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My firewall is slowing down my system, do I really need it?

Leo, I’m the gentleman who needed help with a very slow internet access due
to slow
download and upload speeds
. I downloaded Process Explorer as you suggested
and found that my software firewall, Zone Alarm, was hogging so much that I had
little virtual memory left. So I uninstalled it; disabling did not help. I
immediately got virtually all of the upload and download speed I was paying
for.

My first question is: because I have a new encrypted router, do I need Zone
Alarm or any other software firewall?

My second question is: I found another program, Spybot Search and Destroy
that was very active with the signature “teatimer.exe” and it is at right at
the top of the queue. I hesitate to uninstall that program but it is a hog.
What do you suggest? I’ll continue to look further but my up/down experience is
now much better thanks to you.

In this excerpt from
Answercast #31
, I take another look at an old machine that has been well
maintained, but was losing its internet speed.

]]>

Internet speeds improved

Well, I’m very glad to hear that things are speeding up for you – that’s great news!

So… Zone Alarm:

Software firewalls

Software firewalls in addition to a router are somewhat controversial. However, my recommendation is that you don’t need one.

  • A router acts as a firewall for incoming threats; and that’s really what I want a firewall to do.

I don’t run with a firewall enabled on any of my PCs here at home because everything’s behind a router. So, I think you can safely live without Zone Alarm.

I have a couple of articles on, “Do you need an outbound firewall?” which is essentially the only additional thing that a software firewall would get you that a router wouldn’t.

  • A software firewall will notice if something on your computer is reaching out to the internet; something that shouldn’t be.

Nine times out of ten, or 99 times out of a 100 even, I really don’t think that’s something most people need. In a case like what you’ve described, I really think you would be fine without a software firewall at all.

Especially, like I said, as long you’re behind a router.

Real-time monitoring

As for the second question, you’re right; Spybot Search and Destroy is quite a reputable program and teatimer is its real-time monitoring tool.

  • I don’t know of a way to make teatimer, itself, use fewer resources.

The only other thing I might suggest is to go ahead and uninstall Spybot, but make sure to install something else.

Anti-virus & Anti-spyware tools

Now I don’t know what anti-virus tool you’re using. What I typically suggest for people these days is to run Microsoft Security Essentials.

That is both an anti-virus and anti-spyware tool. It would essentially remove the need for something like Spybot.

  • It removes the need for an additional anti-spyware tool: like Spybot.

But again, it would also be redundant with whatever anti-virus program you’re running. So I’m hesitant to say “Yes, you should do that” without knowing the full story.

Turn off teatimer

  • You can turn teatimer itself off from within Spybot.

You do lose a little bit of functionality; a little bit of Spybot’s real-time protection; but that may be a trade-off you’d want to consider if the performance hit is big enough.

The alternative that I would then suggest would be to make sure that you’ve got Spybot doing regular scheduled scans; to make up for the fact that it may not be checking things as they happen.

Enjoy the speed…

So, sounds like you’ve got things working better.

  • You don’t need the firewall.

  • We can tweak Spybot a little,

  • Or we can replace it.

And, I’m very glad to hear that you’re now getting the internet upload/download speed that you’re paying for. That’s great news.

End of Answercast #31 – Back to Audio Segment

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4 comments on “My firewall is slowing down my system, do I really need it?”

  1. I used ZoneAlarm myself for a time, until I discovered (as this person did) that internet speed suffered severely to the point that some programs simply stopped communicating. I still use Search & Destroy, and leave TeaTimer active.
    ZoneAlarm itself refuses to uninstall (there are no install entries, Revo won’t touch it, and you can’t delete it because it protects itself) so I end up simply exiting the program at startup and let the windows firewall take over.

    Reply
  2. I am now confused buy not needed a firewall because of a router. Further a firewall works on outbound items still leaves me confused.

    Here is why the confusion.

    When one signs up with a ISP service such as AT&T, Verizon etc, they get a router that connects to the phone line and you connect to the router.

    Is that device a router?

    If no, does that mean one needs to buy a router to connect to the ISP’s device? If yes can one use that instead of the ISP’s device to connect to the phone line?

    If it is a router, using a current infection for example purposes:

    How did the virus that infected many apple users get by that router?

    Also why would one need some security product such as McAfee or Kaspersky etc.?

    Not all ISPs give you a router. Some give you a modem, some give you a modem+router combination. If you have the later, then you have a router and you’re good. If you have only a modem, then you should provide your own router.

    Routers do not stop all viruses, they only stop viruses and attacks that are initiated by other computers attempting to infiltrate yours. They
    do not protect you from webpages you visits, things you download yourself, or email attachments you open up.

    Leo
    03-Jul-2012
    Reply
  3. Pasquale,

    You need to know if what the phone company gives you is a modem or a modem/router combination. You need to ask your ISP what they gave you. If you can only connect one computer to it, it is likely a modem, and you will need a firewall.

    If it is a modem/router combination, you need to find out if it does Network Address Translation. Leo has an article about that: http://ask-leo.com/does_my_router_have_a_firewall_or_not.html

    Another good article to read is: http://ask-leo.com/whats_the_difference_between_a_hub_a_switch_and_a_router.html

    I asked my ISP for a modem only and used my existing NAT router (phone jack to modem to router to computer, laptop, and printer).

    Even with a firewall (or a NAT router), people still get viruses or malware because they invite them in unknowingly. So you still need an anti-virus and anti-malware tool.

    Reply
  4. I have found that Zone Alarm 9 out of 10 times will cause some type of issue (programs can’t open, Internet connection disrupted, etc.). I highly recommend using Comodo’s Free Firewall (be sure to turn off the defense+ mode as it does the same thing as Windows’ User Account Control). I have had it block several threats that my anti-virus and anti-malware programs did not.

    Reply

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