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 instant messaging (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 on, an  IM client can keep a record of your conversations, automatically saving copies of your conversations on your hard drive.

These records can become useful 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 the 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 on a Windows PC: the user's My Documents folder or within the IM 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 the Start button, then click Documents or My Documents to open the folder. Then, scan this collection for folders that would contain IM logs. Typically, these folders feature the word "log" in the title and may include the name of the IM client.
  • Program Files
    Click the Start button, then click Computer or My Computer. Next, choose the C: drive and select Program Files. Scan the names of application folders, looking for any matching the names of IM clients present on your computer. Within these folders, you may be able to manually locate stored IM logs. Again, these folders often feature the word "log" in the title or the name of the IM client.

    Using the Search Function

    If you have trouble locating these folders, try using the search function on your computer.

    Click the Start button then Search. In the Search Companion, check "All Files and Folders" for the most extensive search. Click Search to start the process. Consider searching for the keyword "logs" and scan the files that might be associated with your IM client.

    Still Not Finding Logs?

    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. This preference may also have an option for defining where you want to save your log files. If logging is turned on, check the folder if one is indicated. 

    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.
    • Messages: On your Mac OS X, your past conversations can be seen in the app, but to locate the files of stored chats on your hard drive, you will need to go to the folder ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.iChat/Data/Library/Messages/Archive where you will find folders by date. Note, however, that this is a hidden folder location by default so you will need to make Mac hidden folders visible.
    • Trillian. IM logs can be located at C:\Program Files\Trillian\users\default\logs.