pfSense on SonicWALL SRA 4200

By now if you haven’t already guessed, I like to tinker! Couple that with the fact I have a few saved sellers on eBay that keep me surround with EoL hardware and it quickly becomes a dangerous situation for my wallet.

My latest find is a pair of SonicWALL SRA 4200’s, my ultimate goal is to get pfSense installed and revive these beasts. As it stands the units both work as “Secure Remote Access” servers, they don’t include any licenses for the included OS, so are kinda useless, but normally they’d be dedicated VPN servers for massive companies with millions of employees that need to connect in and from remote locations.

I’ve only been playing with them for a couple of hours so far but I’ve managed to get pfSense installed. There are two issues at the moment which I’ve yet to resolve:

  1. There’s a driver issue with the network cards, so the setup wizard can’t detect any NIC’s and can’t continue
  2. By default it wants to boot off the internal CF card, so I have to manually keep changing it to boot of my USB flash drive – If you remove the CF card completely the unit doesn’t even attempt to boot, it beeps twice then powers off so there’s some sort of security mechanism in place

So how did I get this far?

Well it was fun! I started by trying to get console output to my ancient Dell laptop (which has an ACTUAL serial port,  woah!).

I bought a run of the mill RJ45 to DB9 cable but that didn’t work, so I had to get my soldering iron out and knock something up – See original diagram here or pictures below:

As you can see from above, whilst I did get output it was AFTER P.O.S.T. so in other words, it was output from the SonicWALL operating system and of no use to me.

Next I went to extremes and tried changing on the AMIBIOS chip for a spare I had floating around from the WatchGuards, not a lot happened so it was back to square one.

After that I went on a pin hunt and noticed “VGA” markings and then a set of 15 pins, I didn’t expect it to work but I hooked up a monitor and had output!

 

I couldn’t get into a “classic” BIOS screen, although here’s what I found through trial and error:

  • Mashing F5/F8 takes you to slightly different FreeDOS screens
  • Mashing F11 takes you to a familiar looking boot device menu screen

The unit is running Wind River’s VxWorks operating system, which looks pretty cool, although I had never heard of it until now.

I installed pfSense 2.3.5 (x86) by connecting a CD drive to one of the internal SATA headers, connected a 16GB Sandisk Flash Drive to one of the USB ports and then mashed F11 and selected the disk drive.

What followed was the familiar installation screens of pfSense – Notice how the colours keep changing, it was loose cables or artistic flare, I’ll let you decide!

What’s next?

Well, this was just a bit of fun but when I get chance I’ll look at sorting the network card drivers out and see if I can re-purpose the CF card, worst case I’ll move the USB drive inside the chassis and make the CF card the second boot device.

Search terms:

  • rj45 штекерным db9 rs232 мужской схема подключения