The supported methods to upgrade from one pfSense release to another depend on the platform being used. Any version of pfSense can be reliably upgraded to any newer version while retaining the existing configuration. This includes RC, Beta, and other releases. So long as the firmware is moving from an older version to a newer version, it will work unless noted otherwise.
First, as always before any major change to the firewall, make sure there is a good, up-to-date backup. Visit Diagnostics > Backup/Restore and download a backup of the firewall configuration (config.xml). Those with a pfSense Gold subscription may also use the AutoConfigBackup package to make a manual backup noting the reason as "before upgrade". Keeping a local and remote copy of the backup config.xml is strongly advised.
Before any upgrade is performed, plan for how to recover prior in case something goes wrong. There is a chance that a regression from one version to another, either in the pfSense or FreeBSD code, can leave the firewall unusable. With some advance planning, the firewall can quickly be returned to the previous release.
Downgrading a full installation to previous releases directly in-place is not supported. Very rarely is it desirable or necessary to go back to a prior release. Should that be necessary, the previous version must be reinstalled and a configuration backup from that version must be restored. Configurations from newer versions cannot be restored to older versions.
For NanoBSD, this can be done by switching back to the previous update slice from the GUI, console, or boot menu. The pre-upgrade configuration will need to be restored restored after the switch.
The worst case scenario on upgrading is a FreeBSD regression that prevents the firewall from booting successfully, or no longer communicating with the network. In this case, reinstall. For a full install, this means reinstalling from a CD or Memstick for the previous release. Download the appropriate image and have it ready before starting the upgrade procedure.
This is the least likely scenario, with maybe one in every ten or twenty thousand installs affected with upgrades containing significant FreeBSD release changes (such as pfSense 1.2.3 to 2.0, going from FreeBSD 7.2 to 8.1).
An easy fall-back plan for virtualized firewalls is to take a snapshot of the VM before performing an upgrade. This way, if anything should go wrong, it can easily roll back to a known-good state.
It is always safest to remove packages before upgrading to a new major release. Packages will be reinstalled afterward, but are frequently a source of problems. To ensure a smooth upgrade, note the installed packages, remove them, perform the upgrade, and then reinstall whichever packages are necessary.
The specifics of performing the actual firmware update (Automatic or manual) are covered in Firmware Updates.
Upgrading a 32-bit system to 64-bit, or vice versa, is not supported. The most reliable method to change architecture is to reinstall and restore the configuration. The configuration file is the same on both versions.
Upgrading from 32-bit to 64-bit mostly works fine with a couple caveats - the 32-bit RRD data is invalid on the 64-bit version and will have to be deleted by running rm -rf /var/db/rrd*. All RRD history will be lost, this cannot be converted. Also after the upgrade, the reboot binary will be 64-bit which cannot run on a 32-bit platform, so the system will fail to reboot on its own. The firewall must be power cycled to complete the upgrade. Many users have done this upgrade without seeing any caveats other than this, but it is not recommended.
If the firewall is running 2.1 or later, the RRD files may be converted by use of the configuration backup mechanism. When a backup is made from Diagnostics > Backup/Restore with Do not backup RRD data unchecked the RRD files are exported into an architecture-independent format which can then be imported back into pfSense by restoring the configuration. The restore could be done after a reinstall or in-place upgrade changing the architecture, but the data must be backed up before the switch is made.
For live CD installations, burn the new ISO to a disc, put it in the firewall, and reboot the system with the same configuration storage medium.
Only the new NanoBSD-based embedded images support upgrades. For those using an embedded release from before pfSense 1.2.3, the storage medium must be re-flashed with the appropriate sized NanoBSD release for the CF card, then restore the configuration. Given the age of such systems, it is likely that the CF or other media would need replaced instead.
On pfSense 1.2.3 or newer, an upgrade image may be downloaded from the pfSense web site. Be sure to download an appropriate sized NanoBSD upgrade file for the CF card. If the size in uncertain, check /etc/nanosize.txt or look on the dashboard for the current NanoBSD size.
Be aware that some changes that come with NanoBSD may require fixes or updates to the BIOS or CF image.
ALIX systems must have at least BIOS revision 0.99h. For help updating, see: ALIX BIOS Update Procedure
WRAP systems will not work with stock pfSense 1.2.3 or newer embedded Images, see: NanoBSD on WRAP
For help with altering a CF image (before or after writing), for example to add a configuration without using the WebGUI, see: Modifying Embedded
When upgrading 1.2.3 to 2.0, uninstalling all packages is required before the upgrade is performed. Some old packages can cause problems with the configuration upgrade process, or possibly prevent the system from booting at all in some rare cases. After the upgrade is complete, the packages can be reinstalled. The configuration is automatically retained.
If a manual management directive was entered into the Advanced Configuration of an OpenVPN client or server, it must be removed. The OpenVPN status code is built into pfSense 2.x and later, and it is handled internally. The management directive must be removed or the status of the VPN instance will not be properly reported.
The WISPr RADIUS attributes were incorrectly applied to all versions prior to pfSense 2.0-RELEASE. They were applied as Kbps where WISPr is supposed to be bps, hence those using WISPr attributes will have one one-thousandth of the previous bandwidth unless the RADIUS server is corrected. The RADIUS server will need to have these values updated to bps for proper functionality once the firewall has been upgraded to pfSense 2.0-RELEASE or later.
International characters, such as åäö and so on, were not supported on pfSense 1.2.x, but were allowed in some places due to overly lenient input validation and less strict XML parsing. These characters causes invalid XML when they are stored directly, and as such if pfSense 1.2.x did not crash and toss out the configuration with such characters, it will not upgrade to any current version of pfSense.
pfSense 2.0 and later will reset and toss out the config.xml on every reboot if it contains these characters bare, leaving the firewall at an "assign interfaces" prompt since it does not have a valid configuration.
The config.xml file can be run through an XML parser such as xmllint and the parser will show where problems exist, if any. Fix the errors, and then the corrected configuration can be used for an upgrade. The good news is that these characters are handled properly in most areas of the current pfSense GUI, and they are CDATA escaped so they are safe from such errors.
See the HA section at the end of this article for a High Availability-specific pfsync note about 2.1 upgrades.
Additionally, if upgrading from pfSense 2.0.x to pfSense 2.1:
The State Killing on Gateway Failure feature (System > Advanced, Miscellaneous tab) now kills ALL states when a gateway has been detected as down, not only states on the failing WAN. This is done because otherwise the LAN-side states were not killed appropriately, and thus some connections would be in limbo, especially SIP. Due to the change in its behavior, State Killing on Gateway Failure is disabled by default in new configurations and is disabled during upgrade to pfSense 2.1.x from 2.0.x or before regardless of the user's previously chosen setting. If the feature is desired even with its new behavior, it must be manually re-enabled post-upgrade.
The Allow IPv6 checkbox is NOT changed on upgrade unlike it was in early pfSense 2.1 BETA firmware. This was changed so that the user's chosen existing behavior is preserved. To allow IPv6 traffic after an upgrade, the setting must be changed manually. This setting is located on System > Advanced on the Networking tab. It defaults to allowed for new configurations.
Changes to policy route negation between pfSense 2.0.x and 2.1 may result in local/private traffic hitting policy routing rules that would not have happened on pfSense 2.0.x. This most commonly presents as an inability to reach local networks after upgrading. The automatic policy route negation rules on pfSense 2.0.x were too lenient, and that behavior was corrected. To ensure proper routing to other local interfaces, VPNs, or static route networks rules must be added to the local interfaces to pass traffic to these destinations without a gateway set. And that rule must be above any others that would match and have a gateway set.
We advise uninstalling packages prior to upgrade to avoid issues with the conversion from tbz packages to PBI packages. If the packages are not removed before the upgrade, some binaries may be left in place.
The IPsec daemon was changed from racoon to strongSwan. Existing configurations should work the same as always, but if any unusual configurations are present, take care in testing after the upgrade. Changes in behavior because of this change may trigger bugs in remote endpoints that weren't previously an issue. Configurations that were always technically incorrect may exhibit problems now where they didn't previously. We've listed the circumstances we're aware of here, and will expand upon this list if anything new is found.
Problems with rekeying with multiple phase 2 entries on a single phase 1 in some cases with IKEv1 – while some circumstances with multiple P2s on a single P1 work fine, there is an outstanding rekeying problem in some circumstances. Especially where you have several P2s on a single P1, we advise caution on upgrading at this time. Where both endpoints support IKEv2, changing from IKEv1 to IKEv2 will prevent this from being an issue. Note: This may be fixed in 2.2.1. There isn't a clear replicable circumstance, so we're not yet sure, but at least one user has reported this to be fixed.
Those using racoon (pfSense 2.1.x and earlier, among a variety of other similar products) on remote endpoints with aggressive mode may encounter a bug in racoon related to NAT-D and aggressive mode. Any site to site IPsec VPNs using aggressive mode with racoon as a remote endpoint should change to main mode to prevent this from being an issue. Main mode is preferable regardless.
For those using the glxsb crypto accelerator in the ALIX and other systems with Geode CPUs, only AES 128 bit is supported by those cards. Any key length > 128 bit has never worked, and shouldn't be configured. There appear to be some circumstances where AES on "auto" with racoon preferred 128 bit where strongswan prefers the strongest-available and is choosing 256 bit, which glxsb breaks. Input validation in 2.2.1 prevents such invalid configurations when adding configurations or making changes, however existing configurations are not changed. If using glxsb and AES, ensure both your phase 1 and phase 2 configurations all use AES 128 only and never auto.
For mobile IPsec clients, Internet traffic could pass in some circumstances without having specified 0.0.0.0/0 as the local network in the mobile phase 2 configuration. If your mobile IPsec clients need to access the Internet via IPsec, your mobile phase 2 must specify 0.0.0.0/0 as the local network.
In 2.1x and earlier versions, racoon could accept mismatched phase 1 identifiers where using "IP Address" as the identifier. This is most commonly a problem where one of the endpoints is behind NAT and you're using "My IP Address" and "Peer IP Address" for your identifiers. On the side with the private IP WAN, "My IP Address" will be its private WAN IP. On the opposite end, "Peer IP Address" will be the public IP of the opposite side. Hence, these two values don't match, and should have resulted in a connection failure. racoon would fall back to checking the source IP of the initiating host as an identifier, where it found the match. Change the phase 1 identifiers so they really do match to resolve this.
The disk drivers in FreeBSD changed between the underlying OS versions and now the CAM-based ATA drivers and AHCI are used by default. As such, ATA disks are labeled as /dev/adaX rather than /dev/adX. The ada driver for ATA disks and GEOM keeps legacy aliases in place so that old disk references will still work post-upgrade. This does not always extend to virtualized disk drivers, however (see the Xen note below.)
For a full install, running /usr/local/sbin/ufslabels.sh before the upgrade will convert /etc/fstab to UFS labels rather than disk device names bypassing any device name issues that could arise due to the switch.
There is also a chance that the new driver stack will have issues with certain controller/disk combinations that were not present in prior releases. There may be BIOS changes or other workarounds to help. See Boot Troubleshooting.
The methods used to disable DMA and write caching have both changed on FreeBSD 10.x. For most, disabling these manually is no longer necessary.
If disabling DMA is necessary, the following may be used in /boot/loader.conf.local:
Change X to be the ATA controller ID, typically 0 or 1.
If write caching must be disabled, the following may be used in /boot/loader.conf.local:
The FreeBSD 10.1 base used by pfSense 2.2 includes PVHVM drivers for Xen in the kernel. This can cause Xen to automatically change the disk and network device names during an upgrade to pfSense 2.2, which the Hypervisor should not do but does anyway.
The disk change can be worked around by running /usr/local/sbin/ufslabels.sh before the upgrade to convert /etc/fstab to UFS labels rather than disk device names.
The NIC device change issue has no workaround. Manual reassignment is required at this time.
If a manual gmirror configuration was performed post-install and not using the pfSense installer gmirror option before install, there is a chance that the mirror will not function on pfSense 2.2 because the manual post-install method did not create a completely proper mirror setup. If an upgraded mirror does not boot or function on 2.2, use the following /boot/loader.conf.local entry to work around the integrity check that would otherwise fail.
If one of these configurations is in use, we strongly recommend backing up the configuration and reinstalling using the built-in gmirror option in the pfSense installer.
Due to the new CARP subsystem, the old method of having a virtual "interface" for CARP VIPs is no longer available. CARP VIPs work more like IP Aliases, existing directly on the main interface. For most, the changes we have made to accommodate this new system will be transparent, but there are some potential issues, such as:
Users that have Solarflare 10Gbit/s NICs, sfxge(4), used in combination with lagg(4) may not want to upgrade to pfSense 2.2-RELEASE as there are driver issues with that combination that will lead to a kernel panic when more than one sfxge(4) interface is added to a lagg(4). This is a problem with the FreeBSD driver and must be fixed upstream. #3996
If pfSense 2.2 is used despite this warning, please do so in a non-production test lab environment first to confirm if the problem is present on a specific combination of hardware.
The FTP proxy is not included in pfSense 2.2-RELEASE, due to changes in pf(4) and state table handling that made it it more difficult to implement. It may return in a future release. Use of FTP is strongly discouraged as credentials are transmitted insecurely in plain text. #4210
See FTP without a Proxy for additional information and workarounds.
Another option is the recently added FTP Client Proxy package which leverages ftp-proxy(8) in FreeBSD to allow clients on local interfaces to reach remote FTP servers with active FTP.
LAGG using LACP in FreeBSD 10.0 and newer defaults to "strict mode" being enabled, which means the lagg does not come up unless your switch is speaking LACP. This will cause your LAGG to not function after upgrade if your switch isn't using active mode LACP.
You can retain the lagg behavior in pfSense 2.1.5 and earlier versions by adding a new system tunable under System>Advanced, System Tunables tab for the following:
With value set to 0. You can configure this in 2.1.5 before upgrading to 2.2, to ensure the same behavior on first boot after the upgrade. It will result in a harmless cosmetic error in the logs on 2.1.5 since the value does not exist in that version.
If you have more than one LAGG interface configured, you will need to enter a tunable for each since that is a per-interface option. So for lagg1, you would add the following.
Also with the value set to 0.
The sysctl to allow unsupported SFP modules changed in FreeBSD between the versions used for pfSense 2.1.x and 2.2.
The old tunable was:
This must be changed to:
Edit the setting in /boot/loader.conf.local before applying the firmware update and it will be retained.
Layer 7 classification and filtering does not function properly in 2.2/2.2.1-RELEASE. Traffic attempting to use Layer 7 containers will fail and the ipfw-classifyd process will consume high amounts of CPU power. The issue is currently being tracked at https://redmine.pfsense.org/issues/4276
When upgrading from pfSense 1.2.3 to 2.0 or later, Check the CARP VIPs to make sure they are actually on the proper interface. That is, that the interface chosen for the VIP properly matches the subnet in which the CARP VIP resides, and that the subnet mask is proper. pfSense 2.0 validates this more strictly than previous releases, and as a consequence if a CARP VIP was misconfigured on pfSense 1.2.3, it may not upgrade cleanly.
If upgrading from any previous version of pfSense (1.2.x, 2.0.x, etc) to pfSense 2.1 in a CARP environment, ensure that the pfsync interface has a rule to pass the correct traffic for state synchronization to work properly. pfSense 2.1 removed the automatic pfsync rule, since the documentation always recommended adding it manually and to add it behind the scenes with no way to block it could be counter-productive and potentially insecure. If the documentation was not followed, and a pfsync or allow all rule was not created on the sync interface, state synchronization may break after this upgrade. Add an appropriate rule to the sync interface and it will work again. At a minimum, pass traffic of the pfsync protocol from a source of the synchronization subnet to all cluster nodes.
Generally the recommended path for upgrading a High Availability cluster is to first upgrade the secondary node. After it comes back up, disable CARP on the primary node under Status > CARP, and run on the secondary for a period of time. If the secondary node is running comfortably as desired, upgrade the primary node and it will switch back to MASTER status after rebooting for the upgrade.
NOTE: The underlying pfsync protocol that synchronizes states between firewalls has changed formats between different FreeBSD versions and hence some upgrade scenarios will require dropping all states when switching the new version to master status. This is true when upgrading to 1.2.3 from any prior release.
NOTE for 2.0 upgrades: Refer to Redundant Firewalls Upgrade Guide for specifics for upgrading to 2.0 with HA/CARP.