your questions and concerns will be addressed effectively through one of our support channels.

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