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Firewalls acts as sentries to data moving to and from your computer. Current Windows XP operating software incorporates its own software, but more users prefer to add third party firewalls.

There are many good free firewalls available. Retail versions give more configuration options.

The most popular computer firewalls are:

Free Firewalls

  • Zonealarm - fully functional but you do need to register it. Operates well; some users find it difficult to configure.
  • PC Tools - based on Kaspersky definition files.
  • Comodo - Free lifetime registration, appears to work well without slowing down your PC. Can be a problem during downloads.

Purchased Firewalls

Sunbelt Kerio Personal Firewall - blocks both incoming and outgoing data

Trend Micro Pc-Cillin 2007 – I use this myself, and have done for many years. The 2007 version is extremely difficult to configure and has a lot of false negatives. It will not work with Alexa toolbar, and Trend Micro refuse to do anything about this.

Zone Alarm – many find this more effective than most other firewalls. Automatically blocks any attempt by outsiders to use your Internet connection

Comparing Zone Alarm And PC Tools Firewalls

Comparing firewalls is done based upon their effectiveness in blocking outside attempts to gain access to the computer, the function of a firewall and its configuration capability.

To many users firewalls are "firewalls". They all block or allow according to your rules. Their effectiveness depends largely upon the rules that you set. But not all firewalls are equal. MS firewall blocks, primarily, incoming traffic but does little to stop rogue outgoing data. Virus protection generally pick these up but, I prefer a firewall that monitors both incoming and outgoing traffic.

Any firewall has to learn the rules before it can be effective and this, as you quite rightly say, is what you do as you progress.


Limitation of Firewalls

Remember that a firewall is not a Spyware program or a Virus Protection program. You will need to either get separate software programs for these functions or use a 3-in-1 program such as PC-Cillin.

Good Spyware Programs

  • Ad-Ware
  • Ad-watch SE Professional

Anti Virus Programs

  • CA-Outpost anti virus and firewall
  • Norton
  • McAfee firewall version 4 - simple to use with many options such as "allow always" "allow just now", block, filter etc for in and out traffic. Most others only just give you block or allow.

The disadvantage of the latest version upgrades is that they are extremely hungry on resources and disk space. My PC-Cillin virtually stalls my Outlook everytime is scans incoming mail and a recent Defrag identified a 2G sector just on PC-cillin Logs. Trend Micros response to this was that I had to uninstall the program and then reinstall it. After finally getting most of the trusted websites accepted I am extremely reluctant to do this.


Typical Firewall Options

  • Email scanning in and out
  • Allow access to specified programs
  • Allow access to specified folders
  • Allow access to specified websites
  • TCP options and other internal functions.
  • Sensitivity – picks up more genuine threats, but also more false alerts.

Many of these so-called intelligent options cause so many other problems that not only do you need to deactivate that function, but doing so opens vulnerabilities in other areas.
Support functions - PC-Cillin is a reasonable software and support is responsive, but I rarely get a response to the actual question I ask, regardless of how simple and clear I make it.

It pays to use firewalls, ant-virus and anti-spyware in conjunction with Tune-up utilities 2007, Ccleaner and Registry cleaners. Be very careful though with registry cleaners unless you are knowledgeable in this area.

Next: Top Free PC Utility Programs

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