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Improve the Windows Firewall with TinyWall

Add control, security, and flexibility to the built-in Windows Firewall with this compact freeware.

With so many free firewalls to choose from, products need to stand out in some way. TinyWall emphasizes simplicity, flexibility, and unobtrusiveness. This free firewall is designed to harden and add more control to the existing firewall in Windows 7 and Vista. Instead of constantly hitting you with pop-ups asking you to allow or deny access to a program or Internet address, TinyWall lets you quickly add allowed sites to your white list in several ways. For example, you can use a hot key and click any open window to add that app to your white list, or you can select applications from a list of running processes. Like the Windows Firewall it's based on, TinyWall works with other firewalls in place, too.

As with most firewalls, TinyWall's system tray icon accesses the program's main menu, features, and options. TinyWall starts in Normal Mode and allowing Private Zone access. From the menu, we could change the mode to block everything, allow outgoing traffic, and enable an autolearning feature. TinyWall offers three hot-key shortcuts for whitelisting programs: by executable, by process, and by window. We could also click Elevate, Show Connections, Enable Blocklists, Unblock LAN Traffic, and initiate other operations from TinyWall's system tray menu. Clicking Manage opened a tabbed dialog that let us add, remove, and edit exceptions, including special exceptions, change the password or interface language, import and export settings, and many other maintenance operations. TinyWall updates automatically, too, and notifies you when settings have been changed or updated. TinyWall's hot-key-based method works well, and we certainly didn't miss having to click two (or three) pop-ups in a row. Whining about PC security is courting trouble, but TinyWall lets you manage your firewall settings and permissions quickly and easily without the nagging.

Microsoft packed a pretty good firewall into Vista and Win7, but it's got some shortcomings, such as a clunky interface, not to mention the fact that it's too easily disabled by many apps. TinyWall by and large addresses these shortcomings. We like it. It takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, TinyWall's advantages become clear.

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