Mini-ITX and pfSense a perfect combination!

Posted by Unlogic 2010-01-18 20:53 | Updated by Unlogic 2010-01-18 21:54 | 4 Comments | Tags: Jetway, Mini-ITX, Morex, Router, VIA, pfSense

As I mentioned in my previous blog post my first encounter with the Mini-ITX standard was back in 2008 when I realized that my old trusty Linksys WRT54G router couldn't handle the 100Mbit internet connection I had just installed.

Finding a new router that handled 100Mbit full duplex and had a open firmware proved to be nearly impossible. So I decided to build a small computer and run one of the many different Linux and BSD distributions available out there targeted at firewall/router applications.

The result of this little "experiment" proved so successful that I haven't looked back since!

Enough talking lets cut straight to the hardware. I wanted a motherboard that had dual gigabit ethernet interfaces and was passively cooled. After doing some research and checking the compatibility of various network cards against Linux and BSD i decided on a Jetway J7F4 motherboard which has dual Realtek RTL8110SC gigabit network cards.

The drivers in Linux and BSD for this network card were a bit sketchy but after some trial and error I settled with an early version of pfSense 1.2.1. This proved to be a good choice since it has worked very well and been extremely stable handling Bittorrent traffic at 8MB /sec and multiple OpenVPN connections simultaneously without breaking sweat.

To go along with the motherboard I bought a 512MB stick of RAM and cheap 1GB USB stick that I use as hard drive. To prevent the USB stick from wearing out due to all the writes I switched pfSense to embedded mode which severely reduces the amount of writes.

Anyway a computer without a case doesn't score very high on the WAF scale so I bought a Morex T3310 case.

Now I had a totally silent computer almost the size of a Linksys WRT54G but with a lot more power and that could run any OS I'd like. Mission accomplished!


Posted by Emi 2010-03-21 09:14

Does this setup get hot? I have the same motherboard and if I don't put a fan on the heatsink it gets too hot to touch. Is it safe to operate the processor so hot?

Posted by Unlogic 2010-03-22 06:25

The system has never overheated on me even though I keep it in a server closet that often reaches temperatures of 25°C.

However the metal mesh on the top of case get's quite hot sometimes so I'd say the system is probably running a bit hot but it doesn't seem to be a problem.

Posted by Jisung, Ahn 2010-03-27 05:20

Hi, I have a question about your mini-itx backup server at gallery.
First picture of your mini-itx backup server have Right angled sata power cable.
I search it on all web, but I could not found what is's model no or vendor.
I want to make very slim case but only problem is sata power cable.
Please let me know what is model no of your sata power cable?

Posted by Unlogic 2010-03-28 09:12 | Updated by Unlogic 2010-04-01 10:33

Hi Jisung,

The power cable you see on the pictures of the mini-itx backup server came with the D945GSEJT motherboard.

I don't know if you can buy it separately.

Edit : you could probably buy this cable and modify it to suit your needs:

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