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Microsoft is Shutting Down Windows Live Messenger: What This Means For You

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Windows Live Messenger – formerly MSN Messenger – is set to shut down on March 15, 2013.  Microsoft is replacing it with Skype and migrating Windows Live IDs (now known as Microsoft accounts) to Skype.

If you are a Windows Live Messenger user, times are changing.  You will need to use the Skype application for chatting – third-party instant messaging clients and old versions of Windows Live Messenger will no longer function.

Goodbye Windows Live Messenger and Third-Party Clients

On March 15, you will no longer be able to sign into Messenger using the Windows Live Messenger desktop application.  If you attempt to sign in, you will be prompted to download Skype and uninstall Messenger from your computer.

If you use another application to chat on Windows Live Messenger – such as Pidgin or Trillian – these applications will likely cease to function as well.  However, it will not be as simple as changing your client to use Skype instead of Windows Live Messenger.  The Skype plug-in for Pidgin only allows you to chat with your Skype buddies while Skype is already open and running in the background.  Trillian’s Skype support is a bit more integrated, but it still needs Skype installed and does not work at the moment because of changes to the Skype protocol.

If you want to chat on Skype, your only real option at the moment is the official Skype client.  Luckily, Skype is available for Windows 8, the traditional Windows desktop, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, so there is no shortage of options.  However, some of the clients – such as Skype for Linux and Skype for Android – are not as polished and have been rather buggy, in our experience.

Migrating to Skype

If you want to continue using your Windows Live Messenger account and chatting with your contacts, you will need to migrate your Messenger account to Skype.  This migration can go one of two ways, depending on whether you already have a Skype account you want to merge your account with or not.

First, ensure you have the latest version of Skype installed.  You can download it from Skype’s website or use the Help > Check for Updates option within Skype.  If you are already signed into Skype, use the Skype > Sign Out option to sign out and go back to the login screen.

From the login screen, select the option to sign in with a Microsoft account.

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Sign in with your Microsoft account (formerly known as your Windows Live ID: the same account you use to sign into Windows Live Messenger).

You will see a screen asking you if you already have a Skype account.  If you do not, click the I’m new to Skype button and your Microsoft account will be linked with a new Skype account.  If you do, click the I have a Skype account option and you will be able to merge your Microsoft account with your existing Skype account.

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Whichever option you select, you will see your Windows Live Messenger contacts appear on your Skype Contacts list.  Assuming everyone switches over, you will be able to continue chatting with your contacts from within Skype.

While Skype is mainly focused on audio and video chats, it can also be used for text chatting.  You can also make the Skype interface into a more minimal buddy list – just click the View menu and select Compact View.

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Windows Live Messenger will not be shutting down completely in March.  It will still continue to function in mainland China.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 01/23/13

Comments (26)

  1. Seabat

    I stopped using Skype a long time ago and replaced it with Logitech Vid HD. Since I use only it only for video calls to my son and a few friends. I don’t need heavyweight Skype that does everything except clean my ears. Logitech Vid HD is minimalist and does its job easily. If that is what you are looking for, then download it and enjoy it.

  2. Cory

    They are killing the connection from the Messenger application. They havent announced a date they are killing off access to the service by other means. Hopefully that will be quite awhile.

  3. Dan Mente

    My skype login in one email address and my MSN login is a different email address.

    How can my MSN contacts find/see me if I log into Skype now?

  4. bartu235

    Can I video chat with Messenger contacts in Skype?

  5. narumanchianji

    it does not matter if live messenger goes. but for Hotmail users the mail access messenger also goes. so first you have to uninstall all windows live essentials. then download windows essentials 2013 and install custom, select messenger and install messenger to access Hotmail.

    Skype permits multiple usernames and passwords when you install. check

  6. Dave

    just for people wondering if you merge your skype and microsoft account you from then on always sign in with your microsoft account but you keep and use your original skype name,
    if you don’t merge a skype account then you are given a skype name in the format live:firstpartofemail (eg if you email is firstname@hotmail.com then your new skype name is live:firstname ) and you always sign in with your microsoft account as well.

    @Dan Mente

    you just merge your skype and microsoft account (or don’t if you don’t want your skype and messenger contacts in one sign in (or you don’t have a skype name)), that keeps your skype username which you give to people to add on skype (after 15th of march you because everyone using messenger should be using skype you would give your skype name so people can add you), all your messenger contacts are brought over, it’s exactly like messenger but in a different application, contacts are marked where they come from.

  7. Rick S

    From what I see so far is you don’t get emails so it looks like a pain in the butt to me.
    I haven’t really checked it out though.

  8. chris

    first things after installing windows were stopping windows messenger to autostart and using internet explorer to download firefox and yahoo messenger. i won’t miss windows live messenger as i always considerd it a piece o crap. it is my personal opinion and my personal feeling so i don’t necessarily expect others to think so. anyways, rip windows live messenger.

  9. DW (SA-IT)

    I have never been a fan of Skype, not for its overhead use, never checked into it that far but for its “un-friendly” Interface. I have clients that use both Skype & Messenger and ALL of them have had issues getting the merge to work and operating the new version. I have had the very same issues, installed on one of my test beds and had nothing but issues. I find more and more crap coming out of Redmond these days,
    DW>

  10. James

    One really has to wonder what has happened to Microsoft… first the dumbed-down disaster of a downgrade that they call Windows 8; now they kill the most popular messaging service! Skype is fine, as far as it goes, but it is no substitute for Messenger, particularly for younger people and kids. The two are complimentary. Their purchase of Skype and this substitution for MSN just makes no sense as far as functionality goes.

  11. Mike

    I use Windows live mail and not Windows messenger, will this shut down of the latter effect me and if so how.

  12. williambaugh

    I personally don’t use any messenger service, they want to chat with me, pick up the phone or send a email. :)
    don’t know abot win 8, but vista is on a par with win 7, both totally suck.
    I also don’t use facebook, twitter or the others, even though I do have a facebook account for family members that don’t seem to know how to use email.

  13. Khai

    @james
    it’s simple… Skype is already setup to make money. MS Messenger is not…

  14. Micro Mind

    I’ve had a Skype account for years way before Microsoft bought it. But ever since Microsoft took over, Skype it has gone downhill rapidly. That much I agree but for probably very different reasons.

    I also understand all the gripes people have about Skype’s interface too. But I look at these people and wonder if they even realize that there are ways to configure not just Skype but nearly all of their software. I also wonder how many times they have installed Chrome or Yahoo’s tool bar simply because they were too lazy to read an installation option. I mean, come ON! Read!!! You might also like to look for other products too. Sort of like Seabat did with Logitech’s product.

    In any case, one possible reason for Microsoft’s latest “direction” could be it’s current leader – stupid Steve Ballmer! You may think it’s Bill Gates but you may not realize that ol’ Billy boy retired some time ago to go give his money away with wife Melinda to starving African’s and other disadvantaged people of OTHER countries – which I’m all for too. But for some reason Bill “the pill” doesn’t think his disadvantaged countrymen in a time of economic upheaval should also benefit from his philanthropy nor does he think the world should benefit with a better communications infrastructure – that’s what I don’t like about the guy but that’s probably another rant. Point is, Microsoft is more of an arrogant business bully than ever before. Just LOOKING at the current leader stupid Steve Ballmer and you might get a clue as to WHY! It’s also a lesser known fact that stupid Steve Ballmer has been systematically getting rid of any potential competition to his Microsoft thrown for years prior to him taking over. So maybe knowing that little nugget you might now see how the pieces are starting to fall into place.

    This latest move with Skype is just one more example of Microsoft’s arrogant bully attitude and one more reason I won’t even own an XBox nor have Microsoft accounts beyond what I’m FORCED to have. Maybe you’re a Microsoft fan but then you’re probably OK with being a software dummy too.

    And don’t even get me started on Apple. They’re WORSE!

  15. mike

    Another good reason to move to Linux.

  16. tecn0tarded

    people call me and say they’re computers running super slow. i usually find skype on it.

  17. b0gler

    User ‘williambaugh’ says “don’t know abot win 8, but vista is on a par with win 7, both totally suck.”

    Thanks for showing the world your utter cluelessness, Bill. Made my day…

  18. b0gler

    Also of note, user ‘tecn0tarded’ says “people call me and say they’re computers[...]”

    People call you & tell you they are computers? Someone call the Reverse Turing Test people!!!1!

  19. NNM

    Nope… Been using MSN since day 1.

    Will not be “upgrading” to skype, as they call it.
    Skype is another piece of software, that’s riddled with bugs and security issues.
    I will simply be forced to stop using messenger. But nothing will ever make me a skype victim… oops, skype user.

  20. emma88

    well i don’t use both !!!

  21. max

    I don’t use Skype and have no use for it. I’ve used Messenger since the late 1990s. Once the service is shut down I won’t use either. Microsoft is making stupid decisions lately.

  22. muppets1

    I’ve used msn for years too, but dont feel the need for the upgrade to skype. So I
    m just uninstalling if people want me they can use email

  23. Erik

    MSN Messenger died years ago.

  24. cccarpenter

    NO MORE ANNOYING POPUP Messenger windows!!!! Yayyyyyyyyy!

  25. JD

    For those of you saying Skype’s interface stinks, or it has high overhead, etc.. Check out the latest 6.1 version. They have made some very nice changes. The interface is far better than WLM, especially when you get into keeping track of lots of chats with various contacts, or creating big group chats (that will exist forever until you leave them — like an IRC room). It really is a nice tool. And since they’ve recompiled most of it with Microsoft native tools, it is very light on the system resources. I’m in about 15 conference rooms with a total of about 800 users, with all of their texts for the last few months in memory and it is using 140MB and 0.3% cpu usage. After a restart, it drops down to about 80MB of memory usage. The Windows 8 native version (vs the “desktop version”) uses less as it is a complete rewrite from the core – it actually goes into a suspended sleep mode using zero cpu until you do something with it. Overall MS made the right choice here… But here is one down side, with WLM you could SMS text people’s cell phones for free.. No more of that with Skype, you have to have a subscription. That will turn lots of people off, but I guess they’ve got to make back their $8bil investment somehow. Like it or not, the world is turning to Skype.

    It is easy to connect your Microsoft account to it, on the login screen you just login with your WLM account, and merge your Skype accounts.. brings them all together.

    One thing they’ll have to work on – with WLM you could appear offline to individual people. With Skype you can only show as invisible to all or none.

  26. nope

    that skype is just crap its ricdulis and there no app for my blackberry msn is all i have used i have now deleted my hotmail and skype and everything to do with it i now have yahoo messneger and with a simplus plug in you can add hotmail yahoo conacts to it and chat no prob skype is lame and i refuse to use it

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