How to set up and start using iMessage in Mac OS X Mountain Lion

How to set up and start using iMessage in Mac OS X Mountain Lion

Now that you've updated your Mac to OS X Mountain Lion it's time to start checking out some of the new features. iMessage now comes stock in Mountain Lion and makes it easier than ever to stay in contact with the people that matter most across your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and now, your Mac.

iMessage in OS X Mountain Lion lets you pick up conversations on your Mac right where you left off on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The best part is it's completely free and will work with anyone who has iMessage activated on their iOS or OS X devices.

How to setup iMessage

If you signed into your iCloud account when you installed OS X Mountain Lion, you're probably already signed in and good to go so just skip this step. If you need to sign in manually, you can do so by following these steps:

  1. First start by opening iMessage in your dock. The icon consists of blue and white chat bubbles.
  2. iMessage for Mac icon
  3. If you have never signed into iMessage with an Apple ID you'll be prompted to do so upon first launch. Just type in your Apple ID credentials and submit them.
  4. That's it. You're good to go to start using iMessage.

How to send an iMessage on your Mac

  1. Open up iMessage in your dock. The icon consists of blue and white chat bubbles.
  2. iMessage for Mac icon
  3. Click the new message button to the right of the search field.
  4. Start typing the name of the person in your address book that you'd like to iMessage. You'll notice that some names have blue bubbles next to them and some won't. The ones that do are addresses that you can send iMessages to because they are either Apple ID's or phone numbers associated with an iPhone with iMessage enabled.
  5. iMessage for Mac create a new message
  6. Once you've selected the person you'd like to send a message to, just type out your message and hit send. You're done!
  7. iMessage for Mac conversation window

How to add other IM accounts to iMessage on your Mac

Now that iMessage is replacing iChat in Mac OS X, you may be wondering how to send instant messages without having to download another third party application. iMessage will give you the ability natively just like iChat did.

  1. Open iMessage and from the top menu go to Messages and then Preferences.
  2. iMessage for Mac preferences
  3. Click on the Accounts tab along the top.
  4. iMessage for Mac add other accounts
  5. Now click on the plus sign in the accounts pain on the bottom left. You can choose from AIM, Jabber, Google Talk, and Yahoo. Select the IM account type you want to add and enter your credentials.
  6. iMessage for Mac add IM accounts
  7. That's it. iMessage will now allow you to send and receive messages from your instant messenger services as well.

Enabling iMessage on your other Macs and iOS devices

How to set up iMessage on your other Macs and iOS devices

To set up iMessage on other Macs in your house, just follow the same steps above. If you've got iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches, you can also set them up to use iMessage as long as you're running iOS 5 or later. You can check out our guides for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch as well if you need help.

Get more help with iMessage

If you need more help setting up or using other features of iMessage, check out our other tutorials via the links below. If you have questions, our iMore forums are a great place to ask for help as well.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

How to set up and start using iMessage in Mac OS X Mountain Lion


iMessage has been down for me for a few hours, everything goes through as text. Making me wonder if Apple was ready for the rush of new users on it...

Ok, question: How do I change an iMessage Account on Mountain Lion? How can I change my iMessage Account?

I cannot delete it, I cannot remove it, I cannot add another iMessage Account. And befor you ask: The iCloud Settings are a different iCloud Account. This is weird?

Thanks for any suggestions

Open up messages, click on the top left messages>preferences then click the account and then the minus sign to delete, the + sign to add. Easy right?

to add another iMessage account on that same screen on the bottom left select can be reached for messages at and add another address.

No. You can't use that to add another iCloud account. You can add another e-mail address or other address to associate with the iCloud account you have added. He is asking about adding another iMessage account. Not IM. As far as I can see, you can't add an iMessage account. Plus, if you try and delete the iMessage account the minus sign is greyed out.

Unfortunately that doesn't work. During my initial Mountain Lion setup process there was a conflict between the AppleID and iCloud account on my iPhone4s and an old @me account. Now I have several (4) "Unknown iMessage (Inactive)" accounts on my iMac that I can not delete. The ( - ) sign on all four accounts are grayed out and will not allow me to delete any of the accounts. Can anyone provide assistance? ~ Cheers

How come they don't allow you to specify your default iPhone phone number as a way of getting iMessages on your other devices. I know that on iOS 6 they supposedly implemented this for iPads/iPods but why not on Mountain Lion?

Because technically it's an IM platform. You have to sync the Apple account you have on your phone with the emails you use so you can get the messages on comp and phone. If they set it up with a phone number, I think it would screw with carriers. This way it's an app that works on both your computer and your phone.

You cannot specify a phone number on a device (or computer) that can't receive messages directly using that number. So if you don't have a cell radio and service on that number, no dice. The trick, which others learned with the WiFi iPads and Messages Beta on Mac, is that you have to use email addresses on all the devices you want to span with the Messages service. Yes, that includes your iPhone. Your phone will, if you've enabled "SMS fallback", to use standard SMS. But for iMessage it will key off email address(es).

If you fail to change "start new messages using" to an email option matching that if your Macs and other devices, then you will be able to send but you may not receive replies, as you rove between devices. I'm very surprised the blog article doesn't touch on this, because it can be very confusing when it happens.

This is a great write up and I wish I had found it before I struggled with setting up iMessage the other day. This is my first post on iMore. This is a great site and some very talented writers. I've been a regular at Android Central so it feels a little familiar, but for some reason I've never spent anytime at iMore. Keep up the great work you will definitely see more of me in the near future.

I still don't understand how to use imessage between my MBP and iphone 4s. So I have it set up on both the macbook and iphone.. and it works fine on each device ... but how do I see the conversations that I'm having on my MBP on my iphone and vice versa? Like.. I want to be able to continue the conversation when I get into the car for example, so how do I do that from my iphone when I start the convo on my mbp?
Please help! A step by step guide would be most appreciated because i dont get this AT ALL. And I think additional info that would help is.. I've got both an email address (my apple ID) and my cell number associated to imessage on my iphone and my apple ID associated to imessage on my macbook pro.

Hi I tried my IMessage but it aint working. I created a anew apple ID and its says IMessage (Inactive) why is this so? and even if Jabber or my google talk is active when I try to send a message it prompts that my Imessage isn's signed in. Please help. Thanks.

I just upgraded my macbook pro to the mountain lion and went to activate my account and this message keeps popping up: The server encountered an error processing registration. Please try again later. ---How do i activate it? How do i set it up? what am i doing wrong? its working on my iPhone....

I just upgraded my macbook pro to the mountain lion and went to activate my IMESSAGES account and this message pops up: The server encountered an error processing registration. Please try again later. ---How do I activate? how do i set it up? What am i doing wrong? its working on my phone....

I have just updated to Mountain Lion and wondering how I get imessage in my dock. Is it supposed to happen automatically?