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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Can I run two firewalls on my Computer?

13 November, 2009
If you see a message in Windows saying ÃâÅ"Check your firewall status - Windows Firewall is turned off, click this notification to fix the problem', you may be tempted to switch it on and you could be inviting problems if you do.
The firewall status message is one of those charming little messages that Windows occasionally throws at you and which is hard to get rid of. It can also cause confusion if you're not entirely au fait with how software firewalls work.

There are three possibilities here:

1 â€" You have a hardware firewall
2 â€" You don't have any firewall
3 â€" You have a non-windows software firewall installed.

Taking each of these in turn:

If you have a hardware firewall, it operates as a separate unit to any software installed on your computer so having an additional software firewall (like the one referred to in the Windows message) won't cause any harm. As software and hardware firewalls operate differently, there are advantages to having both of them working to protect your computer.

If you don't have any firewall running on your computer at all, you should click the Windows balloon with the message in it and follow the instructions to turn the Windows firewall on. This doesn't offer the best protection on the planet by a long way but its free as part of the operating system and its certainly better than nothing. Remember that firewalls aren't the same as anti-virus programs, they perform a different function and provide an extra layer of protection.

The third possibility is the one that causes the most confusion. If you're running a firewall software package like Zone Alarm from Check Point Software, you're already protected so you don't need to switch the Microsoft firewall on. However, check what package you're running and what is switched on. Companies like Check Point, Symantec, McAfee, Sophos and others offer multi-functional protection products with selectable features. Go to the control panel of the software you have and check that the firewall is actually switched on and operating.

Its tempting to consider that the more, the merrier and have them both switched on. Logic would suggest that now you'd have two firewalls with the added advantage of having the Microsoft message disappear. However, this would be a mistake.

Software firewalls interrogate traffic to and from your computer to the internet in real-time so you would have two programmes trying to look at the same traffic at the same time and this generates conflicts which can have serious negative effects on performance and effectivenessâ€.. so don't be tempted.
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