Windows 7 firewall has many improvements over the older versions included in Windows XP and Vista. But there are still some key things missing that one expects from a professional firewall software. For example, most of the Windows users are clueless about how to block a program in Windows firewall or how to unblock a blocked program. The steps required to perform such operations are very complex and ordinary users feel overwhelmed by them. This is where TinyWall comes in. TinyWall is a free and small application that works with Windows 7 (also Windows Vista) firewalls to improve their security and make them more user friendly.
TinyWall is not a firewall in itself, it just works with Windows 7 (or Vista) firewall and improves their user interaction. Unlike most other firewalls which show multiple popups, TinyWall works with the aim of generating lesser and lesser popup windows. When you install it in your PC, it blocks all the programs except a few (for example, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Chrome etc.). If you want to unblock a program, you have to add it to the allow list. You can add a program in many different ways like manually adding it to whitelist, clicking on a window to add it to whitelist, choosing a process to add it to whitelist etc.
You can download and install TinyWall from their website. The download is only around 1 megabytes. TinyWall 2.0 is designed using the Microsoft .NET 3.5 framework. So you must have .NET 3.5 SP1 installed on your Windows (it is already installed in Windows 7, so you need to install it in Windows Vista only). After the installation, you would see a notification area icon for TinyWall. You can right-click on this notification area icon and choose various functions.
Because TinyWall blocks all the programs save a few (mostly web browsers), you should start adding programs to its white list so that they can access the internet. Typically, you would like to add your email client, chat client, downloader programs etc. to the white list. You can add programs to the whitelist in multiple ways. First method is to press the hotkey Ctrl + Shift + W and then click on a window to add it to the whitelist. Second method is to press the hotkey Ctrl + Shift + P and then choose a running process to add it to the whitelist. Third method is to press the Ctrl + Shift + E and then choose an executable (.EXE) file to add it to the whitelist. You can also select Manage from the notification area icon context-menu to add or remove programs to the whitelist of TinyWall.
In the Manage window, you can add a new application, modify its rules, remove an already added application or remove all the applications. To add a new application, you can click on the Add Application button and then specify various firewall rules for that program. You can add both a program and a service using this method.
Just like other commercial firewalls, you can also block all the internet traffic. You can right-click on the notification area icon and choose Change Mode from the right-click menu. You can choose from various firewall modes like Normal Protections, Block All, Allow Outgoing, Disable Firewall or Auto-learn mode.
For the users of other commercial firewalls, TinyWall can be very complicated in the beginning because it blocks all the programs by default and shows no popup indicating that some program was trying to connect to the internet. But soon you get accustomed to this idea of adding programs to the whitelist and it becomes easier to work with TinyWall. So if you want to make the Windows 7 firewall a little bit user friendly and easy to use, then you can try installing TinyWall. You can download TinyWall from http://tinywall.pados.hu/.