Here are answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Internet security and personal firewall software and hardware.
What is the "best" combination of Internet security and privacy services, hardware and software? The practical answer is good products that meet your needs that do not interfere with each other. For example, a three computer home network for two adults and two kids, you could use the Norton Internet Security 2003 software suite (firewall, anti-virus, privacy and content filters...), PestPatrol, BOClean, IEClean, RoboForm, SpyBot Search & Destroy, Linksys Firewall Router (hardware), and the SortOnce online email service with anti-virus and spam filters. You would set up Windows and Norton for automatic updates. PestPatrol, BOClean and SpyBot have manual but easy one click updates. With DSL or cable modem service, all of these updates are fast. Layers of defense are the best approach, so you should have two firewalls (software and hardware), two anti-virus (online and software), and three programs to fight Trojans, worms, spyware and other pests (PestPatrol, BOClean and SpyBot). IEClean makes it easy to remove browser related files. RoboForm protects and keeps track of your passwords and personal information. What about interference? Using two software firewalls is not a good idea. That is why you should use a hardware and software combination. For anti-virus, using an online email service with back up by anti-virus software on your computer is the best combination. Watch out for the overlap of scanning by PestPatrol MemCheck, Norton Anti-Virus, and BOClean. Any problems can usually be resolved by turning off MemCheck. Note: This is only one example. There are lots of other combinations that may better meet your specific needs.
What is the best way to install Internet security software and hardware? On a clean system, see our Installation page for more information.
How do I uninstall a firewall? The usual way (see below). Most people who ask this question got an error message while using an online service like email, chat or music. If you did not install a firewall and your computer is not connected to the Internet via a local area network (LAN), check the technical support FAQ at whatever service gave you the error message. If you are on a LAN, check with the administrator.
The usual way -- Turn the firewall off, then run the program's own uninstaller utility, if there is one. Select Start, Programs, [Program Name], Uninstall [Program Name] (or [Program Name] Uninstaller). You'll usually be asked to confirm that you want to remove the program; click OK. If the application doesn't have an uninstall option, turn to the Windows Add/Remove feature. Choose Start, Settings, Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs. Select the firewall from the list (if it's there), then click Remove.
What is a personal firewall for? Protecting your computer from intrusion (scanning or attack) by hackers or script kiddies while it is connected to the Internet. For more information, see the articles on our overview page.
Does any combination of software and hardware provide complete security? No. Someone somewhere is always creating a new virus, worm, trojan horse or another new way to break through a firewall. You should use products that are updated on a regular basis by their vendors for protection from "known" attacks. Most Internet users can achieve a reasonable level of security at low cost.
Does personal firewall software give complete online security? No. At a minimum, you also need anti-virus software to provide a reasonable level of security. You may also want software for email encryption, trojan detection and removal, VPN for telecommuters, cookie manager or cleaner, ad blocker, personal data privacy, and parental controls for content filtering. Many, but not all, of these features are offered by software suites; see our privacy page for more information.
Do I need a personal firewall? If you have an "always on" cable or DSL broadband connection, you need one. You should also consider one if you use a dial-up Internet connection for hours at a time. Try a free and simple online test to see if your computer's ports are open to the Internet.
How do I know if personal firewalls work? Install one and test it using an online testing service; see our test page. You can start with freeware or trial-ware.
What are my firewall choices? 1) Stand alone software, 2) networking software with firewall features, 3) in-modem, or 4) a hardware router with firewall features.
How many firewall software choices do I have for Windows? See our firewalls page.
How many software choices are there for Macintosh? There are several, see our Macintosh page.
Is the Windows XP firewall enough? It is simple and effective protection from inbound traffic. To control outbound traffic and for other features, consider one of the firewalls on our firewalls page.
What does a router (hardware) do? It sits between your modem and your computer or your network. It is hard to hack your computer or a network when it is hidden behind a hardware box.
What is the difference between a router with firewall features and a hardware firewall? Features and price. Lower cost products provide a DHCP server, PAT/NAT services, 1-8 physical ports to network computers and/or wireless service. NAT hides your computer(s) from the Internet which makes it a simple but effective firewall. Higher cost products, but still under $500, provide additional features like built-in stateful packet inspection (SPI), support for Virtual Private Networking (VPN), Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), content filters, anti-virus protection, and more.
What is the best choice? A combination of personal firewall software or networking software with firewall features plus a hardware router with firewall features.
I want to install a home or SOHO network, should I use networking software or a router? Both work. Unless your specific needs require networking software, we recommend using a hardware router with firewall features.