Alternate Installation Techniques

This section describes alternate methods of installation that may be easier for certain rare hardware requirements.

Installation with drive in a different machine

If it is difficult or impossible to boot from USB or from a DVD/CD drive to the target hardware, another computer may be utilized to install pfSense® software on the target hard drive. The drive may then be moved to the original machine.

After installation, allow the installation machine to restart and power it off once it returns to the BIOS screen. Remove the hard drive from the installation machine and place it into the target firewall. After boot, the firewall will prompt for interface assignment and then the rest of the configuration may be performed as usual.


Current versions of pfSense software use techniques such as GPT id, UFS id, and ZFS metadata to mount disks, so even though the device may appear using a different disk driver on the actual target hardware, the OS will still be able to locate and mount the appropriate disk.

Installation in VMware with USB Redirection

USB redirection in VMware Player and Workstation can be used to install to a hard drive. Most any USB to SATA/IDE or similar adapter will work for this purpose. The following instructions are specific to VMware Workstation 12, but will also work on other recent versions.

  • Plug the target drive into the SATA/IDE adapter or SD/CF writer

  • Plug the adapter/writer into the client PC

  • Open VMware Workstation on the client PC

  • Create a VM, which should have USB enabled (It is enabled by default)

  • Set the VM to connect the installer ISO image at boot in its virtual CD/DVD drive

  • Start the virtual machine

  • Press Esc during the VM BIOS screen to load the boot menu

  • Find the icon for the USB adapter in the bottom of the VMware window

  • Click the icon for the USB adapter

  • Click Connect (Disconnect from host)

  • Select CD-ROM Drive from the boot menu

  • Continue through the installation the same as a normal, ensure that the correct drive is selected during the installation process

  • Shut down the VM

  • Remove the target disk from the client PC

  • Attach the target disk to the intended firewall hardware

Older versions of VMware workstation can use automatic USB redirection to accomplish the same goal. Unplug the USB device, click inside the VM to give it focus, and then plug in the USB device. The VM should attach to the USB drive.