Lavasoft Personal Firewall 3.0 (64-bit version)
Lavasoft Personal Firewall 3.0 is a revamped-interface version of Lavasoft's firewall suite. Better known for its antivirus software, Lavasoft offers many other security programs, and this is one of them.
During installation, Lavasoft Personal Firewall successfully detected that I had antivirus software installed, and modified Personal Firewall's own installation to coexist with it.
The program offers two simple buttons, Advanced protection and Normal protection, during configuration. The former is recommended for advanced users, as it provides additional levels of protection against malicious programs. Normal is good for the majority of users.
I chose Advanced. On the next screen, it asked me whether rules, or exceptions, for well-known applications should be automatically created. In order to not have to allow every little program through the firewall, I left this setting where it was. After rebooting, Lavasoft Personal Firewall managed to configure its own connections for both Skype and Yahoo Messenger. The TiVo Beacon Service, the utility provided by TiVo that allows it to download shows to a PC, has no preset and popped up a window on startup.
The three choices are to allow all activities, block all activities, or create a new custom rule. A Smart Advisor hypertext link provides more information about the utility. At the bottom were two additional buttons for Allow Once and Block Once, and OK. This layout is somewhat non-intuitive, and could do with a bit more standardization
Creating a new custom rule seemed to have little effect, as the TiVo Beacon popped up numerous other times for its other uses. Eventually, I just selected Allow All.The program then popped up for the TiVo application itself and for Google Desktop. That latter choice seems odd--it would behoove Lavasoft to have presets for the entire Google suite.
When logging in to Yahoo! Messenger, an optional popup with a short duration stated that, yes, Lavasoft Firewall had a preset for this, so it was going to go ahead and let YM through.
Opening the firewall shows a convenient list of all programs involved in network activity. Right-clicking any file allows you to block or accept on the fly. Blocking the TiVo utility worked instantly, preventing me from using it on the network.
The clean interface and the lack of technical jargon really drive home how friendly this firewall program is for newbies. Lavasoft Personal Firewall is unobtrusive, as it already knows about most of the programs you use, it's got a (mostly) intuitive interface, and it plays well with any antivirus or other real-time scanning software you might be using. Though Windows provides its own free Window Firewall, Lavasoft's more advanced features and easy-to-understand interface makes it worth the money.
Note: Lavasoft Personal Firewall 3.0 is designed for 64-bit systems running Windows Vista, XP, Server 2003, or 2000 SP3 and above. If you are running one of these OSes on a 32-bit system, the vendor recommends the the 32-bit version. If you are running Windows 98 or an older version of 2000, the vendor recommends Version 2.0 instead. Licenses for this software are sold in one-, two-, and three-year licenses. The price given here is for a one-year license. The download link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the software.