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.


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?


“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.