Chat on IRC Like It’s 1995 With HydraIRC [Windows]

Craig Snyder 05-02-2012

You may be taking your Skype instant messaging and video calls or your iPhone FaceTime for granted, but way back before the standalone IM client was even an idea, there was one major solution: IRC (Internet Relay Chat).


I’m not even going to pretend. I was 5 or 6 years old back in 1995 so this is well before my time, too. In the age of social networking and Internet 2.0, web-based chat rooms are practically dead. They’re all but done with; on the endangered list. Still, IRC is the most popular server/client chat protocol in the world. Maybe the rooms aren’t as active as they were 10+ years ago, but we’ve still got a pulse!

Some boredom and curiosity mixed well together and I’ve rediscovered IRC just recently. Now, I’d like to show you how to use my favorite IRC client, HydraIRC. There are a lot of multi-IM clients Multi Protocol Instant Messaging Clients Read More (like Trillian Trillian Astra - Is It the Best Instant Messaging Client Now? Read More ) that support the IRC protocol, but nothing really beats the efficiency and oldschool feel of a standalone chat client. You’ve probably heard of mIRC, the most popular IRC client, but here’s a few reasons why I love Hydra:

  • It is portable. Download the ZIP and extract it to wherever you like. Put it in your Dropbox or on a flash drive. Portable applications beat out self-installing packages every day of the week.
  • It is lightweight. mIRC is a little bulky for me.
  • It is free. Everyone loves things that are free.
  • It supports everything that you need in an IRC client: multiple servers, DCC, event logs, channel monitoring, an extremely flexible GUI, and more.

irc chat software

You can check out some more, official screenshots at the official HydraIRC website [No Longer Available]

Anyway, rusty IRC legend or complete newbie, let’s get you started. Get HydraIRC downloaded. Next step is to figure out where you want to chat and what about, right? You want to go into the File menu, then New Server. Hydra comes preloaded with loads of the most popular IRC servers.


irc chat

Now it’s on you to pick the network (and associated server) that you want. You can either query up Google and learn a bit about each, or experience can guide you. FreeNode has tons of channels for coding, tech support, general hacking, networking, and things of that nature. EFNet is your oldschool “general” server. QuakeNet and GameSurge are for gamers, and so on.
For this example, let’s go ahead and go on GameSurge. Double click GameSurge, click the IRC server that expands beneath it, and then click OK to connect.

Every server consists of many channels (or rooms). Upon connecting, the Channel List window will pop up. If it doesn’t, you can click into the Channel menu and then Channel List. Click Populate List and after a second, you’ll have a list of every channel on the server. Click the Users header once and you’ll have sorted the channels by the most users. Scroll through, see if there are any you may be interested in, and then click Join.

irc chat software


This is how you join an IRC server and a channel (the easy way). There are hundreds and hundreds of servers out there and thousands of channels. There’s probably an active channel for just about any subject that comes to mind. It’s good to have it sitting in your taskbar for idle moments in between tasks.

If you need any help or want to dive deeper into the subject, let’s chat in the comments. If you really like IRC chatting, consider setting up your own IRC channel How to Create Your Own IRC Chat Channel IRC has been around since 1988 and is liked by many for its simplicity. Learn how to create your own IRC channel. Read More and read our post on that.

Related topics: Chat Client, Instant Messaging, IRC, Online Chat.

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  1. ilken
    September 19, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    so its 2017 almost 2018 and you wrote this in 2012 and I just have a couple questions to AXE YOU

  2. Ron
    March 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

    irc was my first chat platform, and I still use it almost every weekday - chatting with the same bunch since the mid 90's, tho relatively few of us remain.

    • Craig Snyder
      March 23, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      IRC is truly one of the most prehistoric things left on today's web. Things such as BBS fizzled out relatively quickly and found replacements (like today's forum systems), but IRC still stands strong. It's pretty awesome that huge websites like Twitch use it to power their chats.

  3. a1c
    April 23, 2012 at 2:11 am

    I think this is among the most important information for me. And i am satisfied studying your article. However want to statement on few normal issues, The website taste is perfect, the articles is truly nice : D. Good activity, cheers

  4. PhilUSB
    February 17, 2012 at 3:35 am

    im using irssi with debian :P and using linux since may 93

    • David
      March 24, 2012 at 4:10 am

      that seems like a really cool idea since not many nwbeies know about all the games that are around for linux, (like me ) so this should help out quite a few people that way they don't think that Linux is boring' just because it has no native' games to it. I'd still use Wine and/or duel boot windows in order to use the games I have for now, but this is worth looking into

  5. Dan
    February 6, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I prefer chatzilla.

  6. Anonymous
    February 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    X-Chat 2 is probably the best client I've used. Good UI, feature-packed, and lightweight.

  7. Mike
    February 5, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Personally I prefer mIRC over the other clients ~ probably got used to it over the years. But I do want to add Linkinus for the Mac users here.

  8. grantdb
    February 5, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Great article! Check out kvirc, my personal favorite IRC client.

    February 5, 2012 at 3:42 am

    I love your site!!!!! IREAD IT ALL THE TIME.

  10. TopsyCreets
    February 5, 2012 at 3:02 am

    No love for Linux...? Maybe in future releases...

    • Josh Fox
      February 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm

       There are already several IRC clients for Linux, many are very similar to this one. XChat is probably the closest. Just make sure to get XChat if you want more options, and Gnome-XChat if you want a more simplified interface. Both are really good, but I prefer the original for the extra options.

    • Surena
      August 5, 2017 at 8:37 am

      Currently; HydraIRC uses microsoft ATL/MFC and WTL for gui rendering; which cant be ported to linux. By any means; newer builds are tested against WINE on linux; so you can still use it as a linux user ;)

  11. Howard Pearce
    February 5, 2012 at 2:52 am

    I like IRC over most other chat arrangemnts/protocols because of the channel setup where u can talk to people in rooms