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Old 27. Feb 2009, 12:32 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default PC Tools Firewall

In view of the interest being shown in PC Tools firewall I thought I would run this on one of my spare machines and report the findings. The PC in question is two years old and built from parts. Basis is XP Pro SP2, AMD Sempron 3400, 1G. I did try this application a while back and experienced freezing as described by some others. This tendency will vary between machines depending on the set up, most notably the network configuration. Nevertheless, this firewall is well worth a try because (discounting the freezing) it would appear from the forums to be the only topline free application that doesn't in itself cause any other Windows instabilities. Just look at Comodo's 3.8 release complaints and you'll see what I mean! So, how does the latest release from PC Tools behave? Perhaps the best thing I can do is to report as and when I have something of value to say because time demands that I cannot spend all of it testing firewalls! So far I have installed into a clean Windows environment with some of my other everyday software. To date I've encountered complete freezes with CDBurner XP (unable to resolve), Reardon TV & Radio player (unable to resolve) and VLC which I was able to overcome by:
  • Disable and exit firewall.
  • Run VLC to pass through the "choose update method" window.
  • Choose a preferred skin, close, open (with the new skin) and close the program.
  • Restart the firewall.
  • VLC now starts without any problems.
I've replaced CDBurnerXP with Ashampoo (free) Burning Studio with no problems, but I will have to try alternatives for the TV. Later when I get the chance to install and run some other apps I'll report what I find.
In general use the firewall is great. I've made one or two advanced rule adjustments to restrict the various Microsoft apps and services from "phoning home" and enabled logging for the other things I want to keep an eye on. If anything of interest surfaces I'll report it here. As I write memory use for the service is 13mb and 6mb for the GUI which is pretty good. Internet speed is also very good despite connecting through Avira Premium's Webguard. I'm running it alongside BOClean for some additional (mainly) trojan protection but have no other active security. I know some network monitors have been know to cause problems with PC Tools but I'm using Networx (a real gem) and it's fine.
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Old 27. Feb 2009, 10:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi Cowboy,

thanks for the effort and for starting this thread.

I too was interested in the PC Tools Firewall. I installed it on my Vista Home Premium and it worked great, no freezes at all and I am also using CDBurnerXP and VLC.

However, I had to uninstall it because it was not possible (at least I couldnt get it to work) to pull my MS Exchange mail from a remote server through a VPN. I spcifically configured PTCFW to allow all traffic of my Cisco VPN Client software and MS Outlook. The funny thing was, I could get through to the server and authenticate but sending/receiving was not working. I got the message that there are no noew mails even though there were. After uninstalling PCTFW all went ok.

Maybe I should have given it more time to test but I need those mails for work so I skipped that.

Other than that I found PCTFW very usable and comfortable to use.
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Old 27. Feb 2009, 11:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Hi George,
Pleased to share this with you! Later today had two issues, one slightly disastrous. First, no matter what I did with IPNetinfo could not get PC Tools to allow it to retrieve information. Kept appearing in the log as a blocked application rule and I tried everything with custom settings/rules/permissions - all to no avail. Then, out of the blue the dreaded "found new hardware" wizard appeared and shortly after "svchost has encountered a problem etc., etc" When I consulted the system the drivers for my Nvidia Networking Bus Enumerator had gone walkabout. It's true that I have a particular situation here which won't affect many other people but I'll mention it anyway just in case. Because of my location in Brazil (cable, what cable?) I use a SonyEricsson MD300 USB broadband via the local operator Claro. Although the Sony modem is a good performer, Claro recently changed it in favor of one from Huawei. The new one doesn't use Net Framework and I'm guessing they switched because it's more stable. It's also possible that I may have a motherboard issue developing on this machine which does take some stick! Anyway, PC Tools is now out as it stopped working. Other than this can't really fault the operation but still think that either NetVeda or Sygate (together with some complimentary apps) would do as good a job with less trauma. I also think (although maybe completely on the wrong track here) that the likes of Comodo, OA and PC Tools are less happy working in an environment where there are already a lot of network hungry applications with many fingers in the registry pie. I think that given a clear run on a machine without too many bells and whistles they'll be fine, but make them work through a lot of goodies and they'll complain!
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Old 28. Feb 2009, 08:28 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I am also using the PC Tools Firewall on my PC for some while now, and till now it hasent been giving any problems.

I am also using VLC and CD BurnerXP, but till now, no freezes with either of them, although, i havent yet burned a disc with CD BurnerXP in presence of the firewall, but i did start the program, and all was well.

So far, i like the PC Tools firewall, it dosent hog the system, sits unnoticed, except when making alerts, which are quite straightforward. The program is quite simple and straightforward, with no frisks and frills involved. And as pointed out already, the memory usage is decent, and no slowing down of the internet too.

Its working along well with Avast Antivirus.

I think anyone who wants to start with a firewall, can start with PC Tools Firewall.

I had used Comodo Firewall for sometime, and i believe its for the users who are experienced with firewalls already.
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Old 28. Feb 2009, 01:17 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Hi Anupam,
Yes, I agree, it's almost certain that my unique circumstances with USB modem and network card were making PC Tools unhappy. I also really like the way that the default rule setup for this is about 99% watertight to start with so would highly recommend for anyone not able or willing to make personalized adjustments. Seems to work well on Vista too which is a real bonus compared with some others. There's a saying floating around the net i.e. "Linux is for people who hate Windows, and Windows is for people who hate computers!" I would extend that and say "Firewalls are for people who hate malware, and Comodo is for people who hate firewalls!" If you wanna get angry, just install CFP3 and see what I mean! Why when everything was getting better has CIS suddenly taken about ten steps backwards again? No doubt Mr. Melhi will sort it all out but in the meantime, yes, use PC Tools. Sygate is now going back on my PC in question - it's about time this got re-visited again and I'll return in a while with what I find and think. Have a good weekend.
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Old 28. Feb 2009, 03:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for all your insights on firewalls
.
Well, firewalls for me are a new forte, i was never into them till now. And i have just started to use firewalls. I tried out Comodo Firewall latest version on my system for some days, and well, i did not face any problems with it. But yes, the learning curve for Comodo is more than the other firewalls. There are a number of settings, and i think to make it work properly, one has to study its manual. The HIPS in addition to the firewall, makes it more complicated for a new and normal user.

I didn't experimented much with the firewall, neither did i delve much into it, to comment on it from an expert point of view, but, i felt its a good product offering good protection, that needs to be studied in order to extract the true performance out of it. I think thats the reason most users complain of popups in Comodo. Its certainly not for an average or a new user.

PC Tools Firewall, on the other hand, i can say will work well for a user who is new to firewalls, like me. As you have pointed out rightly, most of the rules by default, seem good. I haven't yet changed any setting till now, except for a few, where i wanted to give a trusted application more access.
Its quite simple i think, and an average user will like this firewall.

I read the comments, and then i had decided to try it out. Also, PC Tools have given good products, like the Spyware Doctor. I think its a great anti-spyware. So, i had decided to trust this firewall, and gave it a go. I am glad i did .
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Old 28. Feb 2009, 05:48 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Hi Anupam,

My thoughts on antispyware applications have always been the same in that I'm sure 95% of the people who have one don't need it! Sure if you have something of real value to an outsider then you need to protect it, but to ensure maximum safety this requires a hard firewall/router set up. My opinion is let it come if my other protections fail to stop it and then I'll find it later with SAS or Malwarebytes. My considered opinion though for those who wish to use such an application is that none of the freewares available will do a job worthy of the memory and other resource they will consume. There are too many anomalies liked stripped down protection and reduced value updates with the free version of Spyware Doctor for me to consider using it. Even the paid version has optional "add-ons"... why? The only free application that would seem to fit the bill is Spycatcher Express from Tenebril but if I'm right this one is still messing up more systems than it's fixing. Sure it finds the spyware then chucks parts of your Windows into the bin along with it! If I had to pick one I would choose Spyware Terminator, not that its detection rate will set the world alight but because of its well designed HIPS and registry protections. I watched this program deteriorate over time and then bounce back with a vengance. You can even integrate the ClamAV database for added protection. Again, not exactly world class but still worth having. If anyone hasn't visited this application recently it really is worth another look, just don't install the Web Security Guard, toolbars and other rubbish with it.
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Old 01. Mar 2009, 07:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I also use your approach, and I have not set up any real-time antisypware monitoring. Never did. I believe, if we use the internet with some caution, like being careful about what sites we visit, or downloading softwares, from good and trusted sites, then there wont be a need for real-time antispyware monitoring, or even a firewall.

I had started getting virus and spyware attacks from my network, and thats why nowdays, I am trying out firewalls, otherwise I never felt the need.

About Spyware Doctor, you may have a point there, about scaled down protection, and the size of the updates. But its my personal experience with Spyware Doctor(free version), when I got spywares on my system, Spyware Doctor was the antispyware, which found spywares, which the other antispywares missed. And it found genuinely malicious threats. And thats why I keep Spyware Doctor on my system. And I am talking only about the free version, known as Spyware Doctor Starter Edition nowadays.

And yes, I also keep the setup of Spyware Terminator on my PC. I have used it in the past, and I found it worthy of keeping. Although, I don't feel the need of it nowadays, since SAS, MBAM, and Spyware Doctor Starter Edition do most of the work. But, I do keep setups of Spyware Terminator, Spybot, and Ad-aware on my PC, as secondary antispywares, in case I do feel their need.

What are the views of members on A-squared? I have read mixed reviews about it. I had tried it in past, when I had got some spywares on the PC, and that time it disappointed me with its quite slow speed of scanning, and poor detection rate. I dont know if it has improved with its latest versions.
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Old 02. Mar 2009, 09:14 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I too have mixed feelings about A-Squared. When the 6 month free license for the full paid version appeared on this site I really did think it was Christmas, but soon changed my mind. My whole system slowed notiecably, and memory use was sky high - up to 80mb - and although the active protection was competent enough the pop-up warnings for websites while surfing were far too numerous and highly ambiguous, especially bearing in mind what you can achieve with Firefox and WOT. The addition of the Ikarus virus scan engine is a bonus, but then this is also in the free version. I found too that incidents of false positives were also high. In summary, competent and comprehensive active protection but at the cost of high resource use and poor usability. I still keep the free version up to date because of its trojan finding abilities and scan with it once a week. It occasionally finds some tracking cookies but everything else so far are false positives. I know that Spyware Terminator is known to slow you down somewhat as well but if you really wanted an alternative complimentary security app. I would still be inclined to go with this because I like the startup/install mode, HIPS and registry protection.
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Old 02. Mar 2009, 02:14 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Hi all
I use for permanent protection
  1. Kaspersky 2009 (ever since, found on a magazine cd for free then)
  2. asquared (commercial after 2 years free version)
  3. online armor (commercial after some months free version)
  4. knoppicilin (freeware)
Kaspersky is reduced to scan on demand (daily), watching mail, spam
asquared does the real time checking and background guard
online armor firewall, hips, and program guard

asquared has(d) speed issues with Kaspersky, that's why I initially stopped the Kaspersky real time checker, but they're now resolved - on my pc anyhow. Ever since I use asquared I never had any malware on my machine for longer than 3 hours - after an initial finding of some 20 culprits. I also enjoy the web guard, as it sometimes does things like excluding googleanalytics

Additionally I run weekly a whole bunch of freeware tools, never ever revealing anything.

knoppicilin
I also use knoppicilin, a virus scanning tool booting with a small linux, and then testing the windows partitions for malware, while those don't even know they exist.

So I consider my PC to be clean.

It is a freeware only available with the magazine cd of a renowned German PC magazine (ct).

Well, I've just discovered a download link:
ftp://ftp.heise.de/pub/ct/projekte/knoppicillin/
ftp://ftp.heise.de/pub/ct/projekte/k.../k6d_6.0.2.iso

will download now...
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