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Best firewall of 2021: top paid and free services

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

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 and malware 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.

For Linux users, we've featured the best free Linux firewalls and the best Linux firewall distro.

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

And if you need that extra boost, we've also featured the best endpoint protection software.

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(Image credit: Bitdefender)

1. Bitdefender Total Security

Total security with firewall protection

Reasons to buy
+High-end firewall protection+Anti-ransomware protection included+Microphone safeguarding+Up to 5 devices
Reasons to avoid
-Some alternatives offer more for your money

Bitdefender Total Security 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.

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 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 for Android, 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.

Overall, Bitdefender Total Security pretty much does what it names 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

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(Image credit: Avast)

2. Avast Premium Security

Powerful multi-device firewall and more

Reasons to buy
+Firewall protection for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android devices+Anti-ransomware tools included+Up to 10 devices
Reasons to avoid
-Annoying ads

Avast Premium Security is another paid-for full-feature internet security suite which 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 other software.

Full review: Avast Premium Security

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(Image credit: Norton)

3. Norton 360 Premium

Multi-feature firewall protection and more

Reasons to buy
+Smart firewall tools+Secure VPN included+Dark Web monitoring+Password manager included+Online backup services bundled in
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive price compared to some competitors

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

Additional features in the Norton 360 Premium includes 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

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(Image credit: Panda Security)

4. Panda Dome Essential

Good 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 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

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(Image credit: Webroot)

5. Webroot AntiVirus

Lightweight internet security with firewall

Reasons to buy
+Extremely light on system resources+Lightning fast speeds
Reasons to avoid
-No testing data from the top labs

Just about every antivirus tool claims to be ‘lightweight’, but Webroot AntiVirus is really the only one to deliver on this front. Installation takes seconds, the program files barely use 2MB of your hard drive, 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 its confident in the product as well. If you're sick of overly complex and bloated engines, Webroot is a worthy contender for you.

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Best free firewall

(Image credit: ZoneAlarm)

1. ZoneAlarm

The best free firewall

Reasons to buy
+Easy to use interface+Great antivirus engine
Reasons to avoid
-Best features are paid-for

ZoneAlarm 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.

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(Image credit: GlassWire)

2. GlassWire

Beautiful design combined with lots of information

Reasons to buy
+Stylish design+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Limited features compared to some rivals-Amount of info can overwhelm

GlassWire 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.

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(Image credit: Comodo)

3. Comodo Firewall

Offers a good feature set for a free firewall

Reasons to buy
+Sandbox for testing apps+Low resource usage
Reasons to avoid
-Needs configuring

For a free product, Comodo Firewall 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

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(Image credit: TinyWall)

4. TinyWall

A lightweight and unobtrusive free firewall

Reasons to buy
+No annoying popups+Lightweight compared to some rivals
Reasons to avoid
-Manual whitelisting-Not very attractive looks

TinyWall 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

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

5. Windows Defender

Nothing more to install, this free firewall comes with your PC

Reasons to buy
+Already installed with Windows+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 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 you turn it on/off, you can select ‘Allow an app through firewall’ and then choose the app in question.

Full review: Windows Defender

Brian Turner

Brian has over 30 years publishing experience as a writer and editor across a range of computing and technology titles, and has been interviewed multiple times for BBC News and BBC Radio. 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, writing as Brian G Turner.