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CAUTION, some of these fixes require the use of REGEDIT. If you are not comfortable with editing the Registry, then maybe this isn't for you. I claim no responsibility if you system crashes. When in doubt, ask someone who knows what they are doing (Not your friend who thinks they know what they are doing, and usually ends up making things worse.)
CAUTION Installing Window Update Patches that "Fix" Windows Messenger, will undo all the Registry work listed below. You will then have to go through this process again. (Ask me how I know!)
There are a number of ways to do this.
1st: Open Outlook Express, and go to the tools menu, there is a Messenger, or Windows Messenger menu item. You can stop Messenger from running at startup here.
wait, it still runs while Outlook Express is running. If you don't
use Outlook Express, no big deal, but if you do then continue.
The way to prevent it from running period is by opening up Group Policy Editor.
Go to the run command in the start menu and type "mmc". This will
start the Microsoft Management Console. From the file menu select
"Add/Remove Snap In". Click the "Add" button, and select "Group Policy"
from the list. When the wizard pops up, click finish.
Close the "Add Standalone Snap-In" window, then hit "OK" on the "Add/Remove Snap-In" window.
Find the following spot in the Policy Editor.
You can double click both of the options in the right hand pane, which will prevent Messenger from running.
3rd: But wait, now it takes forever (45 seconds +) for Outlook Express to open because it is waiting for Messenger to start. What a pain. If you look at you System event log, you will find that there is an Error as Outlook Express tries to start Messenger. This gives us the important clue to fix this problem once and for all!!!
Here you can see the error message.
To get rid of this error (Who cares about the error, most users don't even know there is an Event Log in XP), and make Outlook Express open quickly, search the Registry for this number string
This is the name of the DCOM object for Messenger. To search the Registry type "Regedit" at the Run command in the "Start Menu". Once the Registry is opened in Regedit, pull down the Edit menu and select "Search". Just paste the Alpha-Numeric string from above into the search parameter box. When the string has been found, you can just delete the entire key. If you are paranoid about needing this key at a later date, you can right on the Key and select Export and save it as a registry file. That way you can restore it if you ever want to run Messenger again. To restore the registry file just double click on it and click "Yes".
That's about it. It's pretty simple, especially if you are used to using some of the more advanced features in NT/Win2k/XP. One more note of caution, DO NOT allow Windows Update to apply any Messenger patches. You will have to repeat this process if you do.