Set Up Instant Messaging
3 December 2006 (updated)
This article describes how to install Windows Live Messenger to send and receive messages instantly.
Instant Messaging allows you to chat in real-time with your friends and other contacts across the Internet.
It is similar to using e-mail, but much easier and you can get a response straight away, provided you are online at the same time as your contact.
Using a program called an Instant Messenger, you can see which of your contacts are currently online and begin a conversation with them.
Install Windows Live Messenger
Windows Live Messenger is Microsoft's new Instant Messaging software, replacing the popular MSN Messenger.
You can download it free from the Windows Live web site at http://get.live.com/messenger
Click the Get It Free button. On the window that pops up, click Run to begin installing as soon as the program has been downloaded. Click Run if you get a security warning.
There are now options for several additional features. Leave Windows Live Messenger Shortcuts checked if you want shortcuts to the program on your desktop and taskbar. Uncheck the other three options (Windows Live Sign-in Assistant, MSN Home and Windows Live Toolbar) and click Next.
Windows Live Messenger will now be installed. Click Close when informed the install has been successful.
A Messenger window should now appear, and you will also see a new icon on your taskbar.
In this new window you will be asked to enter your login information. This is your Windows Live ID (your MSN/Hotmail e-mail address and password).
If you don't have a Windows Live ID, click the link underneath for Get a new account. You will then be taken to a web site where you can sign up for a free account (see Set Up A Hotmail E-mail Account for more information).
Once you have entered your login details in the Messenger window, you can tick the options underneath if you are happy for Windows to remember your details and log you in automatically in the future. You should leave these options unchecked if you are using a public PC, or one that other people have access to.
Click Sign In to get started.
You will now see the main Messenger window on the left, which includes your list of contacts, and a news window on the right.
If you don't want to see the news window every time you start Messenger, check the box under the right window that says Don't show this window when Windows Live Messenger starts.
To get started with Messenger, you have to add contacts by entering their e-mail addresses. Click the Add a Contact icon at the top, to the right of the Find a contact or number.. box.
If you are ever unsure what a particular icon on the screen represents, hold your mouse cursor over it without clicking to get more information.
In the Add a Contact window, you can enter details for the person you wish to communicate with. Type their e-mail address into the Instant Messaging box.
That is all you need to do to add a contact ready to start messaging. However, there are some other options for editing contact details that are worth knowing about.
Edit Contact Details
Below the Instant Messaging box where you entered the e-mail address, there is an option to Type a personal invitation. This allows you to send an e-mail to the person you want to contact with instructions to show them how to install Messenger.
You can enter a nickname for the person which will appear on your list of contacts, rather than their e-mail address, so you can easily see who is on your list. You can also assign them to a specific group such as Friends or Coworkers.
You can add as much information about your contact as you wish by clicking on one of the other menu tabs down the left of the window (General, Contact, Personal, Work and Notes).
Remember to click the Save button when finished adding a contact.
Send A Message
If your contact is online they will get a message that tells them you have added them to your contact list. The message also asks them if they want to receive messages from you or not.
To start a conversation with one of your contacts, find their name on your contact list. The list shows which of your contacts are currently Online and which are Offline.
If a contact is marked as Online it means they are using the Internet and have their Instant Messaging software running and checking for messages.
If you send a message to someone who is Offline at the time, they will receive your message the next time they access the Internet.
Double-click on the name of one of your contacts to open a conversation window. The box at the top is a record of your conversation so far, and the box below is where you can type your messages.
Click in this box and begin typing like you would an e-mail message, though usually an instant message is shorter than an e-mail so conversations can be quick. You can use the menu icons just above the box to add emoticons, change font size, colour and more.
When finished, click the Send button or press the Enter key on your keyboard. Now wait for a response. If your contact is online they will get a pop-up message that tells them you want to start a conversation.
Under the message box on your conversation window you will see a notification if your contact is currently writing a reply to you.
Their message will then appear in the top box, after the message you just sent. You can continue the conversation by writing your next reply in the message box, and clicking Send again.
When you want to finish a conversation, send a message to let your contact know and then click on Close in the top-right of the conversation window.
Click the Safety tips icon on the left of the main window to get information about safe messaging, and the option to Report Abuse.
When sending messages across the Internet, you should be careful what content you send in your messages. Do not send personal information such as bank account details.
As with all chat software and social networking sites, there are dangers and it is important to help children stay safe online. For more information read How To Keep Kids Safe On The Web.
Ask A Computer Expert
Ask your computer question and get an answer in minutes via e-mail from experts at Just Answer. Choose how much to pay and only pay if you like the answer.
Get more tips in your free Easy Computer Tips E-book
Most Popular Tips
Create Taskbar shortcuts
Drag a file, folder or shortcut on to the Taskbar for quick access to programs, files or web sites.
more Quick Tips..
Software A - Z
Microsoft PowerPoint allows you to create dynamic and attractive presentations.
Computer Jargon Box
View our Computer Jargon page for explanations of common computer and internet terms used on this site.