Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I have a need for a router in my new network setup.  I chatted with a friend of mine who is an expert in this area.  I was thinking about buying a router and then flashing it with some opensource software to control it.

He immediately tried to turn me off of this idea.  He said the current state of router hardware is not to be trusted… Even if you can flash the software there still may be hardware that can be hacked or is outright malicious. 

His solution…  use pfsense and either install it on an old PC or buy a dedicated small pc engine to run it.

I decided to go the pc engine route.

I ordered an apu2c4  PC Engine (specs )

I purchase it from minibox for $170.  I also bought an enclosure and a power adapter.

I also bought an mSata hard drive on amazon

Then I bought a USB to DB9F serial with USB cable directly from pcengine (did not want to have to deal with a bad cable)

All in all I spent ~$300 ($70 of that for the HD…)

Now I need to get it all set up.

Prepping and turning it on

There is a little assembly required for this.  The PC Engine does not have its heatsink attached, you need to attach it.

Here is a link to the how to document

And here is what I did

Heat sink is on the back of the package J

Here is the back of the heatsink and two blue thermal pads for sticking to CPU

Here is the CPU I need to put the heatsink on.  Other models have a second chip you need to put a sink on this one just has the one.

Remove one side of the sticky blue pad and put it on the CPU.

Now remove the stick from the top part.

Now put it on top and let them attach.

I think at this point it’s a good idea to put it in the enclosure, which will allow the pad to rest on the bottom of the enclosure (I think…)

But I have an issue the enclosure I have needs a little tweaking to work with this board.

Install the mSata Drive

Now plug it in J

I heard a beep J

Next step connect to it and install pfsense.

Download putty

Head over to

Download and install the putty tool.

Open up the putty tool

Unplug the power from the board and plug in the USB to COM cable.

Now set the putty tool to the following

And select Serial.

Click Open

If you get an error, like I did

OK I am having issues on mine let me see if I can solve it…

Fix issues

Open Device manager

In device manager go to View and make sure Show Hidden Devices is enabled.

In theory it should show up under Ports (Com & LPT)

But for some reason I have mine show up in Other devices.
I think I need to install a driver

Download it

Run installer

Bam I can see it now!

Try again

And select Serial.

Still a failure


COM5 at 9600


Now plug it in and watch the console.

Some progress its talking but something is not correct.

Go to the device manager and right click on the device and select properties

Unplugging, restarting putty and trying these options

Select Port settings

Set speed to 115200

Open up putty again and select Serial at the bottom and set the settings like this.

Select Session, Serial and click Open

Hey that looks like something!

Looks like its running some test, hey it has CPU temp nice

If I unplug and plug it back in and press F10 at the right time

I can see that it does see my drive

Now I need to make a bootable USB drive with pfsense installer.

Create USB Bootable drive

Get a  USB that you can completely wipe.

I am selecting 2.4.4, 64 bit, USB memory installer and Serial. 

I am going to be using cygwin (linux on windows) to make a bootable usb drive

First check the checksum

  > sha256sum /cygdrive/c/Users/patman/Downloads/pfSense-CE-memstick-serial-2.4.4-RELEASE-amd64.img.gz

And that matches the site ed5c64d4850d4399cb4384a0ffeee0c0efb3910425608a6fb5a7c6566119d457


Now to make a bootable disk

First see how cygwin sees the usb stick, run this command

  > cat /proc/partitions

There it is sdd

Now I can use that with the dd command to create a bootable usb disk.

Here is the command (I am going to intentionally make this command incorrect because when you run it … it will wipe out your disk and you don’t want to wipe out your main drive!  So Be cautious)

  > gzip -dc /cygdrive/c/Users/patman/Downloads/pfSense-CE-memstick-serial-2.4.4-RELEASE-amd64.img.gz  | dd of=/dev/sddsdd bs=1M

Oops permission denied…

I need to run as root (Adminstrator)

Right click on cygwin and run as administrator.



If I open the drive I see all this gook.
Now let me  plug it into the

Bring up putty again


Press F10 then select the USB Drive.  Which happens to be 1.  Press 1!

Doing something

Wahoo click enter

Click Enter to accept license

Select Install pfsend and hit enter

Use the default keyboard and just hit enter

Used Guided Disk Setup and click enter

Entire disk

DOS Partition

Review and  select Finish and enter Enter


Checksum failure..

OK starting all over again and trying a different dd setting.

  > gzip -dc /cygdrive/c/Users/patman/Downloads/pfSense-CE-memstick-serial-2.4.4-RELEASE-amd64.img.gz  | dd of=/dev/sddsdd obs=64k

Run through the entire process again

Hey it got further J

Select No


Type in exit and press enter

I think I have something…

OK I think its booting off USB.
Let me unplug the power, unplug the USB and start it all up again


I plugged an Ethernet cord from my laptop to the middle Ethernet on the box

Then opened GUI


Username        admin
Password         pfsense


Let me do something

Click on System --> Advanced

Click on Miscellaneous

Select the AMD thermal sensor

Click Save on Bottom

Go back to main page.

And I can see the temperature!

Ok lots more to come as I figure out how pfsense on this dedicated pcengine box.

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