Ralph Johns

iChat Information Pages


iChat and AIM

AIM Guyand  iChat Icon

Originally - "What If your Girlfriend Lives a Long Way Away"

And Service Pack 2.

Or how to work through getting started in chatting to a PC using iChat to AIM (PC ver 5.5 and above).
The "And Service Pack 2" title is also a page jump link.

How did the title of the page come about ?

At the time of writing it originally there were lots of posts,( in what is now iChat 2.x Discussions on the Apple Forum pages), that seemed to be from young men who had girlfriends whom they were separated from - such as going to College . It was as simple as that.

Areas Covered

Much has changed since this page came into being. Originally it contained EZ Jim's Post about the things he had found worked best for iChat to AIM on a PC Video chats. Not too long after the James A. Weston post was added regarding Service Pack 2 for XP and how that added control to PCs about their Firewall but certain Applications needed to be Allowed through (anything else that was/is not Microsoft) as Exceptions.

The Main thrust of this page will remain those things that these two posts from the Apple Discussions point out that improves the success rate of iChat to AIM Video chats.

Despite comments on both Tiger/iChat 3and Leopard/iChat 4 there are less pink and yellow boxes on this page. If you have been here before you will also notice the background colour of both posts are the same to stop Confusion with the Tiger and Leopard colouring elsewhere.

I hope to cover in some form:-

  1. iChat 2 to AIM 5.9
  2. iChat 3 to AIM 5.9 and versions that have followed
  3. An overview of the AIM versions
  4. iChat 4 to AIM 6.8
  5. Alternatives.

The Starting Point

This was such a good post from EZ Jim, on the Apple Discussion Pages for iChat, that I saved it as a separate page. It has had some minor editing and more recently some pictures added to help.

This is to solve the problem when you are contacting someone who is using the AIM application on a PC. It starts with checking things at your end.

Check that your ports are open. Both on the Mac if required and the modem (page 4)
Check that you can contact Mac users. (Contact Testers)
At this point it is more than likely that your PC Buddy needs to set up his end.

Remember this was a post on the Apple Discussion Boards - (Now) in iChat 3 and often refers to posting back there.....

AIM Versions

What we have going on here is two Software Houses writing their own clients to work with a IM service that also happens to bear the same name as one of them. Apple with iChat and AOL with AIM (Clear ?)

    AIM 5.5 Start of A/V chats
    AIM 5.9 (now listed as the Classic version and still downloadable) Has small pictures
    Triton (which, although an General Release, never got out of Beta)
    AIM 6.1 (I found this still worked)
    AIM 6.5 (Becomes Vista Only)
    AIM 6.8 (Both released during 2008)

So that is 6 versions of AIM to 3 A/V versions of iChat. The ones before and including AIM 5.9 are referred to as Classic as the A/V protocols have changed in later versions. AIM 6.1 and up have scalable pictures and larger starting display windows.

The Protocol is now called Real Time by the AIM web site and states it does not work to AIM Classic versions or iChat hence some of the Issues with later versions.


"You can only see the green camera icon Video Icon next to a PC buddy name in your iChat buddy list if your buddy's PC camera is ON and working AND YOUR CAMERA is on and working.

This picture is of a iChat 2.x Buddy list. It would look the same in iChat 3 if you do not have the Specs for Multi-chatting or all your A/V Buddies were on PCs otherwise Mac Buddies display "Stacked" icons Muitchat Video icon

    (NOTEs: 1. As explained in the FAQ links below, audio between Mac and PC is only supported using video <Edit 26/08/2007> (In AIM 5.5 and AIM 5.9). This has now changed in AIM 6.1 and theoretically later</Edit>.
    2. Camera icons disappear when you disconnect your firewire or USB camera from your Mac).

So first,

  1. Is your iSight camera on and can you see a camera icon next to your name in the Buddy List?
  2. If not, make this happen first.

    EDIT: This may involve Setting the Enable items in the Video Menu in iChat as well as turning an external camera On

If iChat is active and is the "front" Application - and you have your (iSight) camera working, - you can click on the camera icon (to the right of your name in the upper, gray part of your iChat Buddy List - your Buddy Pic is further right again.) and a window will open. You will now be able to see what your iSight camera sees. If this works, you KNOW your camera is working.

Edit: is is the same preview as seen in the Video section of the iChat Preferences found in the iChat menu.

If your camera is on and working but there is no green camera icon next to a PC buddy's name in your iChat Buddy List, either

  1. The PC buddy's camera is not working, or linked to the AIM Application
  2. You have not got the Show Video Status selected in the View menu
  3. (or possibly you have connectivity or firewall problems).

Solutions and Checks.

  1. Check your girlfriend has her camera plugged in and turned on.
  2. Try taking your Airport Express Base Station (or any other router) out of the loop and plugging your Mac directly into your modem, or try turning off any firewalls to see if your problem goes away. If it does, you know where your problem is. If not, you will likely need to do some reading.
  3. Check they have selected the camera in their Application's Preferences
    1. Press F3 in AIM 5.5 or AIM 5.9 and go here to message 570
    2. Press F7 in AIM6.1 and go to the Advance IM button then the camera selection
    3. In AIM 6.5 and 6.8 I do not know the "F" number but use the AIM Buddy List Edit Menu and then the Enhanced IM button
    (b. and c. are Edits to the original.)
  4. Check the iChat Video Menu and that the "Camera Enabled" item is ticked.

If you are new to iChat or Macintosh, you will find the answers to lots of common questions here Starting Up iChat (It was a link to this site and now points to the Starting Up page). EDIT: In fact go to Ryan's Pages for another view of the Start up Procedure

Connection speed is not always as high as promised. Actually check your connection speed using the link provided (EDIT: Now points to a list of Speed test sites within this site. There is also a list under this "post" box section. ).
Note the uplink and downlink speeds and post back (click on the little black, curved arrow in the upper right part of this window) the results
(EDIT: This is a reference to how the reply posts work in the Apple Discussion pages)

If you have already read the Basic helps, or if they are too "Basic", you should next read iChat AV Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), starting with What do I need to start in iChat ? .
Then check out How do I Get Video and Audio Chats with PCs ?
Assuming your PC buddy has a compatible camera properly connected, pay particular attention to the instructions concerning the extra XP file that may be needed and to "Tuning" the camera and mic.
(Tuning is accessing the AIM application's Preferences in AIM 5.5 and 5.9 and matching the camera and mic to the app. See message #570 in that link)

(Edit: Referring to the Video File in the above paragraph. It is at Add on AIM Video File Grab the aimrtc12.exe file from the list.
Second Edit: For Windows XP users having trouble with starting out. This was certainly needed more for Windows 95 and 98 but seems less needed in XP, particularly Service Pack updated versions. The file is now found on a FTP server. Clicking on the named file will download it.)

If the problem persists, read the FAQ titled How can I get my router to work with iChat?

This should be enough to give you plenty to try tonight. Post here at the Apple iChat Discussions if you are still having trouble.
EDIT: The last link is the Category Level where you can select either the iChat 2.x or iChat 3 Discussion areas. (See the Far Right Panel on Apple Discussion Links)
In fact iChat 4 is in iChat and iChat Sharing in the Leopard Category

If you still have problems after you read and follow the suggestions in the above links, post back with your connection speed info and all the specifics you can find about your router and your PC buddy's router. Also tell what things you tried since your original post. Include as much specific information as you can. It will increases the speed and quality of the help you will get.

Mr. James Weston, our connectivity expert, and (edit: it said my name but you are here), who writes the FAQs here (At Apple FAQs), may have specific suggestions to help you. If either of these two gentlemen offers help, use it over mine any time (and every time.)

Good Luck!"

Summary of EZ Jim's Post.

  1. The PC User needs to download the free AIM application. Windows version of AIM 5.9 Note: Edited link now that Triton occupies the "latest" link at AIM.
    Edit: March 2007. Not the AIM 6.0 version that replace the "Triton" Beta either.
    Edit 25/08/2007: There is now AIM 6.1 which is a lot more stable with iChat
    Left for History purposes
    Second Edit 30th September 2008: There has been AIM 6.5 and now AIM 6.8 since.

  2. Install it

  3. Download the 'extra' Video file and install that. here Edit: March 2007. This file has moved and link adjusted to new site. See the note above.

  4. "Tune" his/her application to his AV equipment. "Tuning" the camera and mic

  5. Proceed to the next section about Service Pack 2

Another useful explanation can be found at this point which is well worth a visit within the MVLDesign's page

Internet Speed Check sites

From the list on Page 5

Thanks to Defcom on all of these. Now and then when starting out or encountering problems, it is worth checking if you have the Connection Speed you think you have (or indeed pay for). Most need you to have JAVA installed and active. Most of the common Browsers will have the required Pug-inactive.

  1. Check Your Broadband speed DSLreports. Speed check with a JavaScript enabled site
  2. ADSLGuide's Speed Test Another Java based Test site in Britain.
  3. Speed Test at Audit My PC As the Link says
  4. SpeedTest.net A test site just for Testing. Nice Graphical interface (bit "blokey" - Men will like it). Shows a section of the world with the most local servers. You can choose ones from further afield
  5. BroadbandMaX.co.uk As it says another British based single server test site. Uses JavaScript and Flash rather Java to run test. Has speedometer style graphics.

What to do with AIM on a PC to get it working

XP Service Pack 2

First of all find out if the PC running XP has been upgraded with the SP2 Service Pack.

James A. Weston has posted this on the Apple Discussion Pages to explain what to do next. It features on this page to make sure it is not lost AND to save on typing.
(EDIT: This post was saved some time ago and some information is now clearer about Service Pack 2. Some EDITs have been added)

Service Pack 2 is (was) a (recent) major system software update to Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional. One of the things it added was an User Controllable Firewall.


Updating a Windows XP computer to SP2 may cause Mac iChat AV to AIM 5.5/5.9 PC video and audio connections to fail because, by default, the firewall created by SP2 blocks UPnP communications from the Internet and all NON Microsoft Applications.

If the SP2 firewall is enabled:

  1. Go to Start > Control Panel > Security Center > Manage security settings for: Windows Firewall > Exceptions tab > add or check UPnP Framework as an Exception.

      (EDIT: You can go straight to the Firewall Control Panel [Start > Control Panels > Firewall if in Classic Mode for the XP display] )

  2. Select UPnP Framework and click the Edit... button.

    • (EDIT: 2a Use the Add Button and Add the AIM application.
      This is AIM for 5.5 or 5.9 and AIM6.exe for AIM 6.1 (or Later)
      Or use the Application name you want to allow such as Trillian

      Second Edit: This means navigating through the Program files to find the Individual Application inside it's relevant named folder.
      AIM 5.9 can be on the PC at the same time as a later version so both have to be allowed if you have them.

  3. Be sure that both the TCP 2869 and UDP 1900 ports are checked and listed as 'Any' under Scope. (refers back to the UPnP entry).

  4. If the Scope of each port is listed as 'Subnet,' click the Change scope... button, and select the 'Any computer (Including those on the Internet)' radio button. Do this for both ports, and then save the changes by clicking the OK buttons.

For Basic AIM set up go here for the work by Hanspeter Tschupp at Pan Flutes
These WEB blog entries also detail how to run down the 'Tuning' Listed by EZ Jim, once you get to message 570 (it starts at 563)

Summary: Open the XP firewall settings in the Control Panels.
List UPnP and add AIM ( or AIM6.exe ) as Exceptions.
Adjust the "Scope" of the UPnP setting if required.
(What is does not tell you is the number of windows that open to get to this point !! So be prepared).

This can be used to allow any Non Microsoft application (On-line game for example) through the firewall.

Back to other pages

Back to iChat discussions (Category Level) - iChat FAQs and Expansions (Index Page) - Back to top

Summary so far

The Story So Far Explained.

AIM 5.5 was out and doing A/V chats to other AIM users on PCs when iChat 2 came out. iChat 2 used the Quicktime H263 codec to do the Audio and Video and, whatever AIM called what they were using, it was compatible.
Then AIM 5.9 came out and used the same Codecs as before. AIM users on PCs used to complain about the size of their viewing window. With Tiger, Mac users got iChat 3. iChat 3 uses the H264 Codec by preference but can also use the H263 to iChat 2 and AIM users.

The fixes, tweaks or preparation listed in EZ Jim's "post" were those that helped get iChat 2 and 3 users chatting over Video to AIM on PC users. For the PC user this tended to be:-

  1. "Tune" the camera and mic to the AIM application
  2. For Pre Service pack 1 in XP the Extra File needed for Video was required to be downloaded.
  3. Essentially allowing the application through any Firewall or Routing device.

Then comes Windows XP Service pack 2. This adds a full-on Firewall to Windows. It's default state is to allow only Microsoft Applications. James A. Weston's "Post" details how other applications have to be and can allowed as Exceptions in the XP Firewall:-

    1. From the Start Button go to Control Panels and then Firewall.
    2. Use the Exceptions Tab.
    3. Use the Add Button and Add the AIM version application file to the List by Navigating to Program Files >
      1. AOL Instant Messenger for AIM 5.9 > Application (or Earlier)
      2. or AIM6 > AIM6.exe for AIM 6.x version
    4. Enabling the UPnP option if your modem or router does UPnP.

As the Video file is essentially now longer needed it has become 1, 3 and 4 to make this work.

Before Vista came out AIM forayed into Triton. This replaced AIM 5.9 on the "Latest" page that AIM have but also never got out of Beta. It was offered though, as an Update to AIM 5.9. It was soon replaced by AIM 6.1 which seemed to return Video Chats back for iChat to AIM Buddies. There was no announcement by AIM that the Video Codecs they were using had changed and although the Web Site did say Flash was needed, it was unclear if this was to work with AIM Express on Web Browsers.

iChat 4 comes out using the same two H264 and H263 Codecs

AIM 6.5 and AIM 6.8 have both very clearly said they are Vista Only and users have been pointed back to AIM 5.9 (Classic) for a version that works with earlier Windows OSes. There was an FAQ on AIM about AIM 6.5 not working to earlier AIM versions an iChat. AIM 6.8 came out on June 10th 2008 but it was several months before the Real-Time IM notice about "AIM 6" not doing the same. In this case "AIM 6" in the category of help you find this notice in and seems to imply all versions with a leading 6.

I have AIM 6.1 running on XP in Boot Camp. I find I can call out to iChat 2, 3 and 4 versions and accept incoming Invites as well.

As it worked I have never Updated so have not experienced the issues that now seem to plague iChat to AIM on PC users

Like the Box above many people trying to contact AIM 6.5 users found that it would work (about 30% of those mentioning anything about it on the Apple Discussions) and those that tried the above posts reported mixed results. This does leave a large majority who say they can not get it to work.

It has been unclear from these results what the working factor is. It could be:-

  1. Only success with XP users at AIM 6.5
  2. Or having AIM 5.9 and it's Codecs on the computer before AIM 6.x is installed
  3. Or having AIM 6.1 and it's cross over codecs Installed before AIM 6.5 or 6.8
  4. Some other factor

That leads us to Alternatives.


There are several sub-divisions of this:-

  1. Those that require PC Install Only to work with iChat
    1. There is only one - Trillian Pro version 3 - It costs to do Video chats but has a Bigger and scaleable Video chat window compared to AIM 5.9. It came out soon after AIM 5.9 but can also contact other services such as MSN and Jabber but not as multi-service crossover link.
    2. However XP users can Install AIM 5.9
  2. Those that require the Mac and PC to Install:-
    1. Skype - as the most well known
    2. Gizmo - an alternative to Skype
    3. iVisit
    4. and PalTalk
  3. These are all Independent of iChat or other IM applications
  4. Those applications Installed on a Mac that can contact IM apps on a PC
    1. aMSN - a JAVA based MSN client that can Video Only
    2. Mercury Messenger - the same thing as aMSN
    3. Yahoo Messenger for Mac 3 (Beta)
    4. With a version of Microsoft Office Communications Server Messenger: Mac 7 (for MSN contacts).
  5. Those that require no install by either side (but uses a Web Browser)
    1. Mebeam - a Flash driven site that creates Rooms/Pages/URLs for "Privacy" (only who you give the room name URL to knows where it is).
    2. iVideochat - similar Flash based site buts needs Registration to have "Private" rooms.

More on all of these plus Links on page 5 See the panels with items numbered 5 onwards.

Last Word

I hope this gives many of you an idea as to why iChat to AIM on a PC has become so difficult and the possibilities that you can try. Personally I would use MeBeam, particularly if even 1b. does not work for you or is not an option due to VIsta.

© 2005 Ralph Johns, EZJim and James A. Weston: Edited 24/9/2005, 5/5/2006, 25/08/2007
Updated September 2006. Moved to Gargoyles and edited Mar 2007
Updated: September 2008 and Moved to Comic.

Information Block

This site is about iChat from Version 1 through to iChat 4.x.x

It has a mixture of basic info and problem solving help.

The setions below will change for Specifics about info on the page on view

If you find these pages helpful please Donate to help keep them up to date

About This Page

Getting iChat to connect to a PC running AIM.

That is the main thrust of this page

This in turn is divided in to two main parts.

The Post by EZ Jim who lists the things to check...

And the Post by James Weston about how to make AIM (Or any other App) an exception through the XP Firewall if they have Service Pack 2

I have added two other parts to form some history and explain more recent findings further. These are the AIM Versions and the longer Summary of the Story So Far

Links to Apple Discussion regarding IChat and iSight

It bears saying again as you never know where in these pages someone will enter them.

Apple have a hierarchy of Folders/Directories called Categories that the Forums are in. Some have only one Forum in them such as the iSight one

As opposed to the Index Page which has Folder icons to denote there is more, the Categories do not - although the Forums are in a box at the top with a "Most Recent Post in this Category" heading before the Topic List itself - with multiple Forums you can see a column listing which Forums it is in.

iChat 2 and earlier and iChat 3 have their own Forums within the iChat Category iChat 4 is actually called iChat and iChat Sharing and is found in the Mac OS X Leopard (10.5.x) Category

For ease I will list them all here

iChat 2 and Earlier
iChat 3
iChat and iChat Sharing (iChat 4)

Note: In some single Forum Categories Apple have the front Index Page link go straight to the Forum as the iSight one does. It is the Breadcrumb links across the top (under the tab/buttons for other Apple pages) that shows you where you are even if you don't use the full path to get there.

I hope this is of some use


Confirmed to work with Win/IE 5.5 and later (should work in 5.0, but not confirmed), Firefox 2, Safari 3, Opera 9, iCab 3.02 and later, Mac/IE 5, Netscape 6 and later

Old browsers (IE version 4 or earlier, Netscape 4 or earlier) should only see a text-based page which, while not the prettiest option, is still entirely usable.