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.

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.

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.

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

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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