To protect your computer from unauthorized connections, Windows has a built-in firewall that is enabled by default. While Windows Firewall works silently in the background, there might be situations where you need to troubleshoot the Windows firewall. Whether you are using Windows 11 or 10, in this tutorial, we’ll show you how to check firewall settings. Additionally, you’ll also learn about profiles, inbound and outbound connections, and how to identify which policies are enabled/disabled. It will not only help you in troubleshooting tasks but also allow you to better understand your firewall settings.
Note: The steps shown below are tested to work in Windows 11, 10, 8, and 7.
Steps to Check Firewall Settings
Opening Windows Firewall
First, you need to open the Windows Firewall app. There are several ways to do it but the easiest one is via the Start menu. So, click the Windows logo on the taskbar, search for Windows Defender Firewall, and click on the top result to open Windows Firewall.
Identify Active Firewall Profile
As soon as the firewall window opens, you will see your network profiles. The active profile will be tagged as Connected and expanded by default. Under the active profile, you will see the current firewall state (on/off), incoming connections policy, active networks, and notification state.
Note: If you are using a third-party firewall or antivirus software with firewall capabilities, Windows Firewall is automatically disabled. You’ll also see a banner letting you know that your firewall is managed by another app. For example, since my firewall is being managed by BitDefender, Windows Firewall is disabled with a message stating, ‘These settings are being managed by vendor application BitDefender Firewall.’
Accessing Advanced Firewall Settings
In the same window, click the Advanced Settings link on the sidebar to open the Advanced Firewall Settings window.
Managing Inbound and Outbound Rules
In the Advanced Settings window, you can manage the inbound & outbound rules and monitor your firewall activity.
Click on the Inbound Rules option on the sidebar to see all the policies and rules controlling the incoming connections to your computer. To see the outgoing connection rules, click on the Outbound Rules option.
Rules/policies that are enabled and active are indicated with a green checkmark and labeled as Yes under the Enabled column. If a rule is disabled, you will not see a green checkmark and it is labeled as No under the Enabled column.
You can also import or export firewall rules by clicking on the Import Policy or Export Policy options in the main window.
Modifying Firewall Rules
To disable an existing rule, simply right-click on it and choose Disabled Rule.
To enable an already disabled rule, right-click on it and choose Enable Rule.
If you want to create a custom firewall rule, select Inbound Rule or Outbound Rule on the left sidebar and then click on the New Rule option on the right sidebar. Follow the new rule wizard.
To modify an existing firewall rule, simply right-click on it and choose Properties.
In the rule properties window, go to the appropriate tab, make the necessary changes, and click OK.
Monitoring Firewall Activity
To monitor Windows Firewall activity, click on the Monitoring option on the left sidebar. It shows the currently active profile, general settings status, logging settings, and log file location.
Turn Off or On Windows Firewall
To turn off or on Windows Firewall, click on Turn Windows Defender Firewall On or Off on the main window and then select the following options under both Private and Public profiles:
- Turn on Windows Defender Firewall to enable the firewall.
- Turn off Windows Defender Firewall to disable the firewall.
Restore Firewall to Default Settings
If you wish to restore the firewall to its default settings, simply click on the Restore Defaults option on the main firewall settings window.
And there you have it! It’s that simple to check and understand your Windows firewall settings. To further help you, I’ve also included common glossary terms that are important to understanding your firewall.
Firewall Glossary Terms
1. What are Network ‘Profiles’ in Firewall?
In simple terms, network profiles such as Domain, Private, and Public (also sometimes called Guest) control your firewall security and sharing settings based on the network you’re connected to.
Private Profile: Use this for trusted networks, like your home network, where it’s safe to share and access files between devices.
Public Profile: This should be selected when you’re on less secure, public networks like airport or coffee shop Wi-Fi. It enhances security by preventing other devices on the same network from accessing your computer.
Domain Profile: This is typically used in workplace environments. When your device is connected to a network managed by a domain controller — a server that controls network security — the Domain profile is applied for appropriate security management.
2. What are Inbound and Outbound rules?
Inbound and outbound rules control how data is allowed to enter and leave your computer on a network.
Inbound rules: These rules control how incoming connections or data from the internet or other networks is handled. Inbound rules can allow or block data from external sources to access your computer. For example, you can have an inbound rule that only allows connections from a specific device and blocks all others.
Outbound rules: These rules control how your device can send data out to the internet or other networks. Outbound rules can allow or block your device from initiating certain types of connections. For example, if don’t want an app to connect to the internet, you can create an outbound rule to block all outgoing connections from that app.
3. What is a Port in Firewall?
You can think of a Port in a firewall as a virtual doorway that allows specific types of network traffic to enter and leave your device. Each port is identified by a number. Some port numbers are automatically associated with particular types of network activity. For example, ports 80 & 443 are used for web browsing, and port 25 for email. In Windows Firewall, you can open and close these ports to control the network traffic.
Related: How to check if a port is blocked
4. What is a Protocol in Firewall?
Protocols are a set of rules that dictate how data is transmitted over a network. There are several protocols for different types of data. For example, for web browsing we use HTTP, for file transfers we use FTP, and TCP/IP for general internet communication. In general, a firewall uses protocols to identify and manage the type of network traffic that is allowed or blocked.
I hope this simple article helped you check your firewall settings and under them better.