How to install pfSense® CE on the Vault

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Note: pfSense® is open source software developed for the benefit of the community.  If you are using pfSense® CE with the Vault, please consider supporting the pfSense project.

Note: A newer version of pfSense® CE is now available. Please see the Knowledge Base article at this link.

To either install or re-install a fresh instance of pfSense® CE onto the Vault, there is a relatively straight forward process that is very similar to installing any operating system onto any computer.

  1. Obtain the installation image
  2. Download software to transfer the installation image to a USB drive
  3. Install the new image

There are a few steps along the way that I’ll highlight so as to make sure that the process is very clear

Note: If using the Vault FW1x, FW2x, or FW4x, be sure to use a USB stick and the USB keyboard with a plug that is relatively skinny.  The 2 USB ports on the Vault are very close to each other and if either the USB stick or the USB keyboard plug is too wide, you will not be able to plug both in at the same time, which will prevent you from doing the installation.

Obtain the Installation Image and Uncompress it

The pfSense® CE installation image (IMG) can be downloaded from The same image can be used to install pfSense® CE on any of the Vault platforms. It is important to choose the correct options when downloading the image including “File Type”, Architecture”, “Platform”, and “Console.”  The proper selections are as follows and shown in the screenshot below:

File Type: Install

Architecture: AMD64 (64 bit)

Platform: USB Memstick Installer

Console: VGA or Serial as needed

download pfsense

The Vault is compatible with any of the latest versions of pfSense® CE (we’ve tested 2.1 and higher). The latest version to be installed and tested on the Vault as of this writing is 2.3.4.  Your download should begin immediately and when it is completed you should have a compressed IMG file (an example file name is: pfSense-CE-memstick-2.3.4-RELEASE-amd64.img.gz) downloaded that is ~300MB in size.

Optionally (and highly recommended), the file checksum can be checked against the downloaded file using a Windows checksum utility program to compare to the known checksum displayed on the pfSense download page (as can be seen in the image above).  This helps to ensure the download is not corrupted, either accidentally or maliciously.

Now that the compressed image file has been downloaded, you will need to use a program like “7zip” or “winzip” to decompress the file.  The resulting file should look the same, except that the file name will now end in “.img” instead of “.img.gz”.

Download software to transfer the installation image to a USB drive

The easiest way to transfer the installation image to a USB drive is by using a piece of software called “Rufus” to ‘install’ the disk image on the USB stick.  Rufus can be downloaded from  It’s a windows only program and it works very quickly.  A screenshot of Rufus with the proper settings can be seen below. More details are at this link.

When in Rufus, selecting the disk image file to use, be sure to select the image file that is the uncompressed version of pfSense® CE which was extracted using 7zip or winzip in the preceding step.

rufus pfsense


rufus open

As can be seen in the screenshot above, the uncompressed image is almost 700MB.

  • Verify that the USB memory stick is large enough to hold the uncompressed image.
  • Insert the USB memory stick into a USB port on the Windows PC.
  • Select “Start” in Rufus and the installation image will be copied to the USB.

Install the new image

Once the pfSense® CE installation image is properly copied to the USB drive, it is ready to be installed on the Vault.

  • Verify that the Vault is powered down.
  • Verify that the VGA monitor is connected.
  • Verify that the USB keyboard is plugged in.
  • Insert the USB install drive into the other USB port on the Vault.
  • While powering up the Vault, press “F11” repeatedly until it boots to the BIOS.
  • Pressing “F11” needs to be done as soon as the Vault is powered on, so be sure to repeatedly press and release “F11” as soon as you apply power, until you see the boot options screen.
  • Select the USB drive to boot from.
  • Verify that the Vault boots and begins the installation process.

Be sure to follow the procedures presented on the pfSense® CE website (Performing a Full Install ISO, Memstick image), here:


Once rebooted, the Vault should be up and running.  If you experience any issues, please feel free to reach out to us at Or you can find more information in our Knowledge Base.