TinyWall: turns Windows’ firewall into a world-class, no-popup firewall

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Unlike Windows XP’s built-in firewall, Microsoft’s default firewall in Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 is generally competent and offers excellent protection.

Windows’ firewall gets a bad rap, however, partly because of the legacy of XP’s firewall, but also because it suffers from a few small issues, such as an insecure, one-way filtering configuration, the potential of being bypassed by other programs, and a generally unfriendly interface.

TinyWall is a free program that for Windows Vista and higher that can enhance and fix Windows’ firewall. It gives Windows’ firewall a secure configuration, prevents other programs from overriding it, and provides a simple, user friendly interface that makes it easy to work with.

TinyWall Screenshot1

The interface: TinyWall is accessed via it’s icon in the system tray, which although it contains a mere handful of options is quite adequate for all you need to do (see screenshot above).

Why I like this software:

  • All the Firewall you need: It transforms Windows’ default into everything you need in terms of firewall protection. It does this by automatically giving the Windows firewall a secure configuration. It also prevents would be malicious processes from changing the firewall settings.
  • The no-popup approach: In contrast to firewall programs that ask the user to constantly intervene and make decisions on processes that the user likely knows nothing about. No-popup, in English, means that the user will have to actively whitelist a process themselves. TinyWall makes it easy to do so, whereby you can activate ‘learning mode’, use the application you want for a few minutes, and TinyWall will whitelist it for you.
  • Can import/export settings: so that your settings are portable and/or can be easily imported after a clean install, etc.
  • The developer’s website: has a lot of information that is easily accessible and inspires confidence.
  • Autodetection: TinyWall can auto-detect and suggest apps for whitelisting, which is convenient (see screenshot below).

TinyWall Screenshot2

  • No adverse performance impact: the developer goes to some lengths explaining why this is so, and how, because it uses MS .NET Framework, it looks like it is consuming memory when that is not the case. Note that TinyWall does not install drivers or kernel-components of its own.

The verdict: I have done away with popup based firewalls a long time ago, but always had a lingering question as to whether Windows firewall offers adequate protection; with TinyWall I feel a lot more secure, knowing that the vulnerabilities of Windows firewall are taken care of.

Note on this review: we did not put TinyWall to a scientific test, comparing its performance vs. that of Windows firewall on it’s own for example, because obviously we do not have access to any malware that could do this. But we like TinyWall all the same.

Version tested: 2.0

Compatibility: Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 (32 bit and 64 bit) Requires MS .NET Framework 4.0.

Go to the developer’s home page to download the latest version (~0.98 megs).


 
 
 
  • Fred Thompson

    I’ve used TinyWall 2.0 beta and Windows Firewall Notifier 1.7.0 (http://wokhan.online.fr/progs.php?sec=WFN)quite a bit. Comodo became too much of a hassle and the Win7 firewall IS very good, just not as user-friendly as I would prefer. The biggest challenge with TinyWall is the lack of a learning mode so initial setup can be frustrating. Some programs use custom services which are not easily detected. For example, the WebShots app uses AG services (American Greetings.) OK, fine, but you need to know the service must be allowed to go to the web before you can whitelist it. Windows Firewall Notifier has a pop-up notification which helps you set rules for Win7 firewall and you can disable those pop-ups. It is NOT memory-resident. When it is first started, it adds hooks so it will only run when there is a blocked connection and IF you have pop-ups enabled.Win7 firewall can export/import rules but cannot MERGE rules. You can use Windows Firewall Notifier to help create a baseline set of rules in Win7 firewall which you then export. This is one way to get more function from TinyWall. Is one better than the other? Hard to say. They are both “hardeners” for Win7 firewall.

  • Toni

    Interesting. I never knew that Windows 7 firewall is so much better than the one from XP!

  • Thanks for reviewing this product. What I like about it, compared to some similar apps, is that it works under a standard user account as well while still being able to provide a easy way to manage the Windows Firewall.

  • pd

    So XP has a shit firewall, but this program isn’t available on XP? Brilliant! Guess what OS I’m still gleefully happy using? LOL

  • Happy

    It might sound heretical, but since I dumped my software firewall and relied upon an antivirus and my router/hardware firewall, my computing life has been much better. The problem I had with Tiny Firewall is that, by blocking everything but that which is explicitly excepted, I was continually tracking down problems. The program’s autodetect was of little help and the program just wasn’t worth the hassle.

    I’ve been software-firewall free for 2 years and have never had a problem. Call me reckless, perhaps, but it works for me and it will likely work for you as well.

  • boris

    Think twice before installing. I could not uninstall it in any other way than doing system restore. Also GUI crashes quite often.

  • dramu

    Fred: TinyWall 2 does have an automatic learning feature.

    boris: Did you maybe use TinyWall 1? Version 1 had a special way to uninstall, but the current version can easily be uninstalled from the Control Panel like a normal program.

  • Fred Thompson

    I’ve changed my opinion and moved from Windows Firewall Notifier to TinyWall 2.0 because the autolearn works pretty well now. It still misses some things which is to be expected. The autolearn in 2.0beta wasn’t great. 2.0beta also had the goofy “hidden” uninstall. I noticed TinyWall 2.0 wiped out all the custom Windows Firewall filters I’d made. That’s not really a big deal but it was a surprise. FWIW, the default to block everything is a huge help as long as autolearning works for most processes. @Happy’s comments mirror my experience with TinyWall 1 and 2.0beta. 2.0 is a different beast. I also really like the way it seems to properly handle svchost. TinyWall uses about 61K which isn’t that bad and the author says the use is actually less because .NET components get counted twice. Gad, that’s more memory than an Atari just to police outgoing traffic…

  • dramu

    I don’t know where you’ve seen 61K, that would certainly be a wonder. According to my measurements on a 32bit Windows with Process Explorer, I estimate the maximum memory usage of TinyWall (both processes in sum) to be around 40MB, including the .Net stuff.

  • jfjb

    Hello, Samer,
    I see you’ve updated the livingroom of the Says family; nice decor matching the quality of your research-testings!
    Back tot the topic at hand.

    In the past millenium, I’ve used Norton, ZoneAlarm, Comodo, etc… dumping one after the othe, for they had turned into mammoth gargantuesque memory hungry slugs. For years now, I’ve been very satisfied by the footprint, ease of use, and functionality of the free PrivateFirewall application — good for Windows XP and up.
    http://www.privacyware.com/personal_firewall_2.html
    My two-cents.

    jfjb

    PS. Here we go again to submit comment… (today from Ubuntu Firefox) Oh well.

    • Samer

      @ jfjb: thanks for the compliment about the new ‘decor’ (and sorry about the late response).
      I just downloaded this ‘privatefirewall’ and will test!

  • The importance of the firewall on a computer cannot be overemphasized. The choice must be done with great diligence so that all these malware, spyware and viruses are kept from infecting the computer.

  • wicuy

    I’ve been using both privatefirewall and tinywall with my pc and laptop for about 7 months now. I now about tinywall from this blog. And I must say that privatefirewall is a breeze of use. Yes it has pop-up, but I love those pop-up since I have more control over what is allowed what is not. And the pop-ups only happens once, after that the program will remember. The user interface need more design but it perfectly make sense and easy to use.
    Tinywall on the other hand keep silence and blocked a lot of my connections. One of the app frequently blocked are flashplayer. Yahoo mail -before- used flash player to upload attachments. Everytime times it updates I need to re adjust the rules. Some time to make a certain app that has chain executable file connecting to internet is very very very very confusing because you need to know exactly where the executable file located. Tinywall is a silence-drive-you-mad-if-not-loose-your-hair firewall.
    I’m not related to privatefirewall developer, I repeat NOT RELATED at all!!! this is an objective and pure opinion of 7 moths user of both firewalls. Anyone who use both firewalls will definitely feel as I do.

  • wicuy

    Ohh I forgot to mention. I hate tinywall auto-learn feature. It just stupid and high risk. What if when in auto-learn mode your computer happens to have some kind of trojan/malware and try to connect to the internet. After that the malware will always have free access to the web.
    Pop-ups just make more sense and give you more control and security

    • CrHasher

      Auto learn feature is usefull for me on a work computer,
      where I don’t have the luxury of enabling normal protection mode. So usually I
      set TinyWall to auto-learn and allow all traffic and then when I switch the
      feature off I can see a list of applications that connected to the internet (this way I can check
      network activity and find fishy programs). On the other hand before locking my computer
      I block all traffic and this is the only time the firewall is actually active.
      This is my use-case. If you hate auto-learn feature than don’t use it.

  • Edwin Barton

    After reading this review I decided to give TinyWall a try. Sadly it was essentially unusable for me. If I was lucky it would successfully load on startup about 3 out 10 times (it always showed up in the task manager, but rarely did the tray icon ever show up to allow me to actually use TinyWall). Additionally it caused my computer to often lag incredibly to the point where it would take several minutes for something as simple as Explorer to load (not Internet Explorer). And many times I would have to just manually power down my system with the power button on the front of the unit as TinyWall’s half loaded (or whatever the hell it was doing) process would freeze my system. As if those problems weren’t bad enough frequently when it did start successfully it would forget all of the apps I had already configured to allow through, the ‘Manage’ screen listing the applications that had been configured would be blank and I would have to start all over again.