Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Building Your Own Broadband Router

Most home users will likely just buy an off-the-shelf broadband router for their home Internet connection needs. For the adventurous types, those who like to build their own customised PC rigs, building a broadband routers might be a fun project. It’s not too difficult, since broadband routers are essentially just miniaturised computers.

I’ve been using pfSense as my home router for many years. pfSense is a pretty popular open source firewall and router software built on FreeBSD. Its features include unified threat management, load balancing, multi WAN, and many more. You typically won’t find anything as feature-rich in a commercial off-the-shelf broadband router.

My first pfSense was a virtual appliance. I later moved on to a standalone mini-ITX system. The smallish box has run extremely well, far better than I had imagined. The combination of software and embedded hardware has proven to be very reliable.

To some extent, pfSense has almost become a little bit of a critical infrastructure at home. It keeps the Internet running at home. It just works. Once a while my other networking gear might need a reboot, but the pfSense box has just kept working, much better than I had expected. The combination of software and embedded hardware is pretty much like an enterprise networking gear.

Now, I’m embarking on a small hardware refresh. This time, I’ve chosen to go with an Intel Celeron N2930 processor. One of the big reasons for selecting the N2930 is its 7.5W TDP and just 4.5W TDP. Low-power saves on running utility costs, and at the same time, low-heat allows for a very manageable fan-less design. This is essentially a notebook-class, or perhaps more like netbook-class, type of processor. I’ll share more information at another time, after the setup has at least gone live. In particular, I’m really curious if a N2930 processor with all Intel NICs will be capable of pushing 1Gbps traffic through.

You can expect more follow-up posts on this mini pfSense upgrade project.

I also have a Tomato Router setup that provides a convenient “USA VPN” service, so to some extent I’m also familiar with Tomato software. I think, any time, I’d prefer a pfSense setup. If you’re thinking of building your own router, I would recommend that you look at pfSense.

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