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If you’re a Windows user, you may want do a little background reading on the built-in Windows Firewall before taking a deep breath and diving into the sea of third-party firewall reviews. How much security does this Microsoft solution offer, and is the default Windows Firewall good enough? As security specialist Donna Buenaventura notes, “Windows Firewall is better than no firewall, but it doesn’t offer the same protection as a third-party product such as Outpost Firewall."
In addition to Outpost, there are many other firewall options that do a much better job of protecting your PC than the default Windows utility. For a quick overview of some of the more reputable names in the firewall industry, check out Top 10 Firewalls 2010 – Comparison of Firewalls. This comparative listing summarizes the top points and key features of several popular firewalls, including ZoneAlarm Pro and Comodo Internet Security Suite.
On the other hand, if you’re a Windows 7 user on a tight budget, you may want to start your research by reading Mark Muller’s roundup of the top free firewalls for Windows 7. There are actually quite a few free firewall products that outperform their paid counterparts, particularly for typical users who are really just looking for a solid solution that requires little to no interaction unless a threat is detected. In addition to Mark’s recommendations, you may also want to take a look at the evaluation of the free version of Outpost Firewall along with Tolga Balci’s analysis of Ashampoo Firewall Free Edition.
Even among the leading firewall products, there are quite a few differences – especially in terms of ease of use and customization options. Two applications may offer basically the same degree of protection, but have radically different interfaces and alert methods. While some people may consider these features just “eye candy," they’re actually very important when reviewing security software. After all, if a firewall is too confusing or if it doesn’t work seamlessly with your operating system, it can become tempting to turn it off altogether – and that’s something that you really don’t want to do.
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