The best free firewalls you can get for Mac and PC

download best free firewalls for mac and pc header

Internet security is no joke, and one of the most common ways hackers and malicious software can get into your computer is through unsecured network ports. By using a firewall, you close or hide the open ports on your network, opening and using them only when needed and hopefully protecting traffic being both sent and received by your system.

It’s a delicate balance, because some firewalls don’t do enough to protect you and your information, while others close off too many ports, require a lot of user maintenance and cause problems with access to online games or streaming services. Depending on your operating system, you may already have a firewall installed that’s just waiting to be activated, but even if you do, you may want more protection from all the sketchy people and computers on the internet who want at your stuff, and we’ve got you covered.

Windows Firewall

Windows Firewall Settings

Windows has included a firewall with its operating system since XP, and it’s simple to use. The are a few main advantages of their software. If you’re running Windows 7 or newer, it’s already enabled by default the first time you boot up the computer. It’s easy to change settings based on profiles, which the firewall automatically recalls and applies each time you reconnect to a network. On the downside, although Windows Firewall closes your stealths ports from incoming traffic, it doesn’t always restrict outgoing traffic, especially if trusted programs have been infected with malware.

The program also allows you to block all incoming connections if you’re worried about security on a very public network, including trusted programs. While this setting shouldn’t interfere with internet browsing or email, it will prevent some programs that use other ports from being able to access the network and beyond. The built-in Windows firewall, for better or worse, can get a little overzealous when preventing applications from accessing the internet, but is a great place to start if you currently don’t have any protection.


TinyWall Notification Tray

TinyWall is a lightweight upgrade to the built-in Windows firewall, adding a more advanced controller and blocklist without adding a lot of new software or drivers to your system. The software shines in it’s non-intrusive operation. It has no popups that ask you to approve or block applications and ports, and instead utilizes a tray in the notification bar to alert you to security threats and current connections. From this menu you can blacklist or whitelist certain applications and ports that you want to close or use.

TinyWall also acts as an added layer of protection for Windows’ built in firewall, preventing malware and Trojan viruses from turning off or changing its parameters. The software is also able to automatically learn which applications use which ports and block abnormal connections in different ports, making it more effective the longer you’ve been using it. TinyWall fills a lot of the gaps left by the built-in Windows firewall while providing better protection and a cleaner user interface without weighing down your system.

TinyWall Settings

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall

A lot of users will appreciate the ease of use and lightweight design provided by the built-in firewall, but if you’re dealing with sensitive information or need a more robust defense system, ZoneAlarm is a solid option. This free firewall is unique in that it checks your connections in real-time against a database of millions of users, so it’s able to identify friendly from malicious applications as soon as it’s installed, as well as being able to protect against new threats without having to receive a definitions update from the distributor.

This firewall also includes a number of other security features, including download protection, a scan to check your Facebook for privacy compromises, and restriction of personal information and browsing data on a network level. While the basic firewall software is free, you’ll have to agree to install a toolbar and change the home page on your browser to install the program. ZoneAlarm also has an upgraded version of the program that adds 24/7 support over live chat, virus and spyware control software, and parental controls if you’ve got young ones you want to keep off the shadier areas of the internet.

ZoneAlarm Screenshot

Mac OS X Firewall

If you’re reading this from a computer running Mac OS X 10.5 or later, the built-in firewall is robust and somewhat customizable, and it just needs to be turned on under the security settings in System Preferences. There are a few different settings that offer different levels of protection, from blocking or setting all incoming connections to only permitting  connections from apps digitally signed by Apple or another certificate authorities. While not all applications fit into the category, individual programs can be white-listed or blacklisted accordingly, but a pop-up dialog will alert you when this happens so you can decide whether to allow it or not.

By using applications as the basis for blocking or not blocking connections, the firewall prevents malicious software from using common ports while still consistently allowing trusted programs to operate correctly. Generally, malware and viruses aren’t as prevalent on Mac OS X as they are on other operating systems, it’s still a good idea to protect your information and files with virus protection and a firewall.


Microsoft is ‘handing even more of online life’ to Google, Mozilla CEO says

Not everyone is happy with Microsoft's switch to Google's Chromium engine. In a new blog post, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard writes that he believes the move is "handing online life control" to Google.

How you can share your best gaming moments with friends on the PS4

Check out Digital Trends' quick guide to everything you need to know to save your outstanding PlayStation 4 gameplay moments, share them online, and transfer them to your computer.

These are the 5 best free antivirus apps to protect your MacBook

Malware protection is more important than ever, even if you eschew Windows in favor of Apple's desktop platform. Thankfully, protecting your machine is as easy as choosing from the best free antivirus apps for Mac suites.

Best free parental control software for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android

The internet can be a dangerous place, especially for your loved ones. Check out our selection of the best free parental control software for Windows and Mac OS X, so you can monitor your child and block unsavory sites.

Protect yourself from the latest malware with the best free antivirus software

Malware, spyware, and adware is never fun to find on your PC. Check out our picks for the best free antivirus software, so you can rid your system of any dangerous software that might be lurking around.

Changing file associations in Windows 10 is quick and easy with these steps

Learning how to change file associations can make editing certain file types much quicker than manually selecting your preferred application every time you open them. Just follow these short steps and you'll be on your way in no time.

New ‘Battlefield V’ patch gives Nvidia’s ray tracing support a chance to shine

‘Battlefield V’ is the first game to use Nvidia’s ray tracing support, now available with the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti graphics cards. The feature can, in an ideal scenario, make the game look better, but the performance hit may not be…

Intel's dedicated GPU is not far off -- here's what we know

Did you hear? Intel is working on a dedicated graphics card. It's called Arctic Sound and though we don't know a lot about it, we know that Intel has some ex-AMD Radeon graphics engineers developing it.

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, and it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

Looking for a budget notebook for school, work, or play? The best budget laptops, including our top pick -- the Asus ZenBook UX331UA -- will get the job done without digging too deeply into your pockets.

Vanquish lag for good with the best routers for gaming

Finding the best routers for gaming is no easy task. With so many out there, how do you know which to pick? We've looked at the many options available and put together a list of our lag-free favorites.