The Top 7 Best Free IRC Clients for Windows 7

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irc clientsIn the decades following the invention of the Internet, dozens of programs and protocols have been developed to facilitate communication between computers. For example, we have instant messaging protocols, email clients, chatroom networks, and more.

For most of us, chatrooms might seem like a relic of the past, but they’re still around. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, you’ll want to look into the IRC protocol. For those of you who are already familiar with IRC, you can jump past the next section to the list of awesome IRC clients for Windows 7. For those of you who have never heard of IRC, here’s a quick crash course.

What is IRC?

In the simplest of terms, IRC is a network of chatrooms where each individual chatroom is called a channel. Channels are hosted on servers, and each server maintains its own network of channels. Using an IRC client, you can connect to a server and join the channels on that server. By doing so, you’ll be able to chat with other users who have connected to the same channels on those same servers.

IRC first arrived on the scene in 1988 and experienced its peak popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Prior to the current prevalence of Internet forums and message boards, IRC was one of the best ways to foster community and chat with people of similar interests.

Today, IRC is still running strong, though it tends to be used as more of a supplement to web communities that have already been established through websites and forums.

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mIRC

irc clients

mIRC was once the best IRC client for Windows and still remains as one of the most downloaded and most used clients today. Having been in development for over a decade, this client is full of advanced features – like scripting – that outshine its competitors.

The downside to mIRC is that it is shareware – it comes with a 30-day free trial. When the trial runs out, you’ll still be able to use the program, but you’ll need to put up with an annoying splash screen that lasts for a few seconds every time you start up the program.

X-Chat

clients available for irc

X-Chat was one of the first real contenders to mIRC. Today, it is one of the most well-known IRC clients on the web. The project is open source so not only can X-Chat be used on Windows, it can be used on Linux, too.

Like mIRC, the original X-Chat has since become shareware with a 30-day free trial. Unlike mIRC, X-Chat cannot be used past the initial 30 days. If you aren’t willing to shell out the one-time registration fee of $19.99, then you should look elsewhere.

If you like X-Chat and cannot afford to register it but wouldn’t mind using an older, stripped-down version, you may want to look into X-Chat 2. This is a free build of X-Chat for Windows meant to circumvent the shareware nature of its predecessor.

HydraIRC

clients available for irc

HydraIRC is an IRC client that was designed to make the whole IRC experience as easy and painless as possible. Whereas IRC was once usable only by the tech-literate, HydraIRC has constantly worked towards making IRC easy for the newest beginners while still retaining the advanced settings that power-users desire.

The client is free and open source and packed full of awesome features, like themes, plugins, notifications, and reg-ex highlighting.

KVIrc

clients available for irc

One of the oldest IRC clients around, KVIrc has been in development for over 10 years – and its feature set reflects the time spent in development. In particular, this client has extensive scripting support that allows for user customization. Unlike most full-featured IRC clients, KVIrc is portable, meaning it can be used without first having to install it. Run it straight off of a thumb drive if you wish.

Since KVIrc is built on the Qt GUI toolkit, it is cross-platform. In addition to running on Windows, KVIrc has official binaries for Mac, FreeBSD, and certain flavors of Linux.

Nettalk

irc clients for windows 7

Coming out of Germany is Nettalk, a free and open source IRC client with a smart interface built on the Windows standards. The default layout is simple and intuitive, allowing beginner IRC users to grab hold of the reins quickly with ease.

One of the great things about Nettalk is its out-of-the-box support for multiple languages – English, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, Chinese, Hungarian and German. On top of that, it has many of the features that IRC clients are now expected to have – plugin support, scripting support, easy customization, and more.

Quassel

irc clients for windows 7

The developers describe Quassel as a modern, cross-platform, distributed IRC client: modern, meaning full of the features that you would expect from an IRC client today; cross-platform, meaning available on Windows, Mac, and Linux; distributed, meaning something that is uniquely awesome.

Quassel’s defining feature is its distributed nature. As a distributed client, Quassel attaches and detaches itself from a central core that runs permanently online. The core keeps track of your session, so you can detach when you need to leave and reattach when you’re available again – and you won’t have missed a single thing!

Quassel IRC is both free and open source.

ThrashIRC

irc clients

Some might find ThrashIRC to be overly prideful because the development team has self-proclaimed their client to be the “best IRC client for Windows.” Whether or not that’s true is up to you to decide.

ThrashIRC comes equipped with all of the modern features expected of an IRC client with a few extra bonuses. The best thing it has going for itself is that it’s feature-filled while using very few system resources. No adware, no spyware, and lots of stability.

But what’s their best feature? According to their website, ThrashIRC has the “best smileys.”

Conclusion

So there you have it. These are 7 of the best IRC clients for Windows 7. Each of them has its own community of fans and supporters, so it’s hard to say whether any of them are any better than the others. If nothing else, give them all a shot, see how they meet your requirements, and come to your own conclusions.

Do you know of any other IRC clients that deserve to be on this list? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Image Credit: Speech Bubble Via Shutterstock

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30 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Alexister

I  would like to recommend Pidgin, a personal messenger client that’s able to connect through multiple account including IRC.

Matt

I agree, Pidgin is excellent!

Chris Hoffman

I’m a huge Pidgin fan, but it’s not the most powerful of IRC clients. If you’re looking for something simple, it’s a great option, though.

Inda

all people can use my doammncs.i wont this.my script have this command: If ( $me isop $chan || $nick isop $chan) .But again normal users can use my doammncs,How to fix? this?

Joel Lee

Thanks for the recommendation. I used Pidgin for a long time for IM purposes, starting from when it was called GAIM, and I loved it to death. However, like Chris, I was never impressed by its IRC feature set.

I suppose for someone looking for an all-in-one package without many feature requirements, Pidgin would be good. But for me, I don’t consider it to be one of the best clients out there. :)

Reply

Marcy

Chatzilla rocks!

Noobs don’t know how to install as standalone program instead of add-on.

Joel Lee

I wasn’t aware Chatzilla could be run standalone.

Are you talking about running Chatzilla under XULRunner? I did a quick search and it appears XULRunner hasn’t been updated since June 2009–that’s almost 3 years ago.
If you could link to a guide or tutorial that shows how to run the latest version of Chatzilla independently from a browser, I’d be grateful. Thanks!

bob

ice chat works well and has some great features

Reply

verdant

There’s also XChat-WDK, a free alternative to the shareware version

Joel Lee

I looked into XChat-WDK and it appears that it’s been around for about 2 years. Interesting how I’ve never heard of it until now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

I’ll give it a shot and see if it’s worth it. From an initial glance, it looks like it could be great.

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Anupam

Thanks for the list. Personally, I find KVIrc the best.. it has great features, with great interface.
You missed IceChat … its free, and it has some good features too.

http://www.icechat.net/site/

Joel Lee

IceChat does look nice indeed. I’ll give it a try!

Sara

A bnc is a proxy program ( ululsay ran on linux ) Depending on your network there may be a free provider. For example on Swiftirc #bnc is a free provider. To see if there are any providers on your network type /list *bnc*

Reply

Nirmal Shah

You could have included the full form of IRC ( Internet Relay Chat ). LoL, just kidding. I still use mIRC, it has been the best since its release. 

Joel Lee

Oops. I thought I did include the full form but I guess not. Thanks for the catch!

Reply

Elvin

Ychat. the best and is FREE.

Reply

Navid

irssi is hands down the best IRC client. Extremely minimal, keyboard friendly, and very fast.

josth

 how can an irc client be slow?

Reply

Aibek

thanks for the input

Reply

Tain

I am also using mIRC 6.34 with NoName Script 4.2 Suddenly expired today, iunnrng the freebot on 6.35 this copy has also expired. can you post the fixed exe’s as I do not have all the programs you are using.I attempted registering for $20 though they force the use of credit card through paypal which I only have e-cheque.

Reply

ipads for cheap

First-class info it is actually. My teacher has been seeking for this information.

Joel Lee

Thanks. I hope your teacher found it useful.

Reply

Bob

This is a winner in my book, http://www.smuxi.org/main/

Joel Lee

Smuxi looks interesting. I’d never heard of it before. Thanks for sharing.

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type 1 diabetes

I am really inspired along with your writing skills and also with the structure to your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it your self? Either way stay up the excellent high quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one nowadays..

Joel Lee

Thank you for your kind words. The theme is maintained in-house and I think it is from scratch, but I’m not entirely sure. We’ll continue to keep up the high quality for as long as we can!

Reply

allan

- for mirc. It isn’t free and you can’t use it indefinately now – it locks you out after a time.

Joel Lee

Does it really? I guess they finally patched that “exploit,” which is unfortunate. To be honest, I think that’s going to drive away a lot of people (or at least force them into using older versions of mIRC).

Reply

sdfqsfqsdfq

icechat rox

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