Identifying the unidentified problem with Windows Firewall

Recently Windows Vista has been refusing to show the Windows Firewall Settings dialog box and instead showing the ever so informative message: “Windows Firewall: Due to an unidentified problem, Windows cannot display Windows Firewall settings”.


No clues. Nothing in the Event Log. Nothing. Brilliant.

Well I had a brain wave this morning about what might be causing it. Thankfully it turned out to be right. I remembered that on our Windows Domain we have a few Group Policy settings that apply to Windows Firewall.


In this case the culprit was the “Define program exceptions” that had a few old entries for AVG 7.5 Network Edition. As we’d upgraded to AVG 8.0 recently the program paths were no longer valid, nor really necessary. So I removed them entirely and set the policy back to Not configured. To verify it worked I ran gpupdate /target:computer /force at a command prompt on my workstation and voila: the Windows Firewall Settings dialog box would now appear once more.


Group Policy for Windows Firewall is stored on client machines in the the Registry at:


So if you’re not on a domain and there are registry entries in this location that have been set for some reason, then adjusting them will have the same effect as changing the Group Policy. If you are on a domain then getting the Group Policy fixed is obviously the right approach.

Hope that helps you – leave a comment if it does.

8 Responses to Identifying the unidentified problem with Windows Firewall

  1. dEf says:

    thanks for the tip, I had the same problem.

  2. Sailaja says:

    I am a vista user and I am having the same issue while trying to change my Firewall settings.I tried to do the above setting in my local machine and navigated to ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\WindowsFirewall’.But I am not getting how to do the above mentioned settings there in ‘DomainProfile’.Could you please guide me further to resolve this issue

    • Duncan Smart says:

      If there isn’t anything in that registry location, then your problem lies elsewhere I think.

      • Evelyn says:

        the group policy object manager is only available to begin with on vista machines made to run vista business or pro, or ultimate. the fix is impossible on home machines.

      • Evelyn says:

        I think she means she cannot get there, not that it is free of problems.

  3. Jim says:

    Great work…..Solved our issue……Thanks so much for taking the time to post this.

  4. Clayton says:

    My system was XP Pro, but your command got me back in business…

    Thanks a bundle…

  5. joseph says:

    Thanks for this post, i will try that.


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