There are two console types available in pfSense, VGA and Serial. The active default console depends on the image/installer used and configuration settings. The difference between the two console types is explained in more detail below.
The VGA console is a console with a traditional monitor and keyboard. The keyboard can be PS/2 or USB. The VGA console requires hardware with a monitor port and either PS/2 or USB ports for the keyboard, or in some cases a serial BIOS that does VGA redirection.
The VGA console is active by default in the full install, Live CD, normal memstick installer, and NanoBSD+VGA images.
The Serial console uses a serial/COM port to communicate with a serial client. It is primarily intended for systems without a monitor or keyboard, but can be used on systems where those are either not available or not wanted.
The serial console is active by default on NanoBSD images, and when installing using the serial memstick and may be enabled under System > Advanced on VGA images.
Accessing the serial console requires a null modem serial cable attached between the COM1 port on the firewall and a serial client. A hardware serial port is required on the firewall, but the client may use a USB serial adapter if needed.
Serial clients are quite common, often pre-installed on an operating system or easily available. The free PuTTY client is the most popular choice. Other choices include tip/cu on BSD/Linux, minicom, and Hyperterminal.
The serial port is set for 9600/8/N/1 by default on downloaded installations of pfSense 2.1 and earlier, so set the client software appropriately. On pfSense 2.2 the default serial port speed is 115200/8/N/1. For hardware ordered with pfSense preinstalled, consult the documentation to determine the correct speed. The serial port speed may be changed under System > Advanced.
If the device has a BIOS accessible over serial console, it is also possible that it will not be using the same serial speed that the OS is using. For example, ALIX units ship with their BIOS set to 38400.
The most common serial speeds to try would be: 9600, 38400, and 115200
If the BIOS serial speed does not match the OS serial speed, we advise adjusting one or the other to match, so that POST messages may be viewed as well as the OS messages without having to adjust the client