10/01/2013 11:54 | By Matt Farrington Smith, editor, MSN Tech

Messenger to close in 2013: what you can do today

Microsoft recommends downloading Skype for your instant messaging fix

Windows Live Messenger will close on 15 March - what you can do (© MSN)

Recently news broke that the beloved instant messaging system will go offline for good in 2013. Read the original story.

Messenger users (previously Windows Live Messenger/MSN Messenger) will shortly find themselves unable to use the service, but this isn't the cause of a catastrophic technical fault - instead Microsoft intend to move all existing Messenger users onto Skype starting from 15 March 2013.

Help! What to do next

Microsoft may have called time on its instant-messaging institution but that doesn't mean you should be left out in the cold.

If it sounds daunting, rest safe in the knowledge that after making the transition to Skype you'll still be able to exchange instant messages and have chats with your Messenger friends. Your existing Messenger login details will also still work with the new service.

Let MSN Tech guide you through the steps you can take now, so you're all ready for Messenger's closure starting on 15 March.

You'll be able to use your existing Messenger login details on Skype (© MSN)

You'll be able to use your existing Messenger login details on Skype

How long will Messenger continue to work for?

Microsoft will retire the desktop instant messenger starting from 15 March 2013. Up until then you will still be able to use it as normal.

After 15 March some users will be unable to sign in and log on; instead they'll be presented with a prompt to download and install Skype on their computer. However if you live in mainland China, it is said you will be unaffected by this change.

Skype - I thought that was used to make calls?

Correct, but making free internet calls (to other Skype users) only plays a small part. Skype still allows you to send instant messages, have group chats, make video calls (with other Skype users and Facebook friends) and compose texts to mobile devices.

Chat to your friends using Skype (© Skype)

You'll be able to chat to both your Messenger contacts and Facebook friends on Skype

How to download Skype

First thing's first, pop over to our Skype page on MSN Tech and follow the link to download Skype.

Skype is available to download for free on PC, Mac and Linux. If you're using Windows 8 you'll also find that a new separate download is available for your PC.

To download Skype you'll need to first sign in with your Microsoft account details and then either create a new Skype account or log in with an existing one. Don't worry you only have to do this once, Skype just needs your details before the download can begin.

You now have everything you need to run Skype successfully - because your Microsoft account and Skype accounts have been merged, you can sign in with your old Messenger details and have your Messenger, Hotmail, Skype and Outlook.com contacts in one place.

You can merge your Messenger and Skype accounts (© MSN)

Your Messenger and Skype accounts will be merged into one

You can also download the official Skype app on Windows Phone, Android, iOS, PlayStation Vita and more - so you are able to use it across all of your devices.

Additionally, Skype will allow you to import your Facebook contacts to your contact list - so you can hold conversations without even logging into the Facebook website.

Why is all of this happening?

To the keen observer the death of Messenger has been a long time coming. Microsoft's costly acquisition of Skype (a cool $8.5 billion) during October 2011, set the wheels in motion. At the time we all wondered whether Skype's communication technology would perhaps be absorbed into future releases of Messenger - after all, it made sense.

A year later and shortly before the release of Windows 8, Microsoft announced it would be renaming its useful suite of free online services and software. Windows Live staples such as Hotmail, SkyDrive, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker and Messenger were all affected by this change.

Not long after that (and in a surprise move) Microsoft ditched the Hotmail brand, instead rebranding it Outlook.

From this point on it was clear that anything could happen. Microsoft still held onto Skype and tech plaudits deliberated how the new service could possibly fit into these increasingly-streamlined plans.

Fortunately we didn't have to wait long for the software giant to show its hand - a recent email sent to some hundred million Messenger users has announced ambitions to finally retire the much-lauded Messenger instant-messaging service in favour of Skype.

To find out more about Skype visit our dedicated Skype download page on MSN Tech http://tech.uk.msn.com/microsoft/skype/

Tips and tricks for Skype on Windows

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