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Windows Firewall

Microsoft removed the Windows Firewall link from the Networking and Sharing Center, but you can still access it from the Control Panel.

Once opened (see Figure 6), you'll notice a few changes. Instead of seeing an overview of the firewall settings for just the network type you're currently connected to, you can review the configuration for both Private and Public types. Plus there are a few more tasks/shortcuts on the right pane.

The Allow a program or feature through Windows Firewall link on the left pane remains similar, which brings up the actual firewall settings. However, the interface has changed, as you see in Figure 7. You can now configure firewall settings for the differing Private and Public network types from this window, rather than being only to configure the settings for the network type you are currently connected to.

On the downside, you must now access the advanced firewall utility to change the scope of access (the IP address or range allowed/blocked) or to input firewall settings based upon ports numbers.

A link for the advanced settings is on the left pane of the main Windows Firewall window.

Other New or Improved Features

We've taken a quick tour through Windows 7's networking and firewall interfaces. We discovered good and bad changes. Before we go, here are a few more new or improved features that weren't visible:

  • Support for Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS): The push-button or PIN scheme of automatically configuring computers with the encryption details is now supported natively in Windows 7. So if WPS is enabled on the wireless router, Windows 7 notifies you when connecting to the secured network for the first time. If you press the WPS button (with a minute or two) on the router itself or the virtual one in its web-based utility, the encryption settings in Windows 7 will automatically be configured.
  • Wi-Fi support for Wake On LAN (WOL): Previously, WOL was supported only over Ethernet LAN connections. With Windows 7 (and a supported chipset), you can now remotely turn on computers through the air waves.
  • Offline Files feature improved: You don't have to wait for the Offline Files to synchronize after logging into Windows now. There's now an Offline Files cache, which synchronizes with the server in the background. For advanced networks, there are also additional Group Policy settings for Offline Files.
  • VPN connectivity improved: VPN connections are automatically reestablished if connectivity is lost. Additionally, advanced systems with Windows Server 2008 (using IPv6 and IPsec) can automatically connect to a VPN when an Internet connection is detected. Plus to reduce unnecessary use, access to public Web sites is not routed via the VPN.
  • Windows Complete PC Backup improved: Now you can use a network share as the backup destination.
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