By far pfSense is one of the most powerful and flexible firewall suitable for both physical and virtual deployments. This article as part of a dedicated series follows up on how to install pfSense on VMware based homelab. pfSense is very friendly resource wise and running this versatile router in a virtual environment is very simple and straight forward. All configurations are pretty much wizard driven and the command-line is available as well for the “die-hard” out there willing to automate different aspects of the pfSense deployment.
At the time of running the installation the pfSense version was 2.4.4. At the time of writing the latest version is 2.4.5_1. The process to install pfSense is pretty much similar and is based on text menu typical for solutions based on FreeBSD and similar. There are two stages to install pf Sense router. The first one covers the basic install where pretty much the partitions are created, extract and copy the binaries, start the services and reboot. This leads to the next stage and carry on with Networking part as covered in the next article.
Install pfSense virtual router on VMware
As soon as the virtual machine boots the attached pfSense ISO will present the welcome menu to install pfSense. This also provides the option to add special parameters when working with specific hardware and configurations. In this case, the virtual pfSense router runs on a VMware virtual machines which provides a “standard” x86 environment. So no additional kernel parameters are required. Option “1” is default or just wait for the auto-boot to complete.
Next screen is to accept the License Agreement and continue with the install of pfSense router.
For first time install of course the first option is the default choice. From the same wizard it is still possible to run special parameters through the Rescue Shell or even restore configurations by importing again the .xml configuration file. pfSense provides these options in the web interface and also the ability to choose which specific configuration to restore. In case where the web interface is not usable then running to a “well known restore point” is the easiest way to recover.
Next is to choose the country and associated keyboard layout. Conveniently the wizard includes the utility to test special characters in the keyboard. Very recommended when planning to use these in the passwords and using the VMware Remote Console. By default it maps to English (US) and some keys might of course be different. It saves a lot of time making sure the right passwords are typed.
Next step is about the partition pfSense will use extract and copy the main install files. For standard install the suggestion is to leave this to “Auto (UFS)” unless custom values are desired. For example for the size of the paging file or maybe some special disk partitions to store content. Some that should be planned ahead when adding extra roles like Web Proxy, AV, Cache and more. Ideally these should use separate disks without impacting the boot disk. Last but not least also the ability to leverage the ZFS file system which adds even more flexibility and resiliency with more disk pool options when compared to more traditional file systems.
At this point everything is ready for the wizard to start partitioning the selected disk and start copying the installation files. The process is very fast and not taking much time to complete.
Once all the necessary files are copied a final message offers the option to start the shell in case further modifications are required before the first reboot. As no changes are needed at this point, it is a good time to complete the install.
And a final screen to reboot the system and make the changes effective. During the restart of the virtual machine it is a good idea to disconnect the ISO file from the virtual machine.