[Windows] Protect your computer against hackers with ZoneAlarm Free Firewall

In the world of internet security, one can never be too safe. One great way to protect yourself against hackers is to use a good firewall. Windows Firewall can get the job done for most people, but if you’re looking for beefier protection, you may need something a little stronger. That is where ZoneAlarm Free Firewall comes in to play.

WHAT IS IT AND WHAT DOES IT DO

Main Functionality

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall is a firewall that not only blocks incoming threats, but potentially malicious outgoing services as well. The program claims to make your PC invisible to hackers. The free version of the software comes with the option of installing the ZoneAlarm Security Toolbar, which provides the user with security information about the websites they are visiting.

Take note ZoneAlarm Free Firewall is a firewall with no “extras” (such as parental controls, anti-virus, or anti-spyware detection), aside from the optional Security Toolbar.

Pros

  • Security toolbar included
  • Great two-way firewall protection
  • User friendly interface

Cons

  • Doesn’t fair well in independent firewall tests by Matuosec
  • No live support for free version
  • Tries to change your homepage (simply choose custom install during installation and uncheck the change homepage box to avoid this)
  • Install takes a long time
  • Email required
  • My computer locked up when trying to start this program the first time after restart

Discussion

There are a lot of different firewalls out there that you can use. In fact, Windows comes with its own built-in firewall. However, if you’re looking for more protection, you may want to download a more robust third-party firewall. Does ZoneAlarm Free Firewall deliver?

First, let’s talk about installation. When you are installing this program, don’t expect it to be done quickly. There are a lot of updates for the system to download, and this can take a while depending on your computer and your internet speed. Also, during installation, the program offers you its ZoneAlarm Security Toolbar. Normally, I hate when programs offer these kinds of things. However, this security bar does work relatively well. So, if you have been looking for a piece of software that can provide you with security information about the sites you are visiting, this toolbar may be for you. The only downside is the fact that…well…it’s a toolbar. I hate adding a whole bunch of toolbars to my web browser.

The program itself, as a firewall, is OK. It does protect your computer from potentially malicious incoming connections and it also prevents potentially malicious processes from connecting to the outside world. This double protection is a little annoying at first, as you have to give permission to anything trying to use the internet, but you only have to do this once per program (if you tell ZoneAlarm Free Firewall to remember you selections). Also, ZoneAlarm Free Firewall is pretty user friendly and easy to understand. So, even if you don’t really understand much about firewalls, this program will help you out.

The major issue in regards to performance of ZoneAlarm Free Firewall is it fails hard on independent, third-party tests — namely the firewall tests conducted by Matuosec. ZoneAlarm Firewall (v9.2.076.000) scored a pathetic 7% product rating and reached only level 2 (out of 10 levels) on Matuosec tests. Of course, Matuosec isn’t the know-all-be-all of firewall testing, and there is plenty of criticism how Matuosec does its testing. So a bad score on Matuosec doesn’t necessarily mean a product is bad. It does mean, however, product indications as to the protection provided by a firewall and you generally want to avoid the lower scoring ones… such as ZoneAlarm Free Firewall.

That being said, the paid version of ZoneAlarm offers a bunch of other options, like parent controls, anti-virus protection, and so on. The free version simply gives you the toolbar and the firewall. It also offers no support if you need it.

You will have to restart your computer before the first time you use this program (after installation). It is worth noting that my computer locked up on me the first time after restart. Not sure if this was just my computer or if it has something to do with ZoneAlarm Free Firewall. Either way, it is something you should keep in mind.

CONCLUSION AND DOWNLOAD LINK

In short, it is hard for me to recommend this program to anyone. Yes, it plays the roll of a firewall, but with so many other free firewall programs out there, ZoneAlarm Free Firewall fails to live up to my expectations. My recommendation is for people to look elsewhere for their firewall needs.

Price: Free (Paid version available)

Version reviewed: 10.2.078

Supported OS: Windows XP /Vista / 7

Download size: 2.10MB

VirusTotal malware scan results: 0/44

Is it portable? No

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall homepage

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9 comments

  1. sl0j0n

    Hello, all.
    Like “jumbi”, I too have had ‘nightmare’ with ZoneAlarm.
    So, I said the same thing, “Never again”, and I’ve stuck to it.
    Some firewalls aren’t very good, some are *very* complicated, and a few are good and simple, too.
    I use the Windows built-in, or Comodo Internet Security, on my wife’s XP box.
    But don’t take my word for it; go to,
    http://www.matousec.com/projects/proactive-security-challenge/results.php.
    matousec.com/ tests and rates firewalls.
    They’re not the only one, just one of the best.

    Have a GREAT day, neighbors!

  2. jumbi

    Yes, they offer a free antivirus as well.

    To complete the story with my experience for 6 months on 2 computers, there is a big problem with Zonealarm which I found out unfortunately only after spending a couple of days and after reading a little bit on google searching I got the solution…I wish I had searched before!

    It alters the network settings of windows.
    I connected an internal pci wifi card and it was not working. After testing various drivers, I thought to change card and tried a couple of usb wifi network cards.
    To my surprise, none worked too.

    After reading the problem on internet and uninstalling Zonealarm, everything went back to normal, all card are working!

    Never again, Zonealarm.

  3. Mags

    IMHO Zone Alarm is, yet again, another program that had its glory days but is no longer as good as it once was. It used to be one of the best, but alas it went downhill from there.

    I know the program has been improved but I think it still has a long way to go to become one of the best again.

    However I will say that it is still better than some of the other firewalls available out there.

  4. Janet

    I used ZoneAlarm when I was on XP, but tried out Windows Firewall (and continued Avira Free and WinPatrol) when I moved up to Win 7. Have never had any malware, virus etc. problems, so I stuck with the Win. Firewall–one less major app to have on the system….Don’t know which of the three is (most) responsible for my good luck…:-)….Avira AND WinPatrol have prevented many infections.