Firewall software to protect your computer/laptops review
There are two types of firewall's. A personal firewall (firewall software) which you would install on the client (laptop, computer) itself and a dedicated hardware firewall which you would have at the perimeter of your network. Take a look at my personal or hardware firewall guide for more info on the differences to both types.
NOTE - If your looking for a network firewall then take a look at my network firewall recommendation guide.
Personal Firewall / Firewall software
ZoneAlarm's firewall software is free for personal use. I would recommend the ZoneAlarm firewall software because it is simple to use, and does a great job protecting your system. ZoneAlarm's firewall software will work on both Windows Vista and Windows XP.
ZoneAlarm will protect your system from outbound connections as well as inbound and will detect and build a database of your programs it knows are safe. Zonealarm will also prompt you whenever a program within your computer wants to access the internet it does not know about. When you either select allow or block, ZoneAlarm will remember this for future.
Within the ZoneAlarm firewall software you can set up an Internet lock feature which will block all connectivity to or from the internet either when your screen saver is activated or when your computer has been idle for a time you have specified. This is another extra layer of security with the ZoneAlarm free edition. The free edition firewall software also includes automatic updating features. Another cool feature is ZoneAlarm displays a "z" icon bottom right corner in the system tray and upon any traffic to or from the computer the "z" changes into two small bars indicating traffic to or from your computer.
After completing a number of tests with the ZoneAlarm free firewall software, the firewall blocked all security threats I had thrown at it, makes your computer invisible to the outside world, and truly does provide solid firewall protection.
However because it's a free version, it is a basic firewall software product, and will not give you the many options and granular features if you had purchased the full ZoneAlarm firewall software package. Purchasing the full version you would have the options to configure zones, change your security levels, make changes to ports, protocols and services, and other very good features such as turning on "game mode" which will not bug you with alerts when you are playing games or watching movies.
In a nutshell the ZoneAlarm free edition firewall software is ideal for a user requiring a solid and reliable firewall, who requires none of the advanced features you would get if you had purchased the full firewall version.
The ZoneAlarm pro firewall software which is a purchased version is an excellent firewall, with a huge database of known programs which will do all the thinking for you in deciding which programs to trust and which ones to block, as well as other advanced granular features.
If your looking for a dedicated hardware firewall for your business / organisation / network or even for home use, then take a look at my Firewall recommendation for networks guide.
For further reading, there's some excellent electronic ebooks available for download from eBooks.com