How to Open iChat Files for eDiscovery

27 September 2021 by UV eDiscovery iChat

Takeaway: Apple discontinued the iChat format a while ago, but you’ll still likely come across iChat files in your eDiscovery cases. Your best option is to open and review them using specialized eDiscovery software. This way, you can protect their metadata, search them for keywords, and redact privileged information.

As text messages become more common in eDiscovery cases, small and midsize law firms need simple ways of reviewing them.

Emails, Word documents, and PDFs are some of the more common file formats used in eDiscovery. But now, courts often order text messages to be produced, too. This makes sense, considering how often we end up using them for business communication.

But reviewing and producing text messages becomes difficult when they’re in older, discontinued formats. iChat messages are a perfect example of this.

Apple’s iChat format was released in August 2002 for use on the Mac OS X operating system. It quickly became one of the more popular instant messaging formats out there, especially since you could save message conversations. (Instead of opening multiple separate messages, you could scan through an entire chat thread in one window. This was revolutionary back then.) Over time, iChat evolved to offer more features like audio/video chats, call conferencing, and the option of adding a Google account. iChat had a great 10-year run until 2012 when its final version (iChat 6.0.1) was released. Following this, it was replaced by the iMessage format.

The challenge with iChat files is that they’re a binary format – meaning, you can’t open them like you would a regular text file.

For eDiscovery, you’ll need to convert iChat messages into readable text by using some sort of application or software. And if you aren’t a part of the Apple ecosystem, this usually isn’t an option. More importantly, even if you are a part of the Apple ecosystem, you’ll likely change the messages’ metadata if you try opening them. (More on this in a bit.)

The best way of reviewing iChat messages is to use a reliable eDiscovery application.

Let’s take eDiscovery software ‘GoldFynch’ as an example to see how the right application can help you review iChat messages.

  1. You’ll drag-and-drop the files into your software. Getting the files into your software is easy. You’ll drag-and-drop them into GoldFynch or choose a directory from which to upload them.
  2. Your files automatically get indexed. Your files need to be slotted into complex databases (these are sort of like massive spreadsheets) before you can access their data. And ‘indexing’ is a way of tweaking these databases so that they’re set up right. (Learn more about databases.) eDiscovery applications like GoldFynch do this indexing automatically, quickly, and for free.
  3. Your metadata gets protected. Each file you create on a computer gets stamped with a bunch of information called ‘metadata.’ This is data like who created the file, when it was last edited, the size of the file, and more. Think of it as being a digital footprint that tracks the document’s history. But opening the file incorrectly adds to the footprint and thereby modifies it. eDiscovery software like GoldFynch lets you open files without changing their metadata, though. And this is crucial when you’re building an important case. (Learn why modifying metadata is a problem.)
  4. You can search your files for keywords, dates, usernames, and more. eDiscovery applications let you make highly specific searches to find the evidence you need. For example, GoldFynch lets you run a search instruction as detailed as, ‘Find all iChat messages from John Anderson to Sally Nedry about a severance package, but not those from 2015.’ (Learn more about advanced eDiscovery searches.)
  5. You can redact privileged information properly. Redacting privileged information from iChat messages might seem simple. Just draw a black box over the text, right? Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. Unless you ‘burn in’ the black box and anchor it securely, it’s easy to move it out of the way and read the text below. eDiscovery software like GoldFynch will help you thoroughly redact your iChat messages. (Learn more about eDiscovery redactions.)

eDiscovery applications are great for opening iChat files. But they come with other perks, too.

A Cloud eDiscovery application like GoldFynch can help you cut costs even as it gives you the tools to handle eDiscovery.

  • It costs just $10 a month for a 1 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing is free). So, choose from a range of plans (1 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch, and you’re good to go. Plus, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.

Want to find out more about GoldFynch?