OK, something called “Windows Live Messenger” just released. It seems I’m
now floating in “Messengers” … Windows Live Messenger, Windows Messenger, MSN
Messenger and this thing called Windows Messenger Service. Do they relate? How
do they relate?
And which one do I want to use?
One of my older and more popular articles here on Ask Leo! is one
covering the difference between MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger, and Windows
Messenger. Unfortunately with the release of Windows Live Messenger, names
have only gotten more confusing.
Let’s sort this out, one name at a time:
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Windows Live Messenger (WLM) is the latest and greatest
version of Microsoft’s instant messaging client. Very much like Yahoo instant
messenger (YIM), or AOL instant messenger (AIM). Anyone running Windows XP can
download Windows Live Messenger and begin IMing
with other users.
WLM has a slew of new features compared to its previous versions – the most
interesting to me is the ability to share folders with people you’re chatting
with. WLM promises to interact directly with Yahoo Messenger in the near
WLM is actually version 8. Version 8? Yes, because it is really just a new
name for, the latest version of and the replacement for MSN Messenger.
It’s the same program with a new name, and new features.
MSN Messenger is simply the “old” version of Windows Live
Messenger – nothing more, nothing less. Versions 6 through 7.5 all seem to be
popular and “in the wild”.
If you have Windows XP, you probably want to upgrade to the latest version:
Windows Live Messenger. If you’re running any other version of Windows, you may
need to stick with these older versions of MSN Messenger.
Windows Messenger is yet another instant messaging client,
very much like MSN Messenger and WLM. It comes with Windows XP and runs only on
Windows XP. It’s typically version 4.7, though the updated Windows Messenger
5.0 also runs on Windows 2000, and can be downloaded
Important: Windows Messenger is not MSN Messenger, nor is it WLM.
That’s important because you can run Windows Messenger at the same time
as MSN Messenger or WLM. That can get confusing if they are both logged
into the same account because a message about being logged into two places may
Windows Messenger is a different program from the other two. It has a
different feature set, and release on a different schedule. In particular,
Windows Messenger is more tightly integrated with applications such as
Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express, or the Remote
Assistance feature of Windows XP. The differences, and the confusion, don’t end
there, though. Microsoft has a Knowledgebase article
that touches on more of the technical differences, and provides instructions
for installing and running both on the same machine. The good news is
that chances are, you’ll never need to know how, or why, you would want to.
Windows Messenger Service adds to the confusion. It has a
similar name but it is completely unrelated to everything I’ve talked
about so far.
On Windows 2000 and Windows XP there is a service, called
“Messenger”, often unfortunately referred to as the “Windows Messenger”, that
is used to present what can best be called “network messages” to a machine’s
user. This is not an instant messaging application, but rather
software that runs in the background, listening for incoming messages, and
popping up a very simple box containing the message when one arrives. The most
common example might be in a corporate environment when you send a document to
a network printer. The messenger service handles the pop-up message that the
printer sends back when it has finished.
So what, of all of that, do you actually need or want?
My recommendation is actually very, very simple:
Windows XP users should download Windows Live
Messenger and use it.
Folks without Windows XP should stick with their existing version of MSN
Messenger, or perhaps download and run a third-party application such as
Trillian. (It’s unclear at this point
if Microsoft has an official recommendation for non-XP users.)
Everyone should uninstall Windows
Messenger. Most people simply have no use for it.
Everyone should disable the Windows
Messenger Service. Again, there’s simply no need for it.
The bottom line? For Windows XP users, all you need is Windows Live
Messenger. Ignore or uninstall everything else.