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PFSense + File server for home network, pros and cons of VM vs hardware separates?

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I had been considering putting together a Ryzen 1700 rig with some parts I have already laying around to run PFSense on one VM and Windows Server 2016 on a 2nd VM for file server / Ubiquity management / security camera management since all I would need to purchase off the bat is the CPU and MB but I realized that I have almost a full system that could probably do PFSense by itself...


Currently I have an i5 7600 + 32gb DDR4 2666 + 256gb nvme ssd + two 4tb desktop HDDs just idling away as a file server (Windows 10 Pro) with a 450w PSU. I remembered that I also have in an empty case another identical motherboard. Spare parts-wise I have a Celeron G3930 CPU, 4gb stick of RAM, 750w PSU, and last week purchased a 2-port Intel Gbit NIC for PFSense.


Would it make more sense to just buy another SSD and create a separate rig with the spare parts (Celeron CPU based) for PFSense than to make a Ryzen rig and run PFSense + Windows 2016 virtualized on the same box?

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17 minutes ago, Kalm_Traveler1 said:


Would it make more sense to just buy another SSD and create a separate rig with the spare parts (Celeron CPU based) for PFSense than to make a Ryzen rig and run PFSense + Windows 2016 virtualized on the same box?

Personally, I love VMs; you only have to maintain a single set of hardware, you get lower electric bill, depending on one's configuration, it's really easy to re-allocate the resources for the VMs whenever one needs and so on. The only downside is that if the machine goes down, it takes everything running on it down with it. I don't see that as a very big concern: just make sure all the hardware runs stable and pop a UPS on it and all should be well.

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The largest issue with running everything in a VM on one machine is as mentioned above. If you have to take the server down for any reason everything hosted on that server would go down as well. For a home user it probably isn't the end of the world if you have to take down the server to clean it out or repair it and IMO the pros far outweighs the cons.


  • For any server you build, the reliability will come down to the most unreliable component. Running one VM host server instead of multiple bare metal units will allow you to splurge a bit more on it.
  • For me, power is a pretty big factor. In my instance, running PFsense on a bare metal server consumed approximately 70 watts where as when I run it in a VM, the host server power consumption barely increased (likely due to the low resource consumption of PFsense).
  • A big advantage is the ability to snapshot your VM so if an upgrade borks your setup, instead of having to reload your OS or try to repair it, you can just apply the snapshot.
  • You can increase resources with a few clicks of a mouse if your VM needs it...depending on factors, you may even be able to do this without shutting the VM down.

With all that said, having redundancy and maybe even hot swappable parts is a good idea. I run a retired Dell server which has hot swap PSUs, fans, and every HDD. Still...keep on top of backing things up and have a plan if one day you wake up to a server that releases the magic smoke.

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