How to choose a firewall

August 4, 2009

Three basic types of firewalls are available for you to choose from:

  • Software firewalls
  • Hardware routers
  • Wireless routers

To determine which type of firewall is best for you, answer these questions and record your answers:

  1. How many computers will use the firewall?
  2. What operating system do you use? (This might be a version of Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, or Linux.)

That’s it. You are now ready to think about what type of firewall you want to use.

There are several options, each with its own pros and cons.

Windows Firewall (Windows Vista and Windows XP Service Pack 2 only)

If you use Windows Vista or Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), you have a firewall built in and turned on by default.

To learn more about the Windows Firewall that comes with Windows Vista and Windows XP SP2, read Understanding Windows Firewall.

Tip: If you haven’t downloaded Service Pack 2, visit Microsoft Update to learn how to get it. If you are using Windows XP and you choose not to download Service Pack 2, you still have access to the Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) that’s built into Windows XP, but you need to turn it on.

Note: The Windows Firewall and the Internet Connection Firewall are not available as a stand-alone package. They are also not available for other operating systems (for example, Apple Macintosh or Linux) or for versions of Windows other than Windows Vista and Windows XP.

Software firewalls

Software firewalls are a good choice for single computers, and they work well with Windows 98, Windows Me, and Windows 2000. (Windows Vista and Windows XP both have a built-in firewall, so an additional firewall is not necessary.)

Software firewalls are also available from other software companies. For special offers on antivirus and firewall packages, visit our Security software: Downloads and trials page.

Pros Cons
Does not require additional hardware. Additional cost: Most software firewalls cost money.
Does not require additional computer wiring. Installation and configuration might be required to get started.
A good option for single computers. One copy is typically required for each computer.

Hardware routers

Hardware routers are a good choice for home networks that will connect to the Internet.

Pros Cons
Hardware routers usually have at least four network ports to connect multiple computers together. Require wiring, which can clutter your desktop area.
Provide firewall protection for multiple computers.

Wireless routers

If you have or plan to use a wireless network, you need a wireless router.

Pros Cons
Wireless routers allow you to connect computers, portable computers, personal desk assistants, and printers without wiring. Wireless devices broadcast information using radio signals that can be intercepted by someone outside of your home (if they have the right equipment).
Wireless routers are excellent for connecting notebook computers to the Internet and networks. You might have to pay for extra equipment.
Not all wireless routers come equipped with a built-in firewall, so you might have to purchase one separately.

Start using a firewall today

Connecting to the Internet can pose dangers to unwary computer users. Use a firewall to help reduce your risk.

Installing a firewall is just the first step toward safe surfing online. You can continue to improve your computer’s security by keeping your software up to date, using antivirus software, and using antispyware software.

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One Response to “How to choose a firewall”


  1. my opinion is to choose a personal firewall integrated in an antivirus product. i had problems with the firewall from windows, it blocked a lot of programs, i had to disable it. i use bitdefender to protect my computer and i like it that i can personalize the firewall, i can change the access to the programs etc.


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