ZoneAlarm for Vista
At a Glance
Note: This file has been replaced by ZoneAlarm Free Firewall, which also supports Windows Vista.
The advantage of the ZoneAlarm firewall over the built-in Vista firewall is that ZoneAlarm will only allow those programs you specifically ok to access the Internet.
Microsoft's Vista firewall does allow this kind of outbound filtering, but the feature disabled by default. Not only that, it's hidden and buried - you can't even get to it through the normal Windows Firewall interface.
ZoneAlarm's free firewall, by contrast, will display a pop-up if a new program attempts to access the Internet. That program will be blocked until you allow it.
I installed ZoneAlarm's app on my Vista laptop, and it went smoothly for the most part. After double-clicking the 18MB download, I was prompted to shut down the Cisco VPN service. But after a couple of reboots - I had to reboot twice before my wireless connection re-activated - I was able to establish a VPN connection without any trouble.
Check Point, ZoneAlarm's maker, says it is the first vendor to use Vista's Windows Filtering Platform API, but from the end-user's perspective I didn't see anything different in the interface compared to the XP version I've tried before.
That interface includes plenty of pop-ups that you may or may not want, and that may or may not help. Outbound connection alerts can help to block malware that gets past your antivirus software and tries to send your stolen data to an Internet repository, for example, but you need to be know how to tell whether an alert is for a valid program or malware.
I've seen alerts before where I just couldn't tell, myself. And if you block the wrong thing some programs may not work correctly.