Block Messenger Pop-Ups

By Neil J. Rubenking  |  Posted 2003-04-22 Print this article Print

Unscrupulous marketers can set junk messages to appear unannounced on your screen, but we've got the tip you need to block the annoying missives.

Recently, I began to receive spam messages that simply pop up on my computer screen. After a little research, I discovered that this spamming technique uses Windows built-in Messenger service, which sends messages in a broadcast across a network. The way to block these annoying messages is to disable the Messenger service. In Windows XP, you can do this through the Control Panel. Navigate to Administrative Tools | Services. Double-click on Messenger and click on Stop. Then set the Startup Type to Manual or Disable. Click on OK and the pop-up spam will be blocked.

Greg Meloche

Network administrators have used the Messenger service (not to be confused with the MSN Messenger instant-messaging clients) to broadcast notices to all network users, but these days theyre much more likely to use e-mail. On most networks, the Messenger service is simply not needed, and its certainly useless when your system is not connected to a network.

In Windows NT 4.0, 2000, and XP, the Messenger service receives messages from other computers on the network, typically transmitted using NET SEND at the command line. For example, the command NET SEND * Wanna buy a duck? sends the message Wanna buy a duck? to all users (see Figure 2). For more details on using this command, enter NET HELP SEND at any command prompt.

The type of spam described here subverts the same service, causing it to pop up unwanted commercial messages. Windows 95, 98, and Me do not have this problem, as they receive such Net messages only when the WinPopup applet is running.

If youre running Windows XP or 2000, the instructions above will turn Messenger off. With Windows NT 4.0, it may be difficult to locate the Services applet. In this case, launch Help, select Services in the index, and select enabling/disabling below Services. The resulting help topic provides a link that launches the Services applet.

If you dont want to disable the Messenger service, you can prevent its misuse by configuring your firewall to block inbound UDP and NetBIOS.

Neil J. Rubenking Neil Rubenking served as vice president and president of the San Francisco PC User Group for three years when the IBM PC was brand new. He was present at the formation of the Association of Shareware Professionals, and served on its board of directors. In 1986, PC Magazine brought Neil on board to handle the torrent of Turbo Pascal tips submitted by readers. By 1990 he had become PC Magazine's technical editor, and a coast-to-coast telecommuter. His 'User to User' column supplied readers with tips and solutions on using DOS and Windows, his technical columns clarified fine points in programming and operating systems, and his utility articles (over forty of them) provided both useful programs and examples of programming in Pascal, Visual Basic, and Delphi. Mr. Rubenking has also written seven books on DOS, Windows, and Pascal/Delphi programming, including PC Magazine DOS Batch File Lab Notes and the popular Delphi Programming for Dummies. In his current position as a PC Magazine Lead Analyst he evaluates and reports on client-side operating systems and security solutions such as firewalls, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam and full security suites. He continues to answer questions for readers in the ongoing 'Solutions' column and in PC Magazine's discussion forums.

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