Firebox x700 with pfSense

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Our old Watchguard Firebox x700 has reached its end-of-life according to Watchguard. On top of that our subscription expired more than a year ago. We ran it anyway since a new gateway security device wasn’t in the cards until recently. Check out the post on our new hardware here.

Rather than put the x700 on  shelf somewhere collecting dust I decided to try something new. I had heard the hardware of the box easily supported pfSense, a freeBSD enterprise firewall. Usually it is installed on PC hardware, however a quick google search returned the following link: http://forum.pfsense.org/index.php?topic=7458.msg48369

Come to find out, the x700 not only has a 1.2ghz Celeron processor but it also has both an IDE and a 40 pin laptop hard drive connector to go with its compact flash reader. The existing software by Watchguard is stored on a 64MB compact flash card. Instead of purchasing a new card I decided to dig an old 40 gig Toshiba laptop drive out of a box, load pfSense 1.2.3 by attaching it to a desktop with an adapter and installing pfSense with a live cd.

Everything worked exactly as described on the forum. I was extremely pleased with how easy it was to configure the LAN, WAN, and optional interfaces using both a serial cable as well as the web interface. I did have to modify the drive cage inside the x700 to allow for the storage of the drive, but other than that everything was by the book.

So you may be wondering, what are you going to do with it? Well, the Bread of Life will have its own WAN connection starting December 30th so this device will be an excellent security device for that building. It supports multiple interfaces, WAN load balancing, WAN failover, VLANs, VPNs, NAT… and everything else a small shop might need.

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18 Comments

  1. Hi There,

    Have you experienced any “Watchdog Timeouts” or loss of network connectivity under heavy load with this setup?

    I’m thinking of doing what you’ve done, however there are some folk online who are having problems..

    Thanks

  2. I haven’t experienced any timeouts, however I was aware that others are. Heavy load for us is relative. The location that uses this box has only 13 computers on the network.

  3. Interesting…

    So i got one of these devices today, and i loaded up the BETA 2.0 embedded kernel on it. When i had a simple 1 WAN and 1 LAN setup, it seemed fine. However, once I introduced a 2nd WAN, everytime I access the web interface, watchdog timeouts are thrown all over the place. The unit is barly usable for me 🙁

    Can you please tell me which kernel you installed? And if you have multiple WANS or LANs, and/or can access the web GUI ok?

    Thanks

  4. I used version 1.2.3, the most recent stable version and booted off the Live CD to a laptop drive connected to a Dell Optiplex 270. I don’t have multiple WANs, only multiple LANs. I am able to use the web interface on the primary LAN.

  5. Any chance you got a keyboard and vga working on this device?

    I have an x500 and i’ve blown three keyboards up so far!

    I also find pfsense web interface crashes a lot on a fairly small home network!

  6. I don’t have either working. I haven’t had a need for them. Are you running the latest version (1.2.3)? What method did you use to install to the X500 (EIDE drive, CF)? Do you have multiple WANs? I haven’t seen any issues with accessing the web interface with Vista/Firefox using one WAN and 3 LANs.

    If it continues to be a problem you might find hope in version 2 coming out soon.

  7. hey doug hope u read this i have a x500 firebox read online that its the exact same hardware as the x700 so i got a 2 gb CF hooked it up to my laptop installed the easy install from the live cd and it saw the cf and the card reader light was blinking as it was writing so i took the card and put it back in the FB and powered it on set my computer ip to 192.168.1.20 and tried to ping the firebox but got no response and tried http://192.168.1.1 still no go =/ any help? can you give me a play by play how you installed i chose the embedded kernel too thnx =D

  8. I have a x700 im trying to perform this PF install to but having no luck. I loaded 4 different images via live cd, Nano, etc (CF, IDE) but cannot boot. Attached a DB9 serial console but will not boot unless my cable is bad or not the default config?

    any ideas?

  9. Can you boot your PC with the CF card or IDE drive? If your PC doesn’t boot then it is likely a bad install. If it does boot then it is likely the settings that your PC is using to connect via the serial cable. I used HyperTerminal, new connection: BPS: 9600 / Data bits: 8 / Parity: None / Stop : 1 / Flow control: Hardware for my settings. Once HyperTerminal connects you can then change the boot mount drive as described in the first post of the article.

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  11. Hi Doug, What kinda hard-drive you connected there and did you connect it to the via the IDE connector on the Firebox ?

  12. Hey Lee,
    I connected a PATA laptop drive (40 pin + 4 for master selection). This is a standard laptop drive from an older computer. You don’t have to worry about the master pins as long as you don’t use a jumper. I typically use 40-60 gig drives as people choose to replace their existing drive for something bigger. The cable is already inside the firebox too.

    Although the board does have it, I have not installed with a 3.5″ drive using the standard IDE connector.

  13. Cool ! That’s what I thought, I do have some old DELL Laptops that I ripped their Hitachi and Toshiba hard-drives out. So you’re saying those should connect right away using the short grey IDE cable coming out of the board. I assume that feeds them with power as well correct?

  14. Yes, the cable should already be inside the Firebox, it supplies power as well. You will have to remove the hard drive caddy (4 screws), remove the existing Compact Flash card (cut the sticker), and then modify the drive cage so the new drive rests easily. I did this by getting some tin snips and cutting part of the hard drive caddy. This was required so the cable could easily be routed to the drive. You’ll see, it is easy.

  15. thanks for the quick replys Doug! All worked fine as you described 🙂 , now the question would be how much space is needed for Pfsense because I Want to try both HD’s and using CF cards. with HD i don’t have a problem since they are 20GB+ but as you know the X700 comes with a 64MB CF card which I’m not sure if it will fit Pfsense or not. Do you know by a chance even though you went with the HD option vs. CF.

    Thanks

  16. Based on this post, I would use 512MB or more. Do keep in mind that not all CF cards are created equal. For one with lots of read/writes I could consider a CF microdrive.

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