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Gain greater control of your firewall in Windows 7 and Vista

Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7 and Vista is a great, free security package that is almost perfectly transparent. If you want to use it with an added layer of control, TinyWall is a terrific add-on.

Many Windows users like Microsoft Security Essentials because it keeps them safe without having to do much. Some prefer more control, and they often turn to third-party security software. TinyWall is a small program that works with MSE and gives users the ability to fine-tune their security setup. Here's how to get started: 

  1. Install TinyWall here. 
  2. Run TinyWall. It will quickly take up residence in your system tray, where you can access it by clicking on its icon, which looks like an orange wall in front of a globe. 
    Step 2: TinyWall menu.
    Step 2: TinyWall menu. Rob Lightner/CNET
  3. It's important to note that TinyWall defaults to denying almost all programs access to the Web. (Chrome and Steam worked for me, but Outlook did not.) Fortunately, it's pretty easy to allow programs to sneak through the firewall. Just click the TinyWall icon, then select whichever "Whitelist by" option feels the most comfortable. Whitelisting by window certainly seems easiest, but I had some troubles with it. You may want to try whitelisting by executable, but you will need to know where on your hard drive you can find each program you want to allow access. 
  4. You can also select Manage to bring up a window containing your current exceptions and fiddle with notifications and other details. 
    Step 4: TinyWall Manage window.
    Step 4: TinyWall Manage window. Rob Lightner/CNET
  5. Select Change Mode to quickly change global access. You can easily permit or deny all traffic, or set it to Autolearn, which is great for new systems and can make the process much faster. 

That's it! TinyWall isn't for all Windows users, but it can be great for those who like the price of Microsoft Security Essentials but want more control over its inner workings. 

Here are some more security-related pieces on CNET: 

Thanks to MakeUseOf for the tip!