Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

If I disable MSN messenger's history is it guaranteed that the conversation are not stored somewhere else?

Guaranteed? Certainly not. Unlikely, perhaps, but there are definitely ways that the conversation could still be around, though likely only for a short time.

We'll start with the obvious: the person you were conversing with could have a complete history of the conversation on their side. There's no way to know if the person you are IMing with is recording the entire conversation. They certainly could be, and you can't do anything about it.

Spyware, keystroke loggers or parental monitoring software can most definitely keep track of you IM conversations. Some may keep the log hidden somewhere on your machine, others may in fact send the conversation to some other computer. Aside from running regular, and updated, anti-spyware software, there's once again little to be done here.

"Spyware, keystroke loggers or parental monitoring software can most definitely keep track of you IM conversations."

And finally, like any program run under Windows, IM programs use memory, and that memory can be swapped out to disk and end up in the paging or swap file. There's a small chance that your conversation, or parts of it, could reside there for short amounts of time. Windows goes through great lengths to keep the paging file secure, however, quoting a Microsoft web site: "The file system security for paging files prevents any user from gaining access to and reading these files, and these security settings cannot be changed. However, someone other than the authorized user might start the computer under a different operating system to read a paging file."

What this means is that with a lot of work, and a lot of luck, someone who has physical access to your machine might be able to extract some data from the paging file.

But it's pretty darned difficult and unlikely. I'd be much more concerned about the person I'm chatting with, and spyware, myself.

Article C2544 - February 4, 2006 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

February 15, 2006 7:37 AM

I just read the article stating that there is little possibility that an IM message would be saved to a computer, however, I just read an article on the web from the Washington Post stating the opposite. It talked about companies firing employees because of IM messages that were retrieved. Is this common?

February 15, 2006 8:47 AM

Common? I don't know. But corporations can, and often do, monitor internet traffic. That traffic can be recorded (though not on your computer, on the company's internet proxies and firewalls). So that would be one other place where IM conversations could be found, if your company is doing so.

But as I said, that's NOT the same as finding the conversation somewhere on your computer.

January 8, 2007 6:05 AM

Well I had chat with my collegue/acquaintance about 6 months back. Obviously, I could not save history of the chat. However, now I feel that chat was very important and I want the chat as an evidence in the court.

Is it possible for Microsoft MSN server to store any kind of details about the chat we had. If yes what kind of details can be obtained/retrieved from MSN server, obviously with proper authorization from the courts. I am ready to pay requisite fee for getting this chat detail.

Please let me know urgently. Thanks.

Ritesh Sharma
October 3, 2008 3:48 AM

in MSN, Message History Check box are disabled(Greyed OUt), but if I create a new account in Vista. and then login into messanger, then i see these check enabled. I have tried reinstalling doesnt work. Please help.

February 23, 2009 3:34 AM

after chatt?ng my son w?ll come and retr?ve what ? chat w?th someone after ? have s?gnout my msn how d?d do ?t.urgent

February 28, 2009 2:54 PM

How can I personally access data on my own computers paging file?

printer cartridge supplies
August 10, 2009 5:25 PM

I've searched the internet and several opinions were solicited from the expert and the bottom line is there is a possibility that computer might be saving some of the chat history.

For consumer friendly articles about printer cartridge supplies, visit [link removed]

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.