pfSense Firewall on an intel NUC

An Intel NUC is a perfect device to use as a pfSense firewall.  Here’s why.

Pros:

  • Low power
  • Quiet
  • Reliable
  • Very small – smaller than most modems / routers!
  • Upgradeable
  • Fast!

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Cheaper models come with Realtek ethernet chipsets, the i3 model comes with Intel chipsets which will work.
  • Only one Ethernet port

To work around the single ethernet port you can use a USB to ethernet adapter.  Apple’s official adapter does work but these are expensive.  However I purchased one off ebay for $9.89 delivered containing the AX88772A (ax88179_178A) chipset – said to be the same that is used in the Apple adapter (and admittedly the adapter does look very similar) which does work.

Update: It might also be possible to purchase the cheapest Intel NUC (currently $195) with DDR3L Ram (~$30) and 2 of the USB ethernet adapters ($20) which will give you a fully featured powerful router for $250.  The only downside being the potentially limited rate of the USB ethernet adapters, but for ADSL connections this should be fine.

Update 2: pfSense have now released a tiny firewall appliance with dual NICs which is a much better solution than any of the above, if you are just a small office.  https://netgate.com/products/sg-1000.html