Forum Thread

low power linux router build

Calvy 4,271 374 January 9, 2016 at 10:35 PM
I'd really like to replace an old desktop system I'm using as a pFsense router with something that uses less power. When I google for advice on building a low power router, all the links that come back are old and the suggested hardware isn't even for sale anymore. I started searching newegg for mini itx motherboards, but there don't seem to be too many with dual nic.

Does anyone have advice on either building and buying a lower power, and hopefully low cost, system to run pfsense or another linux router system?

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#2
Quote from Calvy View Post :
I'd really like to replace an old desktop system I'm using as a pFsense router with something that uses less power. When I google for advice on building a low power router, all the links that come back are old and the suggested hardware isn't even for sale anymore. I started searching newegg for mini itx motherboards, but there don't seem to be too many with dual nic.

Does anyone have advice on either building and buying a lower power, and hopefully low cost, system to run pfsense or another linux router system?

And what is "low cost" to you? Also you may want to look at a system that uses an Atom.
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#3
well, $250 or less would be nice. Atom processors is a good tip.
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#4
well, there are few with dual nics such as this [newegg.com], but I would suggest just buying ethernet cards instead and putting them in the PCIe lanes - the single ones like this [newegg.com]are cheap, and you really only need 2 - a switch right after the router is fine in most cases (as are 100 cards, unless you really have internet faster than that). I would also suggest sticking with the intel ethernet controllers for PFsense - laptop chipsets and CPUs (even if they are i3 and not atom) are also pretty power efficient and would do fine in such a build

or if you don't want to mess with it yourself, PFsense sells hardware that will work (but their cheapest [pfsense.org]seems to be $300)
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Last edited by slapshot136 January 10, 2016 at 07:15 AM
#5
Quote from Calvy View Post :
I'd really like to replace an old desktop system I'm using as a pFsense router with something that uses less power. When I google for advice on building a low power router, all the links that come back are old and the suggested hardware isn't even for sale anymore. I started searching newegg for mini itx motherboards, but there don't seem to be too many with dual nic.

Does anyone have advice on either building and buying a lower power, and hopefully low cost, system to run pfsense or another linux router system?
Does 12Vdc 500Ma sound reasonable?

Check this out> [bing.com]
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#6
Quote from dale_101798 View Post :
Does 12Vdc 500Ma sound reasonable?

Check this out> [bing.com]
as a router? it's crippled as far as I/O goes - the on-board Ethernet is on the USB bus already, and you want to add another via some sort of USB to Ethernet adapter on the same bus? your really not going to get above 20mb/s or so throughput from the chipset, ignoring any processing overhead
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#7
Quote from slapshot136 View Post :
well, there are few with dual nics such as this [newegg.com], but I would suggest just buying ethernet cards instead and putting them in the PCIe lanes - the single ones like this [newegg.com]are cheap, and you really only need 2 - a switch right after the router is fine in most cases (as are 100 cards, unless you really have internet faster than that). I would also suggest sticking with the intel ethernet controllers for PFsense - laptop chipsets and CPUs (even if they are i3 and not atom) are also pretty power efficient and would do fine in such a build

or if you don't want to mess with it yourself, PFsense sells hardware that will work (but their cheapest [pfsense.org]seems to be $300)
Netgate has it slightly cheaper but I don't think it comes setup or with support.

OP, the ASRock AD2550R/U3S3 might be an option paired with a picopsu, but it might not be low enough power for you.

I've also had luck in the past scouting used equipment on ebay that can be had for very cheap. Still have a nice Lanner box that I got that way, but it's only like a 700mhz cpu.
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#8
Quote from Calvy View Post :
I started searching newegg for mini itx motherboards, but there don't seem to be too many with dual nic.
Check the "Server Motherboard" section for more options with dual NICs, like this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Pro...6813157417

Although as slapshot mentioned, you can just use a PCIe card for your extra NIC(s). You can get half-height cards if you are building in a slim case.
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#9
Quote from slapshot136 View Post :
as a router? it's crippled as far as I/O goes - the on-board Ethernet is on the USB bus already, and you want to add another via some sort of USB to Ethernet adapter on the same bus? your really not going to get above 20mb/s or so throughput from the chipset, ignoring any processing overhead
You are not addressing the OP's question. My response regarded his stated requirements. No other considerations were made. BTW communications at the speed of light even over a USB2-3 input is pretty fast.
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All,

Sorry I was away for a bit, but I very much appreciate the responses here. I had previously thought about an rasberry pi as a low power router, but the lack of dual nics knocked that out of the water. Honestly, I've got some old laptops around that are probably low enough power as well, but they are limited in NICs as well. Didn't really want to add a USB NIC, and the PCMCIA ones aren't as readily available as they used to be.

I'm liking the server motherboard option so far. The ASRock AD2550 looks like it has what I need.
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#11
I don't think I would build a conventional PC for just PFsense at home. If was going to do other things sure, but there are custom built pieces of hardware to do this for reasonable money. Your just not going to get down to the low power the others are.

You could go with something like this, add ram, and a small M2 ssd http://www.aliexpress.com/item/fa...81717.html Or here is somethign that is more ready to go out of the box that costs more http://www.aliexpress.com/item/lo...18400_6150

Steve Gipson was promoting https://soekris.com/ the other day, really nice hardware but expensive.

Mikrotik would be a great option. Hard to go wrong with the price, turn off the Wireless AP function if you have something else doing that. http://www.amazon.com/Mikrotik-Ro...ds=pfsense

If your open to other options I would look at the Ubiquiti EdgeRouters http://www.amazon.com/Ubiquiti-Ed...ds=pfsense Enterprise grade stuff for cheap but not pfsense.
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Last edited by LiquidRetro January 12, 2016 at 12:41 PM
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Quote from LiquidRetro View Post :
I don't think I would build a conventional PC for just PFsense at home. If was going to do other things sure, but there are custom built pieces of hardware to do this for reasonable money. Your just not going to get down to the low power the others are.

You could go with something like this, add ram, and a small M2 ssd http://www.aliexpress.com/item/fa...81717.html [aliexpress.com] Or here is somethign that is more ready to go out of the box that costs more http://www.aliexpress.com/item/lo...18400_6150 [aliexpress.com]

Steve Gipson was promoting https://soekris.com/ the other day, really nice hardware but expensive.

Mikrotik would be a great option. Hard to go wrong with the price, turn off the Wireless AP function if you have something else doing that. http://www.amazon.com/Mikrotik-Ro...ds=pfsense [amazon.com]

If your open to other options I would look at the Ubiquiti EdgeRouters http://www.amazon.com/Ubiquiti-Ed...ds=pfsense [amazon.com] Enterprise grade stuff for cheap but not pfsense.
I appreciate all of those options. Good points, but I've been running pfsense for years and really like it. I'm running it on an old Dell PC with a P4 processor, and my goal with new hardware is to just have a lower power footprint as well as a lower physical one.

I was originally looking at these mini pc's on aliexpress, but I just decided I wasn't sure I trusted some random chinese hardware. Plus, once I decide what I want, newegg or any other stateside company ships much faster.

So the 3 options I'm weighing right now are building a new mini-itx system (damn boards have gotten small since I built my last pc), the out of the box setup from aliexpress, or the $299 box in the pfsense store. Tough call.
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#13
Quote from LiquidRetro View Post :
Steve Gipson was promoting https://soekris.com/ the other day, really nice hardware but expensive.

Mikrotik would be a great option. Hard to go wrong with the price, turn off the Wireless AP function if you have something else doing that. http://www.amazon.com/Mikrotik-Ro...ds=pfsense

If your open to other options I would look at the Ubiquiti EdgeRouters http://www.amazon.com/Ubiquiti-Ed...ds=pfsense Enterprise grade stuff for cheap but not pfsense.
Soekris has been around for a while, they make good stuff, my only gripe is the price is high.

Mikrotik is an option and the price is very good, but the processor is underpowered, doesn't even match most consumer routers these days.

I have an edgerouter running at my mother's house and it's working pretty well so far and the price was decent. My only complaint is that the GUI is limited compared to pfsense or even ddwrt/openwrt. You can drop into a CLI and start mucking around, but that's a little too much work for me.

Quote from Calvy View Post :
I appreciate all of those options. Good points, but I've been running pfsense for years and really like it. I'm running it on an old Dell PC with a P4 processor, and my goal with new hardware is to just have a lower power footprint as well as a lower physical one.

I was originally looking at these mini pc's on aliexpress, but I just decided I wasn't sure I trusted some random chinese hardware. Plus, once I decide what I want, newegg or any other stateside company ships much faster.

So the 3 options I'm weighing right now are building a new mini-itx system (damn boards have gotten small since I built my last pc), the out of the box setup from aliexpress, or the $299 box in the pfsense store. Tough call.
See Option 1 [ebay.com], Option 2 [ebay.com], Option 3 [ebay.com], Option 4 [ebay.com], Option 5 [ebay.com], Option 6 [ebay.com]. As I mentioned, there are deals to be had if you search hard enough. Obviously, you'd have to do your homework, some of these might be a headache to setup. My Lanner box had no VGA port, so setup was a PITA.

If you can snag that Vyatta box for $100 that would be my pick, as it's an Atom D510, all GbE ports and fanless. I would just make sure the seller is saying it's functional.
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Last edited by brbubba January 13, 2016 at 05:19 AM
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Quote from brbubba View Post :
See Option 1 [ebay.com], Option 2 [ebay.com], Option 3 [ebay.com], Option 4 [ebay.com], Option 5 [ebay.com], Option 6 [ebay.com]. As I mentioned, there are deals to be had if you search hard enough. Obviously, you'd have to do your homework, some of these might be a headache to setup. My Lanner box had no VGA port, so setup was a PITA.

If you can snag that Vyatta box for $100 that would be my pick, as it's an Atom D510, all GbE ports and fanless. I would just make sure the seller is saying it's functional.
I had not even heard of Vyatta of VyOS until this post, but now I'm considering ditching pFsense for VyOS. Man, I'm fickle apparently Smilie Seriously though, reading about the memory footprint of the packet filtering in VyOS vs pfsense tempted me, but I'm a little worried about not having a gui. I'm good on the Linux command line though, so it shouldn't be a problem, but I do like having that gui around when I need to quickly do something.
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Quote from Calvy View Post :
I had not even heard of Vyatta of VyOS until this post, but now I'm considering ditching pFsense for VyOS. Man, I'm fickle apparently Smilie Seriously though, reading about the memory footprint of the packet filtering in VyOS vs pfsense tempted me, but I'm a little worried about not having a gui. I'm good on the Linux command line though, so it shouldn't be a problem, but I do like having that gui around when I need to quickly do something.
Found this during google search while I am looking for a low power pfsense box that can handle NAT/Firewall for a 300Mbps line. Maybe for a gigabit line later. what hardware did you end up getting for your pfsense box? I am thinking about using AMD 5350 and a mini ITX for a build but want to see if there is other options.
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