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What’s a Firewall and How It Protects Your PC [Updated 2023]

Osama Zahid
Last Updated by Osama Zahid on January 26, 2023

A firewall is any PC’s first line of defense against malware. It serves as a checkpoint that uses predefined rules to decide which traffic can flow in and out of your network.

However, while using Microsoft Defender’s built-in firewall, my PC still got infected with a virus. So, I learned that you need a high-end antivirus with a built-in firewall to ensure your PC’s security. Firewalls by themselves are also ineffective if you accidentally download malicious programs yourself.

Getting a premium antivirus with a built-in firewall ensures airtight protection. I tested many antiviruses and found 3 that offer customizable firewalls and many other security features. Of all my choices, I advise that you try Norton because it provides a highly customizable firewall, perfect malware detection via scans, and a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Protect your PC with Norton’s firewall

Quick Guide: 3 Easy Steps to Protect Your PC With a Firewall

  1. Get an antivirus with a firewall — I suggest you get Norton to protect your PC, as it comes with a secure and easy-to-customize firewall.
  2. Customize and enable the firewall — Simply navigate to the firewall’s settings, adjust the settings to your liking, and ensure the file is enabled.
  3. Get complete security on your PC — Your PC will now be safe against cyberthreats, and you can enjoy complete peace of mind.

What Is a Firewall and How Does It Work

Simply put, a firewall is a security barrier that monitors your network’s incoming and outgoing traffic to prevent cyberattacks. Firewalls can be hardware or software-based and use predefined security rules to block or permit data packets.

The following are the main types of firewalls:

  • Packet-filtering firewalls — These are the most common firewalls that examine packets based on predetermined rules and allow or prohibit them from passing.
  • Next-generation firewalls (NGFW) — These firewalls combine traditional packet-filtering technology with deep packet inspection to analyze data within packets and determine whether they’re allowed in the network.
  • Proxy firewalls — These are also known as application firewalls. They have their own IP address and protect you from outside attacks by ensuring data isn’t sent directly from your network, thus protecting your identifying information.
  • Stateful multilayer inspection firewalls (SMLI) — These firewalls analyze entire data packets layer by layer and only let them pass if each layer fits the security rules.
  • Network address translation (NAT) — These firewalls secure IP addresses by letting multiple devices connect to the internet with a single IP. This protects your devices from attackers looking for your IP address and other identifying information.

How to Turn On and Customize a Firewall

Step 1: Install an antivirus with a secure and customizable firewall

The first thing you need to do is get an antivirus with a reliable firewall. I advise that you get Norton because it offers a highly secure and customizable firewall that protects you against cyberthreats. Simply subscribe to Norton, log into its website, and hit the download button.

Screenshot of Norton's web portal

After completing the download, run the setup and wait for it to complete. The installer will download the necessary files and complete the installation within a few minutes.

Screenshot of Norton's setup in progress

You’ll have Norton installed on your system once the setup is complete and can now use its firewall to protect your PC.

Step 2: Open Norton’s firewall settings

When you launch Norton, you’ll be greeted by the My Norton home screen. At this point, simply click the Open button next to Device security to open up the main app interface.

Screenshot showing how to open Norton's main menu

You’ll find a settings button near the top-right of the main Norton app. Click on the settings button to find various settings, which include the firewall settings.

Screenshot showing how to access Norton's settings menu

Find and click on the Firewall option in the settings menu to open up Norton’s firewall settings.

Screenshot showing how to access Norton's firewall settings

You’ll now be in Norton’s firewall settings menu and can configure them exactly according to your preferences.

Step 3: Configure the firewall according to your preferences and enjoy airtight security

Norton’s firewall settings are very intuitive, and you can easily adjust any of them to your liking. Simply navigate through the various settings and make any necessary changes by adjusting the toggles.

Screenshot showing all of Norton's firewall settings

After configuring the firewall settings, click the Apply button and then the Close button to finalize your configuration.

Screenshot showing how to apply Norton's firewall settings

That’s all there is to it! You can now enjoy complete peace of mind knowing that the firewall will prevent any attacks on your system.

The Best Antivirus Software with Firewalls — Full Test Results in January 2023

1. Norton — Delivers Airtight Security via Its Secure and Customizable Firewall That Repels All Cyberthreats

Key Features:

  • Highly customizable built-in firewall that delivers effective security
  • 100% malware detection through scans and in real time
  • Offers a built-in VPN to protect your online activity
  • 24/7 live chat support, 24/7 phone support, and an online knowledge base
  • 60-day money-back guarantee

Norton comes with a powerful and customizable built-in firewall that’ll safeguard your PC against viruses, trojans, spyware, and all other kinds of cyber threats. Also, the security app has various reliable security features that’ll keep all your data secure and give you complete peace of mind.

I tested Norton’s firewall and was pleased with its security and customization. Norton’s firewall has an intuitive settings menu where you can easily configure it. The firewall’s default configuration provides solid security, and it has multiple toggles that you can use to adjust WiFi Security, Smart Firewall, and other settings. Plus, you can easily adjust inbound and outbound traffic rules to further customize the firewall’s behavior to your preferences.

Screenshot of Norton's firewall settings
You can easily customize Norton’s powerful firewall to your liking

One thing I especially like about Norton is that its firewall is available on all its plans, and it’s just as customizable on every single one. You even get it with the most basic Antivirus Plus plan, which is worth trying if you’re only looking for the firewall and core antivirus features.

Of course, Norton isn’t limited to its firewall because it also impresses greatly with its malware detection. Its scans are fast, with the Quick Scan taking 2 minutes and the Full System Scan taking under an hour while detecting 100% of malware. Norton’s real-time protection is just as impressive as it detects 100% of 0-day malware and keeps you safe at all times. Norton’s perfect threat detection, paired with its strong firewall, effectively repels every single cyberthreat.

With Norton, you also get a built-in password manager that you can use to safeguard your credentials and keep them safe from phishing attacks. Also, Norton comes with a built-in VPN with industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption to safeguard your online activity.

Norton’s customer support is easily among the best available. Its helpful and responsive live chat is available 24/7, so you can easily contact an agent and get help whenever you need it. Plus, there’s an online help center with lots of useful information to help you fix common issues.

Screenshot of a conversation with Norton's live chat support
You can contact Norton’s responsive and helpful live chat support 24/7

You can also choose from various plans if you decide to get Norton. Pricing starts at $19.99/year, and it currently offers the following plans:

  • Antivirus Plus — The most basic plan, which protects 1 device and offers Norton’s firewall, core antivirus features, password manager, and 2GB of secure cloud storage.
  • Norton 360 Standard — Lets you protect up to 3 devices with all the features in Antivirus Plus while also adding Norton’s PC SafeCam and Dark Web Monitoring.
  • Norton 360 Deluxe — Comes with everything in 360 Standard but also adds parental controls, lets you protect up to 5 devices, and increases the cloud storage to 50GB.
  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Select — Has all the features mentioned above and also adds Norton’s ID Theft Protection while increasing the available cloud storage to 250GB.

Norton’s plans are all quite affordable. However, while you can get its firewall on the most basic plan, I advise getting Deluxe because it’s feature-rich and offers the best value. Plus, you can try Norton completely risk-free. It’s backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee, which is the longest of all 3 options on this list. I tested this guarantee myself by requesting a refund over live chat, which was approved within minutes. Afterward, I had the money back in my account in 5 working days.

Protect your PC with Norton’s firewall

2. McAfee — Intuitive Antivirus With an Easy-To-Use and Secure Firewall to Safeguard Your System

Key Features:

  • Secure and intuitive firewall that’s easy to configure
  • Detects 100% of malware via its scans
  • Has a built-in password manager to protect you from phishing
  • Comes with 24/7 live chat support, 24/7 phone support, and helpful community forums
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

McAfee is an easy-to-use and reliable antivirus with an effective firewall. It isn’t the most feature-rich antivirus on this list, but it provides strong security against cyberthreats, an easy-to-use app, a built-in password manager, and more.

During tests, I found McAfee’s firewall quite simple and easy to configure. The firewall is preconfigured to provide excellent security and offers a sleek design that lets you adjust its settings with ease. The Smart Advice feature will guide you in adjusting the settings exactly according to your needs and help explain each setting. Plus, there’s even a Firewall History feature that shows all the traffic McAfee has filtered. Overall, I found McAfee’s firewall quite secure and confident it’ll protect you against cyberthreats.

Screenshot of McAfee's firewall interface
McAfee’s firewall has a highly intuitive interface

Unlike Norton, McAfee’s firewall isn’t available in its most basic Antivirus Plus plan. So, you’ll have to subscribe to the slightly more expensive Total Protection plans if you want to test its firewall for yourself. However, Antivirus Plus includes McAfee’s industry-standard malware detection capabilities, thus providing worthwhile security.

McAfee also offers excellent malware detection via scans. Its Full System Scan takes around an hour to scan a 1TB hard drive and detects 100% of malware. McAfee has impressive real-time protection as well. While it doesn’t stop 100% of real-time threats like Norton, it still has an impressive detection rate of 99.7%. So, you should be safe against most 0-day malware attacks.

Other McAfee features include its True Key password manager, which is easy to set up and use. You can use McAfee’s password manager to safely store sensitive information and login credentials to protect yourself from phishing attacks. The WebAdvisor browser extension is another feature that lets you know if you’re about to open a malicious page.

McAfee offers a variety of plans starting at just $39.99/year, so you can easily find one that fits your needs. Its main plans include the following:

  • Antivirus Plus — Offers McAfee’s core antivirus features and web protection for 1 device but is missing McAfee’s firewall
  • Total Protection Basic — Comes with all the features in Antivirus Plus but also includes McAfee’s firewall VPN, ID monitoring features, and password manager.
  • Total Protection Plus — Includes all of Total Protection Basic’s features but offers protection for up to 5 devices.
  • Total Protection Premium — Has all the features listed above and offers McAfee’s Personal Data Cleanup while also letting you protect unlimited devices.
  • Total Protection Advanced — Includes all the features in Total Protection Premium and adds McAfee’s ID theft coverage, lost wallet protection, and ID monitoring.

You need Total Protection Basic, at the very least, if you want McAfee’s firewall. However, I suggest getting Total Protection Plus as it delivers the best value for money by protecting up to 5 devices instead of 1. Also, While McAfee’s plans are initially quite affordable, it’s worth noting that the price jumps up significantly after the first year.

Of course, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning you can try McAfee completely risk-free and get a refund if you aren’t satisfied with it. I tested the guarantee by requesting a refund via McAfee’s website, and it was easily processed with no questions asked. Afterward, I got my money back within 7 business days.

Protect your PC with McAfee’s firewall

3. Bitdefender — Has a Customizable Firewall and Also a Built-in Anti-tracker That Keeps You Safer Online

Key Features:

  • Offers a customizable firewall that keeps you safe against cyberthreats
  • Successfully detects 100% of malware via its scans
  • Anti-tracker browser extension helps keep you secure and anonymous online
  • Helpful customer support via live chat and a helpful online knowledge base
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Bitdefender is a feature-rich antivirus with a secure firewall you can easily customize. It’s a great antivirus for anyone who needs an airtight firewall and other features that provide additional layers of security.

While testing Bitdefender’s firewall, I found it easy to configure. It has all the settings intuitively laid out, so you can make any necessary adjustments. You can easily block or allow traffic for specific apps and set various rules for your firewall. It’s not as advanced as Norton’s firewall, which offers many more controls you can tinker with, but it’ll effectively protect your system against cyberthreats.

Screenshot of Bitdefender's firewall settings
Bitdefender’s firewall can easily be configured to your preferences

Unfortunately, Bitdefender’s firewall isn’t available in its most basic Antivirus Plus plan. The cheapest plan with a firewall is Internet Security, so that’s what you should get if you only need the firewall and core antivirus features. Even without the firewall, though, Bitdefender’s basic plan provides excellent security thanks to its impressive malware detection rate.

Alongside its reliable firewall, Bitdefender’s performance in malware detection is also quite impressive. It successfully detects 100% of malware via scans, but it also gives a few false positives. I was also pleased with its scan speeds because the System Scan took 48 minutes to scan a 1TB hard drive which was nearly full.

Another impressive aspect of Bitdefender is its anti-tracking browser extension which prevents web trackers from collecting your data. Other tools in Bitdefender’s feature-rich suite include a password manager, a secure file shredder, a built-in VPN, webcam protection, and more.

Bitdefender’s pricing starts at $19.99/year, and it offers multiple plans you can choose from based on your needs, including the following:

  • Antivirus Plus — Bitdefender’s most basic plan, which has its key antivirus features and 200MB/day VPN but only protects 3 Windows devices. Also, this plan doesn’t include the firewall.
  • Internet Security — Includes all of Antivirus Plus’ features and also offers Bitdefender’s firewall and parental controls.
  • Total Security — Has all the features in Internet Security and lets you protect up to 5 devices while also including Bitdefender’s optimization features.
  • Premium Security — Comes with all the above features and includes Bitdefender’s password manager. Plus, this plan offers unlimited VPN data.
  • Ultimate Security — Offers everything in Premium Security and also adds Bitdefender’s Identity Theft Protection.

As mentioned earlier, the Antivirus Plus plan doesn’t have a firewall, so you need Internet Security or a higher-tier plan. My suggestion is that you get Bitdefender Total Security. This plan comes with most of Bitdefender’s key features and delivers the best value for money.

No matter which plan you choose, you can try Bitdefender completely risk-free. It has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you’ll have a month to test all its features and see if it’s right for you. I requested a refund via email to see if this guarantee is legitimate, and it took a few days to get a response, but my request was approved. Later on, I had the money back in 5 working days.

Protect your PC with Bitdefender’s firewall

Quick Comparison Table: Best AVs with Firewalls

Customizable Built-in Firewall 100% Malware Detection 24/7 Live Chat Firewall Available in Every Plan Money-Back Guarantee
Norton 60 days
McAfee 30 days
Bitdefender 30 days

How I Tested and Ranked the Best AVs with Firewalls for Protecting Your PC

There are several key factors I looked for when picking the best antiviruses with firewalls for protecting your PC. These include the following:

  • Secure and customizable firewall — I only picked antiviruses that offer secure firewalls with various customization options.
  • Malware detection — I compared various antiviruses and only picked out the ones with perfect malware detection via scans.
  • Additional security features — I suggested only those antiviruses that provide other security features alongside their firewall and malware detection. These features include password managers, secure cloud storage, and more.
  • Ease of use — I chose antiviruses that are intuitive and easy to use, even for newcomers who haven’t used antiviruses before.
  • Value for money — I looked at pricing plans and only listed antiviruses with affordable plans that deliver excellent value for money.

Protect your PC with Norton’s firewall

FAQs: How To Protect Your PC with a Firewall and Antivirus

What else are firewalls used for?

Another use for firewalls is as proxy servers. When you open a new web page, they act as the proxy server and receive the data before forwarding it to your computer. This keeps your computer’s identifying information hidden and reduces the chances of malware infection.

Why does my firewall mark some things as ‘false positives’?

Firewall settings can sometimes be too aggressive, so they flag safe packets as dangerous, even on the best antiviruses with customizable firewalls. These are false positives, and you can reduce them by adjusting the firewall settings.

Since some might find it challenging to find the right balance of security, it’s best to get a top-tier antivirus. A premium antivirus ensures that your system will stay safe even if your firewall is breached.

Can I use a free antivirus to get a firewall?

Yes, but I don’t recommend it. A firewall provides an effective first layer of security against threats, and you can get one with a free antivirus. However, free antiviruses usually don’t have other crucial security features like 100% malware detection via scans. So, it’s best to rely on a premium antivirus to provide a secure firewall and proper security.

Protect your PC with Norton’s firewall

Protect Your PC Using an Antivirus With a Secure Firewall

Firewalls are your system’s first line of defense against cyberthreats which is why it’s important to have a properly configured firewall that attackers can’t breach. However, a firewall alone can’t protect your system from every possible threat.

I suggest you get a premium antivirus with a customizable firewall to guarantee optimal protection for your PC. A high-end antivirus like Norton combines its firewall with various other security features to guarantee top-grade security.

All 3 antiviruses on this list provide secure, customizable, and effective firewalls. Nonetheless, Norton is my top choice thanks to its powerful firewall, 100% malware detection rate, and various additional features. Plus, you can try Norton completely risk-free as it comes with a 60-day-long money-back guarantee.

Summary — The Best Antivirus Software with Firewalls

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