Windows

Pranks and their effects

Over the years there have been many pranks played on users, some highly amusing and some downright malicious. When Windows 95 arrived and the new style desktop appeared, we had a great deal of fun with a user who insisted on fiddling with absolutely everything.

Over the years there have been many pranks played on users -- some highly amusing and some downright malicious. When Windows 95 arrived and the new style desktop appeared, we had a great deal of fun with a user who insisted on fiddling with absolutely everything.

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Back in the midst of time -- well, 1995 actually -- I installed my first copy of Windows 95 from a stack of 3.5 inch floppies. It was soon apparent that it was a bit different from the system we had been using up to that point.

As soon as it was rolled out to the first users, the problems started to pour in. These were mostly related to unfamiliarity and compatibility, but many questions related to altering settings. There being no security on this version, it was easy for users to destroy the system while trying to customize the appearance.

One guy became a regular headache, managing to delete important system files on more than one occasion, so we devised our vengeance.

We took a screenshot of his desktop and set it as his wallpaper. Next we moved all his desktop icons into one stack, with My Computer on the top, then moved the stack onto the image of the My Computer image on the screen shot.

Then, we went back to our office and waited for the call.

“Hi guys, I’ve got another problem -- could one of you pop up and take a look please?”

“What seems to be the trouble?”

“None of my desktop icons are working.”

“What, none of them?

“No.”

“Have you tried them all?

This user had set up almost a screen full of shortcuts and spent the next few minutes clicking through all of them. Eventually he returned to the phone:

“The only one that is working is My Computer.”

There was a combined drawing in of breath from our side of the phone connection.

“Just the My Computer icon, you say?”

“Yes, is that bad?”

More sucking of teeth.

“We’ll have to take it in for repair; it’s a well known problem, a new virus called Desktop Paralysis. It might take a day or two to fix.”

We took a trolley up to the second floor, collected the PC, and brought it back to our lair, where we put it up on a shelf until after the weekend.

When we returned the unit, minus the screenshot, the user was contrite; he wondered what he could do to avoid any further problems.

We delivered our demands, in the form of sound advice. We showed him which system folders were out of bounds; we made sure that he connected to the Internet only through our proxy server, rather than through his own dial-up modem; and we brought the company’s policy on the standard corporate desktop image to his attention.

Surprisingly, he wrote a letter to the head of IT, praising us to the heights about our caring service, our in-depth product knowledge, and our readiness to help out in a crisis.

All we had thought of was getting through a couple of days without getting a call from him.

44 comments
mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Let me tell you a story. There was a tech bragging in a Starbucks in Seattle about a guy he screwed around on a tech call to his friends. Little did the tech guy know that by the fortunes of the gods that his victim was over hearing the tech recite with glee all the details and descriptions. Well, later that night after being followed by the victim the tech had an accident. The tech guy got all the bones in both hands broken in a car door. So, remember particularly with all the ways to find people these days you to could end up with all the bones in YOUR hands broken, one fine evening.

pgit
pgit

Geez, gotta watch your six around you folks... =) Maybe you've seen this, it has the desktop screenshot prank in the middle but the reason the tech does it is different. It's a good rip on moron users, whoever put this together has some experience: http://www.thewebsiteisdown.com/ I had to watch it a second time before I realized the fellow quickly deletes an email he was supposed to have read from his boss's sent box, remotely, while the boss is looking for it to prove he'd told the kid not to reboot the web server. Fun stuff...

optmystc1
optmystc1

Careful what you tell the user, especially when it comes to jokes. One of my IT students told an annoying student that she should put her laptop in a sink full of water, then turn it on; the result would tell her if she had a good laptop or not. Believe it or not, she DID take his advice, and now she is mad at him for ruining her laptop and "being mean". The other student was just kidding and never thought anyone would take his "advice" as anything but a joke. Scary thing is, the "victim" is an IT student -surely she should have known better!

diwen
diwen

[duplicate of previous post...]

diwen
diwen

I made a screensaver for my colleague that consisted of only the NT4 dr. Watson pop-up window. Every time he came back from a coffeebreak or whatever, he started swearing and rebooted his machine just in case. This put him in the habit of saving his work frequently. I also once substituted calc.exe with a look-alike on another colleagues machine. The only function it had was to display some stupid messages instead of numbers. This didn't last long because he guessed straight away who to blame.

Arcturus909
Arcturus909

One of my favorite simple ones: Anytime I see that a user has walked away without locking their screen I walk up and quickly do a CTRL+ALT+Down Arrow. As you probably know, this turns the display upside down and is easily repaired with CTRL+ALT+Up Arrow, but it is awesome for the WTF Factor. Especially with brand new employees. :)

Joe_R
Joe_R

I'm looking forward to reading all the stories.

Joe_R
Joe_R

(late 1980s - early 1990s) I wrote a DOS program that informed the user that there was an unrecoverable error, and that a disk format was the only option. (No backups back then, you know.) I ran this program through the autoexec.bat file on a few people's computers. My oh my, it was funny a he11 to see the reactions. However, I set off a chain reaction of retaliatory pranks that would rival an all-out war! Nobody was safe for months!

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

A good one for Win 95 was the virus program made by an AV firm, to show what a virus could do. This was a great little program. I used to (depending on the person) put it either in startup or in runonce What it did, It took a snapshot of your filesystem, then it opened a fake explorer window, and showed your folders/files under c:. Then it asked to permanently delete them (could not check No), then it simulated a deletion, along with Windows shutdown. If you waited a few seconds it would come back with "Thank God This is only a Game" and displayed the antivirus company info.. It actually surprised me how many techs would unplug the unit and then just try to boot up fine again I put it on my sisters computer (always bragging how good her friend techs were). After trying to boot 2x, she called and 3 techs showed up. and they sat there and rebooted the system 6 times, and powered off, let chkdsk run, and went through the cycle again, pulling the plug and restarting again. Finally one of them noticed that the folders were the same each time, even the 'deleted' ones. So he sugested to let it just run, afterwards they laughed and fixed it. What amazed me was, at the time I was just beginning in tech, and they were 'veteren' techs. And none of them thought of backing up data, removing the HDD, or even doing a boot scan with AV. And at worst, they all decided to just 'watch it' and expected it to do something different each time :0 I am glad that they were not working with data that could not be lost!

Tink!
Tink!

Nice prank! It definitely got the desired results...and then some! I never really got into computer pranks until this job, because this co-worker is just so much fun to play pranks on! Plus at my old job I had enough silly little things to fix all the time that I didn't need to cause myself more work. :) She's a very cautious user - something I realized when I did the "A Virus has been Detected" batch file on her PC. If she had hit ENTER, she would have been told it was a joke. But she was too afraid to hit anything and left it til I got in - an hour later. :D

Dyalect
Dyalect

One of the best I have seen is giving a user a wonky keyboard and watching them try to login. Get a defective keyboard that cannot record all keystrokes or records too many. And let the fun unfold. Another good one is using the blue screen of death as a screen saver. Or a fake batch file that "appears" erase the hard drive. (joys of IT)

jwilsonjx
jwilsonjx

When Windows 2000 was first released, one of my favorite pranks was to download sound files (bodily functions, etc.) and copy them to a remote PC via the administrative share. Then, if not already started, I would remotely start the telnet service. I would then telnet into the remote system and start the sound files at random times. Since this was being done via a telnet session, nothing would appear on the users screen. This was particularly amusing for users who were nearby. I could play the sounds while they were on the phone, had people at their desk, etc :)

sleepin'dawg
sleepin'dawg

with business to any sinificant degree. Why not??? This was a good one plus someone actually learned something; ie: Don't screw with things beyond your area of expertise. [b]Dawg[/b] ]:)

seanferd
seanferd

That's probably the most useful a prank of which I've ever heard, outcome-wise.

TechLizard
TechLizard

On his last day on the job, the shipping manager changed every single color to white (Win 3.11). The next day his replacement couldn't figure it out, so I had to go in and "blindly" reset the default color scheme.

Firedrake
Firedrake

Anybody else remember... "shell=clock"

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

Make a calc substitute that randomly produces wrong answers!

Tink!
Tink!

I posted that one on a different forum a few weeks back. :p Gotta love the simplicity of it! You can do it when their back is turned! :D

Jaqui
Jaqui

we ll used to run a little toy when people left their stations alone. joke.exe ... the computer would "go on strike" for mistreatment, throw x insults at them as it exited [ originally ]. we kind of modified the toy, so it wouldn't exit but was a permanent loop, complete power down to get it to shut down. cost a few people several hours work before they started saving their work regularly. the other favorite prank was to insert a jump into whatever app they were working on, when they ran it, the app would jump to a black hole in memory and lock the system up. :D again, loss of work if they hadn't saved before running. :D little things like that were good to develop the habits of saving the work frequently and locking the system before leaving.

Jay_pee666
Jay_pee666

Sapping mice or keyboards with the user either beside or directly across from a particular pc where the user was constantly complaining that what they were typing or clicking on was not what they wanted... got to get two people with this every time, and still works to this day. Have also done the whole screen shot, move the desktop icons to great effect, especially as the person it was done to was a self proclaimed expert and knew how to fix everything, at least until they had to ask for help with rectifing this problem. Needless to say, didn't blow their own trumpet again so loudly!! :)

gsteck
gsteck

When my son was in college, his dorm floor had a website. When you clicked on a link, a dialog box popped up with the question: "Ready to format c:\? The only option was to click on OK.

corvus_caveat
corvus_caveat

My friends and I got so sick of the same few people asking us which keys on a keyboard did what that when after years (and that's no exaggeration)they finally learnt the keyboard configuration we swapped the keys around; all of them... They have since begun (the difficult process of)learning for themselves.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

were the not too obvious ones... the random cricket chirp was good... but my favorites were murmuring and whispering... drove them nuts :) I also used to NET SEND remotely... That way it would look to the recipient like it was coming from someone else's computer...

JamesRL
JamesRL

We had a user who would use his mac as CD player, and the noise was disturbing. At the same time, the common email client - QuickMail had implemented a new feature so that if an attachment was a sound file it would play it automatically. We decided to teach the user a lesson and sent him a sound file from an admin email box. The sound file - a recording of Meg Ryan's fake orgasm scene from when Harry Met Sally. He pulled the plug from the Mac, and we never had another complaint. James

megasurfer
megasurfer

Back when people first started using cable modems most of them were connected directly to a computer, no router in between. People did not understand how easy it was with Win 95 to connect to another computer over the Internet. One day I was bored and hit "Start", "Find", "Computers", & was entering random IP addresses in the range that our cable service used, seeing what I could connect to. I found one small network with a shared printer. I installed the printer, brought up Notepad, & in big bold letters wrote, "YOUR COMPUTER IS NOT SAFE", and sent it to the printer. I wish I could have been there to see the look on their face!

johnwhipps
johnwhipps

way back when we were using punchcards for our cobol source we had a little deck of cards with an 'UNLIST as the first card and LIst as the end card. The cards in the middle took any printline and reversed it. All of the new starters had it slipped into their first compile an when they ran their program all the printout was reversed. Hours of fun for all the family.

TechieRob
TechieRob

We have a user who is a very good friend of our IT department, but we are absolutely horrible to her in terms of pranks I have been learning VB and more specifically, automating applications using VB Knowing a few 'new tricks' I replaced the shortcuts to her office applications with simple VB scripts (I also modified the icons so that it would appear no different than normal) that opened the appropriate apps but the user got the normal 'Office Assistant' telling her off or that she had broken IT policy and was being 'watched' by the office assistant I also have had lots of fun with a particular desktop background that looks like a broken lcd screen. Hide the icons, start menu and set no screen saver and an unsuspecting user's laptop and viola! I used to work as a support technician in a retail store; I got the sales people quite a few times with the display laptops!

lapdog65
lapdog65

One was F3, *.exe, Ctrl-A enter, pissed a few people off with that. The other was remote manage the pc of the hung over annoying co worker, and remotely open the cdrom drive drawer, knocking over his coffee in the process, a million laughs.

Ptero.4
Ptero.4

shell=sol.exe, shell=winmine.exe

pgit
pgit

I had totally forgot. Thanks for the flash back!

Fablanta
Fablanta

Ctrl + Alt + is not a function of Windows it is a property of the graphics driver and graphics card combo.

jwilsonjx
jwilsonjx

I can remember a coworker at one of my first jobs who was a hunt and peck typists. We rearranged his vowels one day and sat back and watched the fun.

Media-Ted@Juno.com
Media-Ted@Juno.com

...stuff? I can't get it to run on our kids' XP machines either, but one of the grandkids got Vi$ta for his birthday and it works on that! Go figure.

rykerabel
rykerabel

for notebooks, tablets and presentations

Tink!
Tink!

that's a possibility. Also another thought - check Accessiblity options. See if you have Accessiblity enabled. This weird feature might be a part of that. Because after all, who REALLY wants their screen upside down?

Media-Ted@Juno.com
Media-Ted@Juno.com

... just works with certain types of graphics cards? My Acer Aspire3000 has two monitors; the laptop and a 19" from the back port. The Sony E-Machine has an old Matrox dual head. The really old HP XE-783 is using the motherboard. What now?

Tink!
Tink!

XP Pro it works fine with no special combo of left or right CTRL or ALT. You are pressing and holding CTRL+ALT while you hit Down Arrow right? [i]sorry if it sounds like a DUH! but ya got make sure sometimes[/i] :) Also try CTRL+ALT & Left Arrow and CTRL+ALT & Right Arrow Again all fixed with CTRL+ALT & Up Arrow

Media-Ted@Juno.com
Media-Ted@Juno.com

... on anything here. I admit; one of the machines is an Acer laptop. It and another one have dual monitors working independently, but an older HP has a single screen and nothing happens. Is this only good with some program(s) or should the entire desktop flip? Is it some special combo of left CTRL + right Alt? Help me out here. I'm game.