How to Access and Use the Windows Firewall

Most of us who have been using the Windows system are familiar with the Firewall utility that comes with it. Some even consider it an annoying add-on because of some pop up prompt that it causes to appear on your computer screen. However, what most people don’t realize is that this tool offers protection that perfectly complements the one offered by your antivirus software.

Windows Firewall has been in existence since it was first included on Windows XP and the one found on Windows 7 has gone through changes that has better improved its ability to protect you from network threats. Windows Firewall now allows your system to filter all network traffic (inbound and outbound) and set some exceptions and rules depending on the network that your computer is connected to.

Although the changes are not that enormous, it is still important that you know all the capabilities of this tool so you can maximize its security features. On this tutorial, we will teach you how to access this valuable tool. We’ll also see what it is capable of doing and learn how to enable or disable it.

How to Access the Windows Firewall

There are many ways of launching the Windows Firewall but for this tutorial, we will be learning two easy ways of launching it:

1. Accessing it through the Control Panel

  • Click on the “Start” button on the bottom left corner of your screen then click on “Control Panel”.

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  • From the “Control Panel” Window, click “System and Security”.

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  • Once the items under “System and Security” appears, find and click on “Windows Firewall”.

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2. Launching it through the Start Menu Search box

  • Click on the “Start” button then type “windows firewall” on the start menu search box.

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  • From the search results, click on the  “Windows Firewall” item under the “Control Panel” category.

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  • After clicking the “Windows Firewall” item under the “Control Panel” category on the search results, you should see a Window similar to the one shown above which contains the information about the network you are currently connected to and whether your computer’s firewall is turned on or off.
  • On the left pane of the same Window that is shown above, you will also notice some links which gives you access to different tweaks that you can do on your Windows Firewall. These tweaks will be explained further on other tutorials.

Choosing a Network Location

Windows Firewall sets some predefined values and defaults once it is turned on either automatically or manually. On its default settings, it should allow you to do different tasks on your computer such as using the instant messenger you’ve downloaded and installed, browsing the web, sharing files and many more. The rules that are applied are dependent on the type of network location that you’ve chosen for your computer’s connection to a network. If your system detects a new network that you connected your computer to, Windows will automatically alert you to choose a network location for it and you’ll see a Window that looks like the one below.

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The network locations on your Windows 7 machine are further explained below:

  • Home Network- If your computer is connected to a network on your home or one that has people and devices that you trust connected to it then you should choose this network location. The network discovery is enabled by default on this type of network location and you’ll be able to see all the devices that are connected to your network. This also allows other computers on the network to gain access to your machine. Creating and joining a HomeGroup is also allowed on this network location setting.
  • Work Network- If your computer is connected to the network in your office or in any other workplace then this profile would work well. On this network location type, you will have access to the same settings as the “Home network”. The only difference is that you will not be able to join a HomeGroup or even create one.
  • Public Network-  This type of network location is good if your computer is connected to a network located in a public place like restaurants and airports. If you are set on this type of network location, the network discovery and sharing for your device is turned off so other users can’t access your computer or even see you connected to the network. This location is also perfect if you are using a direct connection to the Internet like a direct modem connection, a cable connection or mobile Internet using a broadband stick.

What Does Windows Firewall Do to Your Applications?

Once a certain application/program is installed on your computer, it adds an exception automatically on Windows Firewall so it can function freely without some of its necessary features being blocked. If an application fails to add an exception, Windows Firewall will automatically ask you if you want the application to access the Internet and you’ll see a prompt that looks like the image below.

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If you click the “Allow access” button, the application will get the access it needs work properly, otherwise, it will just remain as it is until you select “Allow access” the next time that you launch it.

If you are not logged in to a computer with an administrator right then you cannot change any exception rules or add/remove programs from the list of exempted programs. This means that all programs that are not set to follow the standard on Windows Firewall will be blocked.

Turning Windows Firewall On or Off

You can enable or disable Windows Firewall by simply following the instructions detailed above on how to access it. Once you reach the Windows Firewall Window, you will see a link that says “Turn Windows Firewall on or off” on the left side panel. Click on it  so you can have access to more options.

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Windows Firewall is turned on for all network location types/domains. It is the default setting on any Windows machine. Tweaking the settings or turning it off for a certain network location just takes a few clicks. Just check (to enable) or uncheck (to disable) the checkboxes that corresponds to the setting that you want to change then click on “OK”.


We don’t recommend that you turn off Windows Firewall especially for the “Public Network” domain. Turning it off makes you become exposed with a lot of threats like illegal access to your system by hackers or other programs that has malicious intent. If you disable Windows Firewall for all network location types then you should make sure that all users registered on your computer including the one you are logged on to has enough security alternatives. You should also take note that you can’t tweak any settings on your Windows Firewall if you are not logged in as an administrator.

Following the steps detailed above will help you gain enough knowledge of the basics in using your Windows Firewall but there is still a bunch of other settings and management steps that you need to learn in order to maximize the use of this valuable tool. Watch out for other Windows Firewall tutorials that we’ll be publishing on this blog soon.