Thoughts & Reviews
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Windows 7 Firewall

Since I'm currently on on pay-as-you go mobile broadband until I get a proper connection, I've been watching how much data I'm transferring.  At £15 per GB, it's an issue.

It's surprising just how much data you burn through.  Websites are flashier, and almost every application you run has an auto-update feature or automatic download of some description.  With that in mind, seeing my bandwidth usage climb from 10MB to 50MB within a couple of minutes of opening Winamp prompted me to take another look at the Windows Firewall.

My last look was when I was still using Vista.  The options amounted to turning the firewall on and off, and the ability to add exceptions (ie. allow communications) on a per-app basis.  Very basic, though that's all it needs to be for most users.  The first thing I noticed in the Windows 7 Firewall is the "Advanced settings" item.

W00t.  A nice list of fully-editable firewall rules, split into outbound and inbound.  You can add your own rules and apply them to applications, computers/IP addresses, ports, specific networks, and even services.  Winamp and iTunes are now blocked so I can actually use them while I'm online without worrying about them eating my credit.  It's also very handy for blocking apps that you'd rather only use in an "offline" mode (such as "Games for Windows Live" - no more spying on my gaming), or those background apps and updaters that never seem to stay disabled.  Like the nigh-immortal Adobe updater.

This is the sort of functionality that was previously only available with 3rd-party products - but built-in, free and on by default.  In addition, Microsoft Security Essentials - anti-virus from MS using the same technology as their enterprise-level solutions - is available for free, though not installed by default.  This adds up to security that I'm actually comfortable with... for free.