Chapter VI.3. Windows Firewall
In This Chapter
Discovering what Windows Firewall can — and can't — do
Knowing when Windows Firewall causes problems — and how to get around them
Struggling with the bare-bones outbound Windows Firewall
Making Windows Firewall work the way you want
A firewall is a program that sits between your computer and the Internet, protecting you from the big, mean, nasty gorillas riding around on the information superhighway. An inbound firewall acts like a traffic cop that, in the best of all possible worlds, allows only "good" stuff into your computer and keeps all the "bad" stuff out on the Internet, where it belongs. An outbound firewall prevents your computer from sending bad stuff to the Internet, such as when your computer becomes infected with a virus or has another security problem.
Windows 7 includes a usable (if not fancy) inbound firewall. It also includes a snarly, hard-to-configure, rudimentary outbound firewall, which has all the social graces of a junkyard dog. Unless you know the magic incantations, you never even see the outbound firewall — it's completely muzzled until you dig into the Windows 7 doghouse and teach it some tricks.
Everybody needs an inbound firewall, without any doubt. Outbound firewalls are useful, but they can be quite difficult to understand and maintain. If you figure that you need an outbound firewall, try to use the one in Windows 7, and when you (inevitably) throw your hands up in disgust, take a look at Microsoft's competitors. ...