New v6 of PC Tools Firewall Plus adds in 64-bit and Win7 support and makes Firewall Plus #1 best free firewall in terms of protection

2009-09-29_210154 My post on how to create your own security software suite for free is one of the most popular posts on dotTech [.org]; I am sure many of you are familiar with it (if not you really should met her him it).

Originally when I wrote the article, it was top 7 free software (now it is top 9) and PC Tools Firewall Plus was the recommended free firewall of choice. The reason I recommended PC Tools Firewall Plus over other free firewalls, even though other free firewalls did provide marginally better protection at the time, is because it works well with Threatfire (an excellent behavior blocker from PC Tools), and it does not have wide spread compatibility issues like some of its rival free firewalls.

A few months later I updated my security software post and changed my recommendation for free firewall from PC Tools Firewall Plus to Outpost Firewall Free 2009. The main reason for this switch was PC Tools Firewall Plus randomly imploded on my computer (don’t you love the irony). I don’t know if it was my fault or if it was PC Tools Firewall Plus’ fault or if it was Vista’s fault; all I know is it happened. (If you use PC Tools Firewall Plus currently or plan on using it, do not worry. Unlike the compatibility issues many people face with Comodo Firewall and Online Armor, my research showed the implosion on my computer is more likely an isolated incident than a wide-spread problem.)

Back then I was using either v4 or v5 (I believe it was v5 – I can’t remember for sure… my note-taking skillz were not as good back then as they are now). Since then PC Tools has updated their Firewall Plus to v6 and made it better than ever.

First, here are the new features of Firewall Plus v6:

  • New Network Awareness

PC Tools Firewall Plus detects when you connect to a local network for the first time and enables users to define rules for each and every local network your PC joins. You can also simply set the trust level for each local network and let PC Tools Firewall Plus automatically adjust rules to match.

  • Improved Data Leakage Protection

PC Tools Firewall Plus helps keep the information stored on your PC private and safe from hackers by detecting and blocking attempts by malware to leak data using trusted applications, such as web browsers and critical system services.

  • Windows Filtering Platform Support

PC Tools Firewall Plus is built using the new Windows Filtering Platform (WFP) architecture in Windows 7, Vista™ and Server 2008 to provide you with precise control over all network traffic, including IPv6, on both 32bit and 64bit systems.

  • Improved Performance

PC Tools Firewall Plus has minimal impact on system and network resources – perfect for processor-intensive, high-bandwidth games and online broadband media content.

Take note of the most important aspect in terms of new features: PC Tools Firewall Plus now supports Windows XP (32 bit), Vista (32/64 bit), and Win7 (32/64 bit). Just in terms of the new support alone, PC Tools Firewall Plus now surpasses its three main rivals; Comodo Firewall Free and Online Armor Firewall Free do not officially support Win7 or 64-bit while Outpost Firewall Free does not officially support Win 7 (but it does support 64-bit).

However the good news does not stop there. The new v6 of PC Tools Firewall Plus now ranks number #1  for free firewalls in terms of protection:

2009-09-29_210508

Firewall tests done by Matousec.

Are you impressed yet? I know for sure in my next update to my free security software post, PC Tools Firewall Plus may very well regain the crown as dotTech [.org]‘s recommended firewall (depends on when I update the post and/or if the other free firewalls release new and improved versions).

Now it is true it is not a complete wash; the other three firewalls have one or two aspects over PC Tools Firewall Plus. For example, Comodo and Online Armor come with optional HIPS protection (which I personally find to be more annoying than useful but it is there if you need it) and Outpost Firewall’s “smart rules” and “auto-learn” features are really nice in terms of user friendliness (PC Tools has something similar to Outpost Firewall but in my experience, Outpost Firewall’s system is superior in that area). However, all things considered, PC Tools Firewall Plus (v6) is an excellent update to an excellent free firewall. I know I am sold.

You can grab PC Tools Firewall Plus from the following link:

Version Reviewed: v6.0.0.74

Supported OS: Windows XP (32 bit), Vista (32/64 bit), and Win7 (32/64 bit)

License information: Free for personal and commercial use

PC Tools Firewall Plus homepage [direct download]

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20 comments

  1. acr

    It looks like the page you provide re-directs to the Internet Security. And it looks like the mods in the PC Tools forum do not know the difference between a firewall and an internet security suite.

    http://www.pctools.com/forum/showthread.php?69504-No-more-free-firewallplus
    PC Tools has me leery of using their firewall at this point because they had essentially abandoned it for a while and now they don’t have a page accessible for it. Additionally the input from several mods regarding the firewall indicates they don’t even read the user questions. Go through the above thread and you will see what I mean.

  2. Flashorn

    Hi Ash!
    I have been using and recommending PC Tools Firewall since version 4 and have Not encountered any problems nor have any of the other persons I have recommended this firewall too. I think that, even though you are using a 64bit OS you might want to try and install the 32bit to the Program Files (X86) folder. This would probably solve allot of the freezes from happening. It is still early in the 64bit game and most programs are still being written for the 32bit version.
    Just take a look at the browsers. Only IE has a “supported” 64bit version, all others are still only 32bit. This is also why you have to install Both versions of Java’s (32 and 64bit) versions if you are on a 64bit OS. You will only be offered to download the 64bit version of Java IF you visit the site with the 64bit version of IE. Also, Flash and Adobe will not work in a 64 bit browser along with allot of the other Add-Ons . Even Microsoft recommends you use the 32bit version of OFFICE 12.

    Compatibility is and will be an issue until all programs are written for 64bit OS’.

    As far as going from one firewall to another, the problems could be solved by using the Required Uninstall Tools offered by the company providing these programs. Here you will find most of the uninstallers from their respective companies : http://www.uninstallers.blogspot.com/.
    Please make use of them. It will help avoid bad installs.

  3. Slavka

    Tried to use PC Tools Firewall Plus with my laptop (XP PRO 32); after laptop goes to hibernate and returns back ethernet adapter is always disabled until I turn PC Tools Firewall off and back on.
    Oh, well, it was free anyway, I am going back to ZoneAlarm.

  4. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Janet: Windows firewall is actually better than most like to give it credit for. However the XP firewall is more of a “half firewall” than a full firewall because it only blocks incoming connections not outgoing (Vista/Win7 firewalls do both).

    If on Vista/Win7 I have no problem with anyone using the Windows firewall. However for XP I would say with so many free firewalls out there, there is no need to have half the protection.

    @reghakr: Cool; thanks.

    @anemailname: Officially I think it does not work on x64 XP.

    Also, ya it is hard. I think that is because not many people run x64 XP because it had so many problems.

    @pokkel: Different security settings? Iunno.

    @Jon: Does Comodo supports x64? On their website it lists x86. Anyway, I agree with you: different people will have different experience with different firewalls. This is mainly due to the fact that everyone has something slightly different installed on their computer. Since a firewall is the type of software that interacts with many other programs/processes, how compatible a firewall is for you will depend on what you have installed.

  5. Jon

    Funny how different people have different experiences with the same software. I’ve been using Comodo for a couple years now, originally on XP & now on Win7/64bit. I’ve had no problems with it being invasive or bothering any programs after original configuration.

  6. pokkel

    Comodo seems to disrupt more and more programs after updates, so I decided to switch to PC tools Firewall.

    Answered the popups as I did with Comodo – opened all applications one time, went to Shields Up and…… all ports are closed but – only 8 or so are stealth.

    With Comodo I was stealth on all first 1056 ports ;(

    What did I do???? ;((

  7. Mags

    @Jeanjean: I have also experienced problems using PC Tools firewall, more than once. Not only myself, but a friend experienced problems as well..

    So there are ppl out there that for whatever reason, PC tools causes problems/havoc/freezing/crashing of ones pc.

    Therefore, I doubt I will give PC Tools another try.

    Agnitum Outpost free firewall is my choice for protection, and has been for years, going back to the original free Outpost firewall. The only time I didn’t use it was when the old free one became obsolete and the newer one wasn’t available, then I saw Ashraf’s article about it and started using it again.

  8. Jeanjean

    Following your article on Comodo Firewall, I installed PC Tools Firewall Free and I had to abandon it (on Win XP sp3).
    With me, it has not imploded, but frozen…
    It froze once when I uninstalled ThreatFire and installed the latest version …. inexplicable!
    So I uninstalled everything.
    Then I installed the new version of ThreatFire first and then the Firewall … everything was OK.
    Subsequently, it still froze my computer several times and for no particular reason.
    It seems to me (but without this being exhaustive) that it occurs when a message appeared asking me to block or allow access.
    I’m thus trying Outpost.
    A wise!

  9. Slavka

    PC Tools Firewall Plus + large DPI = complete disaster

    I have custom display resolution (125 DPI), all software I used so far was working with this DPI just fine; all except PC Tools Firewall Plus
    (see screenshot)
    http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/137762/capture1.bmp

    I googled around and found this promise:

    leaving the settings on 120 will not display the text correctly on SD. We will implement a fix for this shortly

    and the date on this promise is 03-09-2007

    http://www.pctools.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-44918.html

    I guess, I will be looking for something better

  10. MikeR

    Great stuff (again) Ashraf — but it’ll be interesting to see how you fare with the Apps Remove software mentioned on another thread re uninstallation of security software, because if folks are going to jump ship from their existing defences to PC Tools they may very possibly encounter difficulties due to the way security software beds down so deep within a system (and certainly beyond Revo’s reach.)

    Re Samer’s plight: actually, regardless of software publisher, this kind of thing seems to becoming ever more common.

    The once dependable Avira is now plagued with “unable to complete download” error messages — I certainly don’t get the daily auto update I’m supposed to, though I do get the daily nag screen to pay for the premium edition.

    Nor is the problem related to my computers: a desktop at our main home has been suffering from failed updates in the same way as the two laptops at our country place: there’s no malware infestation, because there’s no consistency — some days Avira auto updates without a problem, other days it fails; some days the manual update process goes without a hitcvh (after the auto has failed), other days the updater signals that it has, for instance, been working for more than two hours and only managed to retrieve a fraction of the waiting data.

    By contrast, Iobit’s excellent freeware “360″ app automatically checks for updates every day without fail and offers immediate downloading if an update is applicable on all our computers in both widely-separated locations.

    I’m wondering whether outfits like Avira are becoming so over-subscribed that their very success is militating against their ability to deliver updates. Just a thought!

  11. Firewalk

    My experience with firewall+ 5.0.0.38 is that the simple and lightweight design together with the good protection is really superior compared to many others including the commercial ones. However, when I start Readon TV Movie Radio Player, the PC immediately hang! Only a cold reboot will come to the rescue and I’ve tried a few times to make sure it’s a consistent problem by firewall+. This indicates a compatibility issue at the driver level which may not be easily fixed. Not sure whether v6 has got it right but I do hope so

  12. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Samer: You are welcome =). Have you scanned your computer for possible malware infections? It is weird Online Armor and Comodo will not update for you.

    @Ron: Unfortunately I have no knowledge of if OA will work on Win7 or not. Sorry =(.

  13. Ron

    Ashraf,

    The only experience I have with PC Tools s/w is Spyware Doctor.

    I bought Online Armor Pro for my machines after trying the free version. I currently run XP without problems. Are you aware of compatibility issues with Win 7? I’m building a new box for that OS; if OA doesn’t work, I’ll try PC Tools.

  14. Samer

    thanks ashraf will definitely try it … I had comodo and got used to it. but for some reason it could never update .

    so i removed it and installed Outpost firewall on your recommendation ^_^ like 3 days ago … but .. outpost free like comodo doesn’t update :P so it’s a tie

    Now I’ll definitely try this :) thanks