pfSense Part 1: woes and packet loss

I’ve been using pfSense for several years now as a firewall/router for my home network. It’s always been reliable and has plenty of features I love tinkering with (VPN, internal DNS, domains, etc). It’s always been reliable until now, at least.

I recently upgraded to Gigabit FIOS speeds and noted I couldn’t get much past 650mbs down or up. I saw a couple burst speeds but nothing higher. I have a full Cisco Catalyst 4000 series switch as a backbone, full gigabit everywhere so this wasn’t the issue.

A little investigation showed my pfSense router actually maxxing out it’s old Xeon dual core CPU under speed tests. I ordered an old Dell Optiplex 790 with an i5 and 4GB of RAM and migrated everything last night without more than about 10 minutes downtime (love pfSense backup/restore!). With this along with a new Intel 1000 Pro NIC and I’m seeing just shy of 1000 down and up. Everything also feels snappier like the DNS might be querying quicker.

This was a weird issue. Most people swear that the pfSense systems only need a small amount of CPU processing power but this system was definitely the bottleneck here. Learn something new every day!

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