A firewall is one of the most rudimentary pieces of security software to have installed on your system and protects against hackers attempting to attack your PC through connected networks such as the Internet. Windows free firewall has been available as part of Windows security suite since Windows XP, and protects against inbound attacks by default. If you do not have a third party firewall installed make sure you have Windows firewall turned on.
Zone Alarm Free Firewall
Zone Alarm's free firewall is probably one of the best know free firewall's on the Internet. Easy to configure using the built in wizard, which guides you through the installation process, Zone Alarm provides an effective and intuitive interface. Users can set up preferences to deny or permit access of any program to the Internet and once set Zone Alarm remembers your choices.
The software provides two zones for access - the Internet Zone and the Trusted Zone - hence it's name Zone Alarm. Both can be configured to low, medium or high settings depending on how vigilant you are. The firewall protects against unwanted attacks, only allowing programs access under your control. The Internet lock feature contained within Zone Alarm can stop Internet activity when the computer is inactive for a certain period of time. This prevents any unwanted attacks when you are away from your machine for any length of time.
Stealth mode enables private browsing, rendering your machine invisible on the Internet. There is also a 'gaming mode', Vista support and an 'auto-learn' feature which intelligently models your behaviour as you continue to use the program.
PC Tools Firewall Plus
PC Tools Firewall Plus is a well structured, easy to use free firewall which will suit both beginners and advanced users. A visual indication of network traffic can be viewed at-a-glance, highlighted by the bars in the system tray. Pop-up alerts enable you to allow or deny processes from gaining access to the Internet. Protection against hackers, trojans, backdoor keyloggers and malware are activated by default. Whilst more experienced user can create filtering rules to customise the program to suit their individual needs.
Smart updates and network shielding ensure real-time protection is provided and the software is kept up-to-date. The firewall can also be toggled on or off at your leisure and the excellent user interface makes it a breeze to use with instant access to all features from the main menu.
Comodo Firewall Pro Free
Comodo's Firewall Pro freel protects your computer from internal and external attacks through a user friendly and intuitive interface. With options to create or block Internet access to programs on a temporary or permanent basis Comodo provides flexibility whilst still allowing effective protection.
The internal Defense+ system is constantly monitoring your computer for suspicious activity preventing any malicious software from attacking or installing. As well as protection from malware Comodo Firewall Pro protects against hackers, spyware, trojans and identity theft. A Clean PC Mode registers current applications and only allows new applications to install that you approve.
To fully benefit from all what Comodo has to offer it's worth investigating beyond the basic settings and familiarising yourself with the more intricate features the software has to offer.
Ashampoo Firewall Free
Initially installed as a ten day trial, Ashampoo Firewall free can be unlocked permanently by simply registering the program. The tab-based interface offers instant access to all the main features at-a-glance including the main menu, rules, statistics, logs and configuration. Two main modes are offered, easy and advanced, with access to extra features including Internet cleaner, auto-start manager and IP spam blocker.
A one-click panic button can be used in emergencies to block all traffic at once. In easy mode the Configuration Assistant provides a helping hand for inexperienced users, making set-up a simple process. At 4mb the program is also surprisingly small given the features included. Expert mode provides access to all the settings including information on LAN and external connections, communication settings and statistics, ports, program rules and much more.
The program also lets you decide which processes are given access to the Internet and constantly monitors connections denying any suspicious activity as it arises.
Microsoft Windows Firewall has been installed in the security centre since Windows XP and has been upgraded in Windows Vista. The XP version helps block malicious programs from attacking your computer by using a pop-up window which asks permission to block or unblock programs attempting to gain access.
With Windows XP and Windows Vista firewalls all inbound attacks are blocked by default. However Windows Vista advanced firewall features can be accessed under the administrative tools in the control panel. In the advanced security options for Vista firewall you have the ability to set up rules for both inbound and outbound connections by creating new rules or alter existing rules for each process.
Properties of each individual rules can be accessed using the side panel and rules can be deleted and filtered as required. Help is also available to guide you through what may be a daunting task to new users.
It is important to turn Windows Firewall off if you have a third party firewall installed. Having two firewalls running simultaneously can cause conflicts with your system, as they both attempt to block programs accessing your PC in real-time.