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Windows Vista Firewall Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Configuring ports

When a program on one computer communicates with a program on another, they do so through ports. Packets of data are exchanged by computers connected to a network and they pass through a specific port on each computer. You don't need to know what exactly a port is, but you do need to be aware that programs use them. You can think of a port as being a bit like a sea port. When goods are imported or exported by a country a ship docks at a specific port and unloads the goods it is bringing in or picks up goods it is taking away. Data comes in and is transferred out of a computer in a similar way using ports. Computer ports don't have names and instead they have a number.

Some ports are reserved for specific programs. For example, port 80 is used for transferring web pages by Internet Explorer and other software. Email software like Windows Mail uses port 110. Windows Firewall will automatically allow these known ports to be used, but some other programs that use the internet or the network will not work unless you instruct the firewall to allow communications through a specific port. Programs like instant messenger and chat programs, network and internet games, and several others all use different ports. The firewall may need to be instructed to allow communications through these ports and if it doesn't, the programs may not work.

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Adding ports to enable programs to communicate

It would be impossible to list all the ports that programs use and new programs are always being released that may use different ports, so any list we gave would not be up to date anyway. If you know how to open a port in the firewall, you can easily configure the firewall to enable a program to work if you are having problems with it. Click the Add port button on the Exceptions tab of the Windows Firewall Settings dialog. Enter a name for the port (the name of the program is best), and then enter the port number. Choose the TCP or UDP protocol option. We cannot tell you what settings you need and you must consult the documentation provided with the software to see what port it uses and whether it is TCP or UDP. It could be anything because there are no less than 65,536 ports and only the software maker can tell you which port to open. You may find information on the software supplier's website that tells you what settings to enter and it is worth looking for FAQ (frequently asked questions) pages and technical support.

On the Advanced tab of the Windows Firewall Settings dialog is a list of the connections that the computer uses. There may only be one, but there could be several. If you have a PC that simply connects to the internet using a LAN, modem or router, there may be one connection, but often a laptop that is used in different situations (using a dial-up modem, Wi-Fi, network), will have several. Tick the connections that you want to use the firewall to monitor. It is usual to tick all the connections so that no matter how or where you connect to the internet or a network you are protected.

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Tick the connections that Windows Firewall should monitor

Part 1, go to previous page

Part 2


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