If you have ever built your own PC, it’s very similar. You get great bang for buck and awesome flexibility.

Let’s build it

You mainly need three things to make any router work.

  • Hardware
  • Wireless Hardware
  • Software

Hardware I got my board from PC Engines. It’s a super sketchy site, in a good way though. Kind of like a mom & pop store of the internet; with amazing craftsmanship. They’re located @ Sweden. I personally got the APU model. (Detailed list below)

APU

Wireless Hardware I went a little overboard and got an Enterprise AP. Ubiquity UniFi makes awesome products I got the UniFi AP AC Lite. You get: 802.11ac, up to 867 Mbps, PoE, and the fastest connection I’ve ever seen.

Honestly, you can just get this, plug it into your existing router, turn off your wireless on the old router and you’ll see amazing performance boosts.

In fact if you’re just tired of your router, get this first and give it a try. You’ll probably be super satisfied. This is one of those companies that is showing companies like Cisco that you can have enterprise grade hardware for reasonable prices. What they do is admirable, kudos to Ubiquiti.

UniFi AP AC Lite

Software Easy. PF Sense. It’s basically the defacto for routing and even excellent firewalls and security. Based off of FreeBSD.

PF Sense Logo

Mandatory detailed list of items I used

  1. PC Engines - APU board (I got the 4GB DRAM one called apu1d4)
  2. APU: Case (required for cooling)
  3. APU: A/C adapter
  4. APU: Memory. mSATA SSD or SD Card
  5. APU: Null Modem Cable AND USB to Serial to interface with the APU.
  6. [If not using an AP] miniPCI express wireless with appropriate antennaes and stuff. Not for me, I want my AP.
  7. AP: UniFi UAP AC LITE. I got it on amazon.
  8. Software: PF Sense -> Free, <3 open source.

Note: A lot of these items link to PC Engines site, but you can get them wherever since they are not proprietary!

Total: $290

Putting it together

PC Engines Box

I don’t want to get to deep into this because PC Engines and PF Sense documentation is great, so I’m listing a very general steps and resources.

  1. Assemble the APU board + case.
  2. Connect your Serial connection and set up correct frequencies.
  3. Boot up the APU board and set up BIOS settings.
  4. Setup a bootable USB PFSense. You want AMD 64, NanoBSD OR USB Memstick Live, and Serial console. Then burn it.
  5. Install BSD on APU board.

Read at least:

Other more detailed guides found here and here.

I now have the full power of PFSense with capabilities for VPN server, Epic Firewall, Dyanmic DNS, and more. Meanwhile I have an enterprise level AP dealing with IP assignation. Fun fact, that little guy also runs Linux - or some flavor, probably BusyBox.

Here’s the finished product

TBP IMAGE HERE

Why did I do this?

The main reason I did this was because at least once a week I had to restart my router, because it would just stop performing right. Dropping some connections, or slowing down speeds. I was tired at the lack of performance.

<rant>

“Kocsen, why would you ever build your own router? You can get a cheap Linksys Router for $30 bucks”.

And that’s the problem. Consumer grade routers are literally toys. Even ones that are over $200 have proprietary (and potentially unsafe) software along with sub-par hardware.

</rant>