Understanding Windows Firewall

by Barry Dysert
(last updated May 21, 2018)

The Windows Firewall is a software subsystem that can protect your computer from attacks coming from hackers on the Internet. It can be set up to allow only certain inbound connections and/or only certain outbound connections. In this way, a rogue user outside of your firewall cannot get at your computer, but you will still be able to access the Internet from behind your firewall.

While Windows 7 and 8 refer to this subsystem as Windows Firewall, Microsoft changed the name slightly in Windows 10 to Windows Defender Firewall. For the sake of simplicity, in this tip I refer to this feature as Windows Firewall. (So, if you are using Windows 10, understand that all references to Windows Firewall also apply to Windows Defender Firewall.)

By default, in Windows 7, 8, and 10, Windows Firewall is turned on. You can, however, turn it off or modify its settings. To turn off Windows Firewall, go to Start | Control Panel | Windows Firewall. In Windows 10 go to Control Panel | System and Security | Windows Defender Firewall. Alternatively, in Windows 10 you use the Search box, enter Windows Defender Firewall, and then press Enter.

Whichever method or version of Windows you use, Windows will display the Windows Firewall portion of the Control Panel. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Windows Firewall portion of the Control Panel.

Click the Turn Windows Firewall On or Off link in the left pane. Windows displays a screen that allows you to customize the Windows Firewall settings. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Customizing the Windows Firewall.

From here you can click the radio buttons to turn off the firewall for each type of network location (domain, private, and public).

In reality, the only reason to turn off Windows Firewall is if you are having a problem using one of your programs with it activated. Instead of turning off all the firewall protection, however, you can simply instruct Windows Firewall to allow your program to work through the firewall. Follow the steps above to start Windows Firewall. Again, the Windows Firewall portion of the Control Panel appears. Click the link in the left pane that says, “Allow a Program or Feature through Windows Firewall.” Windows displays a screen that shows the programs that can work through the firewall. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. Allowing programs to work through Windows Firewall.

If a box is checked, it means the program is allowed through the firewall; unchecked means the program is not allowed through. Just as you can turn the firewall on and off for each type of network location, so to can you allow or disallow programs for each type of network location.

If the program you want to allow through is not listed, click the Allow Another App button, which brings up a screen that allows you to select the desired program. If you want to remove a program from the list, select the program and click the Remove button.

As we've discussed, Windows Firewall can help protect your computer from attacks coming from hackers. Because of this added protection it is always recommended to leave Windows Firewall running.

 This tip (10109) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 35 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer. He is currently a software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. When not working with Windows or writing Tips, Barry is an amateur writer. His first non-fiction book is titled "A Chronological Commentary of Revelation." ...

MORE FROM BARRY

Changing How Tasks Appear on the Taskbar

The Windows Taskbar is much more robust than it was in previous versions of the operating system. One of its many ...

Discover More

Deleting a Saved Search

Windows Explorer has a good search utility built into it. As you use it, you may wish to delete a previously saved search ...

Discover More

Using the Event Viewer to Examine Remote Event Logs

Assuming you have proper access to remote computers, you can examine their event logs from your system without much ...

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Turning Off Window Drop-Shadows

Windows adds its own bells and whistles to what you see on your desktop. One of those flourishes is a drop-shadow added ...

Discover More

Organizing the All Programs Menu

All of the programs installed on your system are visible when you choose All Programs from the Start menu. If you want to ...

Discover More

Listening with One Ear

If you use a single speaker to listen to your computer audio, you may be missing out on some sounds. Two quick changes to ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 7 + 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.