Installing pfSense on APU boards over serial cable

This tutorial should work on Linux, OSX and Windows.

4 steps overview:

  1. Download memstick-serial release of the operating system you want to install.
  2. Burn the image on the USB drive
  3. Connect the USB drive and serial cable to APU board
  4. Start putty and connect

Now, more details:

Download pfSense image

Go to https://www.pfsense.org/download/ and select the "USB Memstick Installer" from the platform dropdown.

 

Burn the pfSense image on the USB drive

If you are using Linux/OSX, you should use dd to prepare the USB stick:

sudo dd if=pfSense-CE-memstick-2.4.0-RC-amd64.img of=/dev/sdg

Make sure that if= specifies the exact location of the downloaded file and of= specifies your USB device. If you make a mistake here, you might overwrite your hard drive!

If you are using Windows, use Rufus: https://rufus.akeo.ie/

Connect USB drive and serial cable to the APU board

If you have a USB-to-serial cable, it will look like on the picture. Regular null-modem cable also works, but looks slightly different. 

If you are using Linux/OSX, make sure that your tty device shows up in /dev/. If you have a USB cable, you should see /dev/ttyUSB0, if you have a regular cable you should see /dev/ttyS0

Verify with ls: 

root@homedesktop:# ls /dev/ttyUSB0 
/dev/ttyUSB0

If you are using Windows, your Serial port will simply be called COM1

All good. Ready to connect.

Connect

Make sure you have putty installed, and start it as root:

sudo putty

Enter the values as you see below: 

 

Click open and your session should start. It should look similar to this:

 

Wait for the USB to boot, and follow the instructions on the screen:

Press F10 to make sure your USB stick has been detected. It should look similar to this:

1. this should be your USB stick
2. here should be your SSD drive

 

If you are not seeing USB stick in the boot menu, it's possible that your USB brand is not supported by APU.

Some USB sticks simply don't work. Try a different brand.

Press 1 and follow the instructions on the screen.

Note, BIOS will always say "Booting from Hard Disk..." even if it's booting from USB.

Recording of the installation process is shown below. Note, we have installed pfSense with ZFS instead of UFS to minimize the filesystem corruption problem.

 

Good luck!