Installing pfSense on a PC Engines APU2

The APU2 came in and now I can install pfSense and share the knowledge.

First things first. The APU2 does not have a Video Out such as VGA or HDMI. It’s a headless System that uses RS-232 to run it until pfSense is installed. The options for this is to use either a DB9 Null Modem Cable if the System you’re going to connect has Serial/RS-232 or use a modern USB to Serial Cable.

For this install the Host Machine is my Desktop running Debian Linux. I am also using a USB to Serial Cable Adapter. It uses the CH341-UART chip. Keep in mind you will need a DB9 Null Modem Adapter, a simple Gender Changer Adapter isn’t going to work. for the connection software wise I am going to use GNU Screen.

We need to download pfSense. Make sure to follow the image below.

After it downloads uncompress the file and use dd (DiskDump) to write to a USB Thumb Drive. The Thumb Drive shows up as /dev/sdc but this varies system to system. If anything insert the Thumb Drive and run sudo dmesg and it should show up last and will say /dev/sd* whatever the * is is the Thumb Drive, could be sdb, sdc, sdd and so on.

For my System I issued this command.

sudo dd if=~/Desktop/pfSense-CE-memstick-serial.img of=/dev/sdc

While it was writing to the Thumb Drive I gathered the rest of the equipment together. Do not power on the APU2 just yet. When the Thumb Drive is ready plug it into the APU2. Launch GNU Screen with this command. Remember I am using a USB 2 Serial Adapter so yours might differ.

screen /dev/ttyUSB0 115200

With Screen running you can now power on the APU2. When you turn it on you should see Text pop up in the window. Select F10 to bring up the Boot Menu and select the Thumb Drive. It will take a couple of minutes to load up but it should go directly into the Installer. From there just follow the prompts and install pfSense like you would on a typical PC.

When finished installing you’ll need to reboot the APU2 and this time hit F10 again and select Manage Payload. This will bring you to a BIOS setup and just tell it to boot from whatever Media you installed pfSense onto. If you skip this part then it will only Boot into MemTest86.

After that it should work and you can then start programming it via the Web UI.

Here is a couple of shots of my APU2.

So far I am impressed. I plan installing it this Weekend and see how it goes.

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