Disabling Windows messenger

First, let’s clarify what "messenger" we are talking about. Clarification is necessary because Windows actually has three "messengers." First there’s MSN Messenger and then there’s Windows Messenger and finally there’s the Windows Messaging service.

MSN Messenger is Microsoft’s end-user oriented instant messaging (IM) service.

Windows Messenger is also an IM service but its intended use is within corporations. It’s only available for Windows XP and some versions of Win2k. Unlike MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger is quite tightly integrated into key Microsoft products like Outlook, Exchange and Windows XP itself.

Both share the same icon in Windows. Both make use of the same .NET contacts and are, in a general sense, interchangeable. That’s the way I’m going to treat them here.

Then there’s Windows Messenger Service. Unfortunately, some folks incorrectly refer to this as "Windows Messenger" which just adds to the confusion.  In fact, Windows Messenger Service is not an IM product at all.  It’s a network messaging product that was introduced with Win2K.  Its intended use was to provide popup information windows in a network environment. For example, when Tech Support wants to broadcast a message to all users like "the system is going down in 10 minutes."

Unfortunately, the Windows Messenger Service has been exploited by spammers who used it to pop up their nasty little ads. For this reason most folks have got rid of it from their PCs. Zapping it is easy; just download Steve Gibson’s "Shoot the Messenger" program from here: http://www.grc.com/stm/shootthemessenger.htm

"OK," you say, "I can understand why I should get rid of Windows Messenger Service, but why should I get rid of Windows Messenger?"

Well, if you are one of the many folks who don’t use IM or you use a non-Microsoft IM product, Windows Messenger is an unwanted annoyance. It’s also responsible for those pesky “sign up for a Microsoft Passport account" messages. Worse still, Windows Messenger is wasting your CPU cycles. It may also present a security risk.

Alas, removing it is not easy. First there’s no uninstall option. Simply exiting Messenger doesn’t work either as it re- starts the next time you re-start Windows. Hacking the registry to stop Windows Messenger starting doesn’t work as Outlook and some other programs just reinstate it.

Microsoft has a KB article that tells you what to do but their method doesn’t seem to work reliably for all machines. http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;Q302089

The approach that seems to work best is to run the following command from the command window.

RunDll32 advpack.dll,LaunchINFSection %windir%infmsmsgs.inf,BLC.Remove

I think you’ll find this will do the job. If not, try this web site. There you’ll find two other ways of getting rid of this stubborn pest. http://www.druid628.com/techtips/windows/msmsgs/uninstall_msn.htm

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2004-10-20: