Unsure whether or not to allow a program through your firewall? Follow our handy guide to help you make the right decision
The Windows firewall works like a filter between your PC and the internet, blocking or allowing connections depending on whether or not they’re safe.
Firewalls will block or allow a lot of traffic automatically, but sometimes you will see a message asking you if you want to allow a program to connect to the internet. This usually happens when you use a new program for the first time.
Not sure if your firewall is running? Learn how to switch on the Windows Firewall.
There could also be situations where you need to allow a program through your firewall that has been blocked incorrectly - this is known as whitelisting.
Whitelisting with the Windows Firewall
To manage the whitelist in the Windows Firewall, click Start, type firewall and click Windows Defender Firewall.
Click Allow a program or feature through Windows Firewall (or, if you’re using Windows 10, click Allow an app or feature through Windows Firewall).
On the next screen, click Change settings, then tick or untick the box next to an item to allow or block it.
Alternatively, you can tick or untick the box in either the Private or Public columns - if, say, if you wanted to allow a program internet access when you’re connected to your home network (Private), but block it when you’re connected to a public one, such as a wi-fi hotspot.
Tech tips you can trust - get our free Tech newsletter for advice, news, deals and stuff the manuals don’t tell you
Block all incoming programs
There are occasions where it’s much safer to block all incoming data connections to your computer, including all of the programs on your ‘whitelist’ of connections that you’d normally allow.
Want some more help with your home network? Our friendly tech team can help you with one-to-one support on a range of tech issues. Find out more here.For example, you may wish to do this if you’re using an unsecured wi-fi connection in an airport or hotel, where malware could potentially gain access to your laptop through open connections.
To disallow all incoming data connections with the Windows Firewall, click Start, type firewall and click Windows Firewall > Change notification settings.
Under Public network settings, untick Notify me when Windows Defender Firewall blocks a new app and then tick Block all incoming connections, including those in the list of allowed programs, then OK.
With this setting enabled, you’ll still be able to send and receive email and browse the web, but other connections will be blocked automatically.
Thinking of buying a new Windows laptop? Read all our advice and lab tests here