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Published on 04.10.06 by Brent Trahan

Windows Firewall Explained

This guide explains why you need a firewall, Windows firewall basics, and advanced Windows firewall settings.

I can’t stress enough how dangerous the internet can be. Having a firewall is one of the tools used to keep people out of your computer when connected to the internet. This guide explains why you need a firewall, Windows firewall basics, and advanced Windows firewall settings.

What is a firewall?

A firewall controls what can go in or out of your computer. Think of the firewall as a guard that is keeping guard of about 50,000 doors (called ports) on the back of your computer. Everything that goes in or out of your computer uses those doors (ports). Every program uses a specific door(s). You can decide what programs can send or receive things by telling the guard (firewall) which doors to keep open and which doors to keep locked at all times.

Why use the Windows firewall?

My question to you is why would you pay for something you already have that probably works better that what you are buying?

I have to admit that the Windows firewall is not as fancy and user friendly as aftermarket firewalls. All that fancy stuff does it take up valuable processing power you could be using for something else. Besides most of those other fancy firewalls just bother the crap out of me with endless pop-ups telling me it blocked content. All I want is a firewall that blocks all the bad stuff and doesn’t bother me. That’s what Windows firewall does.

The Windows firewall is not the most advanced and customizable firewall out there, but it does a great job for the uses of an average computer user like you.

Check Windows firewall status

Before we start lets check to see if the Windows firewall is turned on. Go to your control panel by going to Start, Control Panel. Open Network Connections and open the connection you use to surf the internet. If the Windows firewall is turned on you will see a lock similar to the screen shot below.

If you don’t see the lock you need to turn the firewall on. Click on Properties in the Local Area Connection Status window (shown above). Click the advanced tab, and then click the settings button. Click On to turn the firewall on in the Windows firewall window.

For most people this is where the work ends. Windows firewall works just fine right out of the box with no configuring for most people. If you need more control over Windows firewall see below.

Advanced settings

Windows firewall works flawlessly out of the box for most people with no configuration of the firewall needed. Some people need to close or open ports and change more advanced settings manually.

Exceptions tab

In the Windows firewall window (shown below) there is a tab called exceptions. Most of the changes you’ll make will happen in the exceptions tab. Click the exceptions tab.

Underneath Programs and Services is a list of programs and services that are allowed to send and receive information by the Windows firewall. If they are unchecked they are not allowed.

If you double-click a service you can change a few settings dealing with that service.

If you want to block certain ports that service uses simply uncheck the box next to that port.

You can take it a step further and decide who has access to those ports by clicking the change scope button.

In the change scope window you can decide who has access to those ports. You have three choices.

The first is any computer. Selecting any computer means any computer has access to that port.

The next choice is my network. Selecting my network will only enable people on your private network (or subnet mask) to have access to that port. An example of this is only the computers on the network at your business or home has access to the port. The computers on the internet don’t.

The last choice is custom list. You can select custom list and type the IP address of each computer you only want to have access to that port. Notice the example below the input box to see how to add the IP addresses.

If you double-click a program in under programs and services you can change a few settings dealing with that program.

You can’t control specific ports on a program but you can configure the scope just like I showed you above.

Add Program

If the Windows firewall is blocking a program you can un-block it by clicking the Add Program button in the Windows firewall window.

Once you’ve opened the Add Program button simply scroll down the list and double-click the program you want to unblock. Once you do that notice how the program has been added to the Programs and Services list in the Windows firewall window.

Add Port

You can go further and allow specific ports for services you are running on your computer. An example would be a web server. Click the Add Port button in the Windows firewall window.

Give the port you want to unblock a name in the name box and type the port number in the port number box. Click OK when you are finished.

Advanced Tab

I’m not going to go into much in this section of the Windows firewall because if you need to change these settings you need to know what you’re doing and shouldn’t have to be reading this to learn how to change these settings.

Network Connection Settings

You can change settings I talked about above that deal with only one internet connection if you have more than one in this section. Simply highlight the internet connection you want to change and click settings.

Default Settings

If you screw things up you can always go back to the default settings by clicking Restore Defaults under the Default Settings section.

Still need help? Ask your computer question now.

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