Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Can I be certain that my message history isn't being saved somewhere?

If I disable MSN messenger’s history is it guaranteed that the
conversation are not stored somewhere else?

Guaranteed? Certainly not. Unlikely, perhaps, but there are definitely ways
that the conversation could still be around, though likely only for a short

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

We’ll start with the obvious: the person you were conversing with could have
a complete history of the conversation on their side. There’s no way to know if
the person you are IMing with is recording the entire conversation. They
certainly could be, and you can’t do anything about it.

Spyware, keystroke loggers or parental monitoring software can most
definitely keep track of you IM conversations. Some may keep the log hidden
somewhere on your machine, others may in fact send the conversation to some
other computer. Aside from running regular, and updated, anti-spyware software,
there’s once again little to be done here.

“Spyware, keystroke loggers or parental monitoring
software can most definitely keep track of you IM conversations.”

And finally, like any program run under Windows, IM programs use
memory, and that memory can be swapped out to disk and end up in the paging or
swap file. There’s a small chance that your conversation, or parts of
it, could reside there for short amounts of time. Windows goes through great
lengths to keep the paging file secure, however, quoting a Microsoft web site:
“The file system security for paging files prevents any user from gaining
access to and reading these files, and these security settings cannot be
changed. However, someone other than the authorized user might start the
computer under a different operating system to read a paging file.”

What this means is that with a lot of work, and a lot of
luck, someone who has physical access to your machine might be able to
extract some data from the paging file.

But it’s pretty darned difficult and unlikely. I’d be much more concerned
about the person I’m chatting with, and spyware, myself.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

7 comments on “Can I be certain that my message history isn't being saved somewhere?”

  1. I just read the article stating that there is little possibility that an IM message would be saved to a computer, however, I just read an article on the web from the Washington Post stating the opposite. It talked about companies firing employees because of IM messages that were retrieved. Is this common?

  2. Common? I don’t know. But corporations can, and often do, monitor internet traffic. That traffic can be recorded (though not on your computer, on the company’s internet proxies and firewalls). So that would be one other place where IM conversations could be found, if your company is doing so.

    But as I said, that’s NOT the same as finding the conversation somewhere on your computer.

  3. Well I had chat with my collegue/acquaintance about 6 months back. Obviously, I could not save history of the chat. However, now I feel that chat was very important and I want the chat as an evidence in the court.

    Is it possible for Microsoft MSN server to store any kind of details about the chat we had. If yes what kind of details can be obtained/retrieved from MSN server, obviously with proper authorization from the courts. I am ready to pay requisite fee for getting this chat detail.

    Please let me know urgently. Thanks.

  4. in MSN, Message History Check box are disabled(Greyed OUt), but if I create a new account in Vista. and then login into messanger, then i see these check enabled. I have tried reinstalling it… doesnt work. Please help.

  5. I’ve searched the internet and several opinions were solicited from the expert and the bottom line is there is a possibility that computer might be saving some of the chat history.

    For consumer friendly articles about printer cartridge supplies, visit [link removed]


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.