How to Disable the Windows Messenger Service
Back in the days of mainframe computing, and WAY before the days of instant messaging as we know it, the folks at computer centers needed a way to send emergency text messages to everyone announcing things like
THE PRINT CENTER CLOSES IN 15 MINUTES! PLEASE PICK UP YOUR PRINT JOBS IMMEDIATELY.
SQUADRONS OF SQUIRRELS SPOTTED IN THE VICINITY OF THE SEEBECK COMPUTER CENTER! YOU WOULD BE WISE TO IMMEDIATELY SAVE YOUR WORK AS WE WILL SOON BE PLUNGED INTO SQUIRREL-INDUCED DARKNESS.
So, built into mainframe operating systems like VM/CMS and UNIX are commands like TELL and WRITE that let you broadcast a simple text message to a specific user or group of users. [And you get special karma points if you ever used these commands to spook newbies.]
Windows has a similar, built-in feature called the “Windows Messenger Service.” Now this is NOT to be confused with “Microsoft Messenger” or “MSN Messenger,” Microsoft’s free instant messaging program (a la AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, or IRC.) WINDOWS Messenger Service is a way for mainframe and network administrators to broadcast an emergency text message to all users.
The Windows Messenger Service is, by default, enabled in Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP (Home and Professional), and Windows 2003.
And it’s about as useless as giving a job application to my brother.
The problem is that the Windows Messenger Service can be used by unscrupulous spammers to send you an untraceable pop-up message even if your Internet Explorer is closed. And, even worse, a hacker can use the Windows Messenger Service to break into your computer and do all sort of nasty things “including installing programs, viewing, changing or deleting data, or creating new accounts with full privileges.” [Source: Microsoft Security Bulletin MS03-043 at http://tinyurl.com/r2j3]
By the way, you DON’T need to worry about the Windows Messenger Service if have a Mac, a *nix box, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98SE, or Windows ME, or Windows XP Service Pack 2. BUT, if you have Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP without Service Pack 2, and Windows 2003, you need to turn this little bugger off. Now.
You could manually disable the Windows Messenger Service if you want — the University of Virginia’s Information Technology and Communications department shows you how to disable it at http://www.itc.virginia.edu/desktop/docs/messagepopup/ — but if I were you I’d just hop on over to http://grc.com/stm/shootthemessenger.htm and download the free “Shoot the Messenger” program.
I *HIGHLY* recommend this program for four reasons:
- It’s free. Free is good.
- The Shoot the Messenger program is only 22 kilobytes in size. That’s so small it’s downright silly. You can download this program literally faster than you can read this sentence, even on the slowest modem connection on earth.
- Shoot the Messenger was created by Steve Gibson at Gibson Research, the guy behind ShieldsUp and SpinRite. Steve is probably one of the most trusted and respected computer gurus on the planet. Having Steve Gibson [through his Shoot the Messenger program] disable the Windows Messenger Service for you is like having Lance Armstrong fix your bike or Michael Schumaker fix your car.
- Downloading and running Shoot the Messenger keeps you from having to get your hands dirty by going to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Services > Messenger … blah blah blah.
Once you have downloaded Shoot the Messenger, just double-click on the shootthemessenger.exe icon.
A little window appears telling you if the Windows Messenger Service is running on your computer.
If it is, just click on the “Disable Messenger” button and then click on “Exit.”
That’s it. The Windows Messenger Service is now disabled, and your computer is now protected from both the spammers and the hackers who have been using the Windows Messenger Service to do nasty things to other people’s computers.
Oh, and you can delete shootthemessenger.exe if you want. You don’t need it any more.