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How to Disable or Enable Firewall in Windows XP

March 13, 2009

in computer performance,privacy & security,Windows

by Tina Gasperson

Windows XP comes with a built-in firewall, which is a great tool for protecting your system from unauthorized access by malicious programs that you may stumble upon while you’re online. Sometimes, however, you’ll want to turn the firewall off in order to install a desirable program or to allow a remote technician access to your computer for technical support. After that, of course, it’s important to re-enable the firewall so that your computer is less vulnerable to attack.

To access the settings for your firewall, click “Start,” “Control Panel,” and scroll down to “Windows Firewall.” The dialogue will show you whether your firewall is on or off. To disable the firewall when it is on, select the radio button next to Off. Windows will tell you that it doesn’t recommend you turn off the firewall, but go ahead and do it anyway. It’s your computer and you know what you need. Then click OK. Windows warns you again by putting a little red shield with an x in the middle of it on your taskbar. A balloon pops up telling you your computer might be at risk. Again, just ignore this. Now you can proceed with whatever you were doing that necessitated disabling the firewall.

Enable firewall

Enable firewall

To turn the firewall back on, it’s the same process. Click “Start,” “Control Panel,” and scroll down to “Windows Firewall.” To re-enable the firewall, click the radio button next to On. Now you have a choice whether or not to allow exceptions to your firewall rule. Sometimes you’ll want to allow code on a trusted Web site to interact with your computer. Most of the time this happens with applications that are installed on your system but which need to access the Internet to work properly. Many multi-player computer games are like this, as well as instant messaging programs. If you click the “Exceptions” tab, you can see which exceptions to the firewall rule are already in action. The vast majority of the time you will want to allow exceptions to your firewall rule. The only time no exceptions would be a good idea is when you are on a wireless connection in an unsecured location where there’s a good chance that someone will try to maliciously access your computer. For most of us, that’s not a likely scenario, so you can feel comfortable allowing exceptions to your firewall rule as you see fit.

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.