pfSense Plus vs. CE (Community Edition)

  • Post author:WunderTech
  • Post published:March 1, 2023
  • Post last modified:May 10, 2024
  • Post category:pfSense
  • Reading time:9 mins read

Share what you're reading!

In this article, we’ll look at some of the differences between pfSense Plus vs. CE (Community Edition). pfSense has been an extremely popular firewall offering for small businesses, home lab enthusiasts, or really anyone interested in learning more about networking.

This article will break down some of the key differences between pfSense Plus vs. CE to help understand what each product is designed for.

What is pfSense?

pfSense is an open-source firewall and router software. It’s based on the FreeBSD operating system, and provides a wide range of features, making it a powerful solution for managing networks by configuring firewall rules, creating VLANs, and more.

It’s used by individuals, small businesses, and large corporations alike, thanks to its flexibility, powerful capabilities, and the fact that it’s free to use (pfSense CE).

An Overview of pfSense CE

pfSense Community Edition (CE) is the free, open-source version of the pfSense software. It’s a powerful firewall and routing platform based on FreeBSD and includes a long list of related features, which make it a flexible, customizable solution for home users, enthusiasts, and businesses.

It’s important to highlight that pfSense CE is open-source because as of right now, pfSense Plus is closed-source. Therefore, users looking to run an open-source firewall are limited to pfSense CE.

pfSense CE has many similar features to pfSense Plus and will allow you to configure an extremely powerful firewall, but it is different, and we’ll look at a few of the ways below.

You can install pfSense CE on various different types of devices or even virtualize it if desired.

pfsense ce

Introduction to pfSense Plus

pfSense Plus is a commercial-grade network security product developed by Netgate that replaces pfSense Factory Edition (FE).

While pfSense CE is an open-source, free firewall, pfSense Plus is a premium, enterprise-ready version that’s designed with advanced features and capabilities suited for businesses and network professionals.

Originally, pfSense Plus was only available on Netgate appliances, AWS, and Azure, but is now available as an upgrade from pfSense CE so you can use your own hardware

It is extremely important to note that while pfSense CE is open-source, pfSense Plus is closed-source and managed entirely by Netgate. While the overall codebase will be similar based on their similar origins, pfSense Plus is different.

pfsense plus - pfsense plus vs. ce

Main Differences Between pfSense Plus and CE

The main difference between pfSense Plus and CE is that pfSense Plus is closed-source and aimed at enthusiasts/commercial entities, while pfSense CE is open-source and community-focused. Along with that, pfSense Plus is actively updated by Netgate, and pfSense CE is maintained by an open-source community.

There are a few additional differences in terms of cost and support, release versions, and features, which we’ll look at below.

Cost and Support: pfSense Plus vs. CE

pfSense CE is free and open-source. The community around it provides support through forums and other online resources. This makes it a great choice for enthusiasts, students, small businesses with tight budgets, or those who simply prefer open-source software.

pfSense CE is also a great platform to learn or test pfSense on since it’s extremely similar to pfSense Plus and can be installed on various different types of hardware.

Alternatively, pfSense Plus is a premium product that is a great option for small businesses or home lab enthusiasts. pfSense Plus is included with all Netgate devices, can be upgraded to from pfSense CE, or can be run in AWS or Azure in the cloud.

Changes in Release Numbering Convention: pfSense Plus vs. CE

The version numbers of pfSense CE and pfSense Plus are different to help distinguish them. pfSense CE uses the format major.minor.patch with the latest version being pfSense CE 2.6.0.

pfsense ce. 2.6

On the other hand, pfSense Plus uses the year.month.patch format, with the latest version being pfSense Plus 23.05. 

pfsense plus 23.05

Features: pfSense Plus vs. CE

While new pfSense Plus features will be developed, tested, and eventually made available to the pfSense CE software, there is a chance that further development will have to be done in pfSense CE to enable it.

As of right now, there aren’t major differences between both, but that may widen as time goes on, especially with Netgate determining when things are developed/released.

To be clear, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that there can be significant changes between pfSense CE and pfSense Plus in the future if active development isn’t continued with CE.

The active pfSense CE community is what will determine the path that pfSense CE takes, but Netgate is focused on making the best firewall software possible for pfSense Plus.

So…pfSense Plus or CE?

Unfortunately, your choices are extremely limited when picking between pfSense CE and Plus at this point in time if open-source is a requirement.

If you don’t care about open-source software, pfSense Plus can be migrated to from pfSense CE for free if you’re using it for home/dev testing. This allows you to use it with your own hardware. You can also use pfSense Plus by purchasing a Netgate device, or in the cloud with AWS or Azure.

If you’re comfortable with a closed-source solution, you’ll be very pleased with pfSense Plus as it’s a great product offering. The Netgate hardware is also great – I own a Netgate 6100 device and it’s absolutely awesome.

Final Thoughts: pfSense Plus vs. CE

This article looked at pfSense Plus vs. CE. pfSense CE has been a great product offering for many years, and I’m hoping that the community continues to develop it so that it keeps up with pfSense Plus.

As of right now (and in my opinion only), the risk with pfSense CE is that development for it stops and it slowly becomes an outdated firewall. While I don’t necessarily think that will happen, it is important to keep in mind that it is possible.

Either way, testing and even using pfSense CE is still a great option and provides an extremely powerful open-source firewall.

Thanks for checking out the article on pfSense Plus vs. CE. If you have any questions on pfSense Plus vs. CE, please leave them in the comments!