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My real concern here is the fact that you can't turn the Windows firewall on. That's bad!

Hi, Leo. I was wondering if I should download a firewall. My Windows firewall is disabled, turned off, and it won't let me turn it back on or use the recommended settings. I was thinking about downloading a firewall since this is important. Do you think it will harm my computer to download one? I know you're not supposed to have more than one firewall running - as they can conflict with each other and cause the computer harm and to crash. But since it's disabled and won't turn back on, I didn't figure it would hurt since it wouldn't be the same as using one anyway, because the other is permanently disabled. What do you think?

In this excerpt from Answercast #51, I look at a system that has disabled the Windows firewall. This is a symptom of malware.

Disabled firewall

I think you've got a bigger problem.

I think the solution here is definitely not to install another firewall. Sure, you can, it may not harm anything. My typical recommendation, instead, is just to rely on the firewall that your router provides - but that's neither here nor there.

My real concern here is the fact that you can't turn the Windows firewall on. That's bad. That is something that needs to get fixed.

Symptom of malware

The reason I say that is because this is one of the symptoms of malware. Malware will often go through extra steps to disable things, like your firewall, and make it impossible to turn on. They will often also disable your anti-malware software and make it impossible to get updates for that.

So, my very strong recommendation is that, for the the moment, you forget this additional firewall issue and instead - focus on clearing what is likely to be some kind of malware infection on your machine.

Check for viruses

  • Run up to date anti-virus and anti-spyware scans.

  • Consider running the free tool from and see if you can't clear up whatever is preventing the firewall from being able to be turned on.

Once you fix that, well, then the whole issue becomes kind of moot. You turn on the firewall, the Windows firewall and you're good to go.

And like I said, even then if you're behind a router, in my opinion, you're actually safe enough leaving the firewall turned off. But the fact that you can't turn it on, well, that is a problem and that's a problem I think that needs to be addressed.

Article C5791 - September 9, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Dave Markley
September 11, 2012 9:24 AM

I agree with Leo 100% that there is a bigger problem and that it is almost certainly a virus issue. If you want a really good firewall, I highly recommend Comodo Pro Firewall. It's much better than Windows firewall (which only blocks 'incoming' threats). Comodo blocks incoming AND outgoing threats (If some virus does get your info, it can't send it out of the computer without your permission). I also highly recommend Emsisoft Ant-malware and as Leo said, Malwarebytes. Just be sure to choose 'freeware mode' when setting up Emsisoft (keeps it free, which is a good enough version for most) or you will only get a 30-day trial. Good Luck!

September 11, 2012 1:05 PM

Not necessarily. If you install Microsoft Security Essentials, it will disable Windows Defender to avoid conflicts.
If you're not running MSE, then I agree!

Peter B
September 11, 2012 1:25 PM

If there is no malware found, then there is a possibility that you have a problem with your Windows implementation. How you handle that will depend on what version of Windows you are running.

September 11, 2012 2:30 PM

I have spent much time trying to remove Windows Operating System corruption issues caused by criminal-ware.
I have found it is usually quicker to 'bite the bullet' & install Windows

September 13, 2012 4:30 AM

what if i'm on a dialup system so that no quotes is available

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