Is ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010 The Best Firewall For You?

imageI’m always surprised when I get asked “The Firewall” question – why do I need one? The answer is always the same – a Firewall, either Hardware or Software, is designed to block unauthorized access to your computer from the Internet, at the same time permitting protected authorized communications – provided it includes outbound protection.

Most casual users that I come into contact with believe that Firewalls need to be expensive to ensure that they get the job none. But, that’s not always the case. ZoneAlarm, for example, is a very robust, uncomplicated, free Firewall, which is non- intrusive, and very appropriate for casual computer users – and gets the job done.

ZoneAlarm Free (last updated November 23rd, 2010), was the first Firewall I installed on a personal system, and that was back in the early days of Internet connectivity – 1996. After all these years, ZoneAlarm Free continues to be my all time favorite free Firewall.

Here’s why:

In my 14 years of experience with ZoneAlarm Free, never once has it let me down.

It’s the least intrusive free Firewall that I’m aware of – Firewalls that demand attention every 5 minutes drive me crazy!

It provides strong inbound intrusion detection, coupled with strong outbound protection. Outbound protection is an absolute “must have” today, since the botnet threat continues to escalate. ZoneAlarm will prohibit botnet connections.

ZoneAlarm’s “stealth mode” keeps my computer invisible on the Internet. If I can’t be seen by cybercriminals, my risk exposure is reduced substantially.

ZoneAlarm Free continuously monitors Internet activity through its True Vector Internet Monitor, and notifies me with an alert if it detects an unsafe, or disallowed activity.

Fast facts:

  • DefenseNet – Leverages real-time threat data from community of millions of users to detect and block the latest attacks.
  • Inbound Firewall Protection – Stops hackers and other intrusions by making your PC invisible online.
  • Outbound Firewall Protection – Blocks spyware, botnets, and other malware from sending your personal data out to the Internet.
  • Quiet and Automatic – Runs in the background, un-noticed and out of the way, with rare alerts.
  • Anti-phishing and Site Check – Toolbar blocks fraudulent websites including those that trick you into entering personal data.
  • Identity Guard – Provides credit scores and recovery services to secure your identity online and offline.
  • Works with all Antivirus – Compatible with antivirus software, such as AVG and Norton Antivirus.

What you need to know:

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The program settings screen is definitely new user friendly, as the following graphic illustrates.

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The graphic below illustrates  a security popup since a new application is seeking first time access to the Internet. Users have the opportunity to allow, disallow, and with a checkbox tick, have ZoneAlarm automatically remember the response.

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The activity log can be particularly valuable for more experienced users.

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ZoneAlarm’s default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for less experience users particularly – and despite the hype put out by media, most computer user can be classified as having limited system experience.

Experienced users on the other hand, can tinker to their hearts content, customizing and tweaking the application to meet their specific requirements.

If you are a casual computer user, ZoneAlarm Free is definitely worth considering as a new Firewall installation, or as a replacement for a current Firewall that is not meeting your expectations.

The following graphic illustrates ZoneAlarm’s protection details, on one of my systems, over a 60 day period.

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System Requirements: Windows 7 (32-bit/64-bit ), Vista, XP SP2 or SP3.

Download at: the developer’s site (Check Point Software).

Note: Test your existing Firewall at Steve Gibson’s site – ShieldsUP! If your current Firewall is not in stealth mode (this test will confirm it), and if it can’t be forced into stealth mode, then you should consider changing your Firewall application.

Note: If you are currently running Windows Firewall, then installation and setup is a breeze since you have the opportunity to turn off this Firewall. On the other hand, if you are running another Firewall, it’s important that you uninstall
this application (use the applications built-in uninstaller), before installing ZoneAlarm Free. I mention this as a precaution only, since it’s as likely that you won’t encounter any difficulties. But……..

If your current Firewall does not include a built-in uninstaller, then use Revo Uninstaller which will delete the application including the applicable Registry entries.

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17 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Firewalls, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Protection, Online Safety, Software, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

17 responses to “Is ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010 The Best Firewall For You?

  1. Jose

    Hi Bill.
    I agree that you should use a thirth party FW.
    But , considering what’s on offer (Outpost, Kasperky, Norton, Online Solutions, Comodo, Online Armor, PC Tools, etc…) you should take your time to choose (it will take time).
    On my opinion Zone Alarm it’s not the best of options.

    Regards,
    Jose.

    • Hi Jose,

      After having tested the following FWs on average users’ machines over the last 8 months – the following are the weighted results directly from 40 average users:

      Comodo – far too complex, too many warnings (my own experience has been OK).

      PC Tools – more complicated than it needs to be (although, my own experience with this FW has been very good).

      Online Armour – too many pop-ups (not an unusual comment with respect to this FW from average users. For an experienced user, probably the best FW, in my view.

      Zone Alarm is specifically targeted toward an average user (the user who is most often ignored by technology enthusiasts). With 50 Million downloads at CNET alone, versus 1.8 Million for the next closest competitor, ZoneAlarm Free has more than established a market presence. In part, I think, because the developers recognize that average users don’t have the time, the patience, or the knowledge to choose a more complex solution.

      Ideally, perhaps this shouldn’t be the case, but it is the reality.

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    Absolutely spot on advice, ZA is the best. It has stood the test of time, it’s easy to use, and I’ve been using it for about 11 years now, so I know it inside out. I wouldn’t have anything else.
    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      As you say “it’s easy to use”. FWs that require heavy average user interaction are really self-defeating since users are often tempted to remove them to avoid frustration. We know only too well where that leads.

      Better (for an average user), to have an opportunity to install an easy to understand FW, which may not have all the bells and whistles of some others, but on balance provides very good security.

      Like you, I’ve been using ZA for a very long time, and I have yet to experience a penetration. It’s difficult to just disregard that fact, and dismiss ZA as a pretender.

      Best,

      Bill

  3. SS

    FireAlarm is a good firewall but they really goofed up with their marketing tactic few months ago,upgrade to pro since the free version won’t protect against Zeus and
    likes :(

    In free I find Private firewall as extremely good,which has stood the test of time and it has been constantly updated by its developers.I strongly suggest you give it a try as it supports all version of Windows with both 32-bit and 64-bit arch.
    systems :)

    In paid I find these three below very very satisfying and promising indeed,not that difficult for new users to figure out.

    1.DefenceWall HIPS[simply brilliant on a clean system only].

    2.Look n Stop.[Pure F/W:-no HIPS,sandbox,behavior blocker,etc.,etc.]

    3.Outpost F/W Pro[though needs a little configuration].

    Regards

    • Hey SS,

      Great to have your input on this. Thanks for putting together a great list of FWs.

      I’ve heard some good things about Privatefirewall – gotta give that a try.

      Bill

  4. Rob

    As you, I’ve been using ZA since the creation of time. In fact, I have a stash of free software I load onto user’s systems when I work on them. ZA is one of them and the first software package I load on their system. I have found up to 448 cases of malware on one system and attempt to explain to my clients the importance of using all of the freeware I load for them. Few follow the advice… at least ZA works for them whether they are concerned or not.
    Rob

  5. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    I’ve been using ZoneAlarm Pro for quite a while now and find it suits my needs. As you suggested a visit to Shields Up! will confirm how effective or otherwise your firewall is and if, like me, you are keen to learn, there is a wealth of information presented in a manner that is easy to understand.
    Simples!

    Kind regards

    John

    • Hi John,

      I knew that you are a ZoneAlarm Pro user, and I though you might comment. I’m glad you did – there’s nothing quite as powerful as a users personal experience – especially a high level user like you.

      Best,

      Bill

  6. ToGor

    Zone Alarm it’s not the best.
    Regards

  7. ZA + MSE + SuperAntiSpyware = a robust trifecta of protection for me. I have had excellent performance from all of those with very few hassles. Thank you, Bill, for the reminder that ZA is still one of the best freeware security solutions.

  8. I do use this software for a year, and i found no problem, very recommended for you

  9. bokawel

    thanks bill. i have not used this before, been a pctools firewall user for a while. but if anything that can better that i will give them a try. one thing though, with MSE i often have issues with updates thus i stayed away sticking to avast. has ms fixed this issue yet?