Compare Norton Firewall & Windows Firewall

by Heather Wilkins

Daily life seems to revolve around the Internet. Your work is archived in the cloud, your music is streamed, you communicate by blogging and tweeting. Leaving your computer wide open to the Internet is only inviting trouble, but firewalls can keep you and your computer safe. You only need one firewall, plus the firewall in your router. Multiple firewalls can cause conflict, so a comparison of Windows Defender and Norton Smart Firewall can help you select the right one for you.

How Firewalls Work

A firewall can be a piece of hardware or software. It acts as a responsive barrier to all the Internet traffic trying to get into your computer. The firewall analyzes each piece of traffic and decides if it can have access to your computer. A firewall can also block access attempts by hackers and unauthorized communication attempts by your programs or by other computers.

Windows Defender

Windows Defender is a free firewall included with Windows 8. You can set three network types -- Public, Private or Domain -- and can also turn the firewall on or off. You can completely block all uninvited incoming Internet traffic, even for programs that are on the allowed list, and also choose to be notified when a new app is blocked. The "Allow an App or Feature Through Windows Firewall" section enables you to allow individual apps to receive information through the firewall, and select to which network type they are assigned. Windows Defender also has advanced settings that allow you to open ports for multiplayer gaming.

Norton Smart Firewall

Norton Smart Firewall is included with all Norton security suites, except for Norton Antivirus. Price ranges from $80 to $150 as of February 2013. Smart Firewall uses the Norton Insight database to decide how much access to grant programs, though you can also adjust this access manually via the Program Control settings, meaning you can allow, block or set custom access levels for individual programs. You can also add or remove programs from Program Control. Smart Firewall also enables you to set access levels for other connected computers and networks, or completely restrict them. You can also view a map of your network, seeing which devices are on the network and if they are connected and the network's security status. Advanced settings are also available in this firewall.


Windows Defender and Norton Smart Firewall both accomplish the same objective -- they keep your computer safe from hackers and unauthorized Internet access. Windows Defender is the easiest solution because it is included on your computer and already enabled. However, if you want more control over your firewall and network, Norton Smart Firewall might be the better choice.

About the Author

Heather Wilkins has five years of professional copyediting experience. She worked for Pearson Education, copyediting books about computer skills, the Internet, and general subjects. She also edits for online entry-level college courses. Wilkins holds a Professional Writing degree from Purdue University.

Photo Credits

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