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Disable Windows Messenger

At one time many users of Windows XP were receiving spam by means of something called "Windows Messenger." Before Windows XP SP2, this service was turned on by default. Most people don't need it so here is how to turn it off and block those pop-up spam messages.

Kill the Messenger

The messenger referred to here is not to be confused with MSN messenger or other instant messaging services. Unfortunately, XP has two kinds of "Windows Messenger" which have almost the same name. One is an instant messaging application similar to other IM software such as AIM and ICQ. That messenger is the one that you use to chat back and forth with your buddies. The second one is what we will be discussing here and is the so-called "messenger service."  This is a built-in service normally running in the background that is intended to allow systems administrators to send pop-up messages concerning maintenance and the like to the users on a local area network. Although this "messenger service" is of no particular use on a stand-alone computer or to most home users, it runs by default. Spammers have discovered that they can use this service to send pop-up messages to computers that are connected to the Internet. Judging from the number of complaints , the practice is pretty wide-spread. The spammers have computers that rapidly scan large numbers of Internet IP addresses and whenever they happen upon someone with an open XP system, a spam message is sent via the messenger service. The hapless PC user suddenly sees a pop-up window intruding on the screen with some sort of unwanted message, usually advertising. The pop-up windows can be identified by the name "Messenger Service" in the title bar. Since pornographic sites are among the active spammers, children may get inappropriate material. An example of a pop-up window is shown in the figure below.

Most typical home users do not need the messenger service, and it is easily turned off. As is usually true in Windows, there are several different ways but here is probably the quickest. Go to Start|Run and enter “services.msc” without the quotes, as shown in the figure below.


The Services module will open, listing all the services, as the next figure shows. Scroll to “Messenger”, highlight it, and then right-click to obtain the context menu.

Choose “Properties” (shown in the next figure) and then in “Startup type” choose “Disabled”. Click “Stop” and “OK”. Of course, you have to be using an account with administrator privileges (not normally a problem with the Home edition of XP)

You can also read the Microsoft article on how to stop Messenger spam. If you prefer a different route, Steve Gibson has written a little program to allow messenger service to be easily turned on and off. The free download and a discussion of the messenger problem is here.

To conclude, here is a word about the other Windows messenger, the one that is an instant messaging program. I do not use it but apparently those who do have also encountered spam or unwanted visitors there as well. To prevent messages from unknown users, go to the “Tools” menu of this program, choose “Options” and make sure that “All Others” is selected in the Block List.

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