pfSense Upgrade Guide

The supported methods to upgrade from one pfSense release to another depend on the platform being used. Any version of pfSense can be reliably upgraded to any newer version while retaining the existing configuration. This includes RC, Beta, and other releases. So long as the upgrade is moving from an older version to a newer version, it will work unless noted otherwise.

Pre-Upgrade Tasks

Make a backup!

First, as always before any major change to the firewall, make sure there is a good, up-to-date backup. Visit Diagnostics > Backup/Restore and download a backup of the firewall configuration (config.xml). AutoConfigBackup can also be used to make a manual backup before upgrading. We strongly advise keeping a local and remote copy of the backup config.xml.

See also

See Backup and Restore for more information about performing backups of the configuration.

Prepare a fall back plan

Before any upgrade is performed, plan for how to recover beforehand. There is a chance that a regression from one version to another, either in the pfSense or FreeBSD code, can leave the firewall unusable. With advance planning, the firewall can quickly be returned to the previous release.

Downgrading to a previous release

Downgrading a full installation to previous releases directly in-place is not supported. Very rarely is it desirable or necessary to go back to a prior release. Should that be necessary, the previous version must be reinstalled and a configuration backup from that version must be restored. Configurations from newer versions cannot be restored to older versions.

For NanoBSD, this can be done by switching back to the previous update slice from the GUI, console, or boot menu. The pre-upgrade configuration will need to be restored restored after the switch.

Reinstalling the previous release

The worst case scenario on upgrading is a FreeBSD regression that prevents the firewall from booting successfully, or no longer communicating with the network. In this case, reinstall from a CD or Memstick for the previous release. Download the appropriate image and have it ready before starting the upgrade procedure.

This is the least likely scenario, with maybe one in every ten or twenty thousand installs affected with upgrades containing significant FreeBSD release changes (such as pfSense 2.3 to 2.4, going from FreeBSD 10.x to 11.x).

VM Snapshots

An easy fall-back plan for virtualized firewalls is to take a snapshot of the VM before performing an upgrade. This way, it can easily roll back to a known-good state if the VM encounters a problem.


Before rolling back a VM due to problems, ensure the hardware compatibility of the VM is current. For example, on ESX 6.7, ensure the hardware compatibility is set to ESXi 6.7 and later (VM version 14) and update the VM Guest operating system to match the upgraded OS, such as Other/FreeBSD 11 (64-bit)

Pre-Upgrade Reboot

This step is optional but we strongly recommend rebooting the firewall before applying an update. If the hardware has a problem, such as a disk issue, then performing a reboot before the upgrade will allow that to be identified early. Otherwise, a hardware issue could be confused with an issue that occurred as a result of the upgrade process.

There is still a chance that the upgrade could draw out a hardware issue, such as a disk failing from the writes that happen in the upgrade process, but that is much less common to see in practice.



Do not upgrade packages before upgrading pfSense. Either remove all packages or leave the packages alone before running the update.

The safest practice is to remove all packages before upgrading pfSense to a new release. The upgrade process will reinstall packages afterward, but packages are frequently a source of problems. To ensure a smooth upgrade, note the installed packages, remove them, perform the upgrade, and then reinstall necessary packages.

Performing the Update

See Upgrading pfSense Software Installations for instructions that cover performing the upgrade process.

For help in resolving upgrade problems, see Upgrade Troubleshooting.

32-bit / i386 Deprecated

32-bit x86 support has been deprecated and is not supported on pfSense 2.4 and later. Hardware capable of running 64-bit images must be reinstalled with a 64-bit version.


32-bit x86 hardware can continue to run pfSense software version 2.3.x, but support for that branch will be EOL as of October 2018.

Changing architecture (32-bit to 64-bit) during upgrade

Upgrading a 32-bit system to 64-bit in-place is not supported. The only feasible method is to reinstall and restore the configuration. The configuration file is the same on both versions.

When making a backup, the option to retain RRD contents is architecture independent; A backup taken on a 32-bit pfSense 2.3.x installation can be restored to a firewall running pfSense 2.4.x on 64-bit/amd64 or even an ARM device.

Live CD / Embedded / NanoBSD

Live CD, Embedded, and NanoBSD have been deprecated. A full install is now required. Consider installing to flash media, such as a thumb drive/memstick, if using an SSD or HDD is not feasible. Activating the RAM disk options for /var and /tmp under System > Advanced on the Miscellaneous tab will reduce the amount of disk writes performed by the firewall.

Version-Specific Notes

Upgrading from versions older than pfSense 2.4.4

  • Third party packages from alternate repositories are causing problems for users with the upgrade process and also with post-upgrade behavior. These packages have never been supported, and had to be manually added by users outside of the GUI.

    Due to the major changes required for FreeBSD 11.2 and PHP 7.2, third party packages from alternate repositories cannot be present during the upgrade. There is no way to predict if a third party package supports the new version or will cause the upgrade itself to fail.

    The upgrade process will automatically remove pfSense-pkg-* packages installed from alternate repositories. After the upgrade completes, the user can reinstall these packages. Packages from alternate repositories will not appear in the Installed Packages list in the GUI, and must be entirely managed in the command line.

    This change does not affect packages installed from the official pfSense package repository.

  • Using the AutoConfigBackup Service is integrated into pfSense version 2.4.4 and free for all to use. It is no longer an add-on package. It is now located under Services > Auto Config Backup.

  • PHP was migrated from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.2. A number of PHP errors were fixed along the way but certain combinations of configuration parameters may result in further errors. Note any problems on the Netgate Forum or the pfSense subreddit, and if possible, try to include relevant portions of config.xml with personal data removed.

  • Due to the significant nature of the changes in this version of pfSense software, warnings and error messages, particularly from PHP and package updates, are likely to occur during the upgrade process. These errors are primarily seen on the console as the upgrade is applied, but may appear in a crash report once the upgrade completes. In nearly all cases these errors are a harmless side effect of the changes between FreeBSD 11.1 and 11.2 and between PHP 5.6 and PHP 7.2.

  • Gateway handling changes in 2.4.4 may result in different default gateway behavior than previous releases. Nearly all cases should behave properly, but be aware that it may be necessary to re-select the default gateway after upgrade.

  • The FEC LAGG Protocol is deprecated and its options have been removed #8734

  • The login protection daemon was changed from sshlockout_pf to sshguard and the behavior may be more sensitive in some cases to SSH and GUI login failures. For example, be aware of possible issues where probes from monitoring systems may end up triggering a block.

  • Major changes to RADIUS for the base system and specifically Captive Portal could lead to behavior changes in certain cases. Read the release notes and associated bug reports for more details. Note any problems on the Netgate Forum or the pfSense subreddit.

  • A crash report containing no data (empty) may appear after the upgrade completes. See #8915

  • Intel Atom systems containing HD Graphics chipsets may experience console problems after the update. Affected systems will boot successfully, but fail to display console output after the boot menu. To fix the problem, add the following line to /boot/loader.conf.local to use the syscons console type:

    • Alternately, try using i915 driver with the standard VT console using these lines in /boot/loader.conf.local:



      This driver will consume extra bus resources and may cause resource hungry add-on hardware to fail, such as multi-port network adapters.

    • Systems with similar console problems not containing a graphics chip supported by the i915 driver may need to reinstall 2.4.4 to use a UEFI console.

  • An ISP that supplies a bogus interface MTU via DHCP may cause interface problems with certain network interface types when Advanced Configuration options are present on DHCP interfaces, such as a DHCP WAN. The typical default case is handled automatically, but advanced options override the corrected default behavior. To fix the problem, apply the patch from #8507 or add supersede interface-mtu 0 to the Option modifiers box in the WAN interface advanced DHCP options. If a custom dhclient.conf is in use, add supersede interface-mtu 0 on a line inside the interface block. See #8507. The Advanced Configuration case has been corrected for the next release.

Upgrading from versions older than pfSense 2.4.0

  • To use ZFS, a reinstall of the operating system is required. It is not possible to upgrade in-place from UFS to ZFS at this time.
  • Wireless interfaces must be created on the Wireless tab under Interfaces > Assignments before they are available for assignment
  • Some hardware devices may not boot 2.4.0 installation images, for example, due to UEFI compatibility changes. These are primarily BIOS issues and not issues with the installer images. Upgrading in place from 2.3.x typically allows affected hardware to run version 2.4.
  • To upgrade Firewalls in place which are running pfSense software version 2.2.x or earlier, first upgrade the firewall to pfSense 2.3.4 and then perform an update to pfSense 2.4.x afterward. Alternately, reinstall 2.4.x directly and restore the configuration.


When upgrading to 2.4.x from 2.2.x or earlier, remove all packages before attempting the update. Even when upgrading from 2.3.x this is the best practice to ensure a smooth upgrade process. Package settings are retained.

Older Version Upgrade Notes

The following information is for upgrading from outdated and unsupported versions of pfSense software. They may still be of use to users attempting to upgrade from an older release to a current, supported, release.

When upgrading from a very old release, read every document below that covers versions between the older one being upgraded and the new version.

Additional Notes

Upgrading High Availability Deployments

Generally the recommended path for upgrading a High Availability cluster is to first upgrade the secondary node. After it comes back up, put the primary into Persistent CARP Maintenance Mode under Status > CARP, and run on the secondary for a period of time. If the secondary node is running comfortably as desired, upgrade the primary node. Confirm the primary node upgrade succeeded, and then exit maintenance mode.


The underlying pfsync protocol that synchronizes states between firewalls has changed formats between different FreeBSD versions and hence some upgrade scenarios will require dropping all states when switching the new version to master status.

See also

Refer to Upgrading High Availability Clusters for specifics on upgrading with HA/CARP.

Cosmetic Problems Post-Upgrade

If cosmetic problems occur after performing an upgrade, this is nearly always due to stale browser cache entries for CSS, JavaScript, or other files where the browser does not pull the updated version. Force a refresh of the page in the browser (e.g. Shift+Reload or Ctrl+F5) or clear the browser cache to resolve the issues.