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Best Free Firewall Protection

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  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

Introduction

 

Firewalls help monitor your system's communication between your network and the Internet to help stop 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 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 recommendations are made taking into consideration both editors' and site visitors' opinions.

Firewalls come in two flavours; software based and hardware based. To avoid potential conflicts only install one (third-party) software firewall. You can improve protection, however, by using a hardware "firewall" (such as a router) and a software firewall in conjunction. Modern routers usually have a built-in firewall; 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.

Proactive firewalls have the most 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.

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.

It's 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.
 

Review Index

Additional Tips

  • Before installing new resident security products, including antivirus and firewall programs, you may want to make 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, so it's not likely to conflict with your other programs. And many average users may not reliably handle the popup alerts of the best firewalls on the market (especially at their max settings).

If you scan clean for malware and you don't want/need the additional features of a third-party firewall, 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 an excellent 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 shouldn't require much adjustment except for the needs of advanced users.

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 the best 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 by 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.


 

Online Armor FirewallA solid contender is the free version of Online Armor Free. It 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.


 

Outpost Screenshots Outpost Firewall Free is a good choice for users who want highly flexible protection without sacrificing usability. It was obviously made 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.


  

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. A number of members at our forum speak highly of the developers of Private Firewall, and the software is trusted. 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.


 

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.

 

Other Firewalls for Windows 95-2000
Related Products and Links

 

Related to Firewalls

Security Guides

Security Products

Inbound Vulnerability Tests

Outbound Vulnerability Tests

Learn More

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.
Windows XP, Server 2003, Vista, 7, Server 2008

Despite its name, this program works with system Windows XP and higher

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
http://tinywall.pados.hu
2.0
1MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 7, Vista
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.
Windows XP (32-bit), Vista, Windows 7 (2 GB RAM, 2 GHz, 100 MB disk space)

To learn more visit its service and support page

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.
http://www.privacyware.com/
7.0.25.4
7.7MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
XP & Server 2003 (32-bit), Vista, Windows 7 (128 MB RAM, 300 MHz, 10 MB disk space)

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).

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.
Windows XP (SP2), Vista, Windows 7 - 152 MB RAM, 400 MB disk space

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.

Outpost Firewall Free
3.5
 
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.
http://free.agnitum.com/
2009 - v6.51
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.
Windows 7, Vista, XP - 450 MHz CPU, 256 MB RAM, 200 MB free disk space

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.

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.
http://www.online-armor.com/
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.
Windows XP (32-bit), Vista (32-bit), 7; 512MB Ram, 50MB Disk space

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.

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
http://www.avs4you.com
2.1.2.241
22.9MB
32 bit only
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 7, XP, 2003, Vista

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

by JonathanT on 13. August 2008 - 11:06  (6023)

Hi

I saw Gizmo mention this link.
http://www.testmypcsecurity.com/view_results_xp.html

Though both these sites only test the outbound protection.

by Anonymous on 15. August 2008 - 4:51  (6135)

Thank you very much for the site. The site has Comodo in first place followed by the paid version of Online Armor, not the free version.

by Anonymous on 12. August 2008 - 21:11  (5987)

Thats a good question, I am curious toknow if anyone knows of another firewall testing site that is similar to matousec.com. I would like to have a second opinion.

by rKAnjEL on 8. August 2008 - 1:14  (5785)

I was using "Online Armor" until recently it started causing some serious problems (on 3 different PCs) and all problems where related to file/folder sharing, in any case here's the latest leak-test chart I could find, feel free to check it out because IMHO you might need to re-arrange the best free firewall list according to these new test results.

http://www.matousec.com/projects/firewall-challenge/results.php

Edit: Sorry, I didn't notice that "Shane" already posted that link.

by Anonymous on 9. August 2008 - 5:39  (5832)

I am very disappointed with matousec.com way of testing firewalls. Last year they would test every firewall with every single test they had and then publish the reports of each of them. They do not do this anymore and the results lack indepth analysis of each firewall.

by Keyur on 7. August 2008 - 19:25  (5770)

Hi
I think the combination of pc tools firewall plus and threatfire should also be considered.... recent results of firewall leak test on matousec shows that pc tools firewall is doing way better than sunbelt and zonealarm free firewall.... you can check this on their site... these results are not absolute but at least it tells that if sunbelt is your top recommendation , you should reconsider pc tools firewall... because in matousec's previous tests pc tools was way behind and in recent test it's way ahead... it shows it has been improved a lot...

by Anonymous on 7. August 2008 - 15:40  (5758)

Hey guys;

Shane back here yet again... anyways I'm sure I don't have to post this since you all get the "Windows Secrets" newsletter but for those who don't...

http://www.matousec.com/projects/firewall-challenge/results.php

As the results are in and all the latest firewalls have been tested so check it out as you maybe surprised since alot of popular firewalls are now "for show" and "not for go"

hope it helps y'all

- Shane -

by MidnightCowboy on 7. August 2008 - 3:20  (5674)

As a footnote to my previous comments about Webroot Desktop Firewall the thing which disappointed me most was that I really did like the additional protections part which was intuitive and functional without trying to become the "mother of all IDS's" Well, because Webroot is derived from Private Firewall this part of the protection system is available as a stand-alone free application from the originators Privacyware under the name Dynamic Security Agent. It offers systemwide (including registry) email, application and process anomaly detection with quarantine options after a user selectable 'training period', including rootkit defense, attempts to create a DNS request (*possible trojan using port 53) or initiate outgoing TCP traffic. A quick Google will take anyone interested to the download site. In my ignorance I was not aware of this until I found it by accident yesterday and in my opinion it makes an ideal companion for Jetico, NetVeda and others which are more limited in terms of additional protections. You need to be patient with it at the outset as there is a tendency to 'freeze' on first time initiation of some applications (can be a long wait for the check-box alert to appear) but as it builds memory it soon settles down. The other good thing is that it is 'signature free' so no need to worry about updates. Seems excellent at first look but I would be pleased to receive feedback from any other forum members who are running this programme, and which firewall they have it partnered with.
*As we have to enable DNS requests to get connected, for XP here's another way to reduce the risk of trojan activity being disguised as such. Only let Windows svchost do the lookups (by default) and specify the exact IP address(s) for your ISP's DNS server(s) as a condition of the "allow" rule, then add a "block" rule for svchost after this (the rule order is important) to deny any other un-matching traffic through port 53. If you're not sure what your ISP's DNS server addresses are then another free application called Adapterwatch (www.nirsoft.net) will display this information on screen (with a hundred other things!)

Rules:
Allow DNS (UDP): Protocol UDP, Remote Port 53, Remote Address , Allow
Allow DNS (TCP): Protocol TCP, Outgoing, Remote Port 53, Remote Address Allow
Possible Trojan DNS (UDP): Protocol UDP, Remote Port 53, Deny/Block&Report
Possible Trojan DNS (TCP): Protocol TCP, Outgoing, Remote Port 53, Deny/Block & Report
I appreciate that nothing is 100% watertight but why make it easy?!
If anyone is interested my own XP auto boot load is as follows:
Avast 4.8 Home Edition (complete with tasteless choice of skins!)
NetVeda SafetyNet firewall
Dynamic Security Agent ( as above)
a-squared anti-malware (commercial version courtesy of Gizmo!)
RUBotted (Trend Micro)
Comodo Memory Firewall
Task Killer
Iobit (part of Advanced Windows Care) Memory Cleaner
Iobit SmartDefrag
UpdateStar
Volumouse (superbly easy volume control @ only 83KB!)
Stardock with CursorFX
XP Shortcuts - Restart and Shutdown shortcuts only (used in the dock with Windows own 'Start' button removed from taskbar by TClock option which I also use to access the Menu)

My other 'everyday' programmes are NxSensor, Rainmeter, TClockLight and Kaufman Tray Launcher. My browser is Opera (test version 9.52.10092.0) which I run with Free Download Manager to give more options and flexibility. This combination (for me anyway) works seemlessly and without conflict. I know Avira has a higher detection rate than Avast! but I swapped to this recently due to too many 'falsies' - latest of which were driver files files from my motherboard installation CD! I'm surprised Avira didn't flag my lunch as a threat, sorry, can do without this as you cannot just blanket this stuff into quarantine (or worse delete!) without tracking it back to source first, and I just don't have the time, plus of course there's the "cry wolf" factor. I suppose if I was smart I should get NOD32 (best detection with fewest false positives) but as I'm also mean, I haven't! I've not given full details of my OS as I don't see the point other than knowing whether someone is running Windows, Mac or Linux. Truth is no one else will have a system the same as mine 'coz I built it myself and there are just too many other variables to make knowing which CPU or what memory of much use to anyone other than the most die-hardest of technophobes! Even later versions of the same chipset on the same motherboard may react differently so it really is best to try out different combinations of the programmes you like until you find one which is stable AND suits that way you use your PC. After all, thousands of Toyota cars come out of the same factory each year but no two will ever drive exactly alike.

MIDNIGHTCOWBOY

by Keyur on 6. August 2008 - 15:13  (5656)

Hi
Don't you think that free version of sunbelt firewall is very limited ?
Host-based Intrusion Prevention System, CONTENT FILTERING, Identity Theft Protection, Script blocking (JavaScript, VB script), Referrer and Cookies blocking, Ad blocking and Pop-up windows blocking are not included in it's free version....

by Anonymous on 16. August 2008 - 19:14  (6213)

You're right, but one thing Sunbelt has that most of the others don't have is NIPS (Network-based Intrusion Prevention Systems), which can block threats before they get inside, rather than after.

When SQL Slammer and Stack Bot flooded the Web in the fall of 2006, dropping an IRC Flood botnet Trojan onto an estimated 11 million computers worldwide, Sunbelt was one of three firewalls I tried that successfully blocked the worms. Two others were BlackICE (NIPS), and Safety.Net (DPI). I also tested ZoneAlarm Pro, Comodo, and the last free version of Sygate; all three of them failed to block the worms. Why? Because the vendors focus more on detection than prevention. Personally, I leave detection to antivirus scanners, not firewalls.

by JonathanT on 7. August 2008 - 10:27  (5737)

Hi

Well I think if you just want a firewall and not firewall with HIPS Sunbelt is a great choice.

by Anonymous on 4. August 2008 - 4:10  (5495)

I must say that the current version on comodo is the most effective of them all. Seems that comodo got rid of all the bugs, and has perfected it.

by JonathanT on 4. August 2008 - 11:21  (5511)

Hi

Do you mean the most effective (as in providing the best security) out of all the firewalls?

I always thought Comodo had quite a few bugs.

Thanks

by Anonymous on 5. August 2008 - 21:01  (5612)

Yes i believe it is the most effective free firewall and the current version is less talkative than before.

by Keyur on 6. August 2008 - 16:45  (5661)

Hi
I believe COMODO is the most talkative of all firewalls and the most secure as well.....

by Anonymous on 8. August 2008 - 15:43  (5809)

I don't find it very talkative anymore. You can just put it in training mode when you install and it won't talk at all.

by JonathanT on 21. August 2008 - 11:43  (6716)

Hi

But I think that will decrease your security greatly.

by Anonymous on 1. August 2008 - 22:01  (5330)

For some reason, online-armor start to slow down some program from starting after I have a xp SP3 update. There might be some conflict (or quarrel) between the SP3's "hips" and online armor's program guard. But I can't prove that because I still can't find SP3's control panel. Anyway, the window dialog sometimes pop up to notify me some program want to run.

I am pretty satisfied with the online armor free after 2 years' happy experience with Jetico 1. Jetico 1 is still one of my favorite, except its IQ value sometimes annoys me ---- there is no good way to manage you rules, can't sort (not reorder) the rule by name/time/...(it is a disaster if you have a long list), it even doesn't ask you if you have made an update when it detect a hash value change. Except that, it is easy to use (after 1-2 weeks' study in forum), light and fast. It once worked with AVS (active virus shield -- Kaspersky's AOL version) very well.

Online armor free is not an install-and-forget kind of firewall. But it talks much less. It works seamlessly with the Kaspersky internet security (with the K firewall and proactive defense disabled). And it is still light in resource (compare to the famous comodo and more famous zone alarm). The only problem is that it (seems to) slow down p2p connections somewhat (I think I saw some other guy said that before). But who cares, ISP will might block it soon.

I also enjoyed the sygate 5.6 free before.
I guess my next firewall has to be Comodo again.

by Anonymous on 3. August 2008 - 4:43  (5388)

I have just finished some quite exhaustive research into the free firewalls available based partly on testing by others and also some heavy personal usage over a period of several months. Firstly I would say beware of (some) testings posted on certain web sites which may not be as "transparent" as suggested, especially if these contain links to the vendors of paid options! My own usage was that of a pretty addicted surfer and many of the web sites visited were known to be suspect.
Comodo V3 is the obvious choice to really lock down your PC but the average user will not need such an invasive tool, neither will they appreciate the amount of additional work necessary to ensure its smooth performance. As an attention seeker it certainly doesn't disappoint! All that's missing are the flashing lights! There are also still real issues with this product some of which will require a Windows install should you become a victim. There can be a certain amount of contributory negligence involved here depending on how the programme is installed, what else it is installed with and how it is used afterwards, but this is not the point. People looking for a combination solution would be far better off choosing Online Armor which even in it's free version is (now) very stable and pretty faultless. In my opinion the default settings and option to 'Run Safer' give the best overall protection for people not wishing to mess around with additional rules, although tightening up on svchost and the other flawed Microsoft applications is not a difficult task should you wish to do so. Another good choice would be Blink which is a complete suite of almost awesome potential but I still cannot determine if this is really "free" if you live outside of the continental United States or Canada. Also, at 41+mb plus around another 20 for initial updates you'll need a packed lunch before you can see it working!
People preferring a pure firewall as part of a layered approach with multiple applications might like to consider either Jetico or NetVeda. The former is more difficult to understand and administrate with a hugely complex interface although it does protect itself better than NetVeda. That said, for most people, NetVeda would not be compromised and with just a few boxes ticked the log results and online scan tests will demonstrate just how solid this product is.
Of the promising programmes I eventually dismissed due to stability, compatibility and/or usability issues the new offering from Webroot was probably the most disappointing. Here was a great opportunity for a "half-way-house" in terms of system invasion, nicely laid out and functional too, but unable to be closed ports and a tendency to drop custom settings are no good, even for the average user. I found the offerings from Outpost and Zone Alarm to be a shadow of their paid alternatives and not worth the effort. Last but not least I can still understand the faithful followings for both Sygate and Tiny although these wouldn't be my choice over any of the others listed here.

Personally I prefer to have separate malware programmes installed so if I really did have to pick just one then it would be NetVeda SafetyNet. The only tiny minus (for the average user) is understanding the PDF file language used for the advanced setup features otherwise;

Faultless to install (and un-install!)
Flawless operation
Small resources
No compatibility issues
Lightening fast
Outstanding default performance
Optional settings & protocol tweakings achieved in seconds
So, so easy to access and understand logs for monitoring purposes.

Great programme - why pay for anything?!

by JonathanT on 5. August 2008 - 12:01  (5592)

Hi

Thanks for sharing this information!

Is NetVeda still being developed? I was under the impression that it was sort of abandoned.

Thanks

by MidnightCowboy on 6. August 2008 - 3:53  (5627)

Hi
It's difficult to tell exactly but they still seem to be trading as a networking consultancy and there is activity on the website relative to their firwall apps. till Oct 07. In reality I guess there isn't much else they can do with Safety.Net - a bit like V1 (free) of Jetico which was "frozen" in terms of development some time back but still continues to give excellent protection. My own opinion is that if you prefer to have a total solution (like Comodo or Online Armor) then it's important that you stick with a product that is current and being actively updated, otherwise for a pure firewall offering just some additional features then it doesn't matter much if it ceased development last year or not. coz unless some radically new exploit is uncovered the protection level will remain the same.

by Anonymous on 4. August 2008 - 6:40  (5499)

Is it true that Safety.Net is only good for 1 year?

by MidnightCowboy on 5. August 2008 - 5:44  (5573)

No.... to my knowledge anyway... it is free (for personal home use) indefinitely.

by Anonymous on 2. August 2008 - 1:07  (5335)

I've also had the problem with Online Armour causing problems and making the computer slow the best advice that I found was turn off the HIPS and it seemed to have solved the problem for me, but then later I just ended up going back to Comodo anyways just like you have mentioned about doing so...

by JonathanT on 2. August 2008 - 0:47  (5332)

Hi

If you have Kaspersky Internet Security Suite, why do you need to replace the firewall? I thought Kaspersky's was very good.

Thanks

by Anonymous on 4. August 2008 - 7:34  (5501)

I like Kaspersky's AV engine, not the firewall and hips. Kaspersky's AV, though some authorities like AV comparatives concludes as slow in scanning, is much faster than bitdefender, antivir, and avast on my system. I once was happy with jetico with avs (active virus shield). Smooth and easy until AVS dies.

Kaspersky's hips and firewall, IMHO, is too intelligent for me, it might handles lots of rule already, but once it doesn't pop up as online armor, I feel nervous blindly...... I know it is not reasonable, but I feel comfortable to see I allowed/denied/build rules for something.

The other consideration is, I probably can't find a good deal on Kaspersky later, then I will stay with freewares on my systems. Therefore I want to see how good is online armor compared to others.

Also, though Outpost topped in some website, it previous version really slow down the startup of my old computers, therefore I give it up in about 1 weeks. I am never interested in Zonealarm, especially after it is boasted to a 37M download.....

If I jetico has free vista version and improve the rule management, I would adopt it again..... That interface is my favorite till now.

by Anonymous on 25. July 2008 - 12:15  (4930)

I use Online Armour and have had no problems , it has some very good aspects such as "run safer " for programs which is like using sandboxie . yes talkative it is ,but it never worries me as I would rather now what is happening . Prior that I used Comodo , but Comodo 3 stuffed my pc ,and after the 3rd time I decided enough was enough
I previously used Sunbelt kerrio free , unfortunately ,and I think this should be pointed out in the main brief on it , that the free version can be turned off by a third party /hacker as I found out . Then after reading the fine print I realized that was one of the differences between the paid and free version.
To me that is a bad point , but I guess in this forum most wouldn't care

by peter on 27. July 2008 - 12:24  (5083)

Please note that for technical reasons concerned with load times, threads that become excessively indented will be deleted.

Please take this to the Debating Chamber:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/forums/debating-chamber

by JonathanT on 25. July 2008 - 13:26  (4938)

Hi

I believe Online Armor free only contains part of the features of Run Safer.

Any security product can be disabled by some malware.

by Anonymous on 27. July 2008 - 3:48  (5045)

Yes, but the malware has to be running in order for this to happen. What is a parasite supposed to do when it can't declare a command or change files? Not much of anything.