[Windows] Best free firewall — Online Armor vs Comodo vs Privatefirewall vs ZoneAlarm vs Outpost vs TinyWall

There are two basic components of computer security: anti-virus/anti-malware and firewall. dotTech has already reviewed the best free anti-virus program for Windows. Now it is the turn of firewalls. Keep reading to learn about the best free firewall for Windows.

[Note: All the firewalls featured in this review are free for personal and business use.]

This review is part of our Best Free Windows Software section. Check out more articles on the best free Windows programs from here.


Before we delve into our review of best free firewall for Windows, I’d like to say a few words.

The biggest issue with firewalls is compatibility. Because of their nature and design, firewalls are a type of program that may work on one computer but cause bluescreen of death on another; firewalls can conflict with other programs and if a firewall works on your computer or not depends on what programs you have installed. The top four firewalls listed in this review are all excellent. So if you find that the firewall we rank as #1 is not working on your computer, simply move down the list until you find a firewall that does work on your computer.

That said, let’s begin…

Table of Contents [Online Armor vs Comodo vs Privatefirewall vs ZoneAlarm vs Outpost vs TinyWall]

Best Free Firewall

2013-03-24_195252Program Name: Online Armor Free

Developer: Emsisoft

Download Size: 28.8 MB

Version Reviewed:

Supported OS: Windows XP (32-bit only), Windows Vista (32-bit only), Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit), Windows 8 (32-bit and 64-bit)


  • Is a two-way firewall — monitors inbound and outbound traffic
  • In addition to being a firewall, has HIPS (Host Intrusion Prevention System) features:
    • Anti-Keylogger — identifies programs behaving like keyloggers and blocks them
      • Note: Online Armor’s Anti-Keylogger does not protect you from keyloggers by encrypting keystrokes. It protects you from keyloggers by identifying programs that are behaving like keyloggers and asking you if you want to block them. So Anti-Keylogger in Online Armor does not conflict with other anti-keylogger programs that do encrypt keystrokes, like KeyScrambler. In other words, you can use KeyScrambler (or KeyScrambler-like software) and Online Armor at the same time with no conflict.
    • Program Guard — prevents programs from making unnecessary changes to your computer, accessing areas they shouldn’t be accessing, or from running (if the program is known to be malicious)
      • Programs Guard has an awesome ‘RunSafer’ option that allows you to force specific programs to run as a Limited User as opposed to as Administrator, if you are on a Windows account that has admin access
    • Autoruns Management — scans programs/processes that automatically run at Windows and allows you to block/unblock them
    • HOSTS Protection — monitors and prevents changes to HOSTS file
    • Web Shield — blocks known malicious websites/domains
      • Note: The Web Shield in Online Armor Free is different from the Web Shield you find in anti-virus programs, like Avast. Web Shields in anti-virus programs typically detect and block known malicious downloads/files; Online Armor’s Web Shield detects and blocks known malicious websites/domains. The two don’t conflict.
  • Helps to mitigate the number of popups via the use of ‘Learning Mode’ (a mode that automatically creates rules for programs you already have installed prior to installing Online Armor) and by automatically creating rules for programs known to be safe based on a database of known, safe, and trusted programs (aka Emsisoft Anti-Malware Network)
  • Allows users to easily disable all HIPS features and only use firewall features
    • Note: You must restart your computer after disabling HIPS features
  • Can be password protected so that Online Armor Free settings cannot be changed with a password
  • Has Tamper Protection which helps prevent malware from closing or modifying Online Armor Free
  • Has paid versions for people that want more features (see chart on the right for feature differences between free and paid versions)2013-03-24_194255


  • No automatic updates to newer versions of Online Armor. If a new version is released, you need to manually update. If you want automatic updates, you need to purchase the paid version of Online Armor.
    • Note: You don’t get automatic updates to newer versions of Online Armor in the free version. However, as per my tests, in the free version you do get automatic updates for things like database updates.
  • I wish there was better port tracking
  • Can block domains but cannot block domain-less IP addresses
  • ‘Advanced Mode’ (a mode that allows advanced users to take more control over Online Armor rules and settings) is only available in the paid versions of Online Armor.
  • Does not work if you have VirtualBox installed. You need to uninstall VirtualBox and/or remove VirtualBox Bridged Networking driver if you want to install Online Armor. (Read dotTech’s how to remove VirtualBox drivers guide if you are having issues.)
  • Does not work for 64-bit versions of XP and Vista. (Works for 64-bit versions of Win7 and Win8.)
  • You need to have Windows 7 SP1 installed to run Online Armor on Windows 7.
  • You need to make sure your computer is free of malware prior to installing Online Armor. Online Armor’s ‘Learning Mode’ (which runs the first time you use Online Armor) is set to automatically configure firewall rules for programs you already have installed, so as to not continually prompt you with popups. If you have malware on your computer before installing Online Armor, Online Armor’s ‘Learning Mode’ will allow that malware to make connections.
  • When installing Online Armor Free, you are prompted to run a 30-day trial of Online Armor Premium or purchase the paid version now. To use just Online Armor Free (which is completely free, not a trial), you need to click on “Limited freeware version”. Don’t be tricked into using a trial of the paid version, if you don’t want the paid version.2013-03-24_180251
  • The Help file is generic for all Online Armor products — it isn’t specifically for Online Armor Free. So you may find the Help file talking about/listing some features that aren’t in Online Armor Free.


Trying to determine the *best* free firewall for Windows is quite a task. Not because there are no good free firewalls. On the contrary, they are plenty of excellent free firewalls. Rather, finding the best free firewall for windows is a tough task because a) there are many excellent firewalls with similar features that provide similar protection and b) firewalls tend to be picky due to compatibility issues — a firewall will work on one computer but the same firewall may not work on a different computer. After researching, reviewing, and testing multiple firewalls, I decided to crown Online Armor as #1 for three reasons:

  • Lots of features without causing conflicts with other security programs and without being bloated
  • Excellent protection without bogging down your computer
  • It works on my computer!

You may find the third reason I list above as silly but, frankly speaking, no matter how good a firewall may be, I cannot recommend it as best free firewall if it doesn’t work on my computer (because I’m the one writing this review). I’m not condemning firewalls that don’t work on my computer because, as a I said, compatibility is one of the biggest issues with it comes to firewalls and conflicts often arise due to what software you have installed; this is a general theme for the firewall genre of software, so it is impossible to single out a particular program and scold it. However, Online Armor is one of the few that I have been able to successfully run on my computer which gives it an advantage for the purposes of these rankings.

That said, probably my favorite feature of Online Armor is its intelligence. The developer of Online Armor, Emsisoft, has a database of known, safe, and trusted programs (“Emsisoft Anti-Malware Network”, a database that contains info about over 17 million files/programs). This database allows Online Armor to automatically create firewall and HIPS-related rules for programs that are known to be safe and trusted, thus greatly decreasing the number of prompts Online Armor makes to the end user. And anyone that has used a firewall before knows prompts are probably the most annoying aspect of firewalls, so a program that does less prompts is one step ahead of the crowd.

Of course, Online Armor’s database does not contain information about every single program on Windows so you will get prompts occasionally. But, while I cannot quantify my results, I’ve tends to display less prompts than your average firewall thanks to its database.

I also like the fact that Online Armor has features beyond basic firewalling but not so many features that Online Armor is bloated or that it starts to conflict with other programs. Indeed, it is an unfortunate trend that firewall developers — in general — have started to bundle anti-virus/anti-malware modules with firewalls. Bundled firewall/anti-virus make it increasingly difficult for people who prefer to have seperate firewall and separate anti-virus (often because the anti-virus bundled with the firewall is sub-par and undesirable while the firewall itself is excellent and desired). Thankfully, Online Armor has not gone this route in their free and Premium versions; Online Armor Free and Online Armor Premium are not bloated with features that have no business being bundled with a firewall.

Probably the biggest issue with Online Armor is for VirtualBox fans. Online Armor conflicts with VirtualBox’s Networked Bridge driver, so Online Armor will not install if you have VirtualBox installed. According to Emsisoft, the fault lies with Oracle; a blue screen of death is caused if you have Online Armor and VirtualBox installed because of “improper parameter validation inside the Virtual Box network driver when releasing NDIS related memory”. Since this fault is with VirtualBox and not Online Armor, there is nothing Emsisoft can do to resolve the conflict except prevent users with VirtualBox installed from installing Online Armor. So if you have VirtualBox installed currently, you will need to uninstall VirtualBox and make sure the drivers have been removed before you are allowed to install Online Armor. If you are a diehard VirtualBox fan and don’t want to get rid of it for Online Armor, then check out our #2 pick — Privatefirewall.

Runner Up

2013-03-30_195052Program Name: Privatefirewall

Developer: Privacyware

Download Size: 3.6 MB

Version Reviewed:

Supported OS: Windows XP/Vista/Win/Win8 (32-bit and 64-bit)


Privatefirewall is one of those less known gems in the firewall world. It manages to pack excellent protection, good performance, and a lot of features without having a bloated software. A 3.6 MB download for a firewall? Yes, please!

Like Online Armor, Privatefirewall has an in/out firewall plus HIPS features:

  • Program monitor
  • Registry monitor
  • Process monitor
  • Email “anomaly analyzer”
  • System “anomaly analyzer”

By utilizing all these monitors/analyzers, Privatefirewall is able to identify and block malware (viruses, spyware, rootkits, trojans, keyloggers, etc.) by monitoring behavior. Anything that behaves like malware (e.g. a program tries to access areas of a computer that regular programs would not access, a program tries to log keys, etc.) is flagged by Privatefirewall and either blocked or you are asked to block it. The best part is Privatefirewall is not a traditional signature-based anti-virus/anti-malware; it is more of a behavior blocker, so it will work alongside your traditional anti-virus/anti-malware programs.

The biggest downside to Privatefirewall is you can except to receive a lot of prompts — or at least more prompts than Online Armor. Privatefirewall does have a “Trusted Publisher” feature which it uses to try to identify trusted programs so you aren’t prompted, but Privatefirewall’s “Trusted Publisher” is nowhere near as comprehensive as Online Armor’s Emsisoft Anti-Malware Network.

That being said…

When doing my research on free firewalls, I thought Privatefirewall would outshine the rest. Unfortunately, when I installed Privatefirewall it froze my computer on boot every time… which makes it hard for me to rank this firewall as #1, despite how good it sounds. Typically if a program freezes my computer, you won’t ever find me giving it a positive review. However, as I’ve mentioned multiple times already, firewalls are a bit different than typical programs; they are prone to causes conflicts on a case-by-case basis. Just because a firewall does not work on one computer does not make it bad. Indeed, I know many people who enjoy Privatefirewall without issues; I’m just not one of them — there must be something on my computer that Privatefirewall doesn’t like. If the same thing happens to you with Privatefirewall and you were also unable to get Online Armor working, it is time for you to move onto the next firewall in our list: Comodo Firewall.

Overall, despite the fact that it did not work on my specific computer, Privatefirewall is an excellent firewall and a viable option for anyone. Some may even say it is better than Online Armor, although I obviously disagree.

Honorable Mention 1

2013-03-30_222341Program Name: Comodo Firewall Free

Developer: Comodo Group

Download Size: 125 MB

Version Reviewed: 6.0.260739.2674

Supported OS: Windows XP SP2/Vista/Win7/Win8 (32-bit and 64-bit)


When it comes to pure protection and nothing else, there is no firewall that beats Comodo Firewall. Period. Comodo Firewall has, for as long as I can remember, been the best firewall (free and paid) out on the market when it comes to protection. Between a combination of in/out firewall, auto-sandboxing, behavior blocking, and other features, Comodo Firewall provides great protection.

The biggest thing holding Comodo Firewall back is that it is so overly aggressive, it is prone to causing bluescreen of death on many computers. In fact, out of all the firewalls listed here, Comodo Firewall is probably the most notorious when it comes to compatibility issues. Combine that with a lot of prompts (despite having a database similar to Online Armor’s of trusted and known programs) and many people prefer to stay away from Comodo Firewall.

Another major issue with Comodo Firewall is it comes packed to the brim with crapware. The download for Comodo Firewall is 125 MB; only 40 MB of that is the actual firewall. The rest is Comodo GeekBuddy and Comodo Dragon, two other Comodo software that come packed with Comodo Firewall. Plus Comodo Firewall will hijack your homepage and change your DNS to use Comodo SecureDNS, if you don’t uncheck the relevant options during installation.

Now that doesn’t mean Comodo Firewall is impossible to use. Comodo has made long strides over the past few years to make Comodo Firewall more user-friendly, such as introducing easy setup for novice users and having a database of two million safe programs, which helps mitigate the number of times Comodo Firewall prompts you.

Overall, Comodo Firewall provides great protection. However, there are some definite drawbacks to Comodo Firewall and something you want to consider before jumping on-board. If you have the choice, I’d recommend Online Armor or Privatefirewall before Comodo Firewall, but Comodo Firewall is still a viable option for those that are interested.

Honorable Mention 2

tinywall_screenshotProgram Name: TinyWall

Developer: Károly Pados

Download Size: 1 MB

Version Reviewed: 2.0

Supported OS: Windows Vista/Win7/Win8 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Note: .NET Framework 3.5 is required to use TinyWall. Windows 7 and Windows 8 users already have it (.NET Framework 3.5 or higher comes with Win7/Win8) but Vista users will have to download it.


TinyWall is not a firewall in and of itself. Rather, TinyWall is a program that utilizes Windows Firewall. The idea behind TinyWall is, since Vista, Windows Firewall is an adequate firewall that will work for in/out control for the average Joe. So TinyWall builds upon Windows Firewall, adding a few extra features (like HOSTS file monitoring and domain blacklist) but mainly allowing you more control over Windows Firewall.

This use-Windows-Firewall approach may, in the eyes of some, make TinyWall less secure than other firewalls because of lack of HIPS but the plus point is TinyWall will work on almost all Vista/Win7/Win8 machines — it doesn’t conflict (as much) as other firewalls. (TinyWall is not supported on Windows XP because Windows Firewall on Windows XP is terrible.)

Probably the most notable aspect of TinyWall is the “no prompt” approach. TinyWall will never (never) prompt with with a message to block something. Rather, all blocking/allowing done by TinyWall is done behind the scenes and you are given multiple different ways to block/unblock programs and processes, through the use of hotkeys and white/black lists.

Another feature I love about TinyWall is the ability to create temporary firewall rules. This really helps if you are looking to test a program or aren’t sure about a program and only want to temporarily give it access. I wish all firewalls had this feature.

For all intents and purposes, TinyWall is not in the same league as the previously mentioned Online Armor, Privatefirewall, and Comodo Firewall. After all, TinyWall is only as good as Windows Firewall. However, TinyWall is not intended to compete with the competition. It is here to offer a different type of firewall while still providing the basic firewall traffic filtering necessities.

Honorable Mention 3

2013-03-30_220344Program Name: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall

Developer: Check Point Software Technologies

Download Size: 34 MB (2 MB downloader, 32 MB firewall)

Version Reviewed:

Supported OS: Windows XP SP2+/Vista SP1+/Win7/Win8 (32-bit and 64-bit)


In my book, ZoneAlarm security software have always been “the programs that could… but don’t”. On paper, they look good. For example, ZoneAlarm Free Firewall includes an in/out firewall, behavior analysis, the ability to leverage crowd-sourced data to minimize prompts, a download analyzer, and more. (Note: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall comes bundled with a toolbar it tries to install. Some features of the firewall are only available if you use that toolbar.) However, they always turn out to have sub-par performance.

If you read independent tests and feedback regarding ZoneAlarm Free Firewall, you will learn it is quite leaky when compared to other firewalls. Features mean nothing if they can be beat. In fact, I never would have featured ZoneAlarm Free Firewall in this review had it not been popularly demanded. (Since when did ZoneAlarm become so popular?! I must be behind the times.)

Personally speaking, I wouldn’t touch ZoneAlarm Free Firewall with a ten-foot pole. As a last resort? Maybe. But Online Armor, Privatefirewall, and Comodo Firewall blow away ZoneAlarm Free Firewall in my book; I would always pick one of them (even Comodo Firewall) before going with ZoneAlarm Free Firewall, if I had a choice.

Honorable Mention 4

Program Name: Outpost Firewall Free

Note: Outpost Firewall Free is available as part of Outpost Security Suite Free

Developer: Agnitum

Download Size: 94.7 MB

Version Reviewed: 7.1.1

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


Anyone that has been following dotTech for a long time knows Outpost Firewall Free has been a dotTech favorite for a long time. So why is it absolutely last in our review on best free firewall for Windows? Because of two reasons.

Firstly, Agnitum made the unfortunate decision a few years ago to discontinue Outpost Firewall Free as a standalone product and integrate it into Outpost Security Suite Free. Many people, including my self, don’t like free firewalls bundled as part of a security suite that includes traditional signature-based anti-virus/anti-malware. Sure Outpost Security Suite Free is intelligent enough to disable its anti-virus/anti-malware components if it detects you already have anti-virus/anti-malware on your computer, but it is annoying to have to download a whole security suite just for the firewall… plus it is hard to recommend to other people because you have to explain the whole story for them.

Secondly, and more importantly, Agnitum seemingly no longer cares about their free product offerings. Outpost Security Suite Free — and by association, Outpost Firewall Free — has not been updated since April 2011. April 2011. Two years. A security program that hasn’t been updated in two years. (Agnitum is actively updating their paid programs, though.)

It would be crime for anyone to download and use Outpost Security Suite Free now. I’m only listing it here for comparison purposes.

Other Alternatives

  • Too many to name

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  1. JCL

    I don’t get it. Why so much talk about it not being updated? The current version still works great and I’ve never found any holes in it. Typically, when it comes to free firewalls created by for-profit companies, more updates just means more bloat and reduced trustworthiness.

  2. JCL

    You know you’ve stumbled across a typical clueless Windows/Mac user when you hear complaints about ‘too many prompts’.
    “omg firewall, im tryin to upload selfies to facebook .. juz figure it out mmmk?”

  3. soti1ne

    @Ashraf – Privatefirewall is not freezing your system after reboot. It’s sth else. Happened to me as well. PFW is only indexing/scanning your system after installed for the first time and after the initial reboot. Let it do its thing … takes 10 min max and once that’s done the freeze will never happen again. It makes sense. It needs to index all the apps on the system including the hundreds of 3rd party apps you prolly have. If instead you install PFW on a fresh OS install the freeze must not happen (or will be much shorter) since there won’t be any 3rd party apps installed.

  4. 99ways2die

    Don’t worry about that. They work another way, they work by monitoring Registry changes and some how figuring out which are safe and unsafe through the types of changes that are made. This way they don’t have to worry so much about what viruses are known and not known. It’s also why it knows when to block DDoS attacks. And you’ll know when it does because everything feezes then a window pops up asking you to block it. It only seems to work once before you have to re-DL the Fire wall though.

    It’s all good I mean we all have our fav. security and align it more for what we use or need it for anyway. Me I have several systems I use that most people didn’t even know you can get where most people are happy with just a FW and AV. Mines because though I use allot of high risk social sites where I tend to piss a few people off over politics or some times the avid car person that gets pissed because I don’t just like Ford OR Chevy and I have positive things to say about both and I don’t like them messing with my shit. Down side is if I do get cracked and hacked it’s usually allot more software repair and replacement then if I was just running a FW and AV.

    If it works good for you and you’re happy that’s great, I’m not going to hate on you over that but just remember it’s a land mine out there and there’s allot of Douchebags that don’t even want information, they might just want your computer or other device to run like crap or crash. If you have any future questions to leads on any software you might want an answer to, I DOX my usernames all the time to see where I been and where to go like now so let me know ;)

  5. Sputnik

    @ 99ways2die

    Thank you for that info, but I will still consider that PrivateFirewall hasn’t been updated since a little bit more than 1½ years.

    Anyway, I really prefer COMODO Firewall over PrivateFirewall which, I recognize, is a very good firewall.

  6. 99ways2die


    Private Firewall always was like that though. They don’t ever really come out with new versions, they create one then update the data base while it loads. I really don’t know why that it but it’s just what they do. This last version was upgraded to run on the new Windows systems and after that they really haven’t done much of anything else to it except fixed the bug that screwed it up from working on XP.

    It started as a business Firewall but then they went to advertising so I think it must have some thing to do with how the code is encrypted, they don’t feel the need to update to a new version all the time. I could be completely wrong but it’s my guess.

  7. Sputnik

    I am back since a little while with COMODO Firewall which has resolved its ADS issue.

    With the recent end of life of Online Armor, there are just two very good free firewalls remaining : COMODO and PrivateFirewall, but PrivateFirewall hasn’t been updated since a little more than a year and a half and we may ask ourselves if it is still alive or dead like Online Armor.

    So, the only very good free firewall still really alive remains COMODO and if this one goes also out of business like the others, we will have no other choice than going with paid solutions like Outpost Firewall Pro or SpyShelter Firewall.

  8. Fadi R

    @Sputnik, thanks for the feedback.

    I’ve just installed Private Firewall after playing around with Online Armor. PF works beautifully. With regards to Comodo, I think the Op was being very kind and generous to include them as an honorable mention. I’ve never see so much bloatware packed into a firewall.

  9. Sputnik

    @ Fadi R

    I have been obliged recently to try many different firewalls. Here is what I found :

    COMODO Firewall has a problem with the actual version and it is preferable to wait at least for the next version.
    Here is the COMODO’S Forum thread where you will find all the necessary information :

    Online Armor Free : doesn’t wor well with Sandboxie.

    Privatefirewall : this is what I use for the moment and it works correctly.

  10. Fadi R

    I’ve been trying to pick a firewall for the last few days and must have gone throught a good 15 or 25 sites and lists and reviews. This article is like a pearl in the mud. Everything else that I’ve looked at tries to shove bloated security suites down your throat on one end of the spectrum while recommending Windows Firewall augmentation on the other end.

    Having decided that emperical data would be much better then reviews, I’ve ran something like 9 different firewalls on my virtual box: XP 32bit 1.2Gigs of ram for the VM. The idea being that if does well in such a resource strapped environment as VBox, it’ll practically have no footprint in my beast of a pc. My favourite by far was Sunbelt Kerio which ran beautifully in 32bit VBox but can’t run in my actual Windows 10 TC x64 PC hihihihihihi. Too bad. Online Armor was actually my second choice. I was crushed to read that it’s incompatible with VBox. I’m going to see if I can run them together without BSODs. Otherwise, I’ll give Private Firewall a try.

  11. 99ways2die

    BearPup if you’re still having issues loading and taking to long it may be a little corrupt. Uninstall it and make sure you remove everything, because once you do a clean install with a fresh DL it should work fine. As far as causing your Notebook to crash that I don’t know why it would do that unless it’s possible that if you removed another Firewall before (And Comodos horrible about this) that you may have left some of it hanging around in your computer and don’t even realize it. Some FW’s attach to all your DL’s and Programs causing them to run in the back ground which also could be causing your slow start up of the firewall when you start your computer.

    Online Armor has always been my cryptonite. It slows everything down for me, won’t let allot of Video players work and is just dog Sh*t slow start up and shut down. Though I do admit it’s blocking capabilities are pretty much 1st rate in Freeware but it just don’t work for my needs.

    Don’t even mess with AVG man, it’s protection is nothing but Microsoft created Viruses that mainly just make it look like it’s really doing anything at all and tracking cookies you can expel with any freeware remover like Superantispyware or Spybot if you dare DL it and ray you get one that don’t cause issues with your computer. (Portable Version is about the best with Spybot S&D) AVG is near useless for Malware, it might get one or two once in a great while but nothing to write home about. McCafee is a little better than AVG but yet again it’s just another one that is all hype and no real stamina.

    I don’t know if you’ll ever get thisbecause it don’t look like you been here since last years but my advice is this, same thing I have, Use a force remover and search anything Comodo and take anything you find out of your computer, PrivateFirewall, Comodo Anti-Virus (NOT Firewall) MalwareBytes, MalwareBytes Rootkit, Superantispyware free version, Spybot S&D (Portable) With a Rootkit remover.

    I have a laundry list of other things as well but those should do you fine.

  12. 99ways2die

    Back to Private Firewall again, have been a while, working great again. I realized a couple files got stuck removing it the last time, threw them away and been no problems. Though I am still running XP and I don’t want to hear that security outdated crap, I have all the same stuff I had before and been quite well Virus free, fact MalwareBytes and Superanti-spyware haven’t found anything for quite some time but I also have another little secret Firewall for Trojans and Worms that close ports most Firewalls don’t catch.

    PLUS the DDOS blocker in PW does work because it’s caught a couple attempts through Facebook. Which is some thing any other FW I have had in the past including Comodo claims they can do but always seems to fail.

    Still PW is the respected one. In regards to BearPup as far as my E-Mails go I never have that issue myself but never really use them for anything except linking online accounts to anyway so maybe it does but I don’t know, I don’t really worry about that anyway.

  13. Manolo

    Thanks , Ashraf for the tip to Online Armor . I was just about finished a complete recovery of my system from blue screen death and then when I was able to use my browser I noticed dottech.org in my favorites bar and clicked on it . Searching for tips on fortifications the article on firewalls was just what I needed ; well presented details by the way . I went for the trial version because I was prompted to temporarily disable my anti virus software while installing though going through what I had just been through I chose the trial just because for me though I was asked to disable ant virus and did not , it was easier and worked . The little notices on the task bar are a pleasant reminder for me that I am being well protected . I liked what you wrote in the article referring to how what worked for you on your computer really mattered . I have had had no problems with Online Armor as of yet and the features are just right . Thanks .

  14. BearPup

    Meanwhile, I’m still in search of a firewall…I’m fed-up with Online Armor asking me about everything (even when I tell it to remember my decision), and my favorite, Private firewall, causes my netbook to crash every time I log off / log back on. Comodo is now a 220 MB download. Anybody have any idea about the effectiveness of the firewall that comes as part of AVG’s Internet 2014 Suite? Any other suggestions?

  15. BearPup

    A new 2 cents to add. I had become increasingly frustrated with Private Firewall as it was taking an increasing amount of time to load on every restart, and, attributing my outgoing emails as suspicious if I wrote to one person too often during a given day. So I went to the one I used to use, but gave up on it when I first got Windows 7, which was before the mass-adoption of SP1 – Online Armor Free.

    So far its working without problems, interventions, or a decrease in system speed. And a thank you to Ashraf both for the article, and having a valid link to the download site. When I first went to the web page I couldn’t find the free version, and certainly would have missed the ‘limited edition freeware’ tag line hidden in their sign-in screen.

  16. 99ways2die

    Well I for 1 have to say the best I ever had is Private Firewall, never had a single issue till recently about a couple weeks ago, stopped allowing FF and Explorer connection, Comodo Dragon (Supped up G. Chrome) worked great. Well I don’t want that browser so not for me. Though I must admit yes I still run XP by choice and FF 3.6.15. If I can avoid anything else that is what I like and stick with. So after trying everything including had my computer looked at professionally it turned out it was PFW causing the problem. Now I’m on Online Armor in hopes later PFW will clear up the problem and as always it is causing a heavy loads as always did before, did in fact pass GRC tests including ping which when I had previous versions it would not do, but over all in a pinch Online Armor is fine for a free product but #1 choice is still Private Firewall and both seem to be quite protective running the newly formatted Comodo AV beside it.

    Now I just want to get on Zone Alarm a second. It’s clunky operating as hell, blocks allot of video players, it slowed down my computer probably more then any other firewall I ever used and if I remember correctly I think it actually crashed a couple hard drives for me so I wouldn’t recommend that pole of dirt to anyone, I know it was like 4 years ago sense I tried it last but I think with that FW ZA, Last is the operative word and I won’t be making that mistake again.

    Outpost vs TinyWall, honestly I don’t really know anything about those two, both seem pretty weak last I looked them up, not for any real serious social networking or trust any money translations with but I suppose if you’re in it just for some research web cruising and needed some thing just to keep you blocked off a bit from outside computers or for use in a library where it’s just high school kids playing around on summer break they could be ok. Nothing I would want however, but if I needed some thing in a pinch and it was there then I suppose for quick trips to the internet I could see the point in using them. As I stated though I never used them personally so maybe I’m wrong but they really just don’t seem worth the time in my opinion.

  17. Mr B

    Yeah good ole
    Sygate Personal Firewall
    for XP only unfortunate.

    a good alternative for home users
    with W7, W8 and W8.1
    is the FREE version of

    “Windows 8 Firewall Control”
    Sphinx Software

    which works together with/next to
    the Windows 8.1 build in firewall
    easily can block outgoing traffic

  18. james

    I just tried Comodo Dragon as a giveaway, and it looks REALLY nice, and seemed to work great. Some hours later, however, I come to discover that when I enter a search query in the address bar of Firefox, even though the search icon indicates it is set for Google, I instead was taken to a Comodo Search page. Not only that, but it found no results. I go into FF’s about:config settings, and the two keys for the default search say it is Google, so I do some searches (in Google–at least Comodo didn’t also kidnap my home page, so I used my speeddial), I find that for some reason in order to remove the Comodo Search I have to make some DNS changes. That is a double-whammy of ridiculous headaches I don’t need, so I simply uninstalled it (address bar search works normally now), and I will NEVER be trying Comodo ANYTHING ever again. Frakkers.

  19. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    [@MichaelAJ] They’ve changed the page, but the freeware Online Armor is still available as described — ignore the price tags and simply download it and select freeware during install, like I mention in the review above. Just in case, however, I’v updated the link to point to Snapfiles which has the exact same download but isn’t as confused.

  20. MichaelAJ

    Ashraf’s pointer to the free OnlineArmor refers to a page that seems to have disappeared. However, I found this note in the FAQs page:

    Isn’t Emsisoft Online Armor freeware?

    Yes and no. By default Emsisoft Online Armor installs as a free fully functional 30 day trial version. After the trial period you can either choose to buy a full version license or switch to the limited freeware mode. Of course you can decide to upgrade again at any time by simply renewing your license.

  21. kc4cop

    [@Solar] Like you I remember “ZoneAlarm” as being outstanding in the world of firewalls. I think that I used ZoneAlarm with Windows 98.

    Early issues of ZoneAlarm provided multiple on-the-fly user options not available elsewhere. Among the many user controlled options ZoneAlarm could be turned on and off while working on a project, ZoneAlarm permitted one to easily block a single program, and it stood almost alone by providing in and out blocking. I don’t recall that compatibility was an issue with ZoneAlarm.

    ZoneAlarm did require training to prevent constant pausing of computer operation while it asked for user input. This was the cost of doing an excellent job as a firewall. Nothing old or new when working with firewalls.


    The fact that ZoneAlarm was free and was undergoing constant revisions (developer work) might have been a major factor in ZoneAlarm going from first place in firewall programs to a position further down the usability and desirability scales. I

  22. Solar

    One note on Zone Alarm.. a long time ago I remember it being the only real option I could find for a free firewall. It didn’t even attempt to install a toolbar back then… which probably contributes to its continued popularity despite having better options currently available…

    On another note, I agree with the previous poster that Online Armor fails before I even attempt to install it. Some of those cons really mark it as completely useless, making it go below even your outpost firewall anti-recommendation. I’ll check out privatefirewall and then possibly Comodo if it doesn’t work out for me.

  23. dan epperson

    Emasoft online armor is best period. tried em all and its the most adaptive user friendly system with features. Period. Also running sandboxie with avg free with superantispywear. All run nice together and compliment each weakness so im good finally!

  24. none

    I think this is a nice selection of firewalls. Well, I guess one can argue about the ranking, at least as far as I’ve seen and read about security software, namely firewalls and antivirus software, you get 5 opinions if you ask 3 guys.

    I “like” the “virtual” ranking. That means, of the mentioned firewalls I think I like PersonalFirewall also best, and I’m lucky enough to get it running without any hassles.

    I don’t like those new approaches of “all” software in the last years to please the simple minded users with all those eye candy big, colored buttons but almost no information and mostly only few options to manually configure the piece of software. And this also is more and more true for security software. You might be able to configure it, but you have to go through many menus, because the front is not allowed to contain full information, it could discourage the DAUs…

    One remark on “the best firewall”. The best firewall I ever came across and subsequently used until I switched from w2k to w7, was Tiny Personal Firewall. This firewall was a dream piece of software. So much information and configurability… I haven’t found it since. Well, exept when I read these days that ZoneAlarm, which I used with w7 has some connections to the NSA. Frankly, I’ve never been happy with ZoneAlarm anyway, at least not with the version I used, which was 10.1. I remember earlier versions where one got a lot more information (even through the task bar icon) and could set prefernces in more detail.
    And then came v11 (which I never used), that brought with it free Antivirus. One can install the firewall without it, but the “please install me button” is always there and is sitting in the place where one would click habitually as a v10 user. Very annoying.

    For Antivirus software I use avast! (free) since many years now. Even though the last versions also became more “DAU”-proof, it is still quite extensive in it’s options. And (as one of the very few among the free av software) it also checks email for viruses etc.
    I always was an anti-fan of avira. I still can’t understand why someone would voluntarily install such a software on his computer…

    But back to PrivateFirewall. I did some testing before I settled for ZoneAlarm. Back then I learned that many firewalls and av software would make sandboxie stop working. And as I’m not considering giving up avast!, that’s one less problem to think about. avast! also has as sandbox, but only an automatic one. One can’t force it / use it “manually”. So it’s most of the time useless because it just doesn’t show up as an option.
    And many firewalls these days (and back when I did my first tests) come only in “Internet Securities”, not as stand-alone firewall. I don’t like that at all. I want to choose my firewall and my av software separately.
    So, back then I also tried Windows Firewall (not enough options – the least a good firewall has to be able to do is blocking a certain program to access a certain ip address, not blocking the program completely or the ip address for all programs), some of the “on-top-of-WF” programs (I’m not sure if I also tried TinyWalls back then), and comodo, OnlineArmor and the like, and of course ZoneAlarm. But unfortunately, PrivateFirewall would not install on my system (some problem with the ndis driver, I think). So I was stuck with ZoneAlarm for the last few year.

    Until now and the NSA messages. I then found this comparision and re-discovered PersonalFirewall, tried it and this time it worked.

    What can I say? Right now, after maybe 5 days of usage, I think it is a nice replacement for TinyPersonalFirewall. Maybe not exactely as powerful, but given that CA has molested TPF after buying it and making it more or less unavailable or unusable (their software wouldn’t install on my system either), PersonalFirewall, for now, is my firewall of choice. Ok, I can’t say that PF might not also have backchannels to the NSA, but at least I like the interface and configurability much better than ZoneAlarm’s, and it’s very small and not some big suite.

  25. d epperson

    I run privatewall, with sandboxie and Firefox , with avg and antispywear. Comodo scanner is weak and their firewall is too intrusive. The whole fact of a perfect suit doesn’t exist so I decided to break it down and build my own. Privatewall works very nice,I’m impressed ,tested ports and other network intrusions w/out sandbox and passed perfect. Also got bit fender free cloud based so hopefully not too much on system , just wanted to use their active link scanner, its supposed to be very impressive.

  26. atas launch, singapore property

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  27. persian warrior

    hi ahraf
    tanx for inf!!
    and ive some questions
    at the comodo firewall ver 5.10
    i try to block an ip for my brwsr
    but it daznt work how can i fix zat??
    and another thing is wich of zis firewalls has
    conection monitor? in fact i wana si
    what programs are active on net and what ip s zeir connected with??
    is any one who know about these???
    one more thing wer r u from ashraf????

  28. Rob (Down Under)

    Did you do this first –
    “In Opera, are you referring to the checkbox in Settings, that can be unticked to disable JavaScript ?”

    With NoScript (in FF or IceDragon), you can leave Javascript enabled.
    What happens when you go to a new site, NoScript just blocks all Javascript for that site. You get a wee banner along the bottom advising that Javascript is disabled. If you then find that you need Javascript, it is just a couple of clicks to allow it for that site. You can choose temp allowing or permanent allowing.
    The Internet was one of the world’s great inventions. NoScript runs a close 2nd.
    I don’t know why every user of FF does not use it (Yes Ashraf, I am talking to you)

  29. RealBull

    [@Rob (Down Under)]
    You set specific rules for individual sites.
    Go to the preferred site and go to Settings>Preferences>Advanced>Content (under “Advanced” menu)
    Click on “Manage Site Preferences”
    The click on “Add”
    From there you set different rules for the site including “Scripting”
    It may be more tedious than NoScript, but at least Opera has it built-in. And maybe NoScript has more advanced options. I have only used NoScript a few times, so I don’t know to what extent.

  30. Rob (Down Under)

    I did like Opera, but I use FF because of the NoScript.
    In Opera, are you referring to the checkbox in Settings, that can be unticked to disable JavaScript ?
    Is that all you do ?
    Can individual sites be given a ‘Let them run Javascript’

  31. RealBull

    [@Rob (Down Under)]
    You’re right. There is no add-on/extension for NoScript for Chrome browsers, I wonder what happened? There are other alternatives, but you already stated that you don’t prefer them.
    I don’t use those add-ons because they often interfere with the website that I’m viewing. But if I visit a questionable website, I’d definitely use it.

  32. Rob (Down Under)

    I have been working with computer software for 30 years (first 15 years was on mainframes).
    Everything that I have seen so far with Comodo impresses me.

    PS Don’t forget that you can tick a single checkbox to make Dragon portable.
    PPS With the Dragon ‘Install’, I decided to allow Comodo’s extra security to be implemented (I used the default ticked box). That may in part compensate for Chrome’s lack of NoScript.

  33. Rob (Down Under)

    Thanks for the info.
    You may have done the impossible, and persuaded me to try a ‘Chrome’ again.
    Mind you I don’t like the lack of NoScript, and I am not impressed with the alternatives, as they don’t give me the confidence (and ease of use) that NoScript does.
    But if I am careful what I use Dragon for, I can gain the benefit of running three browsers at the same time – One IceDragon, one Dragon, and FF

  34. RealBull

    Comodo Dragon is NOT crap or crapware, at least I don’t think, so. I think Ashraf didn’t mean that is was worthless software, maybe he was referring that it was “extra” software that one does not need if they only want to install Comodo Firewall.
    Comodo Dragon is basically like Google Chrome with some added security features. So if you have used Chrome then you know what Comodo Dragon is like; the positives and negatives.
    Also in response to Rob(Down and Under)’s comment about Google’s/Chrome’s updater effecting CPU, Comodo Dragon does NOT have the same updater, but instead they use their own updater (dragon_updater.exe) to update the browser only. It is NOT like Google’s updater which tries to update everything Google on your system or maybe do something else unauthorized. There is also an updater for IceDragon, too (icedragon_updater.exe) which only tries to update the browser.
    Why don’t you install Dragon and try it for yourself, maybe you’ll like it.

  35. Sputnik

    [@Rob (Down Under)]

    Thank you for your answer Rob. I understand that you are in love with this web browser…

    But I would like to hear people who don’t like it and why they don’t like it…

    Take note that I am neutral about it : I have nothing against this web browser and nothing for…

  36. Rob (Down Under)

    Comodo Dragon is Comodo’s tweaked version of Chrome.
    I have sworn to keep Google stuff off my pc as one of their products updaters hogged my machine a couple of times, to the point that I did a major recovery, thinking I had a virus.
    . . .
    Comodo also have a tweaked version of FireFox called IceDragon. I LOVE IT
    It is 99% FF, but runs a bit faster.
    AND during the ‘Install’ you can tick one checkbox, and it becomes A PORTABLE PROGRAM.
    I have installed NoScript, and done a few settings to get it just right for me, and called that folder IceDraogn_Mask. I use that folder to copy the contents into other IceDragon folders.
    (Don’t have your portable folders, anywhere weird. Just have say – C:\PGMS\ as a folder for your portable programs, and then place your IceDragon folders into there.)
    A few days ago, I had 370 Tabs open in FF. I now have 25
    I have created multiple IceDragon folders for _Hardware, _Software, _VB (That is for my VB6 related stuff)
    You can go to Themes, and choose distinct colors, for each IceDragon.
    All the IceDragons can be run, without affecting each other, PROVIDED YOU NEVER HAVE TWO RUNNING AT THE SAME TIME.
    However, you can run FF at the same time as any one of the IceDragons.
    I have been trying to ‘manage’ my addiction to having tons of Tabs open. At last I have found a way.

  37. Sputnik


    Do you know Ashraf, or anybody else, if Geek Buddy and COMODO Dragon are really crap ?

    I use COMODO firewall but I have never installed these 2 additional components. Is Geek Buddy really a free service from COMODO, even with the free version ? If

    it’s free, is it free only for a certain time or a certain number of uses ? Does anybody here ever tried this service ?

    And about COMODO Dragon, is this web browser really a crap and why if its the case ? Does anybody knows ?

    Thank you

  38. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    [@RealBull] Odd. I wish I had answers for you but I don’t; Online Armor works perfect for me with Avira.

    [@Peter Pan] I agree, you can uncheck all that. However, you have to understand, *most* people will not uncheck the relevant options and our review is aimed at the average Joe as opposed to a specific type of people.

    That said, the combined crapware is not the major reason for Comodo being #3. As stated in our review, the following is:

    The biggest thing holding Comodo Firewall back is that it is so overly aggressive, it is prone to causing bluescreen of death on many computers. In fact, out of all the firewalls listed here, Comodo Firewall is probably the most notorious when it comes to compatibility issues. Combine that with a lot of prompts (despite having a database similar to Online Armor’s of trusted and known programs) and many people prefer to stay away from Comodo Firewall.

    Thanks for the comment and feedback!

  39. Sputnik

    [@Peter Pan]

    Thank you Peter Pan.

    You are also right about the unchecking of Geek Buddy and COMODO Dragon at the installation stage.

    In fact, anybody who is installing any kind of software should always use the custom installation option so that to keep a complete control on the way the software will be installed and also, and more importantly in many cases, on what exactly will be installed…

  40. Peter Pan


    Absolutly right!
    I have been using Comodo for years and never having any problems…and I play a lot with the OS and software up to the limit!

    Thank you Ashraf for the review, but it seems a bit biased concerning the part for Comodo – at isntallation time it is possible to uncheck the additional software (Geek budy and Comodo Dragon) plus it is simple to reject changing your DNS to use Comodo SecureDNS, as you yourself have properly mentioned… That means there are no obvious reasons for Comodo’s third place :)

  41. RealBull

    Hi Ashraf,
    I have MS Security Essentials. When I started using Online Armor, it was fine. I could install anything that I wanted without any interference. Then suddenly one day oasrv.exe started to slow things down when I wanted to install something, but it didn’t do it all the time. It seemed to cause problems with certain installers and not with others. I have MalwareBytes Free version which does not have active monitoring, so I don’t think that is the problem (maybe).

  42. RealBull

    I think all of the Online Armor fans know by now about the oasrv.exe file by now. Recently it has been chewing up my CPU power and jamming up my computer. It happens when I start an EXE file to install something and from there it hangs up explorer.
    I tried using Process Explorer or other software similar to it, to try to restart oasrv.exe, but it doesn’t allow you to “kill” it or restart it because of a security factor. I’m assuming oasrv.exe is the monitor for EXE files, but it is a a little buggy. I read on the forum to find out what I could do about it, but the thread seems to be dead with no solution now.
    Oh well, I ended up uninstalling Online Armor and installed Private FW. It’s very light and simple to use. I’ve used it on Vista before with no problems and I guess it will stay on my Win7 HP 64-bit.
    Has anyone else had this annoying problem with oasrv.exe? Please share your story.

  43. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    [@Sputnik] I actually used Matousec as a reference (I have used the website for a while) but did not formally quote the website because they have a disagreement with Emisosft and don’t rate Online Armor anymore (they used to a few years back). It is hard for me to quote benchmarks when there is no available benchmark for my top pick.

    FYI: Stay away from Outpost Firewall Free. It hasn’t been updated in two years.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  44. Sputnik

    First of all, I think that Ashraf’s general analysis is a very good one for a generalistic site.

    When comes the time of evaluating softwares or comparing one software to another, techsupportalert.com and dottech.org come soon to my mind.

    But in certain cases, we find specialized sites for comparing certain specific kinds of softwares.

    That is the case for firewalls : there is a specialized site for firewalls which many amongst you know already and it is matousec.com.

    I am familiar with this site since a couple of years and I always have been inclined to follow their suggestions.

    Since that couple of years, COMODO Firewall has always been one if not the best of the firewalls on the market according to matousec.

    Online Armor Firewall was also amongst the best firewall on this basis, but since a couple of years there seems to be a problem between matousec and Online Armor Free so that we don’t listen anymore on matousec about this firewall.

    I know that Online Armor Firewall Free is really a very good firewall and Ashraf is really not misleading anybody by suggesting it is one of the best firewalls, but my choice has always gone by the side of COMODO Firewall with which I personally never had any problem and which has always protected very well my computer.

    I think that anybody who would make a choice between these free firewalls would not mistake himself : COMODO Firewall, Online Firewall, PrivateFirewall and Outpost Firewall.

  45. EW


    Been using the W7FW and W7FC combo for many of my PCs, and had no issues whatsoever. Perfect combination as W7FW controls the inbound while W7FC controls the outbound.

    Loved the fact that W7FC is (by default) blocking new apps from accessing the network/Internet, and gives me the option to permit or deny the access. And from the main screen/panel, I can easily configure/delete new entries. Really simple and easy to maintain.

    Only missing thing is that there are no traffic logs, containing source and destination IPs/ports and TCP protocols, helpful for monitoring and troubleshooting purposes.

    What’s your own experience like?

  46. Louis

    @ stilofilos

    Many thanks, I’ll take a look at that one, from the website it looks promising

    @ Ashraf

    Thanks for an informative article, a lot of interesting things came out, both in your article and in the comments

  47. stilofilos

    I used to be a happy user of Zonealarm for the same reason. Since I couldn’t reinstall it after another crash of that windows (as the repair shop had installed avast that blocked it) I had found AVS Firewall and I’m quite happy with that one, too.
    It has a similar approach, be it an all or nothing affair per program, not giving access, server and e-mail rules individually, which in fact makes not a big difference to me.
    I’d suggest you’d have a look at it at http://www.avs4you.com/AVS-Firewall.aspx

  48. Matthew

    Having once been a fan of Outpost, the free version is once again grossly outdated, and while the AV engine did get an update, that brought about an attack of the BSODs.

    Secondly, recent versions seem to be far too prone to “system issues” in general, and the once great Outpost is in serious danger of falling into the gap between novice and expert that satisfies no-one, as it loses options that won it expert friends in the early days, while failing badly in it’s noob-friendly efforts

  49. lawman

    I guess either I or customers have had just
    about every combination out
    there on my test bench. In
    past two years more and more problems are showing up with Comodo which had been my first choice for years. The quirks vary but all are serious. In past six months Comodo is blocking common pages like Newegg JR, and similar parts houses. This
    happens primarily on Exporer but more and more it is happening on Firefox, Seascape etc. I
    don’t know if they are trying new techniques but I have had to revert back to older firewalls to get through. And this varies
    little between machines whether laptops or full blown 7 Ultimate. Even on XP! Queries have brought no answers, so am ready to try Ashraf’s new suggestions.

  50. MikeR


    Anyone chasing this ‘free firewall’ is going to be in for a big disappointment. I had Sunbelt firewall for donkey’s years and it worked like a charm. Then it was abandoned, absorbed into Vipre. And it isn’t “recently” that this happened: the free firewall vanished almost two years ago. Presumably, you’re using the paid-for commercial version.

    @ Giovanni @ post #49: also on the subject of software / software developers who, like Sunbelt, are no longer around and haven’t been for quite a while, Sygate Technologies vanished in 2010 if not earlier.

    It was swallowed up by Norton /Symantec. So there is no Sygate Free Personal Firewall — or at least, not one worth considering seeing as how it’s years since it was current.

  51. Adelin

    What do you think of the combination “Win7 Home Premium SP1 firewall” and “Windows7 Firewall Control” ? [http://www.sphinx-soft.com/]
    Thanks for your comments, ideas and advises

  52. RealBull

    Sygate Firewall has not been upgraded as a standalone in about 7 years. I don’t it is compatible with the more modern OS (Vista, 7) now. If you use XP, I guess it would be fine. The upgraded version is part of Norton’s security suite.
    But Rising Firewall seems good.

    Nice review. I was glad to see Online Armor on top. I have it already installed and it seems to suit me fine. Thank you for your research and this article.

  53. Steve

    I have been a Comodo user for many years and still do use it on the majority of machines, however, recently I had a problem whereby Comodo blocked my local network access to just a few bytes per second on one particular machine. I tried uninstalling, reinstalling, updating to version 6, downgrading to version 5 – all to no avail.
    I completely removed Comodo and switched to PrivateFirewall and the problem was solved.
    There are more prompts with PrivateFirewall but typically only when using something new or after a program upgrade. I did look at some of the other candidates but felt that PrivateFirewall was the next best after Comodo.

  54. Gareth

    @Ashraf: Thanks for another brilliant article!
    My question is do I need to/should I disable my default Windows firewall (Windows 7 Home Premium) for Online Armor Free to work best or have them both running??

  55. lawman

    On Comodo. It is indeed
    loaded with crapware and even if you uncheck the installation of such it uses it’s own overide and puts it on there. Otherwise it is
    a good firewall.

    But a new install with all
    the bloat has sent many
    friends and customers sceaming back for help.

    I now post warnings of a couple of dozen prorams that put whatever they want on a machine. It has slowed down upset people
    knocking the door down!!

  56. RobCr

    I too was wondering about XP’s built in firewall vs the others reviewed.
    Namely, should we switch to one of those reviewed ?
    Has any of Ashraf’s staff (that run XP) switched ?
    (I figured Ashraf has moved totally away from XP, and that is why I have not had a bash at asking what Ashraf uses.)

  57. Louis


    You hit the nail right on by saying “My major gripe with most of them, especially comodo is that you never know what its blocked. There is no easy to access block list so you can tell which component is not running.”

    That’s why I installed, and then uninstalled Comodo. Same goes for what could be an excellent (paid) firewall from TrendMicro, which my bank provides free on a one year basis due to some agreement with TM — does it work ? I don’t know, because there’s no way (like in Zone Alarm, that is, at least until version 9.2, when ZoneLabs sold out to CheckPoint and they started to follow the “I will decide for you” trend) where I can access a detailed list of programs, and see EXACTLY what rights I’ve given which programs (and manage it by changing whenever I want. THAT is want I want in a firewall : TOTAL control over what software does on my system.

    So I missed seeing in your review of these (all good I’m sure) firewalls : Which ones would allow you to inspect the programs’ rights / block list, see what rights were allocated to each program, and adjust it ?

    That’s the one I’m now looking for, as although I still have ZoneAlarm 9.2 on my system, it nags me every 15 days to either postpone, or upgrade to the current ‘not acceptable anymore’ version.

    I think I may have a look at Privatefirewall (admittedly never heard of that one !). From the screenshot it seems it may do it the way I prefer — a few more pop-ups in return for control over my firewall is a small price to pay.

    Does anyone know if any of these gives you access to their programs’ allocated rights / block list ?

  58. Frank D

    [@Danyb] I agree. I wonder why Windows Firewall is not included in this review in its own right. It is built in to Windows. Is it not in itself effective or adequate? How can one judge if it is not included in the comparison as a standalone program?

  59. BearPup

    A big “thank you” to Ashraf for the excellent, in-depth review of firewalls – I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to do all the testing! I especially appreciate the high ranking of ‘my’ firewall (PrivateFirewall) even though it didn’t work on Ashraf’s computer. The review also explains why Online Armor didn’t work on my computer – I didn’t have SP1 installed when I tried Online Armour a few years back.

    I’d also like to add the following to the review of PrivateFirewall: their tech support is excellent. Even though its a free product, when I posted a comment to them, I got an instant response, followed up by an ongoing exchange of emails until the issue was resolved.

    And to repeat what I said at the beginning of my comment: A big “thank you” to Ashraf for the excellent, in-depth review of firewalls!

  60. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    Just to give everyone an update, the best free firewall review is taking a bit longer than I anticipated; however, I hope to have it done by tomorrow (already did testing and got my rankings, just need to pound out the article).

    Sorry for the wait!

  61. o(o.o)o

    Personally, I’d still be using Outpost Firewall (just the firewall, no HIPS) if I still have an active license for it. It has one of the best port configuration utility amongst the software firewalls I’ve used.

    But for free solutions, windows’ built-in firewall should suffice for computers behind a router. Granted, it doesn’t have outbound notifications but there are a few programs that give this functionality (one of the better ones though needs to be registered for a small token fee to enable this function). What I like about windows firewall on windows 7 is that you can bind windows services, i.e. windows update and windows time, to outbound rules which no other software firewall I’ve come across can, paid or free.

    For other software firewall candidates, Comodo and Privatefirewall minus their HIPS come to mind. Comodo for its ease of use and clean interface, at least for the 5+ versions. Privatefirewall has a clunky UI which definitely needs an overhaul but is one of the lightest firewalls I have tried.

  62. RealBull

    Sounds nice, but…I see nothing on their (VIPRE) website for a free firewall. And the firewall is part of the Internet security suite and doesn’t seem to be a separate program. I only see free-trial offers, and not true freeware.

  63. INXS9000RPM

    I wish to recommend VIPRE for consideration as a candidate Firewall product (Free and Paid version). It was previously called CounterSpy + Kerio by Sunbelt Systems, and was recently bought up by GFI Software.

    I make this recommendation because of A) it has a really, really small footprint, B) minimal, minimal impact on performance, and C) an optional self-learning configurator of Users’ security preferences. And, of course, the vendor has free online support for removing nasty malware that Vipre may have or may not have blocked/quarantined.

    As an IT security and data privacy professional, I gave up on all the “mainstream” products over ten years ago when it seemed every AV & Firewall head-to-head review rated all the mainstream products as A+. It became clear that none of the trade mags seemed able to give a truly impartial assessment. Having tried many of the mainstream products (in anger as well as simply testing) I knew several that rated as unadulterated JUNK; either due to bloatware, complexity of installation/configuration, insane difficulty of updating or uninstalling. Yet none of the trade journals EVER came out with seriously negative assessments of these top-line products! Maybe, it is simply because of being beholden to the lucrative advert revenues of these product vendors.

    Anyway, after lots of trial and error I came across Vipre over 6 years ago (in the days it was called CounterSpy + Kerio) and I’ve never looked back. Seeing that in my profession I actively visit many dubious and unsavory sites, I have found VIPRE to be very reliable in providing warnings, blocking inadvertent access, capturing logs of these blocks, or simply not loading sites (unless I intentionally bypass the firewall protections).

    Of course, as anyone serious about safe internet browsing knows, you don’t rely on just one tool / protect against just one type of threat. (You use rogue Start-up blockers, sandboxes, use different scanners, install apps in non-standard folders and disk drives/partitions, backup partitions differentially each day, etc).

    Looking forward to learning about other recommended firewall products which I may have missed coming onto the market.

  64. chump2010

    I have used Comodo and most of the major players in the firewall market – online armor, private firewall, zonealarm etc.

    My major gripe with most of them, especially comodo is that you never know what its blocked. There is no easy to access block list so you can tell which component is not running. So if at any point, some program cannot access the interent or cannot install, you just have no clue as to which part of which rule caused the issue. It’s a horrible mess on lots of them.

    Online armor I found to be better on that front, but it had a lot of incompatibilities with antivirus programs – no matter which one I used.

    Zonealarm got more and more bloated over the years…I like version 3 a lot…then they started adding all this other stuff.

    The real problem for most people is that Firewalls are not not just about controlling internet connections, isntead its all about HIPS too…and that’s just compliccccccatttted..

  65. BearPup

    [@michael clyde] As a matter of fact, I’m neither a 4 year old, and my firewall is the one that hit the 98% mark – PrivateFirewall.

    Its your attitude I can do without. Its pedantic and bullying and shows no respect for anyone who chooses to do things differently than you do. But then I repeat myself.

  66. michael clyde

    correction on test results
    (just one set of results)

    Products tested against the suite with 148 tests

    Product Product score Level reached Protection level Recommendation Report Award
    ico Comodo Internet Security 5.3.176757.1236FREE 100 % 10+ Excellent – 100 % GET IT NOW! pdf
    ico Online Solutions Security Suite 1.5.14905.0 99 % 10+ Excellent GET IT NOW! pdf
    ico Privatefirewall 98 % 10+ Excellent N/A pdf
    ico Outpost Security Suite Free 97 % 10+ Excellent GET IT NOW! pdf
    ico Outpost Security Suite Pro 97 % 10+ Excellent GET IT NOW! pdf
    ico BitDefender Internet Security 2011 97 % 10+ Excellent GET IT NOW! pdf
    ico Kaspersky Internet Security 2012 93 % 10+ Excellent GET IT NOW! pdf
    ico Malware Defender 91 % 10 Excellent N/A pdf
    ico PC Tools Internet Security 2011 90 % 10+ Very good GET IT NOW! pdf
    ico Jetico Personal Firewall 88 % 10 Very good N/A pdf
    ico ZoneAlarm Extreme Security 2012 72 % 9 Good Not recommended pdf –
    ico Rising Internet Security 2011 34 % 5 Very poor Not recommended pdf –
    ico CA Internet Security Suite Plus 2011 30 % 5 Very poor Not recommended pdf –
    ico Norton Internet Security 2012 20 % 3 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico avast! Internet Security 6.0.1000 15 % 3 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico Dr.Web Security Space Pro 14 % 3 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico F-Secure Internet Security 2011 10.51.106 9 % 2 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2010 17.50.1647.0000 9 % 2 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico FortKnox Personal Firewall 7 % 2 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 7 % 2 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico ESET Smart Security 6 % 2 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico AVG Internet Security 2011 10.0.1153 3 % 1 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico Avira Premium Security Suite 3 % 1 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico Look ‘n’ Stop 2.07 3 % 1 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico Sunbelt Personal Firewall 4.6.1861.0 3 % 1 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico G Data InternetSecurity 2011 2 % 1 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico McAfee Internet Security 2011 11.5.141 2 % 1 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico Panda Internet Security 2011 16.00.00 2 % 1 None Not recommended pdf –
    ico TrustPort Internet Security 2011 2 % 1 None Not recommended pdf –

  67. michael clyde

    @ bear pup
    perhaps, in your over-zealousness to judge, you didn’t fully comprehend my remarks. people have “Heard” how hard it is to set up, not actually tried to do it, just heard it was hard. that is not lack of knowledge, as you put it, that is lack of something entirely different. at one time i myself fit into that category until i finally got the gumption to read the directions, gaining the needed knowledge to properly set it up. come to find out it’s not hard at all. it’s probably that same 4 year old that has been taking computers who had trouble setting it up and is responsible for the panty wrinkling that has ensued.
    some enlightenment,
    even the windows firewall in xp did a fair job of keeping out unwanted “stuff” BUT, it would let everybody and their brother phone home with your vital information. not good. the industry seems to rate firewalls by their scores from “leak test”. matousec (?) used to be the go to test result place, it seems it or he may not be current, i just visited a few days ago and the newest results (2013) seemed to be from another entity. comodo scored a 95%, only one other scored higher with an impressive looking 98%. so saying your firewall has done everything you asked of it is meaningless UNLESS you have leak tested it, because it’s not going to tell you it just let 3 apps and 1 unknown phone home and please never run a firewall with the default out-of-the-box settings… unless of course
    your a 4 year old.

    michael clyde

  68. BearPup

    [@michael clyde] Ridiculing people for their lack of knowledge is the classic tool of the bully.

    My firewall does everything I ask of it, and I’m rarely bothered by it. So I don’t know why I need something else eeither Perhaps you’d care to enlighten the rest of us?

  69. Danyb

    I have been using COMODO for some ten years now and in my opinion it’s the best. Not that simple for an inexperienced user maybe.
    For less experienced people I wonder if they could be enough protected with Windows Firewall an Defender.
    I would be interested in reading something about that

  70. michael clyde

    never seen so many grown men afraid of something, “i’ve heard it’s so hard to setup and my panties might get a wrinkle in them” (distraught and agonizing over how hard setting up comodo can be) come on girls, suck it up before someone sends a drunk 4 year old to your house to take your computer away from you.

    michael clyde

  71. Ionel

    I am using ZoneAlarm, and I find it’s dialogs very convenient. But I find that it has a problem with apache (sometimes when I’ve got XAMPP started and I shut down the pc I get blue screen), and from ZoneAlarm site I understand they didn’t support this thing.
    So, I will get either Online Armour or Private Firewall. I’ve tried Comodo, but somehow I didn’t liked it.

  72. Strahd


    You can still use Outpost firewall, even in the suite. During install, it gives you an option to ether disable its av or firewall depending on which you already have installed and want to use instead of the ones in the Outpost Security Suite.

  73. Strahd

    Best FREE firewall in my opinion is Emsisoft Online Armor.

    Have tried TinyFirewall, ZoneAlrm, Outpost Firewall (from outpost security suite).

    EOA has better control over programs and provides better custom rules for each program. Also protects host file, and has an anit-keylogger, thats always a plus. It’s just great firewall.

  74. Hal

    My Favorite is ZoneAlarm as been for years and now they added free antivirus even better. It Cause me less issues when installing new software do not have to shut it down to install anything. Another good thing I like is the ability to shut down my connection on which ever computer I want to without shut them all down by the Router or unplugging the cable, and it is free….
    I used tiny firewall a few years ago, but did not have all the features of some others.
    Heard about comodo, but also heard how hard to set-up…so never tried

  75. DoktorThomas

    Comodo Firewall — free standing or within Internet Security Package. Available as free home and paid professional versions. Excellent. Unsurpassed. Easy to use. A better approach to filtering/blocking, from both sides. If you don’t have Comodo, you are less well protected. Forget US firewalls that are frequently breached and insecurely coded by design.

    Disclaimer: I have no personal interest, no investment and no family members working for Comodo software or any associated companies.

  76. Louis

    I just don’t trust any firewall that automatically does its own settings behind the scenes, according to its own rules (the set and forget type). I prefer to see exactly what permissions was granted (server and access rights etc per program) — and the ability to give or deny a program access manually at times.

    The only firewall that I’ve found that met these requirements, is Zone-Alarm up to version 9.52.00 — after that Checkpoint sold it, and all later versions have done away with the user control over individual program access.

    Currently I’m still using the older version 9.52…, in order to retain control over it, but it does have a nag screen coming up every 15 days, forcing me to extend it for another 15 days.

    Ashraf I hope your article will show me a current firewall that works the way Zone Alarm used to work (with user control over individual programs that can regularly be checked and adjusted manually).

  77. AFPhy6

    I love Zone Alarm because I can use it to ask me nearly everything … such as “O&O Defrag is asking to use your hard disk. Is that OK?”. I _depend_ on it to let me know when software is attempting to download an automatic update, even if I have turned that off, which I deplore. It easily lets me know when some application is trying to call home, and I can then decide whether I wish to allow that or not … If I just loaded the program, I answer no,not at this time… If I just hit the “help” button, I typically allow it for that single instance. About the only program I allow full internet access is FireFox, and that is very reliable about not doing auto updates. There is only one program that I’ve found will not run at all if I disallow it internet access when it loads. I got rid of that program.

    In the past, I have also set up ZoneAlarm to be nearly invisible, allowing it to do pretty much everything automatically, and that is the way I set it up on other people’s machines, though I show them how to use it the way I do.

    Lightweight: Though it keeps 33Mb in memory, in the past 24 hours, it has used only 33seconds of CPU time (though the unneeded “tray” portion has used another 6 minutes),

    In the ten or so years I’ve used it, no attack has ever gotten through, whether on my home setup, or when I was roving hotel and restaurant public networks, and that is the bottom line.

  78. RealBull

    Hmmm… point made. I guess those apps could apply based upon your explanation. Well said.

    “why install an intrusive 3rd party firewall with HIPS, when you can use your existing windows firewall and improve its security/functionality”

    I agree. That’s why I started using TinyWall when I got Win7. Actually it is pretty powerful! The only thing I didn’t like was there was no notifying me that it was blocking a program. But there have been no updates from them in awhile…I wonder if they are still supporting it.
    Recently I started using Online Armor to try it out. So far it works for me.

  79. BearPup

    My vote goes to PrivateFirewall. Its both a firewall and an anti-keylogger, and it plays nicely with all my other security apps. My previous firewalls (ZoneAlarm and EmsiSoft) caused conflicts, whereas PrivateFirewall has been flawless in its operation. Good (and free) tech support for a free product. Can’t beat that.

  80. Mags

    Of course my favourite Agnitum Outpost Firewall. I like it because it gives me more control on what I can allow or not allow.

    I don’t like Firewalls that you install but can’t control what is allowed or not allowed. But that is my personal opinion, others seem to prefer that.

    As for Comodo…. I won’t touch it with a 10 foot pole! Last version of Comodo which I used was version 2.X, once they went to version 3.X it started screwing up my system. I will never use it again.

  81. JohnnyG

    After struggling with Zone Alarm and others whose names I don’t remember, I’ve been using Comodo for two or three years now. It’s the first time in 20 years of using a computer that I’ve been able to basically forget about the firewall and just let it do its job. FWIW, I just use the firewall and not the Defense+ module.

  82. NickK


    “I don’t think that apps like Windows Firewall Control and TinyWall apply because they are just add-ons to tweak the Windows built-in firewall”

    I disagree. They are more than just tweaks. BTW – W7FC is an app in its own right – it does not use the Windows Firewall – it uses the Windows Base Filtering engine. Note, Tinywall also provides additional apps such as, host file protection, password protection, domain blocklists, etc, so they are more than just tweaks of the existing windows firewall

    “Those apps are great, but I think this article is for free 3rd party software only, it’s up to Ashraf to decide that”

    I’ve only listed freeware apps and Windows Firewall is also free, which every PC has installed by default (therefore, why install an intrusive 3rd party firewall with HIPS, when you can use your existing windows firewall and improve its security/functionality). I’ve listed viable alternatives and Ashraf may want to make his readers aware of these alternatives. I absolutely agree 100% that its up to Ashraf if he wants to include these apps in his write-up and I will not be offended if Ashraf decides not to include them :)

  83. Jeanjean

    I’m using ZoneAlarm (free firewall without antivirus) without problem. From time to time I get a popup concerning their products, but their number is reasonable.
    I had previously tried Online Armor, but I don’t know anymore why I left it (due to my age probably).

  84. Gerry Locke

    I have been a LONG time Comodo user but eventually got sick of it’s extreme intrusiveness…..unless you ‘turn it down’ a bit….in which case, what’s the point of using it! Lately I have tried Private Firewall (which gets a pretty good rating on Gizmo’s Freeware). I have also been using Outpost, which I managed to get free in a giveaway recently. It is almost up there with Comodo in it’s intrusiveness, but not quite…

  85. Gourav

    I think Comodo is best. Although it have some options which is hard to understand for common user. And for your list I would like to suggest.
    1. Zone Alarm
    2. Private Firewall and
    3. Ashampoo Firewall.

  86. RealBull

    I don’t think that apps like Windows Firewall Control and TinyWall apply because they are just add-ons to tweak the Windows built-in firewall. Those apps are great, but I think this article is for free 3rd party software only, but it’s up to Ashraf to decide that.

    Anyway I was using Win7 firewall with TinyWall, but switched to using Online Armor and so far it seems to be great. It has all the options that I want and the added security.
    In the past on Vista, I have used Private Firewall, ZoneAlarm, Comodo and PC Tools Firewall.
    Now PC Tools Firewall and Outpost Firewall is part of a suite and cannot be used separately, does it still qualify for this article? I would have liked to try Outpost FW, but don’t want the anti-virus program that comes with it.
    Also I heard Ashampoo Firewall Free is a great one, too, but has not been updated for awhile.
    So which do I think is the best? I’d have to give it to either Comodo or Online Armor for it’s options, added security and prompt updates.

  87. NickK

    I prefer to keep away from Firewalls that add HIPS, which can suffocate PC performance by hooking deep into your system and potentially produce all sorts of problems leading to instability. My recommendations would be any of the following apps, which enchance security and funcationality of the existing Windows Firewall (or Windows Base Filtering Engine). My recommendations below also do not install any drivers, so they won’t mess with your system. Its worth testing all of them to find out what works best for you:

    – Windows Firewall Notifier (enables you to easily configure outbound filtering of the existing Windows Firewall as this provides outbound notifcations – also portable, just extract to a folder).
    – Windows Firewall Control – Binisoft (Free version comes without outbound notifications – its worth donating $10 to register this app – although you can always use WFN to help configure the outbound rules).
    – Windows 7 Firewall Control – Sphinx (Free version does not provide filtering of system files, but its a great light add-on where you can use both the Windows Firewall for inbound filtering and W7FC at the same time. WFC does not use the Windows Firewall application as such, but it does use the Windows Base Filtering engine, which the Windows Firewall also uses).
    – TinyWall (great app and easy to use, but my only issue is that you don’t get any notifications, which can potentially lead to problems as I had discovered – ie, future changes in windows updates might mean something doesn’t get updated properly. The developer has also gone in hibernation for a long time).

    Good Luck with the write up :)

  88. Prema

    ZoneAlarm (I personally don’t like it one bit, but there are people who like it)
    Of course Windows’ built in firewall ;)

    I’m more of an internet security type of person (since Staples usually has a bunch of these FAR), but I was looking into firewalls a few months back. PrivateFirewall is something I was very interested in.