How to disable Messenger (Messaging) in Outlook.com
Last week, Microsoft announced (yet another) rebrand of Hotmail to Outlook.com. It has received plenty of favourable reviews and praise but one feature is extremely annoying – and that is, like the Windows 8 Metro Windows 8-style UI Messaging application, it automatically logs you into Messenger and connected services (Facebook Chat) when you sign in, with no ability to log off instant messaging except for setting your status to “invisible”. (Side note: Windows 8 Messaging now thankfully has a global off switch added into its settings since the Release Preview.)
I’m sure there are people who don’t mind this – perhaps they don’t use instant messaging or they keep webmail open all the time anyway (in fact you get a small bonus feature if you do). I personally use the actual Outlook desktop application and only use webmail when I’m away from my own PC, so I’m not too keen to be speaking of people when I’m just trying to quickly access my email from other locations.
So I looked for a way to disable this from happening and after rummaging through the options unsuccessfully, some searches to see if anyone else had already figured it out, I started looking through the code, and found the key:
geo.messenger.services.live.com geo.gateway.messenger.live.com (changed December 2012).
So to disable Outlook.com’s Messaging feature, all one has to do is block this host and the easiest way to do this is to add it to your hosts file. If you’re not sure how to do this or want to save time, I’ve made a quick tool for Windows users below which you can easily run to automatically add (or remove) blocking this host. To make this change yourself manually, you find yourself on a machine without administrator rights, or you use another operating system, see Other Options below.
Using the tool
To start, download the Disable Outlook.com Messaging tool, open the zip file, and run the application inside. You’ll be prompted for administrator rights so the tool can make modifications to your hosts file, and then you’ll receive a message indicating the change has been made. Please note you’ll need to restart your browser to see the change.
To remove the entry in the hosts file, run the tool again, the messenger entry will be removed and you’ll receive a message notifying you as such.
If required, you can use the /q command line parameter to avoid seeing the notification messages that the change has been added or removed.
After the change
Once the hosts file entry has been added, when you click Messaging in Outlook.com, you will see an attempt to sign in but it never will be successful:
No known side effects (so far)
I’ve tested this change for a number of days now and saw no noticeable problems in Windows Live Messenger 2009, 2011 or Windows 8 Messaging or related software. In fact, even the Outlook.com Messaging history still seems to work (albeit sporadically). If you believe you’ve found something else which uses this host, run the tool again or remove the entry manually and please comment so we can all be made aware of it.
If you wish to add the entry to the hosts file yourself and use Windows, press the Start button (if you use Windows XP, click the Run option) and type:
then press Ctrl-Shift-Enter to start Notepad with administrator rights. Once Notepad starts, add the following line:
Then close Notepad and save. Now just restart your browser to see the change.
If you’re on a Windows machine without the ability to get administrator rights, such as a work setup or library and there is an available version of Internet Explorer available, commenter qiang reminded me that you can use the Restricted Sites zone to block specific hosts like this one. To do so, after starting Internet Explorer, press the Alt key on the keyboard to bring up the menu bar, choose Tools, then Internet Options, then the Security tab, choose Restricted sites and finally press the Sites button. In the ‘Add this website to the zone:’ box, type geo.gateway.messenger.live.com and choose Add. Then click Close, and OK in the remaining open options windows. If outlook.com is already open, sign out outlook.com and sign back in to see the change.
If you’re using another operating system, the How-To Geek has tutorials for both Ubuntu Linux and OS X (the Windows one is missing the fact you need to start Notepad in Administrator mode if you’re following this guide).
Additionally, you could use firewall software to block outgoing connects to this hosts. Unfortunately the built-in Windows firewall only supports IP addresses and since these can change, it isn’t too useful for the purposes of blocking this.
As modifying the hosts file requires administrator rights, this probably won’t be successful on machines you might use when you’re out and about. Of course, the best solution would be for Microsoft to add this feature into Outlook.com itself and in fact, the web messenger in Hotmail initially didn’t allow you to log out either but the feature was added later on. I certainly have no idea why is was deemed unimportant to be included in the current release of Outlook.com and it seems many of you agree with me.