DIY small ITX pfsense build

I currently have one of the QOTOM box with an i5-7200u. It works great, but the power buttom has always been flimsy, I honestly don’t really trust it and because the router is overall such an important component, I’d like to have at least 2 servers/appliances in case something goes wrong with the hardware.

Anyways, I have a 500/60 Mbps connection and do use OpenVPN on pfsense. I also run Snort and pfblocker currently. I do host some websites with around a total of 1000 hits/day, not expecting anything crazy anytime soon. I want very low power consumption since the box is plugged on a UPS with my also low power Unraid server and I want it to last as much as it can on the UPS if need be. Fanless is also a nice plus, otherwise I will want 120mm silent fans… in a very small ITX case preferably with dust filters… hard to find I know.

Interesting options I’ve seen:
Supermicro E302-9A w/ C3558 E302-9A | Mini 1U | SuperServers | Products | Super Micro Computer, Inc.
Supermicro A2SDi-8C-HLN4F w/ C3758 and a separate case (currently looking at the Fractal ERA ITX but it’s big) A2SDi-8C-HLN4F | Motherboards | Products | Super Micro Computer, Inc.
Something else?

The C3558 is fairly less powerful than the 7200u I currently use. On the plus side, it has more cache and supports registered ECC memory (I know it’s not required nor even recommended for pfsense but I still like that personnally). Is it still powerful enough to get the job done? Anyone has this little Supermicro box? Is it reliable? At for upgradability, is it any better than the QOTOM box I currently own or is there any way to fit another Supermicro ITX board in there and adapt/swap the cooling solution they’re using?

Thank you.

Have you seen the PCengines boards? They’re not in any traditional x86 form factor, but they are pretty interesting little embedded systems, with lots of connectivity options.

Seems to be hard to get in Canada, also very unsure about performances? Price isn’t really an issue although building a system based on this will end up very expensive since I have to import it from the US (best case scenario).

If the only problem is the power switch I’d just repair it. Normally it is just a momentary short between two pins. A new button that fits can probably be ordered from china. Search on ebay or alibaba or the like, for “momentary switch button” or something along those lines, and the dimensions you need.

Yes I could fix it, that doesn’t give me a backup solution if there is a problem however and the whole thing has more to do with me not trusting the QOTOM because of quality issues such as the one I’m facing, otherwise I’d be buying a spare one. It’s also running super hot.

Something else I like about the Supermicro / custom ITX is that I can easily expand with a PCIe card (if I want 10 gigabit for instance) and I also get IPMI.

I think either Supermicro choice will do what you need, it is similar to what I have running with the older 2758 cpu. I’d say to buy the newest Supermicro you can afford. and give it 8gb of ram (or more) and let it fly.

The only note about the system mine runs on is this, the internal NIC does not offloading any of the overhead. I’m not sure why because I think it should, but I got massive errors when I had the boxes to offload checked. Recently put in an Intel card to fix that and CPU went down a little. I assume the newer boards would have this fixed, but just a note to you to be aware that you may want to have an Intel PCIe card on hand if you think offloading the overhead will be important. I didn’t really need to do this, but the CPU would sometimes climb up to 50% before changing to the card. I’d put in an Intel i350 card if I was doing it again, mine is something much older.

And that said, the one at home that was built on an HP620plus works great and only cost around $150 shipped. 4 ports at gigabit, AMD processor, and fairly power efficient. Would make a really good (and fairly cheap) backup. The guy I bought mine from sells them with the 4 port card as pfsense/opensene devices and I think he will even install the OS for you (for an extra fee). Really happy with it overall, so it might be an option for you too. Not running Suricata or really anything at home, but I think it would still be OK as a backup.

I have a Qotom i5-4200U, and even that is overkill for pfSense. I think I’ve used the power button on it three or four times in two years… how often are you using your power button? Whenever I need to reboot or shut mine down, I use either the web interface or the CLI.

Concerning heat, what are your temperatures? These are typical for mine:


Over the last 400 days, CPU temperature (package) averages 67.42C, with a maximum of 90.8C and a minimum of 56.38C.

mine on a HP Intel® Core™2 Duo CPU E6400 @ 2.13GHz
Core 1: 85 °FCore 0: 83 °F