Monday, January 28, 2008

Block Ads in Windows Live Messenger

After holding out for years, I've finally installed Windows Live Messenger (formerly called MSN Messenger). Now, I've always been a big fan of Pidgin, an open-source chat client, but it turns out Pidgin may not be fully compatible with the MSN chat network.

In the past few weeks, I've missed a quite few MSN messages while using Pidgin, without even realising it. Some people thought I was ignoring them, or was staying silent. And apparently, Pidgin either does not, or cannot access stored (missed) messages from MSN's servers.

I'm sure Microsoft is to blame for this (see below), but sorry to say, my need for reliable communications overrides my support for FOSS (free and open source software). But I'll continue to use Pidgin for all the other chat networks.

One reason I've put off using MSN, I mean, WLM is because it is a closed-source program, like most other MS products. It's not even one of those so-called Microsoft Open Source products.

Another big turnoff for me is the MSN chat network itself, because it uses the Microsoft Notification Protocol (MSNP), a closed protocol. In fact, just creating a 3rd-party app which works using the MSNP is a notable achievement, because it requires reverse-engineering and packet-sniffing. Kudos to the developers of Pidgin, et al for coming this far, but again, sorry to say, my priority is reliable communications. It appears no 3rd party has fully deciphered the latest version of MSNP, now at version 15.

Anyway, back to WLM. After the download (about 18MB) and installation, I fired up the program. Right away, I was assaulted by ads and a cluttered interface full of tabs and icons. *Sigh* Pretty much what I expected from Microsoft. I would note that the Pidgin installer is only 11MB, and the program contains no ads, has a clean interface, and supports all the major chat networks, not just MSN.

Certainly a stark reminder of why I like Pidgin. Jeez, what the hell is all this crap on my screen? So of course, I immediately googled for tips on blocking WLM ads. My options were mostly patches and ad blocker programs. A closed-source patch for a closed-source program? No thanks.

Then I remembered the old trick with the HOSTS file, which involves redirecting ad server addresses to 127.0.0.1, i.e. your own PC. This results in the program or web browser not being able to load ads.

What you need now is a list of Microsoft's ad servers, and conveniently, someone has already compiled one at the TrustedReviews forum. So all you have to do is add the following lines to the bottom of your HOSTS file:
# Windows Live Messenger ad servers
127.0.0.1 rad.msn.com
127.0.0.1 global.msads.net
127.0.0.1 rss.video.msn.com
127.0.0.1 ads1.msn.com
127.0.0.1 rad.live.com
127.0.0.1 specials.uk.msn.com
The HOSTS file actually just a text file, so you can open it with Notepad or any other text editor. Yes, the file is just called HOSTS, with no extension. In XP and Vista, it is normally located in C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc. You should create a backup first, in case something goes wrong.

Once you've added the MS ad servers, you can see the results almost immediately. Just minimise and restore the main WLM window (contact list). WLM may throw up an error message about being "unable to execute script", and may ask you whether you want to run any more scripts in the future. Just click No. All the ads should disappear.

BTW, the HOSTS file can also be used to block other Net annoyances. From the MVPS website:
"You can use a HOSTS file to block ads, banners, 3rd party Cookies, 3rd party page counters, web bugs, and even most hijackers. This is accomplished by blocking the connections that supplies these little gems."

Next, I wanted to get rid of useless tabs, popups and other "MS partner" crap. I quickly disabled something called "Windows Live Today"; its only purpose seems to be to generate popup ads. You can turn it off in Options->General->Show Windows Live Today...

And finally, I didn't like all the useless tabs and icons that were polluting my contact list. You can turn these off in Options->Tabs, then check the "Hide tabs" box.


So here's the final result. As you can see, WLM just displays a generic WLM banner if it cannot connect to its ad servers. No more pop-ups, and no more scrolling, blinking, flying crap:

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah~! i suppose this will help on bandwidth for us poor buggers on dial up!

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Thanks for the help!

Buzz said...

http://apatch.org/

Or you could just go here and get Apatch

Problem solved and much much more

Pau said...

Thank you very much for your help! That was a clean and brilliant solution!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the quick solution. i too hesitate on downloading some unknown coder's patch when i can do the same thing by changing a few config files. i should be ashamed to use those patches since i am a computer science student :) i just wish i wouldn't be so lazy to still use windows on my home pc. i should take the challenge to use linux everyday and take bill gates' hooks off of my pc.

Tim said...

Hi "Ugly Chickens",

I know how irritating WLM can be. I hate it, and i always make it an attempt to block all ads. In fact, i am a freeware evangelist, open source pastor, and Microsoft Aethist.

Maybe u should, like me, tweak playing with this program called proxomitron.
http://www.proxomitron.info/

Simply setup your proxy, and then, inside IE, firefox (Btw, i am a firefox evangelist - USE FIREFOX! Get back the NET! Hahhaa), and other programs using proxies (Including WLM), to "localhost" 8080 port.

This should block almost all popups and ads even for ur browsers.

Just note, if u r using thunderbird, simply use adblock plus and adblock G Updater, and proxy not localhost but ur norm host. If not ur thunderbird would not work well.

Cheers!
Odiewoof (from singapore!)

Anonymous said...

There is one more solution to this

http://www.imessengr.com/2008/05/how-to-manually-block-ads-on-windows.html

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. I also found that adding "config.messenger.msn.com" to your hosts file in the same way will block all the ads as well as the "today" page and remove other advertising for display pictures in windows live messenger 8.5.

Anonymous said...

THANKS!! Those flash movie ads on the bottom of the window were getting on my nerves

Chan Lee Meng said...

I would be careful about blocking "config.messenger.msn.com" because it is used for configuration information by WLM. Well, at least according to MS, in this article:

Network ports and URLs that are used by Windows Live Messenger
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927847

Anonymous said...

does not work for now, maybe a reset will help... thaks for your help anyway cheif

Dennis said...

Messenger also provides commercial in the chat window.
To kill of this add
127.0.0.1 view.atdmt.com
to the hosts file.

This address can't be blocked with the Restricted sites approach for IE.

Administrador said...

Thank you very much for this piece of information!

Finally my screen is free of that pop news pollution!

.C.

Anonymous said...

You can also add to stop the links to videos:

127.0.0.1 edge1.catalog.video.msn.com
127.0.0.1 img4.catalog.video.msn.com

Cheers...

Anonymous said...

How to block windows live today

you could do it in the menu
for me I found this line, to put in the hosts file works the best :) Even if in menu live today is accepted
found the url using "Url snooper"

127.0.0.1 db2.t.msn.com

Anonymous said...

Nice article you got here. It would be great to read more concerning that theme. The only thing I would like to see on that blog is some photos of some gadgets.
Alex Kripke
Cell phone blocker

Anonymous said...

thanks a bunch

dm said...

...Good Stuff! Thanks for the info everybody :*)

Anonymous said...

Great stuff!
I was so getting sick of the ads, the "twitter" and "celeb goss" that kept on popping up... Bye to the crap. Thanx so much.
Mel

Anonymous said...

Thanks for servlist!!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't work, at least not with the latest incarnation of MSN (Windows Live Messenger)

jan-7@live.co.uk

Anonymous said...

http://apatch.org/

The program is updated and will block your ads and more.

Tadewing said...

Nice!

Todaydownload.com said...

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I'm about now to email it to my colleagues to permit them examine this too.
Thank you really
Windows Live Messenger