Openwrt vs. pfsense – Which one is better for building a router system

When it comes to building and managing a router system, openwrt and pfsense are two of the best ways to go, but which one is better?

Both Openwrt and pfsense are great operating systems for the set-up and management of router networks. They are commonly preferred for certain common features such as allowing the administrator to set up, separate and control various subnets that are powered by different routers but still lie within the same information system. This is pivotal in controlling dissemination of information as well as monitoring and filtering data within the subnets. One of their major differences would be that, Pfsense encourages the user to build his own router, while openwrt is specifically designed to save the user from having to build the firmware. This could an advantage or disadvantage. For a techie who is eager to learn how to build firmware, or build one for the first time, then this is a big plus. However for a system developer who probably has a time constraint and is more concerned with building and having the system running, then this would be an inconvenience.

What are the differences between Openwrt and pfsense?

Openwrt (Winner)
Parent project
Free BSD
Freedom to modify the operating system
Completely open
Firewall applications
Limited in number and functionality
Wide and numbered
System monitoring tools
Web application security and security monitoring

Openwrt vs. pfsense- How do they compare?


Pfsense only runs on PC class hardware while openwrt typically runs on far less powerful devices. This limits the amount of data that a user is able to push through an open VPN connection at a given time while using openwrt


Pfsense is distributed under the Apache 2 licence which limits the users’ freedom when it comes to making changes and other modifications to the system, making it rather rigid as a tool for web development and app building. Openwrt licencing is rather public and open and does not restrict the user to the functionality and modifications they can make in the operating system.


Openwrt works with already developed firmware, allowing the user to modify the operation system and create their own system with the pre-built firmware. Pfsense on the other hand is specifically designed to help the user build their system from scratch

Security Monitoring

Pfsense is widely used as a firewall and for good reason, it has great web application security features within its firewall applications such as unified threat management and multi-WAN. Openwrt is made to target building systems in embedded devices, making it lack much beyond the software basic security features.

Openwrt vs. pfsense – A comparison review


This project is a Linux Operating System that targets embedded devices, which are devices that have a targeted function within a larger system of devices. It provides a writable file system that comes with package management as opposed to trying to create a rigid software, giving the administrator room to tweak the code for targeted functionality. Its flexibility allows the user to customize the device in use by using packages to suit the application of interest. This frees the user from the configuration and application selection made by the web developer and the software vender on top of giving the user freedom for full customization of the project to use it as they please.

Openwrt routers allow the system administrator to set up Wi-Fi using different Wi-Fi networks and different VLANs for different classes of users like; employees, administrators and guests. This is very convenient for filtering and monitoring data traffic and would be expensive using a vendor-supported solution.


  • It is open source and free to download and use
  • It gives the user complete freedom with the code
  • It saves the user the trouble of building the firmware


  • Has a limit to the data that can be pushed through an open VPN at a given time


Pfsense is an open source free BSD Operating system that was developed for use as a firewall as well as in the building of routers. For these uses, it comes with quite the array of features which enable monitoring of traffic queues and CPU data utilization which is very effective in system monitoring and management. It also has an automatic back up configuration feature which is put in place to restore your progress and settings in the case of an abrupt system failure or reboot.

It enables multiple configurations and specific routing which allows the administrator to not only monitor, but also control the flow of information across different subnets that are powered through different routers. In a work environment, this is essential in monitoring the information flow in the organization from the administrator to different levels of management, and finally to the employees. It also secures information from reach by say guests through allowing them to use their own separate subnet where certain information does not flow. This would also be useful in management and conservation of internet resources because it gives a clear picture of the areas that drain on such resources.


  • It is free to use and an open source system
  • It comes with quite an array of additional firewall features
  • Allows and helps the user build their router from scratch


  • Its licencing makes customization of the code limited


Openwrt is ideal for users that need a framework to build an application, it allows developers to do this without going through the trouble of building the base firmware around it, which is like the foundation for a building. Pfsense allows the user to do the same thing, though its form of licensing limits them to certain configurations made by the web developer or distributor.  However, when it comes to firewall applications and additional features, Pfsense is superior particularly with its automatic XML file backup

Verdict – So which is better Openwrt or pfsense?

It all depends on the purpose for which you need the routing software. Pfsense is great for its angle in firewall applications and assistant apps. However, the primary purpose for purchasing a routing software would be to build and customize your own routers and information system and in this Openwrt is the better option for its flexible customization properties in addition to saving the user the trouble of having to create the firmware around the application they are developing.


Is a live update of the pfsense supported?

Currently this is untested and unsupported because a real system console is currently unavailable which makes a recovery process that is definitive for failures that occur during upgrades impossible. The recommended process is to back up your configuration on pfsense from your current instance on a new one in the event an upgrade is available.

How do I support the openwrt project?

Companies and individuals can best do this by streaming the required code that supports their products. Patch submissions and platform support codes would be highly appreciated as well as up streaming the product.

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