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Best Free Firewall Protection | Gizmo’s Freeware Archive

Introduction

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

Ignoring this layer of security may eventually result in a breach, which can result in more than just lost data. Especially for companies, the embarrassment and loss of public face could have them soon investing in business reputation management as a part of their recovery process. Time spent looking for the right firewall solution is indeed time well spent.

Firewall products can be one of more cumbersome software products to use and have a history of causing user angst. To find a suitable product that meets individual users' needs may involve a process of trial and error. A good firewall should be able to protect the user at a near-perfect level, while not being too intrusive or complicated to handle. In this article, we give you a selection of some of the best free firewall software, in our opinion, that is available. 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 on your experiences with the software products mentioned and/or freeware firewall products that you like, we would like to hear from you. Please refer to the comments section at the bottom of this page.

 
[Doakio Editor's Note: This article was restored from Gizmo's Freeware archives as a service to the freeware community. Gizmo's Freeware provided high-quality, volunteer freeware reviews for decades. They shut down in July of 2021.]
 

Review Index

Basic Firewalls

The built-in Windows firewall is a common and popular choice since it passes all inbound tests (both stealth and open port), doesn't have many popup alerts, and doesn't cause system performance issues. It also does not require a separate software installation, since it comes built-in with modern versions of Windows. The built-in Windows firewall has improved drastically from earlier versions of Windows; the latest iteration, Windows 10, now contains a very capable and reliable built-in firewall solution, which is named Windows Defender Firewall.

You can also replace the Windows firewall with a basic third-party firewall which can provide greater control of outbound protection and additional features. Most simple two-way firewalls ask you to allow or deny Internet access for unknown programs. Many also automatically allow trustworthy apps and remember your decisions to become silent over time. However, these software require additional configuration of settings, especially at the outset. With the improved functionality of the built-in firewall in Windows 10, such third party firewall solutions are decreasing in popularity.

Windows Defender Firewall  

A firewall built into Windows with no separate installation required.

 

License: Commercial

Built in to Windows, no separate installation needed, simple and easy to use, effective, passes all tests, no nagging or annoying pop ups, runs seamlessly and quietly in the background, significant improvements since initial version in XP. Current iteration in Windows 10 is suitable for most daily users,
Primarily incoming connecting protection only. Advanced user interface is not user friendly – this interface may not be suitable for beginner users. Would be beneficial paired with a third party tool such as Windows 10 Firewall Control. May not provide adequate protection for “high risk” users.

Read full review…

 

TinyWall  

A lightweight firewall solution that works with the built-in Windows Firewall.

 

License: Free

Lightweight basic firewall; simple yet effective. Non-intrusive program with no pop-ups. Ability to recognize associated processes when white-listing programs. This program could be a good choice for those not familiar 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.

Read full review…

 

Windows 10 Firewall Control  

A good choice to supplement the Windows built-in Firewall and compatible with Windows XP and higher.

 
License: Free (Limited features)
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.

Read full review…

 

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall  

A well-established inbound and outbound OS firewall solution suited for users of every level of experience.

 
License: Free (Limited features)
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.

Read full review…

 

Firewalls with HIPS Protection

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

It should be noted that firewall products in this section require more time to learn and configure, and are more complex to use than basic firewalls. There is also a higher risk of conflicts and problems arising on your system. 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, such as Matousec, for practical day to day use. 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. In other words, these firewalls may be more suitable for more advanced users, as well as those that are more “high risk”. We would only recommend these firewalls for these users; for average daily users, basic firewalls are likely sufficient.

Comodo Firewall  

A good choice for lightly-skilled and advanced users seeking a full featured security suite.

 
License: Free
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; remnants of the program are sometimes left on the computer.

Read full review…

Summary

Both types of firewalls (basic and HIPS/proactive) both have their benefits and drawbacks. While HIPS software do offer greater protection and control of your machine, it naturally requires more user interaction and resources, making such software more complex. There are more settings to configure than basic firewalls.

On the contrary, basic firewalls are generally simpler to use and may be easier for the user to adjust and learn how to use it. Comparatively, they do not offer as much protection as HIPS software; for example, they cannot detect suspiciously acting software behaviour, as it primarily filters incoming and outgoing internet traffic.

If you are an advanced computer user and/or are a “high risk” user, then the increased complexity of a HIPS firewall may be the best option for you, as it offers you the maximum protection available (in this regard). However, for most average users who use their computer for regular day to day use, a basic firewall, especially the built in Windows Defender Firewall, is probably more than adequate. For these latter parties, a HIPS firewall may simply be going overboard as the increased features, complexity, and configurations are unnecessary.

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. Newer versions of Windows 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.

Other/Unsupported Firewalls

The following firewalls are now unsupported by their vendors. This means they have been discontinued and/or are no longer offered by the software publisher. While they may still be available for download, they may contain undocumented bugs or stability/security issues that will not be addressed. These reviews are archived for information purposes only. Unless you run an older Windows system with no other current firewall programs available and are unable to upgrade, we recommend using an active, supported program from the list above.

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