Best Free Firewall Protection

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Introduction

 

Firewalls help monitor your system's communications between your network and the Internet, to help detect and prevent intrusions and attacks. They are particularly useful for controlling the activities of Internet facing applications.

No other freeware product has more of a reputation for causing user angst than a firewall. To find a suitable product may involve a process of trial and error. A good firewall should protect while not being too intrusive or too complicated to handle. In this article we give you a selection of what we think is the best free firewall software available today. Our reviews and recommendations are made taking into consideration both editors' and site visitors' experience, opinions, and comments. As always, if you have more to share we would love to hear from you.

Firewalls come in two flavours; software based and hardware based. Software based firewalls (which is what we will cover in this article) reside on your machine, running in the background in order to keep a watch on things. To avoid potential conflicts only install one (third-party) software firewall. You can also improve protection by using a hardware firewall (such as a router) and a software firewall in conjunction. Modern routers usually have a built-in firewall, helping to filter out content before your machine; consult your router documentation for more details.

Basic firewall protection is critical for securing your PC. Simple firewalls (like the default Windows firewall) limit access to your system and personal information, and silently protect you from inbound threats. We review basic third-party firewalls that have marginally better security than the Windows firewall, such as simpler features for monitoring programs that request outgoing Internet connections (we call this "outbound protection"). The default Windows firewall has only limited outbound protection; other third party applications generally offer greater customizability.

Proactive firewalls offer more extended protection, including HIPS or program monitoring (HIPS Explained), and watch for malicious behavior before malware gets a chance to take control of your PC or turn it into a botnet drone. They seek to achieve stronger "2-way" protection, preventing programs from broadcasting your personal information to the Internet. The downside of such firewalls are that it may be harder to use and/or require more memory consumption.

Some kinds of malware are best detected by their behavior, so a proactive firewall (or firewall/HIPS combo) is a solid second layer of protection next to your antivirus program. It's an excellent option for high risk users (check out our Security Wizard to see if this includes you). However, it's plausible to argue that a good resident antivirus will stop some malicious threats before they get a chance to make it to the Internet anyway. Many of the top antivirus programs are starting to provide behavioral blocking and extended scanning of network activity.

Nevertheless, it is important to use basic or proactive firewall protection, antivirus software for active protection, and safe practices from our "most important advice of all" (Security Wizard) in order to minimize the risk of malware on your PC.

You can "upgrade" (for free!) your security by reading the documentation and learning about proactive firewalls or HIPS programs, or using other protection like least-privileged user accounts and/or Sandboxie or GeSWall. This information, and more, is available on various part of our website.
 

Review Index

Additional Tips/Precautions

  • Before installing new resident security products, including antivirus and firewall programs, consider making a full drive image. By creating a full drive image you are able to restore your entire computer back to a previous state in the event your system becomes completely unresponsive. Drive imaging allows you to recover from unintentional conflicts as well as severe malware infections. Everyone's system is unique and may have old, latent drivers that may be incompatible with whatever you are installing, causing problems with your system. Windows Vista (Ultimate) and Windows 7 have a built in "Complete PC Backup and Restore" feature, or you can use a free drive imaging program
  • To cleanly uninstall your (third-party) firewall before installing a new one, you may consider using ZSoft Uninstaller to analyze before and after the installation. If you haven't used it on your current firewall, try Revo Uninstaller (or other vendor or Windows uninstaller), check for leftover services and drivers with Autoruns, and restart your computer.
Basic Firewalls

 

Discussion

The built-in Windows firewall is a common choice since it passes all inbound tests (both stealth and open port) and doesn't have many popup alerts. It doesn't require installation (it comes built-in with modern versions of Windows), so it's not likely to conflict with your other programs. And many average users may not reliably handle the popup alerts of the more complex firewalls on the market (especially at their max settings).

If you scan clean for malware, don't want/need the additional features of a third-party firewall, and are a relatively low risk user, then the Windows firewall could be a practical and useful solution.

Alternatively, you can replace the Windows firewall with a basic third-party firewall for easier control of outbound protection and additional features. Most simple two-way firewalls ask you to allow or deny Internet access for unknown programs. Many automatically allow trustworthy apps and remember your decisions to become silent over time.

First, you can convert a proactive firewall into a basic two-way firewall, making some of the best free firewalls behave with similar silence and protection as ZoneAlarm. Select the following one-click configurations to set them (see the proactive section for more on them):

  • Online Armor Free: Right-click its tray icon > uncheck the "Program Guard". It's a user friendly option for this configuration if it doesn't conflict with your other software.
  • Comodo Internet Security: Right-click its tray icon > set "Defense+" to "disabled". Or select the "Firewall only" configuration during installation. Make sure to enable rule creation in 'firewall behavior settings' (so you can modify program rules later).

Second, additional third-party firewalls behave similar to the basic configurations of proactive firewalls above. ZoneAlarm, for example, has made a comeback with fewer popups and lighter resource use.

 

 

Basic Firewall Reviews

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall  is a well-established inbound/outbound OS firewall solution suited for users of every level of experience. ZoneAlarm protects systems from intrusions as well as program access to the web. ZoneAlarm features an easy-to-understand user interface. Users can adjust security settings for their needs to allow for file/printer sharing, public networks, and even turn off the firewall if ever needed. Simple controls in the form of visual slide bars make setting up this firewall a snap. ZoneAlarm offers to help users setup initial program access with a first-run scan of installed software and allows/denies accordingly. This first scan does not always offer accurate access to programs.

Users will have to interact with this firewall for a time after installation to make sure programs needing LAN or internet access are granted proper permissions. Popups are very simple in format offering Deny, Accept, and a checkbox a user can check to make ZoneAlarm remember the decision. Novice users should be able to easily identify the name of the program asking for web access so they can make the appropriate decision.

The Program Control will allow users to set ZoneAlarm for Low, which is a learning mode and no OS firewall protection and limited popups. Or users can choose Medium, which will make programs ask for permission to access the trusted and internet zones. The high setting is not offered in the Free version of ZoneAlarm. The Smart Defense Advisor will help reduce popups by offering settings for programs asking for access, based on the decisions made by other users worldwide. Users can choose whether or not to participate in ZoneAlarm's community defense program. Users can set programs access manually at anytime by going to ZoneAlarm's Program Control and selecting Programs.

Internet Zone controls are divided into the Trusted Zone, used for the local network to share files, printers, etc., and the Internet Zone for communication to/from the web. A simple 3-position format allows users to choose from "No protection" (firewall is off), Medium (Allows file/printer sharing), and High (will allow users to connect to a network but will not allow anyone else to connect to your system). The medium setting is recommended for home networks with more than one system, and for users whose modem requires this setting. The high setting is most recommended for single-system web access (only one computer at home and modem does not require a home network setting), and for public areas such as cafes, restaurants, and hotels (etc.) with wifi.

ZoneAlarm Free offers basic two-way defense, stealth mode, and anti-phishing protection. However, it lacks HIPS or program-to-program protection.

It is worth noting that there have been many negative comments about the latest version of the software, at least from the visitors on our site. Most notably, many features have been removed, and may be regarded as a step down from previous versions. Perhaps something you may want to take into account when choosing a firewall product.


 

Windows 7 Firewall Control Windows 7 Firewall Control is a good choice for those intending on using the Windows built-in Firewall. Despite its name, the program is compatible with Windows XP and higher. In a nutshell, Windows7FirewallControl allows the user to configure the Windows firewall to block or allow applications from connecting to the internet; it adds better outbound protection configuration to the built-in Firewall. It is based on the Windows Filtering Platform (which is what the built-in firewall is also based on), so unlike most other firewalls it does not install any third party drivers. The user interface is clean and simple, reflecting what this program does (ie. block or allow application access - nothing more).

There are three modes a user can choose from; Normal, DisableAll, or EnableAll. DisableAll disables all applications regardless of program settings, while EnableAll allows all application access (essentially equivalent to switching off the firewall completely). Unless needing to test something specifically, the Normal Mode is the recommended one - applications/programs are allowed or denied access depending on the rules set.

Under the Normal Mode, when a program tries to access the internet for the first time (upon installation of W7 Firewall Control) a window pop-ups with information on what the application is, the publisher, etc (assuming default program settings). You can then allow or disallow access, either permanently or as a one-time basis. Selecting the former option will add the settings permanently to the Programs list, while with the latter option you will have to deal with the pop-up window again on the next launch.

In addition to the window pop-up for new programs, activities that take place (ie. blocked/allowed traffic, etc) are logged and shows up in the bottom right corner of your screen. Both the pop-up window and log activity notification dialogue can be turned on or off at the user's discretion.

That's basically all there is to it. It may get a bit annoying when you first starting using it, since you will have to define the initial rules for all your applications (ie. allow or disallow them); this includes everything from Internet Explorer to your antivirus program. Nevertheless, Windows7FirewallControl allows much greater and easier control over the built-in firewall than what the operating system offers.


 

Tinywall 2.0 TinyWall is a lightweight firewall solution that works with the built-in Windows Firewall. With no pop-ups to annoy the user, it can be an ideal set-and-forget solution. The installation package is very small, weighing in at just over 1 MB. Installation is a breeze, though there is no option for the user to select where to install the program. After installation, it starts running quietly in the background, as indicated by the tray icon. All the program features can be accessed by clicking once on the tray icon; there is no 'main window' interface. From the pop-up menu, the user can also view and select, among others, the operating mode, total network activity, adding application/process exceptions, and accessing the Firewall Settings dialog.

The Firewall Settings dialog is where the user can manage General settings, such as password protecting the application. An application exceptions section also allows the user to specify applications that are allowed to communicate with the network. There is also a 'Detect' feature where the program will try to detect known applications, or the user can elect to manually add applications. Furthermore, TinyWall is able to recognize associated processes with the same application. For example, if you have a program that has more than one process, adding the first process will result in the program also offering to whitelist the second related process as well. Needless to say this is very useful for those applications that have more than one process.

It should be noted that when adding an exception to the list, the default settings are 'Unrestricted UDP and TCP traffic'. Depending on the nature of the program it may be necessary to restrict it to 'Outgoing only' to offer maximum security.

The special exceptions tab allows the user to specify more advanced settings; specifically, allowing the user to select which system services to allow/block. It is recommended to leave it as is unless there's something you really want to change.

The maintenance tab rounds out the Settings dialog, allowing the user to import/export settings, check for updates manually, and a link to visit the vendor's webpage.

A small, lightweight firewall, TinyWall is a solid choice for those looking for a reliable, low-resource firewall program that does not interfere with the user's computer usage.

Firewalls with Strong HIPS Protection

 

Discussion

The following personal firewalls provide excellent network and HIPS protection. Each firewall comes with default settings and, depending on the users' needs, may not require much adjustments.

Firewall products in this section require more time to learn than basic firewalls, in order to get the most out of them. Since firewalls are often praised for their security effectiveness at their max settings, users will likely have lower protection than mentioned by independent testing sources like Matousec. All of the product vendors seek to provide user friendly features, sometimes incorporating reduced levels of protection in their default settings (by decreasing some HIPS monitoring).

 

Proactive Firewall Reviews

Comodo Firewall is a solid choice for users seeking a full featured security suite. This latest release is suitable for both lightly-skilled users (still must have knowledge of installed programs) and technically advanced users. Its robust and active HIPS (or application monitoring feature), called "Defense+", matches or exceeds the security performance of pay products. Comodo allows for much control and customization for the curious or the paranoid.

Comodo includes a "memory firewall" (against buffer overflow attacks) and a light sandbox component to limit the way unknown applications and new software installations affect your computer. The use of sandbox protection limits the negative effects of malware. It maintains a lengthy list of known safe applications, but if an unknown application attempts entry through the firewall, Comodo will deny the application and ask the user what to do. The new release contains user friendly features by default while allowing experienced users to maintain control over ports, protocols, and configurations.

During installation the user has three firewall installation options to choose from:  Firewall Only, and Firewall with Optimum or Maximum Proactive Defense (ie. the Defense+ feature as mentioned earlier). After installation Comodo automatically selects "Safe Mode", which generates numerous popup alerts for applications not in its trusted vendors list (you can browse this list to see if you trust the vendors: go to the Defense+ tab > "Common Tasks" > "View My Trusted Software Vendors"). When you answer "allow" and "remember your answer" to popup alerts for an application, Comodo creates a custom policy for it. Some of its policies are fairly liberal.

In the more liberal "Clean PC Mode", Defense+ automatically treats all applications on your drive as safe (but if any malware is currently hidden on your drive, it too would be considered safe). Applications still receive some minimal monitoring for Comodo's two protected lists ("my protected registry keys" and "my protected COM interfaces") and for running as an executable, or more/less monitoring depending on their custom policy. And new files get sent to a list of files "waiting for your review" in the "Summary" page. Files listed for review will be considered possibly unsafe and will provoke popup messages, as if in Safe Mode, until their custom policies are made.

Comodo limits the frequency of alerts by automatically treating some programs as safe and allowing some applications to access the Internet. You can additionally automate the behavior of Defense+ by one or more of these methods for treating applications as safe:

  • Have it "remember your answer" to all popup alerts when an application first runs, which works for some applications (because some custom policies set this way are close to "trusted" status). But if an application still nags you, click "More Options" in the alert and use the drop down box to select "trusted" or "blocked" (etc.), if available, or set an application to trusted manually ("Defense+" > "Advanced" > "Computer Security Policy" > "Edit..." > "Use a Predefined Policy"), which finally ceases popup alerts and most intrusion prevention for that application.
  • Add files to the lists of "My Own Safe Files" or "My Trusted Software Vendors" in the interface (see the "Defense+" tab), which is most helpful for "Safe Mode" or "Paranoid Mode".
  • Use the "Clean PC Mode" (right-click the tray icon and select it under the "Defense+ Security Level"). But make sure to scan and remove any malware first.

The following guides exclusively from Gizmo's Freeware also contain many useful information about Comodo's settings: How to Install Comodo, How to Tame Comodo Defense+ Without Disabling It, and MC's Mini Tutorial.


  

Private Firewall A former commercial product, Private Firewall is now unrestricted freeware. It is a proactive multi-layer security solution, offering behaviour blocking technology alongside standard firewall protection. Using Behavioral-based Monitoring, it features zero-hour virus, spyware, and malware protection, process and application security, and registry protection, just to name a few. It is definitely a feature-packed firewall/HIPS solution.

 While there is a decent help file available, the user interface can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. There are many configurable settings, and sorting through them may require some time. To help out with that there is a information menu on the right of each screen which explains what each section is for. Training mode allows all actions within a 180-second interval, which is ideal for installing or running programs for the first time. On the first run after installing however, Private Firewall still managed to disable Panda Cloud Antivirus, the antivirus software on my test system, even with Training mode activated. Adding Panda Cloud Antivirus to the allow list seemed to solve this minor issue.

It is also possible to set different security levels for the Internet and the Network. Various levels of protection (High, Low, and Custom) can be separately specified for Internet Access and Network Security (ie. file and printer sharing). This is useful for, say, when one needs to access the internet via a network they don't quite trust. In addition, there are three profiles you can choose: Home, Office, and Remote. You can set appropriate settings for each one and easily switch between them as needed; this is particulary useful for portable computers which connect to many different networks. Another useful feature is that it is possible to block all outbound email; simply click the 'Block Outbound Email' icon in the main user screen and all outbound email should be blocked.

Overall, Private Firewall is a very effective firewall; it ranks among the top products on Matousec. However, the graphic interface and usability is slightly tailored for the more advanced users. Beginner computer users may want to consider another firewall instead, but if you are comfortable with the basics of Windows & firewall software, you should definitely consider Private Firewall.



Outpost Screenshots Outpost Firewall Free is a good choice for users who want highly flexible protection without sacrificing usability. It appears to be built with average users in mind, judging by the care taken to simplify alert messages and make it easy to adjust intrusion prevention (or HIPS) monitoring. For example, it remembers your responses to popup alerts without the need to set "trusted" rules (like in Comodo/Online Armor), and like Online Armor it notifies you when it automatically allows an application to access the Internet (especially helpful during the learning phase).

The free version lacks many extras of the pay version, however, such as automatic updates and the ability to break active connections. The HIPS component is called "Host Protection" in the interface. It provides four default levels of protection, which can be easily set with a slider and additionally customized item by item by advanced users. The default "optimal" setting only monitors the "most dangerous activities" (such as memory injections, driver loads, and a healthy list of system critical features -- auto starts, shell extensions, and internet settings) instead of all program activities. But these "optimal" settings lack protection from keyloggers, direct disk accessing, DNS API request monitoring, etc. You can check the types of reduced monitoring in "Settings..." > "Host Protection" > "Customize...".

The installation asks whether you want to train the firewall for a week (using its Auto-Learn mode and Rules Wizard). In this mode, it sets rules automatically for known safe applications.



Online Armor FirewallOnline Armor Free has outstanding leak-test and HIPS performance (the HIPS feature is mostly in its "Program Guard"). It has a unique feature called "run safer" that allows you to selectively set risky applications (web browsers, office software, readers/viewers, instant messengers, email or news programs, multimedia software, download managers, etc.) to run as if under a limited user account (go to "Programs" tab > uncheck "Hide Trusted" > highlight a program and click "Run Safer"). It minimizes popup alerts over time with its automatic list of safe programs, your on-demand scans with its safety check wizard, and your responses to popup alerts -- especially in cases where you tell it to remember your decisions and have it treat programs as trustworthy.

Run the wizard and have it search your PC for known programs to allow/block/ask. In this case, Online Armor relies on you to respond to alerts for unknown programs. For the curious or paranoid user, it uses excellent popup messages when it automatically allows a program to connect online and, optionally, when it automatically trusts a program/process to run (these alerts don't require user action and they can be enabled/disabled in the interface with "Options" > "Firewall", and "Programs" > "Options"). For example, I noticed a message when it auto trusted a key logger test, but after I set the tester to untrusted, it gave very informative and detailed security alerts (and then it passed the test and logged the tester in the interface under the "Key Logger" tab, but it only logged the key logger after the test was untrusted). You can even close both its tray tools from its right-click context menu. They are not needed for the firewall and HIPS components to continue running and protecting.

Online Armor Free is no longer supported by the vendor.



 

AVS FirewallAVS Firewall differs from other regular ones in that it comes with additional protection modules; namely a registry defender, a banner blocker, and parental control options – it is something like a suite. The firewall itself does not have as many configurable options as some of the firewalls listed on this page, but the standard selections are still there – off, which turns off the firewall; custom, which allows you to set your own connection rules; and high, which blocks all connections.

Each section of the program is displayed clearly; navigation is through the menu on the left. Alerts are generally clear and straightforward, as is configuration.

The registry defender protects the registry from being modified, with the option of only protecting select categories. The parental control limits the list of websites that can be accessed, but you must manually add each website to be trusted, ie. You cannot block specific websites; you can only allow certain websites. The anti-banner component blocks undesirable web page content including ads, flash banners, pop-ups and the like. All three of these additional modules can be disabled independently as desired. AVS Firewall also comes with a monitoring utility so you can check the size of network traffic which is sent and received by each application.

During installation of this firewall, the installer automatically installs the AVS Software Browser; there is no option to opt-out of installing this, but the program can be removed separately after installation with no effect on the actual firewall program. The installer also has a pre-checked option to install AVS Registry Cleaner, and it is recommended that it is unchecked so the installer does not install it.

Despite trying to bundle in a few additional programs by the vendor, AVS Firewall itself is a decent firewall program.  It has some additional features not found in your everyday firewall program, though most of those features can be found in other third party programs.

AVS Firewall is no longer supported by the vendor.

 

Other Firewalls for Windows 95-2000

The following firewall software are for older versions of Windows. While still available, they are no longer supported by the vendor and may contain bugs or stability/security issues that will not be addressed by the vendor. Unless you run an older Windows system with no other current firewall programs available, we would recommend against using these software.

Related Products and Links

 

Related to Firewalls

Security Guides

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Inbound Vulnerability Tests

Outbound Vulnerability Tests

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Quick Selection Guide - Basic Firewalls

Windows 7 Firewall Control

4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Simple and effective; uses Window's built-in firewall platform so no third party kernel drivers are needed. Very small footprint. Three modes to choose from (Normal, EnableAll or DisableAll). Great for complementing Windows' built-in firewall
May be a bit annoying to use at first since the user must configure the initial rules for all their applications; no training mode. The dialog box that pops up to allow/disallow a particular program has a lot of information, some of which may not be too user friendly to beginner computer users. Online manual could be more comprehensive.
4.1.21.93
1.43 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Feature limited freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Despite its name, this program works with system Windows XP and higher
Windows XP, Server 2003, Vista, 7, Server 2008

TinyWall

4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Lightweight basic firewall; simple yet effective. Non-intrusive program with no pop-ups. Ability to recognize associated processes when whitelisting programs. This program could be a good choice for those not familar with computers, as it does not require advanced knowledge to use.
No user dialog; everything is accessed from the pop-up menu. Not necessarily a bad thing, but may be different compared to what most are used to. Cannot select where to install the program. Requires .NET framework
2.0
1MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall

3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Solid inbound firewall, stealth mode, user friendly, customizable settings, anti-phishing protection, and hosts file lock.
Inadequate HIPS or program monitoring protection. No High setting for program access in Free version. In spite of available automatic update option, updates almost always must be performed manually. Help file designed for commercial version. New version (v10) has received negative feedback from our visitors
9.2.106
44.8
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
To learn more visit its service and support page
Windows XP (32-bit), Vista, Windows 7 (2 GB RAM, 2 GHz, 100 MB disk space)
 
Quick Selection Guide - Firewalls with HIPS

PrivateFirewall

5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Effective proactive security and stealth, one of the lightest of all tested firewalls on memory, simple setup (no nags or ads!). Easily choose between 3 network profiles. Has a unique "email/system anomaly detection" feature, which trains over 7 days by default. Quick to respond to queries / feature requests.
No automatic installation mode (but it has a training mode in "Settings" > "Advanced"). The tray icon flashes for log events instead of network activity per se. Program may be more suitable for advanced users due to slightly complex user interface. Program is still supported, however there appears to be no active development or updates currently.
7.0.25.4
7.7MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Additional Features of Interest (as Found in its Interface): Built-in help and tips. Auto trusts safe vendors. Able to block outbound email automatically. Network options for experts, with three default settings to modify (Home, Public, Work). To learn more visit its feature list and online support (change log, user guide, & tutorials).
XP & Server 2003 (32-bit), Vista, Windows 7 (128 MB RAM, 300 MHz, 10 MB disk space)

Comodo Firewall

4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Its Defense+ HIPS performance exceeds commercial products and leads the class, it includes a "memory firewall" feature, and it allows you to quickly switch between Defense+ security modes and configurations. Includes automatic updates. Installation can automatically configure your PC to use the Comodo SecureDNS (but you can do this without installing CIS).
No built-in help. Despite not installing the AV component, the AV files are still placed in the Comodo program folder. Possible problems when uninstalling program; remants of the program are sometimes left
6.0.260739.2674
88 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Additional Features of Interest (as Found in its Interface): Installation mode/training mode, auto updating, built-in help and tips, parental control with password protection, extra themes and languages, and a stealth ports wizard. Purges old or unused firewall/Defense+ policies or unused files (safe files, files waiting for review, etc.). Displays balloon messages for instant logging events. To learn more visit its forum, online help, and/or release notes.
Windows XP (SP2), Vista, Windows 7 - 152 MB RAM, 400 MB disk space

Outpost Firewall Free

4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Proactive security (at max settings) compares with Online Armor. Highly flexible protection, simplified alert messages, and includes a full screen mode.
It fails tests for protection against malicious logouts or system shutdowns. The free version lacks automatic updates and the ability to break active connections.
7.1.1
16.63 MB; 98.81 MB for Security Suite
32 and 64 bit versions available
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.

Newer versions and 64-bit version are part of the Outpost Free Security Suite - includes additional software components which may conflict with existing software. 64-bit version (98.81 MB v7.1) available here: http://download.cnet.com/Agnitum-Outpost-Security-Suite-Free-64-bit/3000... *Warning: Downloads from Cnet (Download.com) now require the use of a proprietary installer. Reduced HIPS monitoring (lacking anti-key logger protection for example) Additional Features of Interest (as Found in its Interface): Built-in "Help", full screen mode or entertainment mode.

Windows 7, Vista, XP - 450 MHz CPU, 256 MB RAM, 200 MB free disk space

Online Armor Free

3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Excellent proactive security performance. Includes a "run safer" feature to reduce rights for specific risky applications, and the ability to monitor key logger activity and host files. It handles the installation of new programs better than some other tested products.
It doesn't have automatic updates or a built-in help. It's mandatory to enter an email during installation, and it has a pre-checked option to send it anonymous information. May have problems installing unless all remnants of similar programs have been removed from the receiving computer. Product is no longer supported.
5.1.0.1331
30 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.

64-bit version only for Windows 7; XP 64bit and Vista 64bit are not supported Additional Features of Interest (as Found in its Interface): Set passwords, protect programs (right-click > "Advanced options"), key Loggers tab/Hosts tab, and multi desktop support. To learn more visit its forum, and blog.

Windows XP (32-bit), Vista (32-bit), 7; 512MB Ram, 50MB Disk space

AVS Firewall

3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Has additional features not found in standard firewalls (registry defender, banner blocker, parental controls). Clear and straightforward navigation. Easy to configure
Parental control only allows you to add trusted sites; you cannot specify specific sites to block. Installer automatically installs AVS Software Browser which is not necessary for the firewall program, and has pre-checked option to install the vendor's Registry Cleaner. Firewall itself is not as configurable as others
2.1.2.241
22.9MB
32 bit only
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.

Product is no longer supported by the vendor.

 
Have Your Say

Your opinion matters! If you've used one of these firewalls before, or know of another outstanding freeware firewall, let us know in the comments section below. For a more comprehensive discussion, please visit our forum.

Editor

This software category is maintained by volunteer editor Tim; registered site visitors can contact Tim by clicking here 

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Comments

Hi MC! Hope all is well. Well I have to ask you if you have heard anything from or if you can contact Privacyware regarding a Windows 10 compatibility update. As you know there is a lot of people out there who love Privatefirewall, me included...which brings up another question for you, how can you disable trusted publishers in Windows 7 firewall? Reason is Qihoo is trying to force people to upgrade from 360 Internet Security to Total Security. Total Security, as you know is not the same product, however Total Security Essentials is. If I want to wait to see how Total Security Essentials develops before I decide to upgrade then I should be able to block the 360 Total Security Online installer rule 360 just made in windows 7 firewall. Correct?? Why is it everytime 360 updates its virus definitions it changes the 360 Total Security Online installer rule it made from "my blocked setting" to allow? As usual I thank you for your time and consideration and any links you can provide.

Hi darrin71. Management of trusted publishers is detailed here.
https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc733026.aspx

The two things that annoy me most are popup windows for "are you sure you really want to exit" and apps that overwrite permission rules. Regarding 360, I guess you're stuck with this behaviour because no doubt the permissions granted for the program at install are what allows it to overwrite your block rule. Although not an ideal solution for you maybe, but I would suggest switching to Panda until the full direction of the 360 products becomes more clear. I have Panda on two machines and neither have been compromised by anything nasty and what money I do have is still in my bank account. :D

Regarding Privatefirewall, I've sent a contact to the vendor and will post their response here as soon as I get it. MC - Site Manager.

I have now received a reply from Privacyware re: Windows 10 compatibility. Although this is possible, it is unlikely in the short term so you will need to use Windows own firewall (my recommendation) or find an alternative. MC - Site Manager.

My installed firewall, Privatefirwall 7.0, has been disabled after I upgraded to Windows 10 Home. I tried uninstalling, downloading and reinstalling Privatefirewall 7.0 and it failed. I tried downloading the latest versions of Comodo Internet Security and ZoneAlarm Free Firewall, and Windows immediately stopped me from installing each of them and told me neither app was compatible with Windows 10.

I dug into the Security settings of Windows 10 and found the default Windows firewall already turned on. Why can't I install a TRUSTED firewall and not rely on Microsoft apps?

Raymond,
Did you run the compatibility check before you jumped on the upgrade?
There are very good reasons why Microsoft "knows better".
I believe we can only fret about them not allowing us to install certain pieces of software AFTER MS's own product of this kind has failed us.
As I wrote in #122798 http://www.techsupportalert.com/comment/123101#comment-122798
"I am afraid that we hang on way too tenaciously to old paradigms. Yes, under Vista and earlier MS operating systems a third party firewall made sometimes sense - if the user could configure it. But nowadays?
If you can and want to tinker, be my guest. For the average Joe/June I have them stick with what is in Windows. "
It seems you ran against a "tinker"-wall instead a firewall.

I also think staying with Windows firewall is the best option. If you download the test report from this page it makes interesting reading, even though it relates to the Windows 7 firewall. MC - Site Manager. http://www.av-comparatives.org/firewall-reviews/

The link at the end of paragraph 7 to "most important advice of all" is wrong/broken.

Besides this: 99% of my many thousands of customers are not able (or willing) to even do the least bit of configuration. They ALL have (so far) been served well by the Windows default FW.

I am afraid that we hang on way too tenaciously to old paradigms. Yes, under Vista and earlier MS operating systems a third party firewall made sometimes sense - if the user could configure it. But nowadays?

If you can and want to tinker, be my guest. For the average Joe/June I have them stick with what is in Windows.

Quick Selection Guide - Basic Firewalls seems details are not updated for Windows 7 Firewall Control....
it is now called windows 10 Firewall,
version is 7.2.105.116,
It is now Designed for Windows 10/8/7/Vista/2008/2012/XP/2003,
size is 4212 KB,

Online Armor has been quit: http://blog.emsisoft.com/2015/03/31/emsisoft-online-armor-support-roadmap/
It should probably be removed later (though you can still download the latest free version v7.0.0.1866 somewhere using google search) or atleast mentioned.

PrivateFirewalls latest version is 7.0.30.3 from 19th December of 2013.

AVS Firewall also seem to have ceased to exist.

Thanks for the comment. Agree looks like Online Armor has ceased support and development, so while it's still available for download elsewhere I will probably move it to the unsupported section. Likewise for AVS firewall.

PrivateFirewall I believe the developer has not completely stopped development of the firewall; however, as far as I know they haven't been actively developing it either.

The list has been getting a bit outdated lately, over the next while I'll aim to refresh and update the list with some more current software. Stay tuned!

The home pages for Outpost Firewall Free and Online Armor Free could be updated.

Thanks MrBrian, Outpost links have been updated. Seems like Online Armor has now been discontinued though. I'll probably move those to a different discountinued section..might leave the reviews up though, since they're already there as like an 'FYI' for all the ones who want to explore

AVS Firewall isn't available at the link provided.

It was previously there but on a different page, looks like they have removed it completely now and discontinued the product. Thanks for bringing it to our attention I will make the necessary changes.

AVS firewall is still available from Softpedia and some other trusted download sites. MC - Site Manager.

There are 3 Security Wizard-related links that could be deleted. Also, the link for "Comprehensive List of Firewalls" could be updated.

Apologies for the delay in responding but thanks for the heads up. Will update accordingly

I have used the free version of Online Armor for several years and have been completely satisfied though I agree it is not for complete beginners. My point is that while I appreciate the difficulties of keeping things up to date your review is badly out of date; in particular it is wrong in saying that OA does not have automatic updates. The current version 6.0 does have them and they are entirely reliable. Your picture is of version 3 or 4 and even that had automatic updates though they were not always reliable.

I am quite surprised to see no mention of Windows Firewall Notifier (https://wfn.codeplex.com) is present here! I had come back to techsupportalert after a fresh install of Windows just to see if anything had changed since I had last installed a firewall. Nothing had changed unfortunately, so I snooped on MajorGeeks and found Windows Firewall Notifier. This, like TinyWall and Windows 7 Firewall Control, utilitzed the built-in windows firewall, but unlike the others, just seemed to work for me. No issues, no excessive popups, great performance and memory + CPU utilization, and to top it all off it's open source. This really should be the #1 recommendation for a basic firewall IMO. It allows the basic firewall to act as a two-way firewall, which is exactly what I needed. Once installed, it blocks all outbound requests by default and a simple popup is displayed above the system tray allowing you to Allow/Block as expected. I highly recommend giving it a shot.

Also worth a mention is Binisoft's "Windows Firewall Control" (http://www.binisoft.org/wfc.php) (I know, painfully similar to Sphinx Software's Windows 7/8 Firewall Control which IS already mentioned here). It looks like it performs similarly and from the screenshosts seems well-designed. I am just too happy with Windows Firewall Notifier at the moment but if I didn't like it I would definitely give this a shot.

I also want to briefly mention my gripes with TinyWall and Windows 7/8 Firewall Control here just for the record.

TinyWall sounded like the best frickin' idea ever when I read the description here. I loved how light it was, the premise was so promising. However, it continually seemed to deny access for all applications unless I turned it on the mode that allows all traffic. Even configuring specific rules never seemed to alleviate the "no internet access" problem, so eventually, after continually turning off the firewall, I gave up and moved to Windows 7 Firewall Control.

Windows 7 Firewall Control, unlike TinyWall, actually works as expected. It performs amicably, however there is one thing that sucks about it and it really just drove me crazy. Sometimes, for example when viewing flash content on a web page, Windows 7/8 Firewall Control would trigger a pop-up asking to allow/block the "System" app that is flash. This "System" dialog would also pop-up with Windows services intermittently as well. That's all fine and dandy, that's what it's intended to do, right? However, Windows 7/8 Firewall Control will inform you on trying to "Allow" that you need to upgrade to the Premium version to actually allow handling of "System" apps. Seems like an arbitrary destinction to nag you to pay. I get it, the developer made a good program and wants to get paid, but IMO this app didn't perform well enough to justify paying to stop this nagging.

The biggest thing I like about Windows Firewall Notifier is that on top of performing how I want, it's open source. No nagging!

Good luck in your searches all.

Finally I should mention I tried Private Firewall. It worked decently enough, but was more than I needed (I really wanted just a better way to utilize the Windows Firewall). It didn't seem to hurt performance but I suspected it was a bigger impact than the other programs I mentioned which all utilized the built-in firewall. It also just looks like it was designed in the '80s, heh, and unfortunately that matters to me. More importantly, for my needs, I don't want to have to become familiar with a slew of crazy firewall options that I'll likely never need that might only result in unexpected behavior. The KISS mentality. I'd order the average users' options like this:

1. Windows Firewall Notifier
2. Private Firewall
3. Windows 7/8 Firewall Control
4. Tinywall

I have been obliged to uninstall COMODO Firewall recently because I had a problem with the last version of it.

I am using softwares like FreeFileSync or SyncFolders to backup my data with one way only mirroring on external HDs.

I don't want here to discuss if it is a good way of doing backups or not.

The problem is that after doing such a backup, if I immediately make the same backup, the same exact files that were copied in the previous backup will be backupped again, and the same thing happens each time I would immediately do the same thing again. It is as if the files were not backupped at all.

The backup software indicates clearly that everything went OK, that no problem occured at all.

I had not this problem with previous versions of COMODO Firewall which I use since a couple of years.

The backup software has the correct permissions from COMODO Firewall.

Does someone had the same problem or knows something about it ?

The problem related in my previous comment has been treated in the COMODO's Forum.

It is a problem concerning ADS (Alternate Data Stream) and timestamps.

The problem should be addressed by the month of April.

People having problems with version 8 of COMODO Firewall should revert to version 7 till the next version 8, which will maybe have brought a fix to this problem.

Something I've noticed with Online Armor is its high memory consumption compared with Comodo, around 60 mb to Comodo's 10mb or so, and judging by comments on the Emisoft forums I'm not alone. Otherwise it's a good firewall, easy to configure and understand. I'd still rather have Comodo though but v8 wouldn't install.

PS - My PC wouldn't boot after installing PrivateFirewall and I had to system restore from recovery options.

I've just abandoned today the long favorite Comodo Firewall, as I reformatted my system and now I can't install it for no reason, plus I always wanted to test something lighter, but I was kinda bored.

Anyone tested GlassWire? What's your opinion?

I'm reading from forums for large memory consumption, but the developers were trying to fix it.
Is it any good or should I give a try to PrivateFirewall, too? I've never used that either.

I'm without firewall at the moment.

Thanks and keep up the cool information. Love the users and their comments, too. My respect to you, too :]

Like you I've just abandoned my long time favorite Comodo. Version 7 worked fine but version 8 wont install despite following Chiron's guide on the Comodo forums to the letter - Comodo keeps on saying it can't load because Avast is incompatible despite me looking everywhere and, as far as I know, removing everything to do with Avast. I particularly liked the way you could bind applications with Comodo, for instance, to a VPN to safeguard against disconnects. I think you can do that with Windows 7 firewall too but of course it doesn't give the super protection Comodo does with D+ etc.

Hmm, I haven't thought of that. I have also the Avast antivirus installed.
So, the problem may be an incompatibility between these two applications huh?

It feels weird though, as before the format, the two of them used to cooperate normally.

I can't remember, if I had Comodo v7 installed at the very beginning and updating it afterwards or if I had installed v8 before Avast.

Anyway, I'm trying to get used to Private firewall, because I like the low system requirements that it has.

Yes, it could have been a Comodo/Avast problem. I was a long time Avast user and switched a few months ago to Comodo's full CIS suite when Avast stopped updating properly. I used both Avast removal tools but when I tried to install Comodo v8 was when I had all the problems. Over a week later and I've only now got an AV/firewall combo I'm happy with, Panda (great recent test results btw beating all other free AV's) and Online Armor.

Does Win 8.1 need a 3rd party firewall and a/v?

As I said I tried Windows 7 firewall control, then I took that off and tried Tinywall, which blocked my internet and I was not able to find out how to allow access.
So I've deleted them both and guess what? One of my browsers is unable to connect. I disabled windows firewall, still can't connect. So I set up a rule in Windows firewall allowing that program through. Still unable to connect.
I am at the limit of my technical know how so if I can't work out how to allow this program access I'll be forced to take 3 days to completely reinstall my machine.
I'd advise anyone with little knowledge to steer well clear of Windows 7 firewall control and Tinywall.

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