Comodo Firewall (32-bit version)
Note: This review addresses version 3.13.121240.574.
If you want maximum firewall protection--and can endure some annoyance--you'd do well with Comodo Firewall, an extremely effective protection tool to keep yourself safe from Internet dangers. It blocks Trojans, hackers trying to take control of your PC, and other threats--all for free.
When you install Comodo Firewall, you choose to install only the basic firewall, the "Firewall with Optimum Proactive Defense" (which also protects against malware which can bypass firewalls), or the Firewall with Maximum Proactive Defense+, which does what "Firewall with Optimum Proactive Defense" does, plus protecting against "leaks"--information about things such as open ports on your PC being sent out over the Internet. The higher the level of protection, the greater the firewall's intrusiveness, so you must balance protection versus annoyance when making your choice. You can change the level of protection later, when the program's running.
Installation requires close attention. At defaults, you could end up with bundled products and unwelcome surprises. After downloading the entire Comodo Internet Security package, you can choose to install an antivirus application, the firewall, a 30-day trial of Comodo's LivePCSupport, or any combination of the three. For this review, we installed only "Firewall with Optimum Proactive Defense."
During installation the Comodo Firewall will change your default search engine to Ask.com, make Hopsurf.com your home page, and install the Hopsurf.com toolbar--unless you uncheck those options. And you can also opt to use Comodo's DNS servers instead of your default DNS servers, although the default is to use your own.
Once you're in the program, things get more straightforward. After you install Comodo Firewall, when an application needs to make an Internet connection, the firewall will ask whether you want to allow that connection. If you know the app, allow it to make the connection; if you don't, tell the firewall to block it. Comodo cuts down on the number of these annoying pop-ups because it knows a number of safe applications--such as browsers and e-mail clients--and lets those through without question.
For basic operation, that's all that you need to know. If you want to customize Comodo's functioning, you can do that as well; there's a wealth of techie information available. Most people will be satisfied to let the firewall work on its own.
If you use Maximum Proactive Defense+, you'll also be asked when programs try to make certain system changes, such as altering portions of the Registry. You'll have to balance safety with being annoyed. You can turn that part of the program on and off.
More important than interface of a firewall is effectiveness, and here Comodo Firewall Pro shines. Matousec.com's set of firewall tests rates Comodo Firewall Pro well ahead of other firewalls--over the last year, the firewall rated 95% every time it was tested. In contrast, Norton Internet Security's firewall ratings range between 66% and 71%, McAfee's were at 12%, Panda Internet Security between 4% and 12%, ZoneAlarm Free at 11%, and ZoneAlarm Pro at 72%.
If you're willing to put up with an annoying installation procedure, and you don't mind occasional interruptions, Comodo Firewall is a keeper. It's strong, and you certainly can't beat the price. If the installation issues turn you off, you might want to try a less intrusive firewall, or just use what's built into Windows.
Note: This software comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. This is the 32-bit version. If your 64-bit PC is running a 64-bit OS, please download the 64-bit version instead.