Can Mac Pro run pfSense natively?


This is my 2nd post, see my introduction to see where I’m coming from.

Question: does pfSense run natively on a Mac Pro?

I’d like to play with the pfSense controller software a bit first to see if I can master it and how it will interoperate with my All-UniFi home network:

  • USG 3P + Cloud Key g2+
  • US8-60W-PoE “distribution” switch
  • 5 US8-60W-PoE “access” switches
  • AP’s, g3 Flex cameras
  • VLANs and FW rules now on UniFi controller


I think you mean Unifi controller software? PFsense is a firewall operating system, it installs onto a device that is intended to be just a router/firewall (like the USG, but it isn’t compatible with the USG hardware).

Unifi controller can run on OSX but you have to first install the proper version of Java. I believe the download page for Unifi will point you in the right direction.

Hi Bruce, thanks for taking the time to read and reply. Yes I certainly do mean pfSense. I currently have my UniFi controller running on a UniFi Cloud Key and all runs well. But the USG 3P router/firewall is not powerful enough.

So I want to exchange the router/firewall. My options are:

  • USG Pro 4 (more powerful, but old by design)
  • UDM Pro or UXG Pro, both not mature enough yet
  • Netgate SG3100 and pfSense

But before I splash out hundreds of bucks for such a Netgate box, I thought I’d just install pfSense on whatever I have laying around, which is in fact a 2010 Mac Pro.

Particularly I would like to see how I can set up VLAN’s and routing on the pfSense and how those VLANs transfer to the UniFi switches. I now have those VLANs defined as “corporate” in the UniFi Controller so they have their DHCP and gateways, but as soon as the pfSense box takes over the VLAN routing and DHCP, I probably need to rebuild those VLANs on the UniFi side using the “VLAN only” network type.

Cheers, Pete

run it in a vm for macs

I guess you could try to install PFSense via bootcamp on the 2010 mac pro, but a quick google search for freebsd on apple hardware yields disappointing results (PFSense is based on FreeBSD). Better to install it in a VM as @neogrid says. I believe you an use VirtualBox for this. I have very little Mac experience so wouldn’t really be able to help.

Okay thanks guys, I just checked I have VM ware 7.1.0 running on that old lady. I’ll have a look online if that version will work. Thanks so far!
Cheers, Pete

Just installed version 16 over the weekend … you can always download a trial and checkout vmware

Good suggestion! Thanks :slight_smile:

Blast, VM workstation for Win is VM Fusion for Mac and unlike the Windows version, Fusion has no free trial…

Edit: apologies, I found one. Will try it tonight.

Edit2: current trial only works on Catalina, while the Mac Pro ended at High Sierra…

Okay guys I got it working on the Mac Pro using a very old VMware Fusion 7.1.0.

Install was a breeze but after restart I got numerous DNS and route host errors. Almost gave up when I suddenly thought I’d try to swap em0 and em1 in Assign Interfaces (option 2):
em1 is now WAN
em0 is now LAN

After this all went very smoothly. Machine is routing already and I’m fiddling with the settings. Even the Mac Pro itself is part of the pfSense subnet through the Ethernet 2 port, so I can log onto the GUI from the same machine.

pfSense DHCP is enabled
Attached a UniFi 8 port switch, works out of the box and routes WAN traffic
Now going to install UniFi controller 5.14.23 on the Mac Pro to manage the switch and see if I can set up some VLANs on the pfSense and carry them over to the UniFi switch.

It looks as though i’m on a similar trajectory to where you have been and am looking to upgrade most of the kit if not all except the Macs.
I am new to the networking world and am still learning.

I currently have:

500/36Mbit connection
2 x Mac Pro 2010’s
4 UAP’s
Netgear 16p switch
Netgear 4p 55w POE
Synology NAS
2 x Hikvision POE cameras
Lots of game consoles and some IOT lighting

My question is, why VMware Fusion over VirtualBox and will this become a permanent solution. Or, will you consider a standalone router/firewall in the near future?

Many thanks in advance.


Hi Kam, welcome to the forums!

The Mac Pro VM exercise was purely getting acquainted with pfSense. So it served its purpose for the most part. All that I didn’t get working was VLANs.
Because of the utltra high power consumption (>200W) it was never my intention to use the Mac Pro as a permanent 24/7 router/firewall solution.
At this time I am using an SG-1100 which I bought used for 80 bucks. Power consumption is 4W. I think it will fit the bill, at least for my requirements, for now. I managed to get all VLANs to work so that makes me happy.

As for your setup: it all depends on what your objectives are. You didn’t mention what router/firewall you are currently using. But most importantly: what are you missing in your current setup?

Cheers, Pete

There was some question about what VM management platform to use. Back in January I was playing with VirtualBox on the Mac, and got pfSense working on that. Not sure how well it was working, because I didn’t take the time to properly configure it, I was more looking at features. Were I to run pfSense dedicated to my home network, I’d do it on a low power quiet appliance.

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