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.
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).
- 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).