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Best firewall of 2022: top paid and free services

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
representational image of a cloud firewall
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Our pick of the best firewall services around will help protect you against malware infection by preventing unauthorized programs from accessing the internet.

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Trojans could open up ports on user PCs to secretly send data, and sniffers could look for vulnerabilities in your network connection that would allow it to be exploited.

Even though developments in antivirus (opens in new tab) and malware (opens in new tab) technology have improved significantly over that time, the best firewall services remain a recommended requirement for all PC users as the risks have evolved rather than stopped entirely. 

While any good antivirus program can prevent obviously malicious activity on your PC, sometimes software and apps can abuse their permissions to create unauthorized network connections, which could be exploited to collect user data from your computer.

This is where the best firewall tools really come into their own, insisting that the software on your PC has your express permission to connect online, while also keeping remote attacks blocked.

While some of the best firewall services are provided as standalone products, others come as part of an internet security suite from antivirus companies which can offer a wide range of additional protections. Business users can also enjoy the protection of cloud firewalls (opens in new tab).

For Linux users, we've featured the best free Linux firewalls (opens in new tab) and the best Linux firewall distro (opens in new tab).

In the meantime, here we'll showcase the best firewall protection for your computer, covering the best paid firewall protection platforms first, followed by the best free firewalls (opens in new tab).

And if you need that extra boost, we've also featured the best endpoint protection software (opens in new tab).

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

1. Bitdefender Total Security

Best for all round security with firewall protection

Reasons to buy

+
High-end firewall protection
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Anti-ransomware protection included
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Microphone safeguarding
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Up to 5 devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Some alternatives offer more for your money

Bitdefender Total Security (opens in new tab) is a powerful internet security suite that offers a firewall among a range of featured security protections. There's also anti-virus protection, but its multi-layered malware protection also protects against ransomware (opens in new tab).

Other features include anti-phishing, anti-fraud, and anti-theft options, as well as a performance optimizer. A wide range of privacy protection options include anti-tracking, file encryption, and shredder, parental controls, as well as protection for microphones to prevent them from being used by a third party., 

Bitdefender Total Security isn't just for protecting Windows users either, but can also be used to protect against attacks on Android (opens in new tab), macOS, and iOS as well. Even better, a single product license allows you to use the software on up to 5 different devices, so you can use Bitdefender Total Security for your home PC as well as smartphone (opens in new tab).

Overall, Bitdefender Total Security pretty much does what its name suggests, offering a very wide range of security protections that goes beyond just a firewall. However, pricing is very reasonable, making it cheap and easy to get peace of mind.

Full review: Bitdefender Total Security (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Avast)

2. Avast Premium Security

Best multi-device firewall option

Reasons to buy

+
Firewall protection for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android devices
+
Anti-ransomware tools included
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Up to 10 devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Annoying ads

Avast Premium Security (opens in new tab) is another paid-for full-featured internet security suite that comes in two main forms: single PC use, or up to 10 devices including macOS, iOS, and Android.

As with Bitdefender, this means that you can protect both a home PC as well as mobile devices. However, because there's an option to protect up to 10 devices it means you can use a single license to protect the family as well.

As well as a firewall for all devices, Avast Premium Security also protects anti-ransomware protection, file encryption, and file shredder options. There are also anti-phishing and anti-fraud protections for safer online banking, and there's also protection against your webcam being hacked by a third party.

Overall, Avast Premium Security is another solid and reliable internet security suite, but one thing that does let it down is the constant pop-up ads pushing on cross-sell for PC tune-up and other software.

Full review: Avast Premium Security (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Norton)

3. Norton 360 Premium

Best multi-feature firewall protection option

Reasons to buy

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Smart firewall tools
+
Secure VPN included
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Dark Web monitoring
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Password manager included
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Online backup services bundled in

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive price compared to some competitors

Norton 360 Premium (opens in new tab) offers an even richer and more feature-packed internet security suite than just providing a firewall. While it provides antivirus and standard anti-malware protections like the above internet security suites it dares to go further.

Additional features in the Norton 360 Premium include a secure VPN, parental controls, a password manager, and online cloud backup. There's also a feature for dark web monitoring so you can be alerted if any of your details appear for sale on the Dark Web.

This all comes at a more expensive price than the other internet security suites featured here, but the additional features and peace of mind are likely to be worth it for some people.

If you want to add identity protection you can upgrade to Norton 360 Premium with Lifelock Select, which provides additional identity protection and credit rating monitoring as well as insurance provision in the event that your personal information is misused.


Full review: Norton 360 Deluxe (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Panda Security)

4. Panda Dome Essential

Best value firewall and internet security solution

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of features
+
Can cover unlimited devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Interface won't be for everybody

Firewall, real-time malware detection, speedy cloud-based scanning, URL filtering to block malicious websites: Panda Dome Essential (opens in new tab) antivirus has all the essentials – not to mention, the goodies – you'd expect from the best antivirus software.

And, that's just the beginning. Panda Dome is brimming with added extras that some of the other plans on this list can’t match – from port scanning and ping handling to in-depth process monitoring and an integrated VPN.

The interface will be a little bit decisive, too. With so many weird and wonderful features included, Panda Dome does a very capable job of making sure that they can all be accessed and you can go as in-depth as you need. However, on the other hand, this might put off users who just want a quiet, simple antivirus package.

One undoubted advantage here is the price - Panda Dome Essential is one of the best value programs out there. And, you even have the option of paying a little more and upgrading to cover an unlimited number of laptops, phones, tablets, and desktops with a single subscription.

Full review: Panda Dome Essential (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Webroot)

5. Webroot AntiVirus

Best lightweight internet security option

Reasons to buy

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Extremely light on system resources
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Lightning fast speeds

Reasons to avoid

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No testing data from the top labs

Just about every antivirus tool claims to be ‘lightweight’, but Webroot AntiVirus (opens in new tab) is really the only one to deliver on this front. Installation takes seconds, the program files barely use 2MB of your hard drive, the RAM footprint is tiny, and there are no bulky signature updates to tie up your bandwidth.

Considering this, there's no compromise on features, which makes it all the more impressive. Along with the core protection, there's smart behavior monitoring, accurate real-time anti-phishing, network connection monitor, enhanced anti-ransomware, and of course firewall protection.

It's not easy to compare Webroot's accuracy with the competition, as the big testing labs rarely evaluate the company's products. However, when they are reviewed, they generally score high, and our own tests show solid and reliable protection.

There's a lot to love about Webroot AntiVirus, and the 70-day 100% money-back guarantee suggests the company is confident in the product as well. If you're sick of overly complex and bloated engines, Webroot is a worthy contender for you.

Best free firewall

(Image credit: ZoneAlarm)

1. ZoneAlarm

The best free firewall

Reasons to buy

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Easy to use interface
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Great antivirus engine

Reasons to avoid

-
Best features are paid-for

ZoneAlarm (opens in new tab) has been one of the most popular firewall solutions for more than 20 years and has been downloaded more than 20 million times.

ZoneAlarm comes in both Free and Pro versions. The former has ads and lacks several features, including expert rules, 24/7 support, component control, and other advanced settings. What it will do is identify potentially unsafe traffic, hide open ports, and disable malicious programs.

It also features a two-way firewall that monitors traffic coming into and going out of your network, makes your PC invisible to hackers, and stops spyware from broadcasting your personal data. Furthermore, early boot protection will protect your computer from being booted from a dangerous rootkit aimed at taking over your PC.

ZoneAlarm also includes anti-phishing scanning of URLs to make sure you don’t enter your personal information on websites identified as being security threats. And it will remove malicious code from any files you download.

(Image credit: GlassWire)

2. GlassWire

Best designed free solution

Reasons to buy

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Stylish design
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Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited features compared to some rivals
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Amount of info can overwhelm

GlassWire (opens in new tab) is one of the most attractive free firewalls available. With its beautiful interface, you’ll be able to see your current and past network activity, making it easy to detect threats to your computer.

GlassWire will also warn you of any changes to your PC or apps that were related to Internet activity. And it will monitor your network and alert you if unknown devices try to connect.

Probably its best feature is the presentation of detailed statistics of network usage broken down by IP/Host, application, and type of network traffic. GlassWire has an ‘Ask to Connect’ mode to allow or deny new app connections. And you can create custom profiles, for instance, when you’re connected to your home WiFi or when you’re at work.

And if you ever find yourself getting overwhelmed by the amount of information available, you can clear the logs in a few seconds to bring them back to a more manageable state.

(Image credit: Comodo)

3. Comodo Firewall

Best if all you need is a decent feature set

Reasons to buy

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Sandbox for testing apps
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Low resource usage

Reasons to avoid

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Needs configuring

For a free product, Comodo Firewall (opens in new tab) offers a healthy serving of features. It will check that all incoming and outgoing traffic is legitimate, hide your computer’s ports from hackers, and block malicious software broadcasting your private data. If there is any suspicious activity, it will warn you immediately.

It also includes a secure browser, a ‘virtual kiosk’, and a host intrusion protection system (HIPS). The HIPS will detect suspicious behavior by a program and ask you whether to allow it, block it, or treat the program as an installer.

Comodo also includes its own more secure versions of popular browsers Chrome and Firefox, called Dragon and IceDragon respectively. The Comodo browsers offer security, privacy, and performance enhancements that aren’t available in standard browsers.

Comodo’s Virtual Kiosk is a virtualized sandbox, like an isolated operating environment for running unknown applications. Apps run in the Kiosk won’t affect anything on your real computer, which makes it ideal for testing out new, untrusted apps.

Full review: Comodo Firewall (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: TinyWall)

4. TinyWall

Best if you want an unobtrusive free firewall

Reasons to buy

+
No annoying popups
+
Lightweight compared to some rivals

Reasons to avoid

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Manual whitelisting
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Not very attractive looks

TinyWall (opens in new tab) is actually designed to be used with Windows’ built-in Defender firewall, so its performance impact is minimal.

TinyWall will actively block trojans, viruses, worms, and other forms of malware, and prevent the modification of Windows firewall’s settings by malicious programs. And it will do all of this without you needing to know about ports, protocols, or application details.

But probably its most appealing feature is its no-popup approach. Most firewalls will display a popup asking you what you want to do whenever an application is trying to access the Internet. Not only is this annoying, but eventually you’ll just start granting access to everything to get rid of the popups, which isn’t very secure.

TinyWall gets around this problem by expecting you to whitelist programs that you actually want to be able to access the Internet. When you find a program has been blocked, it’s easy to add it to the whitelist, and then you can continue with what you were doing.

Full review: TinyWall (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Microsoft)

5. Windows Defender

Best if you don't want to install anything

Reasons to buy

+
Already installed with Windows
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Low false positive rate

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of additional features

If you have a PC running a version of Windows more recent than XP, then you already have a free firewall installed, and unless you’ve changed any settings, it’s already active and running.

Known as Windows Defender (opens in new tab) since the release of Windows 10, the firewall is part of a suite of security tools included by default with Windows installations. Microsoft recommends that you leave the Defender on, even if you’re also using another firewall. 

To manage its settings, simply search for 'security' in Windows and select the Security app. When it opens, set the Windows Defender Firewall toggle to on. Turning it off again simply involves clicking the same button.

You can also configure the firewall to allow a certain app through the firewall. From the same place as where you turn it on/off, you can select ‘Allow an app through firewall’ and then choose the app in question.

Full review: Windows Defender (opens in new tab)

Brian has over 30 years publishing experience as a writer and editor across a range of computing, technology, and marketing titles. He has been interviewed multiple times for the BBC and been a speaker at international conferences. His specialty on techradar is Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, covering everything from office suites to IT service tools. He is also a science fiction and fantasy author, published as Brian G Turner.