Virtualizing pfSense under Hyper-V

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Introduction

This article is about building and running a pfSense virtual machine under Microsoft Hyper-V. The guide applies to any Hyper-V version, desktop or server (this includes the standalone Hyper-V Server). The guide explains how to install any major pfSense version under Hyper-V. Article covers the Hyper-V networking setup and pfSense virtual machine setup process. The guide does not cover how to install Hyper-V or Windows Server. A basic, working, pfSense virtual machine will exist by the end of this article.

Disclaimer: If pfSense will be running as a perimeter firewall for an organization and the "attack surface" should be minimized, many will say it is preferable to run it non-virtualized on stand-alone hardware. That is a decision for the user and/or organization to make, however. Now back to the topic.

We're going to start at the point where we have a Windows Server 2016 with the Hyper-V role installed. If other VMs are already running on Hyper-V, then it is not likely necessary to follow the networking steps too closely. However, we recommend skimming through it to see what is suggested before building the pfSense virtual machine part.

Assumptions

  • Hyper-V host is up and Hyper-V role has been installed.
  • The reader has an basic understanding of networking and Hyper-V virtualization

Basic Hyper-V Networking

In order to virtualize pfSense we first need to create two Virtual Switches via Hyper-V Manager. In the Hyper-V Manager open Virtual Switch Manager from the Actions menu. Select Internal type of virtual switch and click Create Virtual Switch

Virtual switch config

Name the newly added switch LAN and select private network. Click apply.

Virtual switch config 2

Now we create WAN switch the same way we did with LAN. Make sure Allow management operating system to share this network adapter is not selected if you have a dedicated NIC for WAN. For the purpose of this guide the management was allowed, however in production you must have a separate NIC for WAN. Click OK.

Virtual switch config 3

Creating the virtual machine

After creating WAN and LAN switches, we move to virtual machine creation. Start the new virtual machine wizard add a name.

Virtual machine config 1

After clicking next select the appropriate virtual machine Generation. If you're installing pfSense 2.3 select Generation 1. If you are installing pfSense 2.4 select Generation 2.

Virtual machine config 2

On the Assign Memory step add enough of RAM for your needs. For this guide, we have added 1GB. 2GB is recommended if you intend to run multiple packages.

Virtual machine config 3

Next step is to Configure Networking, select WAN from Connection drop-down menu. We will add LAN later.

Virtual machine config 4

On the next step select Create a virtual hard disk and assign 10-20GB to pfSense. Larger disk size is required if you plan on running Squid caching.

Virtual machine config 5

Select Install an operating system from a bootable CD/DVD-ROM and browse to the pfSense installer ISO.

Virtual machine config 6

Review the virtual machine information and finish the wizard!

Virtual machine config 7

Open Settings of the newly created pfSense virtual machine and add another network adapter. Select LAN virtual switch for the adapter.

Virtual machine config 8

Review the VM settings and make sure you have WAN and LAN switches selected under network adapters

Virtual machine config 9

Installing pfSense

After successfully creating and configuring the pfSense virtual machine, it's time to start it.

Installing pfSense 1

Wait for the virtual machine to boot up and press I to invoke installer.

Installing pfSense 2

Once installer boots up select the Quick/Easy Install and follow the installer steps.

Installing pfSense 3

When prompted, select the standard kernel and continue the installation.

Installing pfSense 4

After installation is complete, select reboot and eject the ISO.

Installing pfSense 5

First boot and interfaces assignment

pfSense virtual machine should boot up quickly and welcome you with Interfaces assignments. Select N to not set up VLAN's now.

Interfaces 1

In the following steps assign WAN and LAN interfaces to the appropriate network adapters. You can check the MAC address within the virtual machine settings.

Interfaces 2

After assigning interfaces pfSense will finish the boot-up. Verify both interfaces have the correct IP addresses.

Interfaces 3

Congratulations! You now have pfSense runing as a virtual machine on Microsoft Hyper-V.

Guide under construction, may have minor errors