Microsoft has improved the built-in Windows Firewall ever since it was included in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
The majority of usability and security issues have been dealt with. Outbound Packet Filtering was for instance introduced under Windows Vista. There are still some issues left that Microsoft has not yet addressed. Especially the firewall's configuration interface and notifications need improvement.
Windows Firewall Notifier is a third party program for Windows 7 and Vista that improves the handling of the firewall in this regard. When you first start the firewall notifier it performs a series of actions.
The program enables the Windows Firewall if it is not enabled on the system. Once enabled, it will block all inbound and outbound connections for which no firewall rules exist. It then enables Windows firewall inbound connection notifications and outbound connections logging if disabled.
A task is then created in the Windows Task Scheduler that is linked to Windows firewall event log entries. This will basically launch Windows Firewall Notifier whenever an inbound or outbound connection for which no rule exist is blocked.
Configuring the program to run as a task means that it will not run in the background all the time. The Task Scheduler will launch the firewall notifier whenever the system tries to make a connection that is not listed under allowed or blocked connections. The following dialog is then displayed on the screen giving the Windows user options to allow or block the connection.
The notification lists the application's name, system path and target IP or hostname. Buttons are available to allow or block the connection once, or to allow or block it always.
The program will make the selected changes to the firewall configuration before it closes down again. Users who want to uninstall the firewall software again need to run it again. A dialog to disable it is then presented on screen.
Windows Firewall Notifier is a handy program for Windows Vista and Windows 7 users who make use of the built-in firewall. The program, compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit editions of supported Windows operating systems, is available for download at the developer website.