In addition to antivirus software, it’s good to have a working firewall. Firewalls can block incoming cyberattacks and manages the internet access of software on your computer. For example it can block outgoing traffic from malware or spyware that your antivirus may have missed.
Here I will briefly review some of the best free firewall options for 2015-2016.
|#||Name||Protection||Performance||Usability||CNET Rating||PCMag Rating|
|1||Windows Firewall + TinyWall||Excellent||Excellent||Below Average||N/A||N/A|
#1 Windows Firewall + TinyWall
Personally I currently use the Windows Firewall, which comes with the Windows operating system. It has been improved since Windows XP and does provide good protection against incoming attacks. It also automatically blocks applications from accepting incoming traffic. What it does not automatically protect against is outgoing traffic. However that is something you can do by manually configuring the firewall settings. But this is a bit more complex and may require some IT experience.
TinyWall is a third party tool that allows you to more easily manage the Windows Firewall. It also allows you to see more information about which programs are accessing the internet from your computer. TinyWall is basically an add-on for the default Windows Firewall which makes it more convenient to manage. TinyWall is 100% free, with no ads or pop-ups, there is no paid version either.
#2 ZoneAlarm Free
I’ve used ZoneAlarm Free a lot in the past when the Windows Firewall was not very reliable. I used it especially during the early Windows XP era. I don’t really have too many bad memories of ZoneAlarm. It does have the occasional pop-ups urging users to upgrade to the paid version, but they are not too frequent.
ZoneAlarm also has a free firewall and antivirus bundle in addition to the standalone firewall. I have not tested the antivirus myself, so I can’t really speak for its effectiveness. However, it did have fairly good ratings on AV-Test.org.
Features of ZoneAlarm include a two-way firewall that blocks both incoming and outgoing traffic and application control to manage internet access for specific programs. Additionally it can actively monitor software behavior to better detect malicious programs. ZoneAlarm also has identity protection, browser protection, a user-friendly interface and automatic updates.
ZoneAlarm is listed as #1 on CNET Downloads in the free firewall category with a user and editor’s rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars, and a PCMag rating of 4.5/5 points.
#3 Comodo Free
My personal experiences with Comodo Free firewall are limited. I’ve used it a few times in the past but have not used the latest version. However in CNET Downloads it is listed as #2 in the free firewall category. Comodo has an editor’s rating of 4 out of 5 stars and the user rating was 3.5 out of 5. PCMag rated Comodo 8 as excellent with 4 out of 5 points.
Features include application control to manage internet access for specific programs, personalized alerts and cloud based white listing to identify safe software. It also has game mode which suppresses alerts while gaming or watching movies, a user-friendly interface and automatic updates. Additionally Comodo has an auto sandbox technology which can test software in a safe virtual environment.
The PCMag review did state that Comodo has a very aggressive behavior blocking feature which can produce many unnecessary alerts. However Comodo also has personalized alerts which will remember your past preferences, so the alerts may decrease with time.
Bonus Software: PeerBlock
PeerBlock is another tool that you can use in addition to other security programs. PeerBlock basically manages who your computer talks to on the internet. It utilizes downloadable lists of known IP addresses of potentially malicious computers. Such as adware or spyware oriented servers, servers that monitor internet activity and even lists of hacked computers used for cyberattacks.