Just wondering if a firewall should be the standard on everyone's home PC, and which one I should get if so?
Yes you should have a firewall on your home computer. I had a software firewall on my computer even when I had a dial up connection.
Okay, there are much better people on here to answer the questions about firewalls but I'll go ahead and drop a bit of info and they'll come along and fill up any gaps (and correct any mistakes).
There are basically two types of firewalls, software and hardware. It's just like it sounds, software firewalls are an application that runs on your computer and monitors various connections. There are different degrees of software firewalls, some only monitor incoming connections and port scans, someone monitor that along with out going connections, some monitor all of that along with other things such as when one application is replacing another application, when one applicaiton is launching another application, when a dll file is being run as an executable, etc etc etc. Windows XP has a built in software firewall, I think the first version was with SP1 and then the new version was with SP2. Personally I don't use the MS firewall. When it comes to software firewall there a bunch you can pay for, but there are also a few really good software firewalls that are free for home/personal use. The three I'd recommend are ZoneAlarm, Kerio, and Sygate Personal Firewall.
ZoneAlarm used to be the #1 free software firewall available, everyone seemed to love the security it had, however about a year ago they were bought out by another company, and while eveyone still rates ZoneAlarm as the #1 free fireawll there have been little things here and there pointing to the fact that ever since they got bought the gap between the #1 and #2 best free firewall might be narrowing. However, ZoneAlarm is still really good and I've installed it on quite a few friend's computers.
Kerio firewall, is also really good, I really like it however you will get a lot of popups with it because it monitors so much (different connections, applications, etc) however you can set it up so that fewer and fewer popups occure...note these are not like advertisment popups, they are popups saying that something is happening and asking you what to do.
Sygate Personal Firewall, now I haven't used it in a while but I've installed it on many people's computer because they don't know much about computers and in my past experiences it was the one with the least amount of popups. I don't know if newer versions monitor applications and different files changing and being used, but as far as just blocking connections and port scans, it works great, very straight forward.
Those are the three I regularly install on people's computers. If they want ZoneAlarm, that's what I put. If they're tech savy I put Kerio so they can adjust it to how they want. If they're really clueless and I'm just putting on a software firewall to hopefully prevent me from having to come back and fix their computer again, I usually put Sygate Personal Firewall (but sometimes ZoneAlarm).
Those are personally the three I recommend, there are others and I haven't checked in a while, but last time I checked you couldn't really go wrong with either of the three. If you kinda know what's up, I suggest Kerio. If you just want straight protection I suggest Sygate a little more then I sugget ZoneAlarm even though people will argue that ZoneAlarm is better protection, I feel Sygate is simpler and more straight forward (granted I personally haven't used either in a while so that might have changed).
Hardware firewalls are just that, it's actually built into a piece of hardware. Yes, you can find stand alone firewalls that pretty much are only firewalls, however for home use if you have a highspeed connection then getting a simple router is the way to go. Even if you only have one computer hooked up to the connection most routers now have a built in firewall. Hardware firewalls are a bit better because they are usually harder to get around then a software firewall.
At home I have a highspeed connection, with two computers sharing the connection, I have a router with a built in firewall splitting the connection between the two, but I also have a software firewall running on each of the computers. Yes, I'm paranoid like that.
Short answer, yes you should have a firewall on your home computer, download one of the three suggested software firewalls and put it on your home computer, it might be a bit of a pain to set up at first if you're not sure what you're doing, but once you get it working right it just works in the background without interupting you much.
Hope that helps
cool thanks for the info, i'll probably try zone alarm.