The firewall’s purpose is to block unauthorized access to your computer or your network. A firewall does not guarantee security, but it is usually the first line of defence against network-based attacks. This is more important than ever in a world of laptops netbooks and tablets in a wi-fi paradise.
Windows Firewall first appeared in Windows XP Security Center, updated regularly ever since. Despite the many third-party alternatives, Windows Firewall still does an adequate job for a mass-market, general purpose tool and is the sole software defence for most Windows users even now. It is an effective gatekeeper which prevents unknown applications or untrusted sources to enter your system unless you specifically allow it.
The Firewall functionality is much the same in Windows 7, albeit where Windows 7 has evolved and become more network aware, so has Firewall’s capabilities expanded. For example, when you install Windows 7, to can create what a HomeGroup for your home network. Windows 7 Firewall can apply different firewall settings to the HomeGroup than to any other networks to which you may connect, making it is easier and more convenient for sharing files across your home network. This is enabled by default when you create a HomeGroup, so most users will have no reason to open the Windows Firewall application itself and probably don’t even know this function exists.
However, you can change most settings very easily by opening the Windows Firewall window in the Windows Control Panel. Here, you will find options for both your home network and public networks to be set individually.
Corporate networks all sit behind banks of hardware firewalls and server-based firewalls, filtering traffic before it gets to any network connected PC’s.
Most home routers now incorporate a hardware or software based firewall to the public-facing network (broadband). Whilst these are mostly effective, you don’t want to rely on them as your sole defence. So it is recommended that you do NOT turn off the Windows Firewall whilst the machine has a live connection to the Internet. A recent statistic quoted an average twenty-minute life for any unprotected machine connecting to the Internet before the first malicious probe occurs.
However, you may want to carry out testing on your home network or install software that may clash with Windows Firewall during the installation. You may also want to install one of the third-party firewalls in its’ place; this is within your right and I used to run third-party firewalls on XP and Vista as I thought anything with a Microsoft badge carried its’ own large target painted on the side.
- Logon to the computer using an Administrator account – you need elevated permissions.
- From the Start Menu go to Control Panel, select System and Security.
- From there, select Windows Firewall to open the firewall control page.
- In the left side-bar select Turn Windows Firewall on or off.
- There is a Customize Settings tab for each type of network – Home or work.
- Select the Turn off Windows Firewall radio button.
- You have to click the OK button for Firewall to accept the new configuration and close the panel.
Your PC is now unprotected so unless you’ve a good hardware firewall or a third party alternative installed, DON’T connect to any public networks. That especially includes college, coffee-shop or library wi-fi – these are NOT secure. AJS