Few people have ventured to the advanced settings panel of the built-in firewall in Windows; defining the rules to block specific connection is not a tough task, but it can waste more time than you are willing to allot for the job. Windows Firewall Control has been designed as a simple way to gain access to frequently used options in Windows firewall.
Believe it or not, as Windows operating system moved to a new, better version, so did its firewall applet; the flexibility of the tool allows the user to define the connections that should be allowed and those that shouldn’t. Reaching the advanced settings panel where you get to enforce your own inbound/outbound rules and creating said rules may not be the easiest job, though.
Windows Firewall Control (WFC) may seem a freebie to some users, but in our case we did not benefit from the full list of features. The restrictions during our testing referred to locking the application, the shell integration feature and “learning mode”, which shows user notifications for outgoing blocked connections.
Installation is nice and smooth and completes in a jiffy. The only configuration you have to go through prior to getting the software on the system refers to enabling the creation of a Start Menu shortcut, placing one on the desktop and enabling the app to start with the operating system.
There is no interface per se to talk about as the application offers you the most significant options in Windows Firewall at right-clicking the system tray icon. That’s where you can change the firewall’s aggressiveness level, from low filtering to medium and high, or turn it off completely. Keeping your mouse over each of the functions brings up a tooltip about the action of said option. Each filtering mode is enabled on the spot in Windows firewall.
Instructing the applet to run with high filtering will cause it to block all outgoing connections. Dropping the level a notch will restrict only outgoing connections that are not listed as trustworthy; turning low filtering on will allow outgoing connections, even if there is no rule available.
Out of the three security levels available medium filtering is the only one that features a menu. The options at hand permit you to add a new program on the list of the allowed items or view such list. Moreover, this is also the place to check on blocked items and the current network connections.
As mentioned before medium filtering also comes with an option called “learning mode”. This is designed to pop up a message asking for your permission to allow or block a connection when it tries to initiate. Until you take a decision the connection is temporarily blocked.
From the advanced section of Windows Firewall Control you can access the interface of Windows Firewall or jump straight to its “Advanced Security” panel, where you can define new rules for different connections.
The purpose of “Shell Integration” option, which was greyed out during our testing of the unregistered version, is to let you automatically add a program on the whitelist of the firewall straight from its context menu. If enabled, two more options will populate the right-click menu, one that lets the selected item through Windows Firewall and one that blocks it.
Windows Firewall Control can also lock the security applet with a password. As soon as this is enabled there should be no way to access the functions and options of the firewall without previously unlocking it. The icon in Control Panel vanishes and even the “Advanced Security” snap-in under Microsoft Management Console is restricted, thanks to user policies enforced.
Controlling the firewall built into the operating system is not a tough job, but creating the rules that govern the connections is not quite a task for the beginner user, despite the step-by-step guiding. WFC simplifies everything by bringing common options closer to the user and displaying them in a somewhat friendlier manner.
Should you require quick access to the original applet or its advanced panel, WFC does not fall short of such options. Looks may not be impressive, but it covers the most important functions in Windows Firewall, by letting you view both whitelisted as well as blacklisted programs. The Good
It is a great way to control the default firewall in Windows without having to open up its interface. The most frequent functions can be accessed straight from the system tray.
You can easily switch between three firewall profiles, according to the level of security you need. It offers quick access to the actual firewall and its advanced settings. The Bad
“Lock Application”, “Shell Integration” and “Learning Mode” are extra feature you need to pay for to unlock; this does not fit very well with the “donationware” label the developer is trying to promote. The Truth Windows Firewall Control
is definitely an option for users that do not appeal to third party firewall solutions, which in most cases are better than what the operating system has to offer. So its success basically depends on the adoption rate of Windows Firewall among Windows users.
It fulfills its purpose without a glitch and the only negativism would be the fact that you have to donate $10 in order to unlock its full functionality.