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How to Find IM Chat Logs on Your Computer

A Handy Guide to Locating IM Logs

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A common feature on most IM clients is an option that records your chat conversations called IM logging. These IM logs, often as simple as a text file, chronicle the chats you have with your IM contacts. With the appropriate settings left on, an IM client will record your conversations and automatically save a copy of this chat on your hard drive.

These records can become vital sources of information, some of which could be private or confidential. While some users might look up their IM logs to find the address or telephone number of an online contact given during the course of conversation, others could search for such records as a means of gaining unsolicited access to your personal chats.

This handy guide will show you how to locate your own personal IM logs or any chat logs that might exist on a computer.

How to Locate IM Logs

Most IM logs appear in one of two places: the user's "My Documents" folder (on Windows OS) or within the client's folder located in the "Program Files" folder on your computer's C: drive.

Here is how to manually locate these folders:

  • My Documents. Click Start, then click Documents or My Documents to open the folder. Then, peruse this collection for folders containing IM logs. Typically, these folders feature the word "log" in the title.
  • Program Files. Click Start, then click Computer or My Computer. Next, choose the C: drive and select Program Files. Then, peruse this collection of application folders for any matching the IM clients present on your computer. Within these folders, you may be able to manually locate stored IM logs. Typically, these folders feature the word "log" in the title.

If you are having issues locating these folders or were unsuccessful in your manual search, use the search function on your computer by clicking Start, then Search. In the Search Companion, check All Files and Folders for the most extensive search. Click Search to start the search process. (In Windows Vista, search can be utilized by typing your search query-for example, "logs"-and pressing Enter.) Consider searching for the keyword "logs" and peruse files which might fit the criteria you are looking for.

Didn't find anything? It is possible your IM client does not have IM logging active. Check your settings by visiting the client's preferences, then find the IM log options.

Exact Locations of Specific IM Logs

In addition to manual searches for IM logs, here is a brief list of where you can locate IM conversations stored on your hard drive:
  • Adium: On your Mac, Adium IM logs are stored at User\Library\Application Support\Adium 2.0\Users\Default\ByObject
  • AIM Logs: By default, IM logging is off. If logging is enabled, find these conversations in My Documents\AIMLogger.
  • Google Talk: Unless you or the client user has turned off IM logging, these conversations can be located by clicking "Chats" in the main client window. A list of saved conversations can then be accessed.
  • iChat: On your Mac, iChat IM logs are stored in the \User\iChats\ folder.
  • Trillian. IM logs can be located at C:\Program Files\Trillian\users\default\logs.

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