How Yahoo Messenger Works

Yahoo Messenger Basics

Yahoo Messenger basics start with a visit to the Yahoo Web site. You'll need to download Yahoo Messenger software and complete the Yahoo Messenger sign up before you can use the free instant messaging service to IM your friends or colleagues, and you'll need to set up a messenger list. Here's how to set it up:

  1. Go to Yahoo Messenger, and click on "download now" to download the Yahoo Messenger software.
  2. Install the software on your computer, following specific directions for your operating system (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac or Unix).
  3. If you don't already have a Yahoo account, sign up for a Yahoo ID. You'll be asked for your name, gender, country, ZIP code and e-mail address. You'll also need to provide your birthday, since Yahoo Messenger isn't available to anyone age 12 or under. After that, you select an ID -- a name to use when you IM -- and a password. You'll also be asked to select and answer a security question (like your first car model or pet's name) that can be used for identification if you forget your password. Click acceptance of the terms of service and privacy policy, and your account will be set up.
  4. Now, you're ready to sign in. Go to, and click on the smiling yellow Yahoo Messenger button near the upper right corner of the screen. You'll see a sign-in screen next. Just enter your Yahoo ID name and password, hit the "sign in" button and you'll be signed in. If you've forgotten your ID or password, click on the statement below the "sign in" button. After you answer some questions to verify your identity, you'll be sent your ID by e-mail or given the option of selecting a new password. To sign out when you're done, just click on the words "sign out" near the upper right of the screen page.
  5. While you're signed in, you'll see your messenger list at the left of the screen. This is where you can list up to 300 friends, relatives, co-workers and others that you want to IM with. To add a name, click "Add" at the bottom of the messenger list, and then click "Yahoo Contact" or "Windows Live Contact." Type or paste the person's Yahoo or Windows Live ID in the box that opens at the top of your messenger list. To finish, type "Enter." Contacts receive an invitation with your request to add them to your list. If they say no, their names won't appear on your list. You can create groups within your messenger list by clicking on the Contacts menu, selecting "Organize Messenger Group" and then "Create New Group." Then just drop and drag contacts' names into the group.
  6. To tell whether your contacts are available to talk, check the icon that appears in front of their names on the list. A yellow circle shows they're online and available to talk, while a blank circle means they're not available.
  7. You can indicate your own availability by changing the icon near your ID at the top of the messenger list. Beyond clicking "available," you have choices like "busy," "stepped out" or "on the phone" -- or the option of writing your own message. By choosing "invisible," you can talk or work online while appearing to be offline.

Now that you're signed up, signed in and have some contacts in your messenger list, let's look at how you can send and retrieve instant messages.