After you obtain IRC client software, it must be installed to your system. While following the installation instructions, you generally must supply some basic information before you can go online. Some of this information is required, and some is optional.
Some IRC client software will need to know where to find your browser program on your computer. That's because they use the browser to display images or other files that you may receive from people while you are chatting. Typically, the settings for these are changed in a Preferences or Options dialog box.
During installation, or the first time you use your IRC client program, you are often asked, via a dialog box, to supply your real name and e-mail address. If you are do not wish to supply your real name and e-mail address, an alias may be used. You must also choose a nickname for use in IRC, as this is required information, and will be used to identify you to others. The nickname appears in front of whatever you type, allowing others to know what you are saying.
When you start your IRC client software so you can go online and chat, the first thing you must do is connect to an IRC server. A client is a program which connects to a server, which is a computer that is connected to other clients. Servers also are connected to a network of other servers.
With most IRC client software, the first click of the Connect button will usually bring up a dialog box with areas to enter information. This information is required to allow the IRC client software to connect to an IRC server. In the text box that appears, there may be a drop-down list of servers to connect to, or an area to enter a server address. If a port number is required, enter 6667 in the text box, as this is usually a safe bet.
Start the IRC client program. Click the Connect button, or click Connect on the File menu. A dialog box or window appears. Type a server address, such as iapp.netscape.com in a the text box labeled "Host" or "Server." and port number in the text boxes provided. If you don't know the port number, 6667 usually is a safe guess. Often you are able to choose an IRC server from the list or address book supplied by the chat client. If the dialog box or window includes Nickname and/or Real Name text boxes, type entries in them. You don't have to type your real name in the text box, you may use an alias, but there is no such thing as being completely anonymous when chatting in IRC. For example, if someone causes disruptions with the other users on an IRC server, their computer can be traced to identify the actual user. A chat moderator, who may also be present to keep the chat relevant and polite, can boot disruptive individuals off IRC and can then prevent them from reconnecting.
Click the Connect or OK button and the IRC client will then establish a connection with the IRC server. Usually this takes only a few seconds, but it may take longer. You may see a Password text box, but in most cases you can leave it blank. If the server requires a password, you might have to give up and try a different server. If you do not get connected or an error is returned, try again or choose a different server, as IRC servers are often very busy. A message will display indicating that you are connected.
First, you need to select and join one of the many channels available. A channel is an electronic "place" where you and other IRC users gather to talk. A list of channels may appear as soon as you connect to the IRC server, or you may need to click a button labeled "Channel List" or something similar. The name of a channel will usually tell you the topic of discussion there. The discussion can range from polite conversation at a cocktail party to heated debate on politics. Find a channel topic interesting to you, but be aware that these channels are dynamic and will come and go as people create and leave them. Many have been available for years, while others will come and go in minutes.