I have a home network with 4 computers. 2 belong to the kiddies and hold no important data. I have just had to remove the old, no-longer-supported Sygate Personal Firewall from one of these. Do I really need to find a replacement firewall? Does a Client without a Firewall provide hackers with a backdoor to the Host and other Clients?
You should look upon hardware and client firewalls as different things - their abilities overlap slightly - and this should influence your choice.
A hardware firewall primarily offers inbound protection, something that is not 100% essential, but perhaps becomes more so in a network environment, hence its place as a standard feature. It also allows varying degrees (dependent upon the product) of network permissions, port control and so on.
A client firewall is not 100% essential nor is it 100% secure. But it is extremely useful and valid. It has certain abilities that a hardware firewall cannot have; for example, program launch control, program internet access control, web filtering etc. It is also somewhat easier to use for the purposes of network permissions. For example my bussiness PC are networked with the family's PCs, but my client firewalls make it easy to make the shares visible one way only.
click here and read fully before downloading. I say that because at first glance, it does not appear to be free, but is. This is arguably the best *free* network-centric firewall available and certainly has the best client control.