However, having a firewall on your computer is one thing, using it to its fullest is quite another. You need to configure rules, allow certain applications and deny others. You might also want to forward some ports so that you can use the computer to serve a website or files.
Windows ships with the Windows firewall, which is good and up to the task in most cases, however the interface is not very intuitive to the beginner. Windows 7 Firewall Control attempts to change that and makes configuring and managing the Windows Firewall easier.
Although the name implies Windows 7, the software works on Windows Vista just as well. At a mere 2MB and the option of a portable version, it is definitely worth checking it out. The software doesn’t install any drivers of its own to filter network traffic. Instead it uses the Windows Filtering Platform (or the Windows Firewall) to achieve its objective.
You might ask why anyone might need Windows 7 Firewall Control if all it uses is the Windows Firewall and doesn’t have any fancy acronyms or advanced technology that might make it useful. The answer is because it makes managing firewall rules and zones so much easier that configuration is a snap and you can thus get more out of the Windows Firewall with rules finetuned to suit your requirements.
In addition, you do not require any third party firewall software in the first place if all you need to do is monitor or filter traffic and manage which software can make connections with the outside world. If on the other hand you are on a computer that needs to be protected from hackers than let me warn you, no firewall is safe enough, but in that case, it makes more sense to have a full blown firewall software in place.
Anyhow, it’s time to take a look at some of the features and functionality of Windows 7 Firewall Control. When you run the software for the first time you will get a couple of dialog boxes, asking you if you want to allow a particular network connection or not. Depending upon what it is that has popped up you can either approve or deny the connection, thereby creating a rule for the current session or permanently.
As you move along and approve or deny network connections you can view them in Windows 7 Firewall Control’s user interface accessible via the system tray. The interface looks a lot like the ever so familiar Windows Task Manager. The Programs tab lists the programs on which the rules have been configured for. If any application that is not listed here tries to set up a network connection you will receive a notification asking you if you want to allow or disallow the connection.
The last column in the Programs tab mentions the Zone which is assigned to the program. There is a list of pre-configured zones in the Zones tab and you can create your own if required. A Zone basically groups a set of rules that will be applied to all the programs that are configured to work with a particular Zone.
Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer for example can be configured to run in the WebBrowserZone, making them inherit a set of common rules that you might want to apply to all the web browsers.
In addition to this, Windows 7 Firewall Control allows you to forward ports easily and also syncs these settings with any external router you might be using. The software also displays network activity statistics for all the programs listed under the Program tab. If configuring rules and zones each time an application tries to use the network is too much for you, you can also configure a default zone and tell Firewall Control to disable the popup and put all newly detected applications in the default zone.
Overall, Windows 7 Firewall Control is an excellent piece of software that makes using the existing Windows Firewall features a whole lot easier. Have it running and in a day or two, chances are that you will be having well configured rules and making full use of the Windows Firewall.
How much do you use the Windows Firewall? Do you think Windows 7 Firewall Control would help you use it better?