Many internet problems are caused by firewalls being too paranoid about connections, and sometimes cutting off vital information flow. Here's my scope on firewalls, if you disagree, tell me so:
Mcafee Personal Firewall:
This cheap, primitive firewall is included in Mcafee Virusscan 6.0. It boasts an adaptable firewall with an IDS (intrusion detection system, an advanced technology that looks for patterns that may signal attacks, kind of like how antivirus programs look for signatures). The application protection features are extremely weak, only programs requesting access from Windows would be caught by Mcafee. The so-called IDS only detects 6 attacks... It is NOT home-network friendly, there is NO WAY to exclude an IP address from the firewall. If installed on a home network, it will make that computer INVISIBLE from the rest of the network.
Excellent firewall, with extremely strong protection, but best of all, IT's FREE. Very nice interface, with a generous help file that explains everything from how firewalls work to every single button in the program. Nice application control, it can prevent programs from accessing the net without your permission. (some free programs "phone home", giving the creator anything from the OS of your computer to all your tax returns!) It also has an internet extension that explains every attack carefully, and keeps a log of events. Its alerts are color-coded and unobtrusive, but this free version can't be customized in any way. you must accept the default rules. VERY home network friendly, it automatically detects networks, and asks you if it's an internet account or a home network. This is a TRUE free version, NO ADVERTISEMENTS, NO LIMIT, NO SHAREWARE REMINDERS AND NAG SCREENS
Zonealarm PRO 3.0.118
Same as the free version, only it costs money and provides more features. This does NOT, however, offer any more security than the free version, so don't feel guilty about getting the free version!!! It allows you to customize firewall rules, and also includes privacy controls. The privacy function blocks advertisements and cookies that track you individually. Excellent firewall, also home network friendly. In fact, it supports Internet Connection Sharing, which will protect all the computers in the network. Gateway Enforcement is also a neat feature. If you install Zonealarm on every single computer in your network, then if the firewall on the "gateway" (the computer sharing the access) breaks down and malfunctions, then the rest of the computers will still be protected. This is the ULTIMATE firewall to get, and it even has a 30-day trial, if you are still skeptical.
Norton Internet Security 2002, Norton Personal Firewall 2002
Like all Norton products: The best possible protection, but the WORST prices. These products boast the same ability as Zonealarm PRO, but carry a huge price tag. One advantage is that Internet Security comes with Norton Antivirus, the BEST virus protection ever. I'll post a follow-up about antivirus later.
This is a strange one: Blackice is an advanced IDS, it contains hundreds of thousands of signatures, or patterns of attack, and boasts a 7-layer advanced decoding layer. It lacks a decent firewall, no Application control, no privacy features. It costs a huge 40 dollars, too. My suggestion is that BlackICE could only serve as a supplement to a decent firewall, such as Zonealarm.
Blackice PC Protection 3.5
Newest version of BlackICE, Added Application control, but very annoying. Not only does it prompt you EVERY time a program accesses the net, but it also prompts you EVERY TIME A NEW PROGRAM LOADS!!!! This part could be disabled, and it would almost be like the old 2.9 version. My recommendation: If you really want it, disable Application Control and use it in conjunction with zonealarm Free version.
Sygate Personal Firewall:
Very obscure program and interface, looks primitive. Tons of security holes, rarely any updates. Steer clear of this program