Remove ads from Windows Live Messenger

Windows Live Messenger Mobile
Look, Green - no adverts!

This is a very simple hack to get rid of the annoying adverts in Windows Live Messenger (and possibly older versions of MSN Messenger). It doesn’t involve any downloads or patches and the change is simple to reverse if it doesn’t work, or it causes problems which it shouldn’t.

Note that I have nothing against the adverts as such. It’s a great communication tool and MS are well within their rights to sell some advertising space on it. Generally I tune them out, but the “rollover to pop up” ones are a complete pain in the backside. It’s for these I went searching for a solution – and found three on

That post above lists three solutions. I found that the first did the job for me and I’ll sum it up in brief here.

  1. Open My Computer or Windows Explorer
  2. Navigate to C:/Windows/System32/Drivers/etc
  3. Right click on “hosts” and select “Properties”. If the file is read-only, remove that tick and Apply if necessary
  4. Double-click on “hosts” and when the window appears, choose to open it with Notepad
  5. Near the top of the file you’ll see an entry “ localhost”. Underneath that, add a new line “”
  6. File … Save then exit Notepad
  7. If the file was read-only before, make it read-only again.
  8. Log out of MSN if you were in it, and back in.

You should now find that the ads are replaced with a blank white box. Not pretty, but at least you don’t end up with adverts obscuring your desktop. This works on XP and Vista. I don’t know about Windows 7 as yet, sorry, though I assume it has the same file structure and use of hosts.

For the techies, how this works is pretty simple. All the adverts from Microsoft are served up via a server located at the end of the web address “”. The hosts file is a plain text system file which tells the system where to look for certain resources – it’s a single-machine version of the DNS system in some respects.

As well as using it to point at local resources (such as Steve_PC) you can get it to redirect any other network request. All we’ve done is told the machine that when Messenger goes looking for the advert server, it should – instead of heading out into the internet – look to the local address. This is a standard “loop back” address used by all PCs (indeed, all networking equipment). Hence, Messenger can’t reach the server and the ads don’t appear.

Microsoft could easily fix this by hard-coding an IP address for the advert server into an WLM update, though this in turn could be blocked using other methods, such as firewalls.

Right now, though, I don’t have someone trying to sell me coffee every time I try to click on an icon in my tray.

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Gah! Computers! But sometimes they help out…

First off, let me repeat that GAH! only amplified somewhat:


Thank you. Apologies to anyone who couldn’t post comments earlier. I’d put the wrong API into my upgraded reCAPTCHA so it didn’t work. That’ll teach me not to check these things when I’ve tinkered with them.

I’ve just tonight noticed that using the drop-down archive box to the side there, that you can’t go back further than February 2007. No idea why not. If you go to Feb and step back through the individual posts, or go to the archive on a single day anytime before then it works just fine. It’s simply month-long archive pages pre-Feb’07 that struggle.

[UPDATE: Fixed. Turns out I had some “real” folders with the same name in my directory tree. That seems to confuse WordPress’s “pretty permalinks”. Deleted the old folders, all works now. Phew.]

I’m looking into it, but it’s driving me nuts. The WordPress support forum’s gone crazy as well. First of all not letting me log in (cleared cookies, not it’s fine), then letting me in, letting me post… but not allowing me to edit the posts. And then not letting me reply to my own posts, telling me that the topic has been closed – when it hasn’t been.

*locates nearest brick wall, loves it in the way only Glaswegians really know how*


Better stuff. Here’s a way you can help a charity and take money out of Microsoft’s pocket. No, it’s not that stupid email forwarding thing. It’s a scheme they’ve started on MSN. Put a little code next to your login name and MS will donate a sum to the charity of your choice (from a short, US-biased list) each time you start a conversation.

It’s called I’M Making a Difference – I’M… Instant Messenger. Clever.

Sounds like a wind-up, but I promise it’s true. Details are on CybernetNews, and also at Microsoft’s own I’M page to save me keying in all the “how to”‘s.

As I’ve commented on there, it’s a shame all the charities are US ones given the international usage of IM. However, better one good cause than none wherever it may be. I can’t believe this has been going on since March last year! They’ve raised almost $1.5million so far. Each charity is guaranteed a minimum $100,000 with no upper limit.

I’m not 100% sure if non-US residents logging in makes a difference, but let your Yank friends know about it all the same. And there’s no harm in putting the icon on your own name – just in case it does work!