Recommended Wireless Hardware¶
A variety of wireless cards are supported in FreeBSD 12.2-STABLE@f4d0bc6aa6b, and pfSense® software includes support for every card supported by FreeBSD. Some have better support than others. Most development of wireless features on pfSense software uses Atheros hardware, so they are the most likely to work. Users have reported success with other cards as well, with Ralink being another popular choice.
FreeBSD and pfSense software may support other cards, but those cards may not support all available features. In particular, some cards manufactured by Intel can be used in infrastructure mode as clients but cannot run in access point mode due to limitations of the hardware itself.
Wireless cards from big name vendors¶
Linksys, D-Link, Netgear and other major manufacturers commonly change the chipset used in their wireless cards without changing the model number. There is no way to ensure a specific model card from these vendors will be compatible because there is no reliable way of knowing which “minor” card revision and chip a package contains. While one revision of a particular model may be compatible and work well, another card of the same model may be incompatible. For this reason, the best practice is to avoid cards from major manufacturers. If a card is already on hand, it is worth trying to see if it is compatible. Be wary when purchasing because even if the “same” model worked for someone else, a new purchase may result in a completely different piece of hardware that is incompatible.
Status of 802.11n Support¶
pfSense software version 2.5.2-RELEASE is based on FreeBSD
12.2-STABLE@f4d0bc6aa6b which has support for 802.11n on certain hardware such
as those based on the Atheros AR9280 and AR9220 chipsets. Netgate has tested
cards using those chipsets and they work well. Some other non-Atheros cards are
documented by FreeBSD to work on 802.11n, specifically,
iwn(4). These may work using the 802.11n standard but experiences with
802.11n speeds may vary.
The FreeBSD Wiki Article for 802.11n Support contains the most up-to-date information about supported chipsets and drivers that work with 802.11n.
Status of 802.11ac Support¶
Currently, there is no support for 802.11ac in FreeBSD nor in pfSense software. Development on FreeBSD can be tracked by checking the FreeBSD Wiki Article for 802.11ac Support.
Radio Frequencies and Dual Band Support¶
Some cards have support for 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, such as the Atheros AR9280, but only one band may be used at a time. Currently there are no cards supported and working in FreeBSD that will operate in both bands concurrently. Using two separate cards in one unit is not desirable as their radios may interfere. In cases which require dual or multiple band support, the best practice is to use an external AP.
Wireless drivers included in pfSense software¶
This section lists the wireless drivers included in pfSense software and the
chipsets those drivers support. This information was derived from the FreeBSD
man pages for the drivers in question. Drivers in FreeBSD are referred to by
their driver name, followed by
(4), such as
to the kernel interfaces section of the man page collection, in this case
specifying a network driver. The drivers are listed in order of frequency of use
based on reports from users.
Cards Supporting Access Point (hostap) Mode¶
The cards in this section support acting as an access point to accept connections from other wireless clients. This is referred to as hostap mode.
ath(4) driver supports cards based on the Atheros AR5210, AR5211,
AR5212, AR5416, and AR92xx APIs which are used by many other Atheros chips of
varying model numbers. Most Atheros cards support four virtual access points
(VAPs) or stations or a combination to create a wireless repeater.
Though not explicitly listed in the man page, the FreeBSD Wiki Article for 802.11n Support also states that the driver has support for AR9130, AR9160, AR9280, AR9285, AR9287, and potentially other related chipsets.
ral(4) / ural(4) / run(4) / rum(4)¶
There are several related Ralink Technology IEEE 802.11 wireless network drivers, each for a different set and type of card.
Supports cards based on the Ralink Technology RT2500, RT2501 and RT2600, RT2700, RT2800, RT2900, RT3090, and RT3900E chipsets.
Supports RT2700U, RT2800U, RT3000U, RT3900E, and similar.
Supports RT2501USB and RT2601USB and similar.
Of these, only certain chips supported by
run(4) support VAPs.
ral(4) chip is the only model listed as capable of 802.11n on
FreeBSD. The RT2700 and RT2800
ral(4) and the RT3900E
are capable of 802.11n but the drivers on FreeBSD do not currently support their
The Marvell IEEE 802.11 wireless network driver,
mwl(4), supports cards
based on the 88W8363 chipset and fully supports 802.11n. This card supports
multiple VAPs and stations, up to eight of each.
Cards Only Supporting Client (station) Mode¶
The cards in this section are not capable of acting as access points, but may be used as clients in station mode, for example as a wireless WAN.
Atheros USB 2.0 wireless devices using AR5005UG and AR5005UX chipsets are
supported by the
ipw(4) / iwi(4) / iwn(4) / wpi(4)¶
Intel wireless network drivers cover various models with different drivers.
Supports Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 MiniPCI adapters.
Supports Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG/2915ABG MiniPCI and 2225BG PCI adapters.
Supports Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965, 1000, 5000 and 6000 series PCI Express adapters.
Supports Intel 3945ABG adapters.
Cards supported by the
iwn(4) driver are documented by FreeBSD as supporting
802.11n in client mode.
Several Intel adapters have a license restriction with a warning that appears in
the boot log. The
wpi(4) drivers have license files
that must be read and agreed to. These license are located on the firewall in
usr/share/doc/legal/intel_wpi/LICENSE respectively. To agree to the license,
/boot/loader.conf.local and add a line to indicate the license
acknowledgment, such as:
Given the limited use of these adapters as clients only, development of a GUI-based solution to acknowledge these licenses is unlikely.
bwi(4) / bwn(4)¶
The Broadcom BCM43xx IEEE 802.11b/g wireless driver is split in two depending on the specific models in use.
Supports BCM4301, BCM4303, BCM4306, BCM4309, BCM4311, BCM4318, BCM4319 using an older v3 version of the Broadom firmware.
Supports BCM4309, BCM4311, BCM4312, BCM4318, BCM4319 using a newer v4 version of the Broadcom firmware.
Support offered by the drivers does overlap for some cards. The
driver is preferred for the cards it supports while the
bwi(4) driver must
be used on the older cards not covered by
Marvell Libertas IEEE 802.11b/g wireless driver,
malo(4), supports cards
using the 88W8335 chipset.
The Conexant/Intersil PrismGT SoftMAC USB IEEE 802.11b/g wireless driver,
upgt(4), supports cards using the GW3887 chipset.
urtw(4) / urtwn(4) / rsu(4)¶
The trio of related Realtek wireless drivers cover several different models:
Supports RTL8187B/L USB IEEE 802.11b/g models with a RTL8225 radio
Supports RTL8188CU/RTL8188EU/RTL8192CU 802.11b/g/n
Supports RTL8188SU/RTL8192SU 802.11b/g/n
As in other similar cases, though the chips supported by
rsu(4) are capable of 802.11n, FreeBSD does not support their 802.11n
The ZyDAS ZD1211/ZD1211B USB IEEE 802.11b/g wireless network device driver,
zyd(4), supports adapters using the ZD1211 and ZD1211B USB chips.