Recover from Windows Live Messenger Server Error - Sign-in Fails or Contact List Permanently Offline

(Posted 11/14/06) - A recent Live Messenger Registration Server error caused many client PC's MSNMessenger Policy data to become corrupted. This in turn allowed corruptions of client machines' contact data. The effect was two-fold: Clients could not successfully sign in (often with no error message) and/or client contact lists never showed members online.

The latest episode occured in late October: an error in a Live Messenger server affected client machines that were connected at the time. After some perusing of the internet I came across MS Support advice that identified the source of the error (bad data downloaded from MSN .NET Server) and a possible fix. I applied the fix and it appears to have cleaned up my two XP clients that were previously down for several weeks vis-a-vis Live Messenger sign-in.

First, if you have Live Messenger running in your desktop systray you should exit the application (select exit from the systray menu for Live Messenger).

Next delete the MSN Messenger policies data in the XP Registry. Select start->run regedit to open the Windows Registry Editor. Select the following path: HKEY_CURRENT_USER -> Software -> Microsoft -> MSNMessenger -> Policies. Delete the Policies directory (not just the contents) and exit regedit.

Now open Explorer (XP file manager) to delete the current contacts data. Use the following path: Documents and Settings -> Your_User_Name -> Contacts -> Your_MSN_Messenger_Login . Delete the contents of this directory (but not the directory itself). These are the corrupt contact files and cache file.

Finally, restart Live Messenger and sign-in. If there are contacts that have requested to be added to your group during the period your messenger files were corrupted you will now get contact requests to add them.

It may take several minutes before the MSN server has actually updated your system to reflect the status of all your contacts so give it a while.

Happy Messaging!