Installing pfSense with a mirrored boot drive

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Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror
Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror

Today we are going to look at how to install pfSense with a mirrored boot device. pfSense runs perfectly well on USB sticks but for local logging, some prefer SSDs which can offer higher write endurance. Since pfSense often runs at the edge of networks, failure and downtime adding redundancy can provide peace of mind. Using a mirrored boot device in pfSense is extremely easy to setup and with the costs of high quality SSDs plummeting, this is an attractive option.

Test configuration

For this we used a slightly different setup than we normally would. We utilized a Supermicro X9SKV-1125 Intel Xeon E3-1125c based system we reviewed that includes Intel’s communication chipset. For SSDs we added two Intel S3500 240GB drives attached to the two SATA ports on the motherboard.

Supermicro X9SKV-1125 Airflow
Supermicro X9SKV-1125 Airflow

This configuration certainly qualifies as a fairly robust solution as the base motherboard is designed for embedded communications platforms. We are using pfSense 2.2.4 which is the latest available release at the time of this writing.

Setup

The first steps in the setup are booting from an ISO with the full installer. Since the purpose of this guide is to install on two SSDs, the assumption is that one is not trying to simply run pfSense off of an embedded USB stick.

pfSense detects the presence of two disks but will not install to a mirror itself. It will add a < Setup GEOM Mirror > menu item at one of the initial install screens.

Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror
Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror

Assuming you are following this guide, it is best to confirm that you want to setup the mirror.

Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror - Confirm
Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror – Confirm

Once this is complete, you need to select the primary disk. In this case we are selecting our first Intel DC S3500.

Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror - select primary disk
Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror – select primary disk

Next you need to select the disk that will be the mirror. In this case we are using our second Intel DC S3500.

Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror - select mirror disk
Setup Select Task Setup GEOM Mirror – select mirror disk

Once this is complete, you can simply install to the mirror as normal. The net result is a mirrored installation of pfSense that will provide peace of mind in the event of a disk failure. In terms of difficulty this is easy even for a novice to complete in under a minute.

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Patrick has been running STH since 2009 and covers a wide variety of SME, SMB, and SOHO IT topics. Patrick is a consultant in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about server, storage and networking, building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting! Never knew it was possible.

    Not entirely clear, but is it an existing install or a new install of PFSense?

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