Discuss – Best Free Firewalls For Windows for 2014

Firewalls, no doubt, are one of the most important components of your computer (network). You know you need a firewall, so that your computer (network) is not visible on the Internet to the bad guys. These are bad guys who find computer ports and access your computer through one of them. Their tactics keep on changing and hence, the firewall designing companies add more and more security to their firewalls – firmware or software. While the built-in Windows Firewall works good for most of us, this article discusses some of the best free firewalls for Windows.

Best Firewalls for 2014

Top 5 free firewall for Windows 400x248 Discuss   Best Free Firewalls For Windows for 2014

Closed Port Vs Stealth Port

For long, I’ve believed all of us IT’ians believe in keeping the ports in stealth mode. However, a user responded to my review of Comodo firewall saying his ISP (Internet Service Provided) has programmed the network in a way that shows ports as “closed” as against the preferred “stealth”. I do not how that makes the computer or the computer network behind that firewall any safer. In my opinion, closed ports are still vulnerable as the bad guys can always figure out how to open them using a combination of techniques. Just listen to traffic, get to the computer usingopen port and then open the closed ports.

In case you do not know about the difference between closed port mode and stealth port mode, here is a simple description. A computer has many ports through which it communicates with different components attached to it such as printers, scanners, keyboards and routers etc. The ports connected to printers and other peripherals are okay as long as they do not form “things of the Internet” – meaning they are not connected to Internet. But if any of those computers or the peripherals is connected to the Internet, we have to make sure no one can access them without proper permissions. That sums up to the entire thing to “everything connects to the Internet through one or more port”.

For example, port number 995 is used to receive secure email. Port #110 is also used to receive mail via an unencrypted connection to the Internet. Likewiseport number 80 is used to connect to Internet in most Windows-based computers.

What hackers do is to try and find any instances of ports – open or closed so that they can gain access to any computer (network) or server. If the port is open, they can straightaway get into the computer (network). If the port is closed, they can still use a combination of techniques to get into the computer (network). However, if the port is in stealth mode, it is invisible to others on the Internet. Stealth case makes your computer (network) disappear from the Internet.

In my opinion, the firewalls that prevent ports of your computer networks from appearing on the Internet are the best. Thus, you should go for firewalls that provide stealth mode for ports rather than closed. I do not know why some of the ISPs are using closed modes as told to me by way of comment on my review of Comodo firewall. If any of you have an answer, please share it with me.

List of Top 5 Free Firewalls For Windows 7 – For 2014

Please note that this list of top 5 free firewalls may not be perfect. I selected a little over a dozen firewalls and ran few tests available on the Internet. They were basic tests that are easily available to anyone. I will list them towards the end of this post under References section. These are best free firewalls for Windows as per my observation. Check them out and if you feel I missed or included something that shouldn’t be here, please inform me  – with reasons.

#1 Hardware Firewalls

As always, the firmware firewalls are on top and are present at the very first point of contact with the Internet. Hardware firewalls are ones included in your routers and modems that help you stay invisible on the Internet. While the default mode they provide is stealth mode, you can use one of the tests mentioned below to see the results. In case you wish to test the hardware firewall, please disable any other firewall (including Windows firewall) before running the tests. You can read more here on Hardware firewall vs Software firewall.

While I was totally convinced that these are the best form of protection as you can have these firewall turned on and then use a software firewall to add another layer, I now urge you to test the hardware firewall just in case your ISP too configured them to appear as closed instead of stealth mode.

#2 Comodo Firewall

There are plenty of good reviews of Comodo free firewall comparing it to Zonealarm free firewall. But please note that the Zonealarm free firewall does not provide all the features that Comodo Free Firewall. I guess the articles comparing Comodo and ZoneAlarm were comparing Comodo Free Firewall with the paid ZoneAlarm Security Suite.

The same is reflected by Matousec – a website that offers comparison among different security suites. Matousec places Comodo firewall at the first place among software firewalls. My own tests showed all ports in stealth mode. Please read our complete review of Comodo Free Firewall.

#3 Private Firewall

This is not much popular firewall, and probably few of you might not even have heard of it. CNET gives it 5 stars (spectacular) rating. It works and works much better compared to many other free firewalls for Windows. Comodo is best, but is a bit heavy on resources. The alerts from Comodo may sometimes be very complex for novices. If you need a simple firewall that goes easy on your computer resources, here is a little about Private Firewall.

#4 Outpost Security Suite

As evident from the name, Outpost is a complete security suite. That means it has a firewall, an antimalware and antispyware etc. components. The entire thing can be installed in few clicks. Though free, you have to register it to continue using beyond two days. I would have preferred if it offered firewall separately instead of offering entire bundle. That way you could have used a separate antivirus with the benefit of Outpost firewall. It has 3.5 stars from CNET and 3 stars from PC Mag. Here is our review of Outpost Security Suite.

#5 ZoneAlarm Free Firewall

No list of firewalls is complete without mentioning ZoneAlarm firewall. Though the pro version offers a much better protection, the free version too is highly popular and runs on many computers across the world. For more details, please read our review of ZoneAlarm.

What is you opinion? Which firewall do you use and which do you think is the best one? If you think I missed something or included something that shouldn’t be here, please let me know me.

(Post updated for 2014)

References

  1. Matousec, Comparison Of Security Suites
  2. Hacker Watch, Simple Port Test
  3. PC Flank
  4. GRC, Shields Up Tests: Gibson Research Corp

Join the discussion on the Best Free Antivirus for Windows too!

Posted by on , in Category Security with Tags
Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. He also offers online training for Business English. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN
  • RemotePCFixers

    I used to like ZoneAlarm and believe it’s a good Firewall, however the last time I installed it on a computer it loaded the dreaded “Conduit” search bar even though I carefully installed ZA, and unchecked the install of the “Conduit” search engine and Toolbar.

    It takes a lot of effort to get rid of “Conduit” and it will redirect your searches and make changes to your browser without asking.

    Firefox was infested with entries even though I had removed it’s add-ons, and changed the start page, and had to go into “about:config” to manually remove entries, and also had to manually remove entries in the Registry, and cleaned it out too.

    Do a Google search on “zonealarm conduit toolbar 2013″, without the quotes.

    Regards,

    Tom

    http://www.remotepcfixers.com/

  • RemotePCFixers

    Good delete of the truth!

  • Ziggy

    What do you think of the native windows firewall? That’s all I use and no problems thus far. I tried a free application that complements the native firewall but it had a tendency to malfunction too often.

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com/ Gregg L. DesElms

    Wow! I’m impressed. I saw the headline, and fully expected to post, here, as if I were the smart one, what it turns out are already here as items 1 and 2 of this article. Truer words rarely written.

    Nothing — and I mean nothing — can substitute for a hardware firewall… preferably a dedicated-to-that-purpose device (though they’re terribly expensive), or, at the very least, the either true or even only pseudo firewall capabilities built-in to most common (and considerably less expensive) Internet routers (or routers with switches in them). There are several different approaches to either actual or pseudo firewall capability in common Internet routers, so do your homework and make sure that all it’s doing isn’t merely hoping NAT will sufficiently confuse attackers that that’ll be good enough.

    Beyond that, software firewalls are good, but unless they know how to insert their start-up very, very early in the Windows machine’s start-up process, then that, right there, is a huge security hole. Even once they’re running, though, they need to be pretty special in order to actually be effective. I’m a little surprised that ZoneAlarm is listed here (though I’m not surprised that it’s last) because even though it was quite the firewall once, it is no longer. Among the free ones, Comodo’s firewall is probably best, and so is properly the first among the software ones in this article. The rest of the Comodo Internet Security (CIS) suite of which it’s a part may or may not be good (I think it is, but I concede that some of it could be better), but the firewall part of CIS has been ranked, in independent testing, right-up there with the commercial Kaspersky firewall, which is arguably either best-of-breed, or right up there among ‘em.

    Even people who cite better (than Comodo) anti-virus, and so would rather use that, should still use the firewall part of Comodo, with all other parts of CIS turned off; and then use the anti-virus part of whatever they prefer, with its firewall turned-off. Of course, there are still sometimes clashes with doing that, so I don’t recommend it. The anti-virus part of CIS, while still not “world class,” as they say, has so improved in recent years that it’s a worthy competitor in any contest. Couple that with Comodo’s possibly best-of-breed Hosts Intrusion Protection System (HIPS) (which it calls “Defense+”), and CIS is good enough to be one’s sole anti-malware-with-firewall suite… especially cool because it’s free. Sadly, it needs a little training, at first, in order to make its little warnings stop popping-up so much; and if one doesn’t know how to navigate how cryptic some of them are, then one can answer the wrong thing and inadvertently poke a big hole in his/her protection. And, sadly, that’s always been CIS’s Achilles Heel. But if it’s properly trained, seriously, CIS has no rival… at least among freeware tools; and, truth be known, even compared with a great many commercial ones.

    So, anyway… excellent! Keep-up the good work.

    ___________________________
    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com/ Gregg L. DesElms

    @RemotePCFixers, if by “good, delete of the truth” you’re referring to that maybe an earlier post disappeared, it might be because it had a link in it or something, and so needed to be moderated first. All I know is that at THIS writing (about 2 hours after your post to which I’m now replying), I see two posts from you: First th one telling us about ZoneAlarm (which has a link in it, so if that’s the one that disappeared, you should know that it’s appearing now, after likely moderation), and the other being the one to which I’m now responding/replying.

    Was there another? If so, they’re very fair-minded around here, and so I’m sure they’ll allow it to appear after someone has taken a look at it… er… you know… assuming there’s nothing awful in it.

    Just tryin’ to help.

    ___________________________
    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com/ Gregg L. DesElms

    Not terrific. Never has been. Comodo is head-and-shoulders better. Heck, even ZoneAlarm might be better.

    Microsoft’s anti-virus, though — in the form of its “Security Essentials” — actually ain’t half bad. I still prefer Comodo, but once Microsoft polished-out all the rough spots in Security Essentials, I’ll be darned if it didn’t start doing pretty darned well in independent testing. I can definitely recommend it…

    …but not Microsoft’s built-in firewall. Ick! [grin]

    ___________________________
    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • http://www.thewindowsclub.com Anand Khanse

    Sometimes, comments get stuck in the moderation queue, especially if they include a link AND Disqus feels it needs to be moderated. Such comments may take a while to appear.

  • RemotePCFixers

    Gregg,

    Yes the post was there, and later went back and it was deleted, so I assumed it was censored.

    I just wanted to warn people of the pain I went thru of removing the dreaded “Conduit” search engine nonsense that wraps around your browsers and into your system.

    It took me hours to get rid of it and I’m disappointed in ZA.

    Agreed Comodo is the best Firewall.

    Regards,

    Tom

  • RemotePCFixers

    Thanks, it was there then disappeared, thought it was censored.

    Regards – Tom

  • ErnieK

    Comodo get my vote as well. The one complaint [if that is the correct word to use] is the “Auto Sandbox” can be a wee bit intrusive and quick to react at times. I know this can be turned off but it is worth the hassle for added safety and I have to find something to complain about occasionally :-).

    Someone, who is not computer literate in any way other than to check emails and that [shudder and cringe] facebook, asked me to install Zone-Alarm and it also changed the home page on their browser along with installing the tool bar. My advice to them was to remove it but they said that some-one on [shudder] facebook had said it was the best firewall so they wanted it left on.

    As for suites I do not like them. If one thing goes wrong then you have the possibility of all your security being disabledbroken. Where as separate programs [for me Comodo – Avast – Malwarebytes (pro version) and Spywareblaster] if one this goes t*ts-up you still have a working security.

  • ErnieK

    Forgot to say Zone-Alarm was downloaded from the official Zone-Alarm download page.

  • hackerman1

    Of course your ports should be “stealth”, otherwise your computer can be attacked.

    “There are plenty of good reviews of Comodo free firewall comparing it to Zonealarm free firewall…..
    ….The same is reflected by Matousec – a website that offers comparison
    among different security suites.
    Matousec places Comodo firewall at the first place among software firewalls.
    My own tests showed all ports in stealth mode.”

    You do not understand what Matousec is testing.

    You talk about stealth vs. closed ports, but Matousec´s tests has nothing to do with stealth ports.
    Matousec tests outgoing connections, not incoming.

    Most firewalls keep all ports stealth.
    Private firewall does not, it fails both Gibson´s “Shields Up Test” and PC Flank.
    I know because i have tested it, i posted the following on the forum in march 2013: “And the latest version of Private Firewall, doesn´t pass Gibsons or PcFlanks “Stealth test” !?
    That is not the version tested on 3rd place below, as that test was made long before the latest version was released.”
    http://forum.thewindowsclub.com/windows-security/35137-firewall-security-test-results-matousec-march-2013-a.html#post168252

    Private firewall does not even pass Comodos Lek Test (CLT)
    which is much simpler then Matousec´s test, it only got 270 / 330 when i tested it.
    This is one very good reason why you should not use it.

    And most firewall are useless for blocking outgoing connections, as you can see on Matousec´s webbsite.

    Outpost Security Suite: ” I would have preferred if it offered firewall separately instead of
    offering entire bundle. That way you could have used a separate antivirus with the benefit of Outpost firewall.”

    There is no problem with using another “antivirusprogram” together with Outposts firewall, just don´t install Outposts own antivirusprogram.
    I know because i have tested Outposts firewall together with Emsisoft Anti Malware & MalwareBytesAntiMalware.

  • http://www.powercutmedia.in/ Arun Kumar

    Thank you for sharing the information. Probably, I had the router firewall on while testing Private firewall that showed all ports in stealth. I will run some more tests on it and post it if the results differ from what you say.
    I did not emphasize much on outgoing connections. That is a weak point of this post. Did not occur to me. But thanks again for sharing your experience and knowledge.

  • http://www.powercutmedia.in/ Arun Kumar

    Thank you, Gregg. As usual, lot much to learn from you :)

  • Ryan Plant

    You must have installed an earlier version of their Firewall as i’ve installed their firewall on many PCs recently and not experienced this problem at all.

  • Ryan Plant

    Why not include ZoneAlarms free Antivirus + Firewall? It’s 10x better than just the firewall by itself.

  • hackerman1

    Ryan Plant: The subject is “Best Free Firewalls For Windows for 2013″.

    Firewalls….

  • hackerman1

    There is a big thread about “Private firewall” on wilders: http://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=341544

  • P.Yew

    Stealth means nothing. If there was no computer at the address, you’d get a destination unreachable from the upstream router. As long as sensitive ports are protected from unsolicited internet traffic, the firewall is doing its job.

  • P.Yew

    If you don’t care about outgoing traffic, windows firewall is all you need, at least for the firewall component.

  • Grumpigeek

    Arun,

    Did you try Online Armor Firewall?

    If so, can you indicate pro and cons of it?

    The reason I ask is that I found Online Armor easier to use than Private Firewall.

    Cheers

  • http://www.powercutmedia.in/ Arun Kumar

    I will sure check it out in details and list what I find. Thank you for bringing it up. :)

  • http://about.me/michaelmknight Michael Knight

    Comodo without a doubt. It’s hands down the best software firewall at the moment.

  • http://www.thewindowsclub.com Anand Khanse

    Looks like the consensus is veering towards Comodo Firewall being the finest, presently … :)

  • http://ftp-ftf-tosiar.clanteam.com/ John Stewart

    Best firewall? Get rid of Microshaft and use an open-source OS!

  • reb1rth

    I have to agree with you about COMMODO. My I7 is OCed to 4.5ghz, but generally sits at 1.6ghz when using desktop. It is only supposed to “kick in” when running the more intensive apps (games etc) but I have recently noticed COMMODO randomly fluctuating CPU usage up to around 20%, even if my browser is closed. This results in a CPU spending much of its time at OC speeds, which of course raises the temperature.

    I have used “Private Firewall” before and I did like its simple interface and program control, but I wasn’t sure how trustworthy it was, so went to COMMODO.

    I think I may return to it because COMMODO is obviously doing too much work, which is annoying considering I spend much of my time in an IDE programming.

  • Rebirth (The real one)

    Did any of you ever read this article?

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2400356,00.asp

  • Rebirth (The real one)
  • Jon

    He’s correct. I’ve installed the latest version from their site in the past month and not only does the Zonealarm software include the Conduit adware/spyware/toolbar but also tricks you into installing it.

    Used to love ZA a few years ago but now they’re forcefully installing adware. Do not install.

  • george

    And the 2014 version has done away with all trickery. If you don’t accept the search engine and start page alterations you can’t install it (period). 131_211, 132_015.

  • Unknown

    Online Armor and Comodo Firewall are kinda tied in my opinion, I will recommend both equally, what a pity you failed to include Online Armor in this article.

    But for me, after trying many security softwares, I ended up using Windows Firewall. It does what a firewall should do and is one of the best. Most of the third party firewalls focus so much on all those fancy features and forgot the basics, it’s a sad fact.

  • Jani Careni

    for me and after several tests concerning firewall and only firewall,no suite,the best is Outpost firewall pro

  • http://progamingforum.ucoz.com/ Pajo Pavle

    i use comodo. comodo stops all programs from connecting to the internet. 5 stars from me *****

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