IM over a LAN

Nov 19, 2008
Updated • Feb 29, 2012

There are plenty of IM networks available but most must connect to a remote server, something which is unnecessary for a business, school or home network and lowers the network's performance. It also makes IM impractical on networks not connected online for security reasons.

Some IM networks can easily be adapted to run on a LAN. One example is Jabber, where numerous clients and servers exist. This article provides simple instructions on how to set a Jabber server - for LAN use - under Linux.

Using Bonjour, Apple's auto-discovering networking tool, is another option. The beauty of using Bonjour is that no server is required and, to my knowledge, all communication is peer-to-peer. Bonjour is available on OS X, Linux and Windows (nb Windows users will have to install it). Pidgin provides for instant messaging via Bonjour. iChat can work in a similar fashion on OS X, and Miranda supports Bonjour if a plug-in is installed.

netsend is another method of sending messages between machines with Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP and 2003 installed on them. To use netsend, go into command prompt and simply enter net send recepient_name text_of_the_message. Recepient name is the user's account on the network or the computer's name. netsend is not polished and requires a little more effort to actually communicate, as a recepient must be specified every time (making it slightly slower to use than other IM solutions).

Another option is BORGChat, although that looks increasingly aged and is not really developed, not having left beta since it started being developed in 2002.

It is worth noting the above options are all free and will not cost $1000s like some enterprise internal IM tools available!


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  1. Milos said on November 21, 2008 at 2:13 am

    I use LAN Messenger, a great small app I discovered a while back… Can be found @

  2. Kevin said on November 19, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I use GoxBox. Simple to set up. Works flawlessly.

  3. eRIZ said on November 19, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    I’m not sure, but AFAIK Messenger service is disabled since SP2 and it requires to be enabled manually. MS has disabled it because of spam sent through net send.

  4. Q said on November 19, 2008 at 10:46 am

    There are also programs that come with and have come with 32-bit Windows up to Windows Vista (I am unsure about 64-bit) that have need not run at the console.

    Microsoft NetMeeting (since Windows 95) and Microsoft Chat are instances of such programs; they may be executed by running CONF and WINCHAT (CONF.EXE and WINCHAT.EXE) respectively.

    Windows Vista users may install NetMeeting 3.01 by a compatibility mode on the NetMeeting 3.01. Alternately, NetMeeting 3.02 has been released for Windows Vista is an MSI package and is available at:

  5. Dave said on November 19, 2008 at 6:34 am

    Openfire with spark is great and very easy to customize

  6. noris said on November 19, 2008 at 5:36 am

    I’m a BORGchat user and quite happy with the features.

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