Windows Live Messenger Shows Contacts as Offline When They Are Really Online and You Cannot Send Offline Instant Messages to those Contacts

November 7, 2010

Recently I discovered a strange phenomenon under Windows Live Messenger 2011 (and it apparently also affects Windows Live Messenger 2010 as well). Some of your contacts will always be shown as being in “Offline” status when they are actually online (they show up as Online in other Messenger clients). You can receive instant messages from them, and messages sent to them from other clients also show up in the instant message windows of Windows Live Messenger 2011. When you attempt to send them an offline instant message, it reports: “The following message could not be delivered to all recipients”, and fails to send it it.

My wife is usually logged into a Windows Live Messenger instance through her cell phone carrier, and I often use Windows Live Messenger to send messages to her cell phone. For the past week or so my copy of Windows Live has shown her as Offline and failed to send her offline instant messages, which I initially thought to be a problem with her cell phone carrier’s system. When I started receiving messages from her which I could not reply to, I opened up Windows Live Web Messenger and verified that she was actually online the whole time. Web Messenger could also send her instant messages, which oddly enough would show up in the Windows Live Messenger 2011 instant message window.

I suspect that it is most likely a problem between the Windows Live servers and different versions of the Messenger protocol.

In the case of my wife’s account, I think her cell phone carrier’s software is using the old Messenger protocol, and it is somehow not being properly linked to the Windows Live servers (and ultimately clients) using the new protocol. Windows Live Web Messenger probably uses the old protocol.

The only solution seems to be to use a client which uses the older Messenger protocol.

You can use Windows Live Web Messenger which has no problems. The online version of Windows Live Messenger which is integrated into Windows Hotmail doesn’t work as it seems to (at least on my system). You can install Windows Messenger alongside MSN/Windows Live Messenger. It is lacking a lot of features and doesn’t always work well…but it is handy for situations where MSN/Windows Live Messenger is not working. You can download Windows Messenger 5.1.0701 here. To install it under Windows Vista or Windows 7 you will need to use a workaround or disable UAC to get the messenger.msi file to install correctly.


Install Windows Messenger 5.1 on Windows Vista or Windows 7

October 19, 2010

Windows Messenger was an instant messaging client from Microsoft which could connect to Microsoft .NET Passport (now Windows Live ID), SIP (session initiation protocol) communication services, and Microsoft Exchange Instant Messaging. Windows Messenger 5.1 was included with Windows XP but was not released for any newer versions of Windows (it has been replaced by newer products like Windows Live Messenger and Office Communicator). You can obtain more information about Windows Messenger from the Windows Messenger How-To Center on Microsoft’s web site.

Windows Messenger is fairly out-dated and does not have many of the features included in newer versions of MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger (see this Microsoft document for some details). It can still can be useful (or even necessary) for some things. It is especially handy because it works alongside MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger and is not affected by their installations. If Windows Live Messenger is broken or unable to connect you can use Windows Messenger as a backup. Windows Live Messenger also cannot connect to SIP communication services or Exchange instant messaging.

You can download the installer for Windows Messenger 5.1.0701 from here.

When you run the “Messenger.msi” installation file under Windows Vista or Windows 7 it fails partway through the installation process, reporting that the installation was interrupted. The problem is caused by a compatibility issue between the MSI package and UAC. You cannot simply adjust compatibility modes or elevated privileges for standalone MSI packages like you can for setup executables because they are handled by the Windows Installer service.

To get it to install properly, open an elevated command prompt (right click the “Command Prompt” shortcut under the start menu and select “Run as Administrator”). From the administrative command prompt enter the commands:

msiexec /a <path>
msiexec /i <path>

Where <path> is the location of the messenger.msi file. So if I saved it to my desktop, the commands would be:

msiexec /a C:\Users\Keith\Desktop\Messenger.msi
msiexec /i C:\Users\Keith\Desktop\Messenger.msi

The installation will run and should be able to complete successfully.