Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

ZoneAlarm Security

Obtaining | Installing | Configuring | Uninstalling | Issues | Updating

ZoneAlarm products by Check Point are strongly recommended for securing your computer. ©2003–2014 Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. All rights reserved.

You NEED a Firewall — ZoneAlarm Recommended

If you are continually connected to the Internet (most people are) you cannot afford to be without a firewall. See Firewalls: Your First Line of Defense….

The nature of threats on the Internet has changed.

  • Get to know how your security software warns you about threats.
  • Newer threats are much harder to detect and very difficult to remove.
  • Recovery from ransomware is unlikely. A reliable (uninfected) backup of your current data is the only recovery you can count on.
  • Many websites are infected with programs that appear to be legitimate, but whose purpose is to scare you into downloading dangerous software.
  • Many “free” download sites confuse users with multiple download links. A lot of those are unrelated to the intended download and often retrieve malware instead.

Mobile Also Vulnerable

The massive move to mobile has led to huge increases in attacks on mobile devices. Android devices have been the hardest hit, but Apple iOS devices are also vulnerable.

In fact, in the first half of 2015, IBM researchers found that the rates of mobile devices infected with malware were equal to the rate of computers infected with malware. This indicates that malware creators are beginning to shift their attacks from computers to mobiles. — ZoneAlarm

Things have only gotten worse since then. Trends have moved away from viruses to credential stuffing (hacking using repeated user name/password combinations), banking trojans, phishing, multifactor authentication.

I recommend mobile users check out ZoneAlarm's Mobile Security app. It is available for both Android and iPhone (iOS).

Paid or Free?

ZoneAlarm provides two basic classes of products:

  1. paid versions for which you need to purchase a license; and
  2. free versions which are available at no charge (provided you can meet the license requirements).
The freeware security packages make quite an impressive showing in the test, but anyone who wants the highest level of security is required to use one of the commercial packages. The free products tend to concentrate mostly on their pure protection function. — AV-TEST

Obtaining ZoneAlarm

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security Recommended

I strongly recommend a current version of ZoneAlarm Extreme Security.

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security for total protection for your PCs and iOS/Android devices. Virus Free. 100% Guaranteed.

Get Extreme Security (5 devices for US$39.95)*. When placing your order:

  • choose from the 1, 3, 5 or 10 device option;
  • deselect any unnecessary options like the Backup CD or Extended Download;
  • upgrade to the two-year license where the extra value warrants it; and
  • change the currency selection from USD to CAD only where it benefits you.

*Prices indicated are for a one-year subscription and subject to change.

What You Get

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security is strongly recommended for securing your computer.
  • Antivirus & Anti-Spyware Engine.
  • Advanced Real-Time Antivirus.
  • Advanced Firewall.
  • Two-way Firewall.
  • Anti-Phishing (Web Secure Chrome Extension).
  • Identity Protection Services.
  • Anti-Ransomware.
  • Threat Extraction (Web Secure Chrome Extension).
  • Threat Emulation.
  • Anti-Keylogger.
  • ZoneAlarm Mobile Security — iOS & Android.
  • Support.
  • Real-time Security Updates.
  • Game Mode.
  • Web Monitor.


Uninstall Other Security Products First

Don't install ZoneAlarm alongside other security products.

ZoneAlarm 2019 is only compatible with MS Windows Defender, and is not compatible with any other anti-malware software. To install ZoneAlarm 2019, you must first uninstall other anti-malware software. Otherwise, you may experience OS stability and computer performance issues. — ZoneAlarm
ZoneAlarm is only compatible with MS Windows Defender, and is not compatible with any other antimalware software. To install ZoneAlarm, you must first uninstall other antimalware software. Otherwise, you may experience OS stability and computer performance issues. — ZoneAlarm

Be sure you're using the most recent version (see sidebar).

ZoneAlarm Free Products for Personal Use

The ZoneAlarm Free products are FREE for individual and not-for-profit charitable entity use (excluding governmental entities and educational institutions).

Free Antivirus + Firewall

The ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall is a FREE full-featured security suite if you qualify.

ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus 2019 is compatible with MS Windows Defender, and is not compatible with any other antivirus solution. To install ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus 2019, you must first uninstall other antivirus software. Otherwise, you may experience OS stability and computer performance issues.

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall

The ZoneAlarm Free Firewall is a free basic firewall protection if you qualify.

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2019 is compatible with MS Windows Defender, and is also compatible with all other antivirus solutions.

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security Recommended

Even if you qualify for to use the free ZoneAlarm products, I strongly recommend you purchase ZoneAlarm Extreme Security to ensure the most complete protection.

  1. Review the advantages of ZoneAlarm Extreme Security.
    • Damage to your computer software or data will cost you much more than the annual subscription fee.
    • Recovery from an infection can be difficult and costly.
  2. Do NOT install the paid versions unless you wish to try the full version.
    • After the trial period you'll need to either purchase a license or uninstall ZoneAlarm Extreme Security then reinstall the free version.
  3. The installer is a small file that starts the installation process then downloads the remainder of the required files.
  4. If you are offered TrialPay, look for the free download link.
    • TrialPay requires you to purchase other qualifying products to obtain the “free” software.
  5. When downloading the installer, take a note of where the file is saved on your computer (usually in your Downloads folder).

Return to top

Installing ZoneAlarm

These instruction will help you to install or update ZoneAlarm smoothly and avoid issues. There are different procedures for installing, trying out, updating and changing the installed product.

Avoid Installing Multiple Security Products

Multiple antivirus and other security products can appear as a threat to each other and, in the process, allow your computer to become infected and/or cause computer slowdowns. Uninstall any existing security software (except MS Windows Defender) before installing ZoneAlarm Extreme Security or Free Antivirus + Firewall.

Warning: simultaneously installing Windows Updates can create conflicts. Check Windows Update and finish installing any downloaded Updates then restart the computer before beginning the ZoneAlarm product installation or upgrade.

Installing ZoneAlarm for the First Time

When installing ZoneAlarm for the first time:

  1. Ensure you choose the right product. You'll need to qualify to use the Free Antivirus + Firewall or purchase a license to continue to use ZoneAlarm Extreme Security when the trial period ends.
  2. Download the most recent version of the product you want to install.
  3. Uninstall any other security software (except MS Windows Defender) then restart your computer.
  4. Ensure all running programs are stopped, then start the ZoneAlarm installer.
  5. Follow the instructions as each dialogue box appears.
  6. Watch for and deselect unwanted extra options unless they are required.
  7. You will need to restart your computer to finish the installation.
  8. When the computer has restarted, update ZoneAlarm to get the most recent antivirus & malware definitions and any component updates.

If you install ZoneAlarm Extreme Security and haven't purchased a license, you'll have to do so before the 30-day trial expires.

Updating ZoneAlarm

ZoneAlarm products update antivirus & malware definitions and component updates without requiring you to run an installer.

However, if you are upgrading to a newer version that you had to download, you'll need to run the downloaded installer to finish the update process:

  1. Ensure you choose the right product. You cannot install the Free Antivirus + Firewall on top of the ZoneAlarm Extreme Security product or vice-versa.
  2. Download the most recent version of the product you currently have installed.
  3. Ensure all running programs are stopped, then start the ZoneAlarm installer.
  4. Follow the instructions as each dialogue box appears.
  5. Watch for and deselect unwanted extra options unless they are required.
  6. You will need to restart your computer to finish the installation.
  7. When the computer has restarted, update ZoneAlarm to get the most recent antivirus & malware definitions and any component updates.

Starting the ZoneAlarm Install

Double-click on the ZoneAlarm icon for the product you are installing. The installation will begin with this dialogue box for the ZoneAlarm Extreme Security product (other versions are slightly different):

The ZoneAlarm Extreme Security installation start screen

Options & License Agreement

Choose the “Custom Install” option (the text is under the yellow Quick Install button) so that you can choose the options you want for the Security Toolbar:

The ZoneAlarm Extreme Security installation license agreement & options

Depending upon the version you're installing, one or more of options may be pre-selected. Uncheck those you don't want, provided they are not required by the license agreement.

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security no longer installs the Blur browser add-on by default.

See my current recommendations for privacy for Firefox and other browsers. More on the importance of privacy.

ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall

Review the license agreement, then select Agree.

The Installation Process

Whichever version you've chosen, the ZoneAlarm installer will appear.

Once the necessary files have downloaded, the product installation will begin.

  • Windows may ask if TrueVector Service should have access. Say yes.
  • The progress bar will indicate the status of the install.
  • Some processes take longer than others. Don't worry if the progress bar appears to be stopped for some time.

Finishing the Install

Once the installation is complete, you'll see a “Setup finished!” dialogue box. If you wish to register your product, type in your email address and ensure the check box is selected.

Click “Finish.” Windows will restart soon after.

When Windows restarts, ZoneAlarm is fully functional. Have a look at the Top 10 User Questions on the CheckPoint site if you're having problems.

Now, proceed to the instructions for configuring your newly installed ZoneAlarm product.

Return to top

Configuring ZoneAlarm

Note: This section has been updated to reflect terminology used by Windows 10. For example, Settings has replaced the Control Panel and some categories have been renamed or replaced.

For the most part, ZoneAlarm does an excellent job of configuring itself and most users seldom have to make changes.

Trusted or Public Zone

When you first connect to a network, ZoneAlarm asks you to select a trust level for the connection.

  • Most users should select the Public zone. It is meant for public access on open networks (i.e. free WiFi in a coffee shop) but will be the safest choice.
  • Select Trusted ONLY if you need to share files or printers between computers on your home or work network (presumably one you control).

The Public zone is safer if you're unsure. You can always change it later.

ZoneAlarm Interface

The home screen from the Extreme Security 2019 version is shown below:

The ZoneAlarm Extreme Security Home screen

Although ZoneAlarm does an excellent job of determining the setting for most programs and most users, each of the three windows has settings that can be adjusted by clicking on each specific pane:

  • Anti-virus & Firewall includes Anti-virus & Anti-spyware, Advanced Firewall, Threat Emulation and Application Control settings.
  • Web & Privacy includes Web Secure and Anti-Keylogger.
  • Mobility & Data includes Anti-Ransomware and Identity Protection.

There may be different settings options for the services available in your version of ZoneAlarm. Have a look at the Antivirus settings in ZoneAlarm Extreme:

The ZoneAlarm interface

General Concepts

Access Denied by Default

ZoneAlarm is designed to deny access to the Internet by default, allowing access only to the programs you've given permission to have access. This is it's best feature, but can be a stumbling block if you forget this.

  • Simply disabling ZoneAlarm creates problems.
  • If you need to remove ZoneAlarm, uninstall it properly, make the changes necessary to restore your Internet connection, then reinstall it to regain the protection it provides.

Giving & Denying Access

ZoneAlarm doesn't just grant access because of a program's name or file location. It retains a "snapshot" of the characteristics of the approved programs.

ZoneAlarm "Suspicious Behavior" Warnings

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security offers the advantage of fewer alerts but may give you suspicious behavior warnings for programs exhibiting unusual behaviour.

This warns you about programs that are changing files in manner similar to how malicious programs (virus or malware) would act. If you are intentionally installing a program or update you can probably allow the activity.

Read the description of the activity before allowing or denying the process. If you deny a legitimate program, the install cannot complete properly and the program may not function correctly.

The Program Control Screen

You can fine-tune the ZoneAlarm settings (or correct problems with programs not in ZoneAlarm's database) using the Program Control screen. To get there, follow these instructions:

  1. Open the ZoneAlarm via the ZoneAlarm icon beside the clock or look for ZoneAlarm in your list of programs.
  2. Click on the Antivirus & Firewall pane then look for the Application Control section then the programs secured listing to see the programs ZoneAlarm is monitoring on your computer.
  3. A new Application Control window will appear. Click on the View Programs entry on the left if it isn't already selected.

The list of programs may take a moment or two to load. You can view the settings by clicking on any particular program so that the details appear in the pane at the bottom.

Where multiple versions of the same program are listed, check the versions listed in the details pane. You can remove older (replaced) programs if you wish to simplify the listing but be careful you don't remove something that should be left alone.

You'll notice that most programs will have a set of green bars showing the trust level but there are also four settings:

  • Outbound Trusted;
  • Outbound Internet;
  • Inbound Trusted; and
  • Inbound Internet.

Giving or Denying Access to Specific Programs

Each program will have a series of the following indicators for each of these categories:

  • check mark indicates the program has permission.
  • red X indicates that the program is denied access.
  • question mark indicates that the program will ask each time it needs access.

Note: once you've given or denied access to a program the setting will remain until you restart Windows unless you told ZoneAlarm to remember your choice.

For the majority of programs commonly in use ZoneAlarm will provide the correct settings (indicated by the number of green bars in the Trust Level column). A question mark indicates an unknown (and potentially untrusted) program.

You can change these values by left-clicking the symbol for the program. Be aware that making the wrong choices can deny critical programs access to the Internet.

  • You should be most worried about the Internet column.
  • Unless you have set up a local network between the computers in your home or office the Trusted Zone refers to access on your own computer..
  • With a network, you can configure ZoneAlarm to have certain computers designated as trusted.

Server Access Seldom Needed

Earlier versions of ZoneAlarm indicated server access but current versions of ZoneAlarm do an excellent job of providing the correct settings for most programs.

If you do need to manage the server settings, open the Application Control Settings (in the Antivirus & Firewall settings) and click on the Advanced tab.

If any of your programs don't work after denying access, you may need to experiment to see what settings are necessary.

Return to top

Uninstalling ZoneAlarm

If you want to stop using ZoneAlarm, be sure to uninstall it properly:

  • Disabling the startup of ZoneAlarm will cause you problems because it continues to run invisibly (ensuring that ZoneAlarm can't be disabled by malware).
    • Programs with automatic permission to run will continue to work, but those requiring your permission indicated with the question mark) will not.
  • Never just delete the ZoneAlarm program icons and program folders.
    • ZoneAlarm makes changes to your system that require it to be properly uninstalled, either from the uninstall program in the Zone Labs program group or by going to Settings and selecting Apps & Features.
  • Some users have experienced difficulties when improperly uninstalling ZoneAlarm. Be sure to remove any relevant registry entries.
    • Improper changes to the Windows registry can make your computer inoperable. Make these changes carefully or seek out professional assistance.
  • If ZoneAlarm was improperly uninstalled, you may need to reinstall it before uninstalling it again to complete the process successfully.
    • Do not try to install a newer version of ZoneAlarm if you're having difficulties.
    • Download and install the currently installed version for this process.
    • You may need to contact ZoneAlarm support to obtain an older version.

Resolving ZoneAlarm Program Issues

If you have problems updating or maintaining ZoneAlarm, you may need to uninstall it, reboot, then reinstall the same version.

Try the Windows Uninstaller First

First try uninstalling ZoneAlarm using the uninstaller built into Windows.

  • The uninstaller is found in the Setting's Apps & Features (Control Panel's Programs and Features). You'll need to reboot Windows to complete the uninstall.
  • You'll want to have a current copy of the correct version of ZoneAlarm for your license.
  • You'll need to reboot again when the installation is complete.

Clean Install

If uninstalling and reinstalling ZoneAlarm didn't work, you'll need to use the ZoneAlarm Removal Tool. This program completely removes the settings and changes made by ZoneAlarm. You then reboot and reinstall ZoneAlarm. You'll need to have your license number handy since the clean install removes ALL settings.

Manual Removal

If the ZoneAlarm uninstaller AND the ZoneAlarm Removal Tool both fail you'll need to remove the program manually. This is not a task for novices. I suggest you contact ZoneAlarm support for help.

You can also browse or search for information specific to the problem you're having in the ZoneAlarm Forums.

Return to top

ZoneAlarm Issues

Installation Issues

Conflicting Programs

Some computers, particularly laptops and name-brand computers, may run programs that either cause ZoneAlarm to not load or have a conflict that results in a Blue Screen error (BSOD). Tracking these down can be difficult.

Run MSconfig to stop all startup programs except ZoneAlarm to verify the problem. Restore the startup programs one-at-a-time until the program creating the conflict is determined. This is usually (but not always) a driver issue. Search the ZoneAlarm forum with the program name to see if there is a recommended solution listed.

Disabling the problematic program using Piriform's CCleaner may be easier than via the MSconfig interface because then a normal startup for Windows is possible.

  1. Open CCleaner, then click on the Tools icon and select Startup.
  2. Look for the problematic startup listing and disable the startup.
  3. Now restart Windows.

If your computer continues to function OK with the startup of the problem program disabled, then you've resolved the issue.

Lenovo PMHandler.exe

When installing ZoneAlarm on a Lenovo computer running Windows Vista 32, I ran into an issue where ZoneAlarm installed fine, but on the first reboot, a blue screen (BSOD) appeared. Going to Safe Mode and uninstalling ZoneAlarm resolved the issue, but not without sacrificing the protection ZoneAlarm offers.

A search showed that PMHandler.exe, the power management handler for Lenovo computers, can conflict with ZoneAlarm on Windows Vista machines. By going to Safe Mode and stopping PMHandler from loading allowed ZoneAlarm to complete the reboot and finalize the install. It is called PM Driver in the Programs and Features listing.

I used CCleaner's startup tool to disable PMHandler and the issue resolved itself.

Other Potential Issues

Users have noted other causes, including issues with Windows Firewall (which needs to be running when you install ZoneAlarm). If you can determine from the text that appears on the blue screen what program is creating the problem, you have a better chance of resolving the problem you're experiencing.

Internet Access Issues

The most common reason people cannot access the Internet is because they have stopped ZoneAlarm from loading or have tried to delete ZoneAlarm's files without uninstalling ZoneAlarm properly. It can also happen if ZoneAlarm doesn't load correctly with Windows.

By default, ZoneAlarm (like many security products) disables normal access to the Internet. If ZoneAlarm is not running, it is unable to process permission for new programs to access the Internet. Programs that have been given access without asking (either a program recognized as safe by ZoneAlarm or configured manually by you) may continue to have access. An updated program may cease to work.

Other Reasons You Can't Access the Internet

There are other potential causes for loss of Internet access including:

  • Windows Firewall can stop access.
    • Be sure that TrueVector (a ZoneAlarm component) has permission to access the Internet in the Windows Firewall.
  • Conflicting security software may disable access.
    • Your antivirus may disable access to your email program or to other programs if it is not active.
    • Anti-malware can disable access for programs.
  • Trojans and other malware (including programs that emulate antivirus software but are malware) usually disable your antivirus and access to security sites on the Web by making changes to the Proxy or Hosts file.
    • Check to see if the Windows Proxy has been tampered with. Click on Settings then Network & Internet then choose Proxy. It should be set to “Automatically detect settings” (if a proxy server is set, check with whoever manages your network).
    • Check your other browser(s) settings to see if the browser's Proxy has been tampered with. This usually is set to “Use system proxy settings” but this may have been changed. You may be able to restore access by changing this to “No proxy” temporarily while you resolve the issue.
    • Check the Hosts file to see if it has been altered. There should only be comments (prefaced with the # symbol). Malicious programs change this to ensure you cannot find help on the Web.

You may need to search for these settings in some versions of Windows, including Windows 10.

Operating System Issues

Support For Newer Windows Versions

When new versions of Windows are released, support may not be available for your security software. Windows Vista was a particularly bad example, because Microsoft made significant changes to Windows Vista just before release and many utilities and security software products would not run.

The long Windows release candidate programs now ensure ZoneAlarm availability for early Windows adopters (but not necessarily during the beta phase).

Windows 10/8/7 Supported

View ZoneAlarm's current system requirements.

  • Version 15.123.17051 and later is Windows 10/8/7 compatible (but requires the latest service pack to be installed).
  • Windows XP and Vista are no longer supported and both are increasingly dangerous to use.
  • Older (or unpatched) Windows systems are more vulnerable. Download and install the latest available service pack and security updates for Windows (and Office or Office viewers, if installed).

© Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. All rights reserved. Check Point, the Check Point logo and the ZoneAlarm logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. or its affiliates. ZoneAlarm is a Check Point Software Technologies, Inc. Company.

Keep ZoneAlarm Current

Minor Updates

ZoneAlarm automatically provides minor updates when you click “update” in the program.

Performing Upgrades

To upgrade to a new version of ZoneAlarm, you need to

  1. download; then
  2. INSTALL the newer version.

Checking for Updates

Compare your installed version to the newest available version:

  1. click Help ⇒ About to learn your current version; then
  2. look on ZoneAlarm's site to see the newest version available.

If your version is older, you'll need to upgrade your product.

Obtaining the Current Version

Obtain the latest version of your product from one of these locations:

  1. Click the green “Download Now” button.
  2. Make a note of where the file is saved on your computer so you can find it later.

Install the Correct Product

Note: be sure you download the correct product. You cannot install a different product over the existing product.

Trial Versions

You can also upgrade by downloading the appropriate ZoneAlarm 30-day Free Trial.

  • Uninstall your existing security programs (including ZoneAlarm free versions).
  • You'll need a valid license to use trial versions for more than 30 days.
  • If you elect to return to the free version, you'll need to uninstall the trial version then install the free version.

Installing Your Upgrade

Once you've downloaded an upgrade, you'll now have to install it. The procedure is relatively simple as long as you read and follow the instructions.

Installing an upgrade involves the same procedures as installing ZoneAlarm.

Since you'll probably need to restart Windows to complete the process, you'll want to make sure that no other programs are running and that USB storage devices not normally hooked to your computer are removed before starting the installation.

Windows Updates can Conflict

Simultaneously installing Windows Updates can create conflicts.

Check Windows Update and finish installing any downloaded Updates then restart the computer before beginning the ZoneAlarm product installation.

Uninstall Old Versions First

If you keep up with the incremental versions as they are released, you may be able to install the update on top of your currently installed version.

In most cases, you'll be upgrading from the most recent previous release and ZoneAlarm will automatically uninstall the old one prior to installing the new version.

However, you may need to uninstall the older version then a restart Windows before you can install the new version.

Installing a different product on top of a different one (e.g. ZoneAlarm Extreme Security when ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall is installed) is not supported. Uninstall the old product then reboot your computer before installing the new one.

Installation Problems?

If something goes wrong or if you're changing the product type you may need to do a clean install.

Access Requests

Once you've completed the upgrade, ZoneAlarm should operate just like it did before.

However, if you elected for a clean install ZoneAlarm may prompt you for a decision regarding program access.


Automatic Updates

ZoneAlarm will perform minor updates on its own as long as you have automatic updates enabled.

Manual Updates

Manually checking for updates is recommended periodically to ensure ZoneAlarm is as current as possible.

  1. Click the ZoneAlarm icon
    (located next to the clock in the task bar).
  2. Select Update from the menu.
  3. The update process is indicated with progress bars (see below).
  4. Once complete, simply click the Close button.

Update Progress

ZoneAlarm update completed

Automatic updates won't show a progress dialogue box but it is available by clicking “show update” from the menu.

Update Manually Before Scans

I'd recommend a manual update prior to any scheduled virus scan so that you have the most recent antivirus/anti-spyware signatures.

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

If these pages helped you,
buy me a coffee!

Return to top
Updated: March 17, 2021