Just as you wouldn’t leave home for work without locking your door, you shouldn’t use a device on the internet without securing it first. Firewall software is just one way to do that, but it’s certainly one of the strongest. While a firewall is not a get out of jail free card that guarantees your safety online, it will help protect you when you’re browsing the web. Your firewall forms part of the defense your computer relies on everyday to keep you, your computer, and your information safe. Combined with a router-based firewall, good internet habits, and a decent antivirus program, a firewall will help keep you safe while online.
You’ll find firewall software in both free and paid forms, but that doesn’t mean you’re held hostage until you pull out your wallet. While these security companies would love you to think otherwise, the level of protection offered by both free and paid tiers of firewalls are often similar, negating the need to pay for your online security. Paid firewalls often include additional software features in your package, including premium support, antivirus software, and other bonuses. Still, typically, if you’re just looking for a basic firewall, the free versions are the better options for most people.
In this guide, we’ll be concentrating on computers—specifically, on Windows computers. Smartphones have walled gardens that help mitigate the risks of browsing without a firewall (especially on iOS), while macOS has a built-in firewall that makes it easy to stay safe online. As long as you have enabled the default firewall in Mac OS, you have enough protection already. Windows does come with a built-in firewall, but it does not currently monitor outgoing traffic which is a big security flaw. That’s why the third-party firewall market is so buoyant.
So, what are the best free firewalls available in 2021? Let’s dive in—along with a bonus look at what you need from a firewall.