Install pfSense 2.1 from a USB Stick

I love USB installers (aka USB install sticks). The are easy to use and carry. You have a dozen OS and appliance installs in your toolkit for less than $100. I like to install pfSense 2.1 from a USB Stick.

Most of the time, they are easy to create and to keep up to date. Microsoft has a great tool to help make Windows 7, 8, 8.1, Server 2008 R2, 2012, and 2012 R2 USB installer. There are even decent USB installer maker tools for Ubuntu Linux. MacOS X USB sticks are super easy to make with DiskMaker X or you can even use the builtin OS X tool createinstallmedia via this command:

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ --volume /Volumes/Untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ --no interaction 

pfSense is a bit trickier to turn into a USB installer. You have to download a USB memstick based installer.


Then you need to write the contents of the installer to your USB stick. Any USB stick should work just fine for this, but you may want to use a MBR partition and format it as FAT/FAT32. If you are using OS X, you need to use Terminal to do the next six steps

  1. cd to wherever you downloaded the pfsense install file (i.e.: cd ~/Downloads )
  2. type: sudo su
  3. type: diskutil list and make note which disk number your usb stick is. For example you may see something like:/dev/disk3#: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER0: FDisk_partition_scheme *978.5 Mi disk31: DOS_FAT_32 UNTITLED 978.4 Mi disk3s1where the disk number is 3
  4. unmount the USB stick via: diskutil umountDisk disk3 (where disk3 is the USB stick. It may be disk1 or disk2, etc for you)
  5. type:gzcat pfSense-memstick-2.1-RELEASE-i386.img.gz | dd of=/dev/disk3 bs=16k where pfSense-memstick-2.1-RELEASE-i386.img.gz is the name of your downloaded pfSense Installer AND of=/dev/disk3 is the USB stick)
  6. This will take a while, depending on the size and speed of your USB stick. On a 16GB stick it can take 15 minutes… You may want to use a  1GB stick instead… Once it is complete unmount the USB stick again via typing: diskutil umountDisk disk3 (where disk3 is the USB stick. It may be disk1 or disk2, etc for you)

Now you will have a bootable pfSense USB installer and are ready to Install pfSense 2.1 from a USB Stick.