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SECURING YOUR WINDOWS NETWORK / HOW-TO GEEK SCHOOL

How-To Geek

Lesson 4: Windows Firewall: Your System’s Best Defense

You will notice that some entries have check marks on the left side of their name. This means that the rule for that app, program or feature is enabled and used by the Windows Firewall to allow or block access.

On the right, there are two columns: Private and Public. If a check mark is found in the Private column it means that network access is given to that app, program, or feature when you are connected to networks that are set as “private.” If a check mark is found in the Public column it means that network access is given to that app, program or feature when you are connected to networks that are set as “public.”

To change anything in this list, you need to press the “Change settings” button.

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The list is no longer grayed out and you can edit any of the existing entries. You can select any item for which you want to change the rules applied by Windows Firewall. To learn more about it, press the “Details” button.

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You will see a small window that shows a description of the selected item or, if you have selected a program, the path where it is installed and its name. When you’re finished, press “OK.”

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For some items, the “Details” button is grayed out. That’s because there’s no additional information stored by the Windows Firewall and there are no details available to display. You will encounter this especially when selecting Windows Store apps.

If you want to block access to the network for an app, program, or feature, select it and then uncheck the box near its name (to block access to any network) or one of the check boxes on the right (Private or Public), depending on the types of networks you want to block access to.

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Alternatively, if you want to give network access to an app, program, or feature that doesn’t have it, enable the checkbox near its name and then set the types of networks you give it access to.

When you’re done setting things up, press “OK.”

How to Add Apps & Programs to the Allowed List

In the rare event that an app or program that you want to give network access to is not in this list, you can easily add it. First, make sure that the list of allowed apps, programs, and features is editable, using the procedure described in the previous section, then click or tap “Allow another app” (in Windows 8.x) or “Allow another program” (in Windows 7).

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In the “Add an app”/”Add a Program” window, look for the app or program that you want to add and select it. If you can’t find it, press “Browse,” go to its location and select its executable, then click or tap the “Add” button.

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You are back to the list of items allowed through the Windows Firewall. The program or app that you just added is now selected and you can edit the types of networks it can access.

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When you’re done adding programs and apps, press “OK” to apply your settings.

How to Remove Apps and Programs from the Allowed List

You can also remove apps or desktop programs from the list of items allowed through the Windows Firewall. When you remove an app or program, it becomes blocked by default and the next time you use it, you will see a prompt from the Windows Firewall, requesting your approval for giving network access to it.

First, make sure that the list of allowed apps, programs, and features is editable, using the procedure shared earlier in this lesson, then select the app or program that you want to delete and press “Remove.”

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You are asked to confirm your choice. Press “Yes” and the selected app or program is removed from the list of items allowed through the Windows Firewall.

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Press “OK” to save your changes.

How to Enable or Disable the Windows Firewall

In order to enable or disable the Windows Firewall, you must first open it, then look on the left column and click or tap the link that says “Turn Windows Firewall on or off.”

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The “Customize Settings” window is now opened. Here you can set how to turn on or off the Windows Firewall: turn it on or off just for private networks, for public networks, or for both types of networks.

For example, you can set the Windows Firewall to be turned off when you are connected to trusted private networks like the one in your home and to be turned on when you are connected to untrusted public networks. While having this kind of flexibility is great, not that many people understand the concept of network locations, what is different about them, and what profile to assign to each network connection you make. If you are such a user, we recommend you to read our How-To Geek School class on Windows Networking.

To recap, if you want to enable the Windows Firewall only for private networks, then select “Turn on Windows Firewall” in the “Private network settings” section. If you want to enable it only for public networks, then select “Turn on Windows Firewall” in the “Public network settings” section. If you want it to turn it on for all types of networks select this setting in both sections and press “OK.”

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The same goes for disabling the Windows Firewall. Select “Turn off Windows Firewall” in both sections if you want to disable it completely or select this setting only for the type of networks where you don’t want to use it. When done, press “OK” to save your settings.

Coming up next …

In the next lesson we will get into even more detail about the Windows Firewall and learn how to use the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security. What is this? What can you do with it? Why should you bother using it? To learn the answers to these questions, you will have to come back for the next lesson.

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Ciprian Adrian Rusen is an experienced technology writer and author with several titles published internationally by Microsoft Press. You can connect with him on 7 Tutorials, Twitter, and Google+ or even buy his books on Amazon.

  • Published 05/29/14