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If one contact keeps popping up as newly-connected in MSN Messenger, it's likely that he or she has a connectivity problem.

I use MSN instant messaging. One of my contacts is frequently (every couple of minutes) popping up as just having signed in. Actually, he never signs out or in at his end, he is still online. Other people who have him as a contact are complaining of the same thing. Is there a resolution to this problem?

The fact that others are seeing the same behavior as you tells us that the problem is at your contact's end. The problem's very simple to describe, but potentially very difficult to diagnose.

In short, his instant messaging client (the program he uses - MSN Instant Messenger, Trillian, Pidgin or some others) is losing connectivity with the servers at the MSN Messenger service. Once he loses connectivity the service then says "oh, he's dropped off", and considers him to be off-line. His instant messaging client then tries to automatically reconnect. When it succeeds the service then says "oh, you're back", and notifies all of his on-line contacts, such as yourself, that he's come back on-line.

And of course your contact may not even notice that this is happening. The client often tries to regain connectivity without bugging him too much, so there may little to no indication to him that this is happening.

You, on the other hand, get notified over and over again: "he's back!", "he's back!", "he's back!".

What to fix gets hazier.

About all we can say from the symptom is that there's a connectivity problem involving MSN Messenger and your contact. Some of the things he should check include:

"About all we can say from the symptom is that there's a connectivity problem ..."
  • the network connection of the computer he's using. Particularly the cable. If possible, he could try using another machine at the same location using the same internet connection to rule in or rule out a problem with a specific machine.

  • The router and other network devices being used. If possible reboot them, as well as any broadband modem. Intermittent connectivity can sometimes result from a slightly confused router. Sometimes changing the port on the router that the computer is plugged into can help. Again checking the cables is a good idea as well.

  • Check any firewall software on the machine being used. Try turning it off and seeing if the problem goes away. Firewall related issues rarely manifest as intermittent problems, but it's worth double checking.

  • Make sure there's not another machine that's trying to auto-connect with the same MSN Messenger account. They could be competing.

  • Lastly, check with your ISP to see if anything related to MSN Messenger might be getting filtered or blocked by the ISP's security measures.

It's also worth noting that sometimes this is the fault of the MSN Messenger service itself. Since they run many servers, the machine providing your contacts connection might be having difficulty while the server you're connected to is working fine. In these cases the issues often resolve themselves after waiting a while.

Update:

The person asking this question replies:

Our IT tech kept playing around with this and discovered the problem and solution. It turns out that the offending (sending) computer was still using Windows Messenger, and the receiving computers that were noticing the problem have Windows Live Messenger. The IT tech had both versions still on his computer, and was able to simulate the problem by choosing to use the older version. When he did this, he also kept "signing in and out" on other people's computers, even though his own computer said that he was online the whole time. Once he moved back to Windows Live Messenger, the problem went away. The computer with the original problem has now been upgraded with Windows Live Messenger, and the problem no longer exists.

Excellent information. Not something I would have guessed.

Article C3101 - July 30, 2007 « »

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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.

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