Have you ever noticed that Microsoft has a hard time coming up with creative, new names. We have "Outlook" and "Outlook Express" as one example. You might expect Outlook Express to be a "light" version of Outlook, but you would be wrong. They are two totally different programs with different user interfaces, both happen to do email, each also does other things, and they both have "Outlook" in their name.
The Outlook/Outlook Express naming problem is confusing when someone asks a question about Outlook Express, but misidentifies it as Outlook.
Similarly, we have Windows Messenger, Microsoft Messenger, MSN Messenger, Messenger and the Messenger service. Only two of those names seem to definitively identify a specific program. "Messenger" has been used, even by Microsoft, to mean one or the other assuming that you knew which one the writer meant from the context of the article — not always a valid assumption!
The "Messenger Service" is actually a Windows XP service. Windows XP services are special programs designed to run in the background; they don’t need the user to do anything, they just run. The Messenger Service is designed for businesses with networks to be able to generate a popup onto a single (or every) computer on the network. As an example, a business’ computer person might use it to say "the file server will be turned off in 10 minutes — save your files now."
Home users should have the Messenger service turned off, since it provides no good function for home users (if it is on, and if you don’t have a router, you can get spam popups from the Internet even if your web browser is not open. To check the status, and to turn if off if necessary, go to Start, Run, type "services.msc" (without the quotes) and press enter, scroll down to Messenger and double-click it, Stop if (if it is running), and change the "Startup type" to "Disabled", click OK, an close the Services window.
"Windows Messenger" is Microsoft’s instant messaging program. If you got it via their MSN internet service, it might be called MSN Messenger. Occasionally it might be referred to as Microsoft Messenger, but that is not its name and there is not a program by that name (probably another one coming, though!). Windows Messenger, and its associated free service, primarily compete with AOL Instant Messenger and with Yahoo! Instant Messenger.
Now, let’s throw a real wrinkle into the picture — Outlook Express’ help screens refer to the Windows Messenger instant messaging program as the "messenger service". This is probably just sloppy wording, since Outlook Express and Windows Messenger have been around a lot longer than the "Messenger service" has been. But, that excuse makes the situation no less confusing.
If you are not actually using Windows Messenger for instant messaging, you should not be running it. There is no benefit to having it take up some of your RAM and CPU cycles all the time, if you do not use it. To stop the instant messaging Windows Messenger (sometimes called MSN Messenger, but usually called Windows Messenger):
- right click on the icon and select Open
- in the Windows Messenger window, left click on Tools and select Options
- click on the Preferences tab
- uncheck the three checkboxes
If you use Outlook Express, you will have to turn it off within Outlook Express’ options also, otherwise Outlook Express will turn it on again.
By the way, if you do like to do instant messenging, I recommend a program called Trillian. Trillian Basic was the Shareware/Freeware pick of the week in my July 18th newsletter. Trillian does AOL Instant Messaging, Microsoft/Windows Instant Messaging, Yahoo! Instant Messaging and a couple more — and the Basic version is free.