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Taking Back Windows XP

Turn off Windows Messenger

(Originally carried by BugNet in May 2002)

Many people consider Windows Messenger a useful feature of Windows XP; others consider it a major annoyance. For the latter, we will show how to turn it off, and keep it off.

Why turn it off? After all, it does perform some useful functions, even if instant messaging isn’t important. In addition to instant messaging, it is used for remote assistance, which may be needed at some point down the road. Here are some reasons people may not want it, even though Microsoft finds it necessary to turn it on by default:

  • They don’t use instant messaging, and don’t want their computing to be interrupted by their “buddies.”
  • They don’t want to give up the resources that Windows Messaging uses in the background. Figure 1 shows that in at least one configuration, it is using up 1,564 K in memory.
  • Instant messaging opens up another connection to the Internet, and every open connection increases the risk of some sort of damaging content sneaking in.
  • A Microsoft Passport account is needed to use it, and they may want nothing to do with Microsoft Passport.

No Automatic Startup

Here’s what to do to keep Windows Explorer from automatically starting up when the computer boots. Assuming a default installation of Windows XP, Windows Messenger should be running, and its icon should be in the system tray down by the clock in the right hand corner of the Taskbar.

1. Click it to bring up the Windows Messenger window.
2. Click Tools, Options to bring up the Options dialog window.
3. Go to the Preferences tab. Unselect the option “Run this program when Windows starts.”
4. To make sure it isn’t hiding on you, unselect the option “Allow this program to run in the background.”
5. Click OK.
6. Close Windows Messenger.

There is at least one other place that may start up Windows Messenger automatically, and that is Outlook Express.

1. Start Outlook Express
2. Click Tools, Options.
3. Go to the General tab.
4. Make sure “Automatically log on to Windows Messenger” is not selected.

Exile It

These steps should work in keeping Windows Messenger in its place – it will still be available from the Start menu if it is needed, but it won’t be starting up automatically. However, it is possible to send it into deeper exile, and prevent it from running on the computer.

In Windows XP Professional, Windows Messenger 4.0 can be exiled via the Group Policy Editor.

  1. Click Start, Run, and type "gpedit.msc" (but don’t type the quote marks.)
  2. This opens up the Group Policy Editor snap-in. In the left-hand panel, expand Local Computer Policy, Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, Windows Messenger. This will bring up a screen that looks like Figure 2.
  3. In the right-hand panel, double click the setting Do not Allow Windows Messenger to Run.
  4. Click Enabled, and then click OK.
  5. Close the Group Policy Editor.

This won’t work in Windows XP Home Edition, because it doesn’t ship with the Group Policy Editor. Therefore, just follow the steps in No Automatic Start-Up.

Using Windows Messenger 4.5?

If your computer is using Windows Messenger 4.5 instead of 4.0, then some Registry editing is needed when exiling. Because of the extra dangers involved in directly editing the Windows XP Registry, refer to Microsoft’s detailed instructions at http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;q302089

Mixed Message for Messenger?

Microsoft pushed Windows Messenger hard as one of the “exciting” new features in Windows XP. It was an automatic install, and automatically turned on. There must have been more than a few complaints however, for eventually the information showed up in the Microsoft Knowledge Base on how to turn it off.

Just one more step in the process of taking back XP.


Take Back Windows Page