ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057 - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall

CNET Editors' review

The bottom line: ZoneAlarm Firewall Free 9.2 has gotten quieter and more effective, and should be considered an excellent tool for replacing the adequate default Windows firewall with a stronger option that includes better outbound protection, antiphishing guards, and ZoneAlarm's behavioral detection network.

The changes made to improve the default firewall in Windows 7 are impressive, but the newest version of the free ZoneAlarm Firewall argues that Microsoft still has a long way to go. ZoneAlarm 9.2 introduces multiple new features to one of the world's oldest computer security programs including quieter outbound protection, behavioral detection from the ZoneAlarm Internet security suite, automatic Wi-Fi security setting activation, antiphishing protection, an overhauled ZoneAlarm toolbar, and 2GB of online storage for free.

Installation

Program installation was largely a smooth experience, taking about 5 minutes. Users will have to reboot their computers after its done. Prior users of ZoneAlarm's paid security suites might encounter some odd behavior if the uninstallation process of one of those programs left remnants, but this should be the rare exception and not the rule.

ZoneAlarm, outbound guardian

Interface

ZoneAlarm has unified its security interfaces, so users familiar with one program won't see dramatic changes in another. The left side contains navigation links; the center window is where all the action happens. As noted in the review of ZoneAlarm Extreme Security, it's not a bad design but it doesn't pop visually. The text links can be hard to read because of font choice, and although the center buttons are big, the details within could be easier to read.

Features and support

Designed to be used in conjunction with an antivirus program, the strongest tool in ZoneAlarm's belt is the outbound firewall. Though Windows does offer some outbound protection, it's not activated by default. Most users tend to leave it off because they either don't know about it, or when they do turn it on it regularly interrupts their workflow with pop-up security warnings. Older versions of ZoneAlarm used to be noisy with pop-ups as well, but the new version has been set to be quieter without changing the level of protection. If you prefer, this can be changed in the program settings.

During a half-day of testing the default ZoneAlarm Firewall settings, the only pop-ups encountered were those blocking new software installations. The pop-ups for the three programs tested went away and allowed the installation to proceed with one click. More than just a low rate of interference, only encountering pop-ups for program installations is precisely the kind of warning that keeps you aware of what's occurring on your computer without distracting you simply for surfing the Web.

The benefits of an outbound firewall might not be readily apparent. An inbound firewall blocks threats coming in from the outside, but an outbound firewall does more than prevent your computer from spreading viruses and malware to others. If your computer has been compromised by a botnet, for example, outbound protection will stop it from sending your data back to its host servers. It can also stop program spoofing, which is when a malicious program pretends to be a good one, and IP spoofing, which is when harmful network transmissions dress up as safe ones.

This update includes DefenseNet, ZoneAlarm's behavioral detection system of anonymously contributed data that's used to verify and block threats. Previously, it had only been present in ZoneAlarm's antivirus programs. You can opt out from it when you install, but contributing doesn't negatively affect your system's performance.

The main window of ZoneAlarm Firewall Free.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

The ZoneAlarm toolbar has also been given more than a simple spit-shine. You can opt out of installing it when you run the main installer, and install it later if you wish, but ZoneAlarm was quick to point out that it without it key security features are not activated. Hiding the toolbar after it's been installed won't disable its protections, which include the aforementioned signature and heuristic-based antiphishing protections.

It also adds a site check option that can be used to reveal the date founded and physical location of the site and has customizable safe site buttons for launching regularly visited sites such as Facebook or your banking site. The e-mail checker built into the toolbar is compatible with Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, RR, Univision, and POP3 accounts. Unfortunately, there's no IMAP support. Finally, the toolbar links to ZoneAlarm's free 2GB of online backup space, courtesy IDrive, and six months free identity theft protection from IdentityGuard.

One of the more annoying limitations of the toolbar is that it only works with Firefox and Internet Explorer, even though Chrome has supported extensions for a year. Given the instability that toolbars contribute to IE, and the clutter that they add to the browser interface, ZoneAlarm would probably get more mileage out of the feature if it was reduced to a single button that opened a new window or expanded a set of buttons.

ZoneAlarm's toolbar revamp includes new, useful features, but it's still a toolbar.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

The Help link in the bottom left of the interface only links to the program's Help file. The only in-program access to the online help Web site, in the form of the free knowledge base and forums or paid telephone support during business hours, comes as a link under the Product Info sub-option under Overview on the left nav.

Performance

ZoneAlarm's performance was notable simply for how unnoticeable it was. Shutdown time did not appear to be affected at all, and neither did starting up cold nor rebooting. Changing the antivirus program that it was partnered with didn't affect the firewall's behavior, either. These are big changes from previous versions of ZoneAlarm, and obviously, they're welcome ones, too.

Conclusion

This update of ZoneAlarm Firewall Free should make people do a double-take because of the features and low interference level from the program. It also should do wonders for ZoneAlarm's reputation, but that has more to do with whether years of substandard updates can be erased by a firewall that is the strong, silent type that users need.

Zonealarm Free Firewall - Protect your PC from online threats - Download Video Previews:

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All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    3.4 stars

    out of 3,448 votes

    • 5 star: 1296
    • 4 star: 744
    • 3 star: 311
    • 2 star: 287
    • 1 star: 809
  • Current version:

    3.1 stars

    out of 139 votes

    • 5 star: 41
    • 4 star: 29
    • 3 star: 18
    • 2 star: 11
    • 1 star: 39
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-10 of 139

  • 1.0 stars

    "KILLS YOUR PC"

    June 21, 2011  |   By maebea

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    quick security

    Cons

    i got a massive virus off this app and it destroyed my computer luckily i had Microsoft security essentials and it DE-bugged my PC but if it wasn't for Microsoft i wouldn't have a PC

    Summary

    DO NOT DOWNLOAD THIS APP

    Reply to this review

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  • 4.0 stars

    "nice product"

    December 10, 2010  |   By gunnerb47

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    I like the fact that it cleans and defrags. For free one cannot complain much

    Cons

    pretty slow and really eats the memory on older computers.

    Summary

    The price is right free, even though it is slow I use it on an older machine that I can just walk away and let it do its thing.
    If i was to use it on my new computer I would most likely use the paid version with hopes that it works much faster then the free version. Something that I would need to verify prior to purchase.'

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  • 3.0 stars

    "replaced it with avasti"

    November 14, 2010  |   By peteschulte

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    used it for years with good results. Easy to use

    Cons

    Got an unstable pc from an unknown cause. When I looked up my error message online, I saw it attributed to Zone Alarm.

    Summary

    I don't like an unstable pc, though I'm not sure ZA was the cause. Avasti works more seemlessly and notifies me when it updates or blocks something.

    Reply to this review

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Very easy to use and you cannot beat the proce"

    October 28, 2010  |   By kbettis01

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    Ease of use and installation

    Cons

    No major complaints

    Summary

    I am using this for a netbook that I use at work while attending meetings. Zonealarm works just fine.

    Reply to this review

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  • 5.0 stars

    "great download"

    October 9, 2010  |   By Stonegrove

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    Everything I love it

    Cons

    I love it all

    Summary

    Works great very smooth

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  • 2.0 stars

    "TOOLBARS MAKE ME VERY ANGRY!"

    October 5, 2010  |   By dougawlings

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    So what, it's another firewall. They all work pretty much the same way. I tried this because the so-called "knowledgeable" editors gave it a 5-star rating. That'll teach me.

    Cons

    It installs a toolbar on your browser, and does it the sneaky way. Very not cool. IF I WANT A TOOLBAR, I"LL GO GET ONE! KEEP YOUR CRAP TO YOURSELVES!

    Summary

    Firewalls come and go. They're not all that sophisticated. 5 out of 10 for doing what it should, 2 out of 10 for sneaking a toolbar onto my browser. Thanks for crapping up my system. Oh, and thanks for the browser highjack too.

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  • 2.0 stars

    "Comodo if far better than this"

    September 30, 2010  |   By skykris_10

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    Comodo if far better than this!

    Cons

    Comodo if far better than this!

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  • 5.0 stars

    "perfect firewall"

    September 29, 2010  |   By cbsdavid

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    works as advertised

    Cons

    none that i can say

    Summary

    does exactly what it's supposed to

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Excellent software"

    September 29, 2010  |   By samahita--2008

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    Does the job completely and silently. Simple.

    Cons

    Customization is limited.

    Summary

    Excellent software. Best free firewall IMHO.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Great Product - I also have the 'Extreme Security' AV."

    September 20, 2010  |   By TheRealKrisJay

    Version: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2.057

    Pros

    - Works Like A Charm.
    - Operates On My AMD 64 Vision Dual Processor Laptop, Running Windows 7
    - No Slowing Down My Computer.
    - If You're an MTS Internet Customer You Can Get Their 'Extreme Security' For FREE (reg 70$). Just Go To The MTS.ca Website!

    Cons

    - Can't have any traces of Past Firewall or Antivirus Programs Installed. If you do, it might give you the BSOD.

    Summary

    To sum it up, the firewall product is great, but to really take advantage of ZoneAlarms's Product Ability, you need to grab their full protection (antivirus/firewall/etc) called 'Extreme Security'.

    PS - I don't work for ZA, I just think it's a great product when used correctly.
    ie: not relying on other antivirus/firewall programs, just ZA.

    Updated on Sep 20, 2010

    One Other Thing, Don't Install the Toolbar, or Any Toolbar at that. Don't matter the company or reputation they have. Any and ALL toolbars will slowdown or screw up your comp.

    Reply to this review

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Results 1-10 of 139

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