Zone Alarm's free firewall program is designed to help protect your computer from hackers and viruses. Basically, a firewall is like a castle wall surrounding your computer. Only those programs and users that you choose to lower the drawbridge for can enter. The rest, including harmful programs and hackers, will be unable to access your computer. There are a variety of firewall programs out there, but Zone Alarm is one of the most trusted and well-known.
The first step in installing Zone Alarm is, of course, to download it. Visit www.zonealarm.com to get the free version of the software. Unlike some “free" software, Zone Alarm won't expire after so many days or require any sort of code to access all of its features. Before you start the install, you should disable (or, preferably, uninstall) any other firewall programs you have on your computer.
After going through all the normal installation steps (agreeing to the user license, entering your email, etc. ), you'll see the option to install Zone Alarm Pro instead of the Free version. This version costs money. Although you may eventually want to upgrade to this product, select the free option for now. You will also get the option of having Zone Alarm update itself automatically. That's not a bad idea if you don't want to have to deal with installing updates.
Now it's time to configure Zone Alarm. Once this is done, Zone Alarm more or less runs by itself, and you won't have to do much with it on a day to day basis. First, you'll see the overview screen. If you click on preferences, you should see that Zone Alarm loads at startup (check it if it's not). Then click on Firewall. Here, you can decide how tight your firewall settings should be. The higher the setting, the fewer online programs and web scripts your computer will be able to run. Generally, you want the internet zone to be set to high to keep out viruses and such.
Program Control is another section that you'll want to check. You always want to have it set at medium or high; otherwise, programs like adware or viruses on your computer will have free access to send information to other computers online.
Once all of this is configured, you'll get a pop-up box every time a program wants to access the internet. For the first week or so, you'll see these often, but once Zone Alarm learns which programs should have access, the pop-ups will stop and you can rest assured that the Zone Alarm firewall is protecting your computer and the personal information stored there.
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