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I genuinely loathe Windows' minimize / maximize animation and the first thing I do on a new Windows installation is to disable this effect. My problem is that Windows Live Messenger persists on showing this animation even though it is disabled on system settings. Is there a way to stop Windows Live Messenger from doing so?

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File a bug report. While Microsoft is usually very good at respecting system settings there are still dozens or even hundreds of teams, each of which might not do so well. If you can't get onto Connect the easiest way might be to find someone who works on that product and send them an e-mail. Worked for me so far with a number of things.

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