it pranks

If you’ve been wondering what are some good IT pranks for April Fools’ Day—or any other time of the year—this is the post for you. Whether you’re an IT pro with decades of experience or a noob who is about to learn that holding CTRL+SHIFT+ESC is a faster way to access the task manager (you’re welcome), we have an IT prank for you.

it pranks

First, let’s be real for a second:

*These pranks are lighthearted. 
*If the prank involves accessing other people’s computers, know your company’s policy.
*Save your target’s work on their computer. Don’t put a person in a position where they shut down their computer and they lose their work.
*Don’t end up in jail. If you do go to jail, we accept no responsibility. And no, we won’t accept your collect call. 

Let’s have some fun and crowdsource the ultimate list of IT pranks, so if your prank isn’t in the list, share it with us in the comments at the bottom of this page.

Let’s get started

Quick and Easy IT Pranks

“OKAY PRINTER.” The Office Printer/Copier Gets an Alexa-life Upgrade

Hang a sign over the copy machine that says, “This machine is now voice-operated. Please speak directly into the machine. For example, ‘OKAY COPIER, print three copies on 8.5 by 11-inch paper.’ Or, ‘OKAY SCANNER, scan document and email to youremail@yourcompany.com.’” Submitted by Dave, cybsercurity professional.

Help! My Monitor Display is Sideways

Turn the computer display upside down

How to do it: You need keyboard access.

For PC users: Use this shortcut to rotate someone’s screen: Hit CTRL + Alt + Left/Right/Down arrow. How to fix: If your victim can’t fix it, you can also be the hero. Hit CTRL + Alt + Up arrow to correct.

For Mac users: The process is a little more involved. Read How to Rotate a Mac Screen

rotate monitor display IT prank

 

My Cursor is Always Spinning

Make the computer cursor look like it’s busy.

Why won't my cursor stop spinning?

How to do it: Windows: Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Mouse. The “normal select” cursor should be highlighted by default. Click the browse button and select the appropriate busy icon.

If the user can’t figure out how to change it back, retrace your steps and click “use default” and OK.

Cursor gif from HowtoGeek.com.

I Can’t Click Any of the Icons on my Computer Screen

Daniel, a networking and security professional, pulled the following prank back in his college days: 

My roommate never saw the need to use a password on his computer, so I was trying to figure out a funny, but harmless way to show him why he should secure his computer.

This prank requires basic knowledge of Microsoft Windows (my description is for Windows 7 but it can be done on any Windows system). If you follow the steps below exactly, this can remain a harmless prank—be careful not to delete anything!

Here’s the prank:

1. Take a Print Screen of the target’s desktop and save the image somewhere you can find it again.
2. Create a new folder on the desktop and name it something innocent like “files.”
3. Click and drag all icons, shortcuts, files and folders into the new folder.
4. Move the folder to the right side of the screen so that only a small edge is visible.
5. Right-click on the task bar and go to “Properties.” Check the “Auto-hide the task bar” box and click “OK.”
6. Navigate to the location of your screenshot. Right-click the file name and click “Set as desktop background.”

The stage is set.

Now sit back and watch the fervent mouse clicks of your victim trying to click icons that don’t exist, a frozen start menu and files that won’t open. If this person has any sort of technical skill, they will catch on quickly. If they’re non-technical, make sure you watch over the process to make sure they don’t do anything to break their own machine. This is a fun and easy IT prank that can be done over and over again—unless you want to keep friends.

AutoCorrect Pranks

Did I Say “Yes”? I Meant “Yes.” 

My 13-year-old son “borrowed” (i.e., stole) my phone for a few minutes. In that time, he managed to figure out my password and changed my keyboard settings so that every time I typed “No” it autocorrected to “Yes.” The next day he texted me asking to go to the local skate park. I kept typing “No” but I was texting him back “Yes.” It was so frustrating, but once I realized what was going on, I had a laugh about it. When I arrived home I could tell he was dying to tell me about the prank. He was so proud of himself and I had to admit it was pretty funny. And, I let him go ride at the park. I think he should do the prank again, but on his dad! I will definitely be getting revenge on him—he doesn’t know what he’s started! Submitted by Melissa, a product manager who has been subjected to multiple autocorrect pranks and dished out some of her own.

How to do it: 

On an iPhone, he opened my settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Click the + to add an entry. Phrase = Yes, Shortcut = No

For Android users: The keyboard makes recommendations, but it doesn’t fully autocorrect. If you know a workaround, share in the comments!

To undo the keyboard setting, it’s easy, follow the same steps and delete the entry. 

 

Say My Name

We did a trick on a coworker right before he went on vacation. As he was wrapping up his work, he stepped away from his computer and we pounced. We opened Microsoft Word and added an autocorrect rule that inserted “Melissia is incredibly awesome” when he typed his name. (We were banking on him not proofreading.) Then we had to wait until he returned. When he came back, let’s just say Melissa was receiving more praise than normal. Ever since then people started locking their workstations when they left their computers.

If you want to be more subtle with your AutoCorrect, here’s a list of the 100 most common words.

How to do it: This sets up autocorrect for Microsoft programs except Outlook. Click “File” > “Options” > “Proofing”:

how to set up autocorrect in Microsoft 

 

 

IT Pranks That Require a Little More Effort

How to Create an Awesome (Harmless) Computer Virus Prank (Fake Virus) 

Sandeep Singh, of iTechFever, provides a step-by-step YouTube guide using .txt and .vbe files to send your victim on a wild, yet harmless, ride. In this prank, the victim will be subjected to multiple pop-ups, alerting them that a virus has been detected and eventually that hackers have taken over their system. The prank concludes with a pop-up alerting the user that they’ve been pranked. This one will really get them panicking!

Learn how to create harmless fake virus warnings.
Learn how to create harmless fake virus warnings.

Why Isn’t My Mouse Working?

After my team and I returned to our desks after a meeting, people started sounding agitated and someone asked if anyone else’s mouse was acting funny. Someone quickly realized what was going on and said to look under our mouse. We did and and a grinning Troll Face was grinning back at us.

The prankster had gone around to the empty cubes and taped the troll face over our mouse optical sensors. 

Link to a high-resolution troll face.

A Mouse with a Mind of its Own

Once upon a time, there was a meeting for the product team to collaborate on a spreadsheet in the conference room. Naturally, the job of connecting to the projector fell upon the newest person in the group, who also had the least experience with spreadsheets. Using only some misdirection, someone was able to plug in a wireless mouse dongle into the USB port at the rear of the hapless user’s computer.  

That’s when the fun started.

Sitting at the opposite end of the conference table, with the rogue mouse hidden behind an open laptop, the team allowed the presentation to begin. At first, everything was normal. The presenter was able to control the pointer and jump to various cells on the spreadsheet to enter data. 

However, the computer began to slowly take on a life of its own. At first, the pointer would just randomly jump to a new location (while those around the table stifled grins). When the presenter realized something was amiss, the real fun started. 

The presenter complained about the mouse, and someone suggested that it must be the new voice-controlled version of the spreadsheet. As an experiment, they said “Computer, go to cell B2.” Sure enough, the pointer moved to that position. Then someone else said, “Computer, highlight cells A1 to A7,” and it happened. However, when the presenter tried to command the computer, the pointer did the opposite of what it was told. Very spooky … and it was all under control of the person at the other end of the table.

The game finally collapsed when everyone broke out laughing. The presented discovered the offending dongle and removed it, and everything was back to normal.

It’s a great, harmless prank (REMEMBER to save your work first!!), requiring no technical skill, but some imagination. Beware if someone suggests that you have a voice-operated computer. Submitted by Dave, a cybersecurity professional.

For the Super Dedicated and Technically Skilled

My Computer is Realllly Slow

When a coworker is out of the office, remove all memory from their computer except for the minimal amount, and wait for the “my computer is slow” complaint to eventually roll in.

How to do it (assuming a desktop computer):

1. Shut down the computer completely. (Powered off and unplugged from the wall)
2. Open the case (which depends on vendor for exact instructions)
3. Locate memory DIMMS (long, thin chips, usually in pairs)
4. Remove all except one
5. Close case
6. Wait and watch

Who else has gone above and beyond with their IT pranks? Share in the comments at the bottom of this page.

Throwback IT Pranks from the '90s

Chad, a technical trainer and author, took a trip down memory lane. 

Screen Melting Effect

When a coworker had been particularly nasty to everyone in the IT department, we took the opportunity to change his screensaver to the brand-new released “screen melting” effect. When it activated, we got a frantic call about how he never puts ANYTHING on top of his monitor and has no idea how it could have happened.

Flushing the Toilet when on a Conference Call

The old Sun workstations used to have audio files you could play through the speaker. One of them was a flushing toilet. We used to log in to everyone else’s workstations and flush the toilet anytime they were on an important conference call.

Follow the Computer Lab Rules or Don’t Expect to Finish Your Work Today

When I was working in the CS lab at the school I attended, I used to catch people who didn’t lock their workstation when stepping out of the lab (which was against the rules), and I would change their login script to log them back out again, and log them out so they had to wait until the following day for help to get back in.

Will these pranks from the 1990s inspire you to be just as sneaky in 2018?

Share your pranks in the comment section below the article tags, and let’s make this the best IT prank list. 

In this article

Join the Conversation

11 comments

  1. Stan Verstaendig Reply

    Back in the days of MFM hard drives, they had a thing called interleave. That meant that if you had a 1:1 interleave, the HD would spin once and acquire data. 2:1 meant the HD would spin for two revolutions and acquire data, etc. I wrote a program to non destructively reformat the HD and set the interleave at 15:1. The person I did this to was going crazy trying to figure out why his computer was so sluggish. I let it go for a few days, and then reset the interleave at 1:1. and a few days later…. well you can figure that out. I kept doing this for months. It was driving the other guy crazy.

  2. Jim Ely Reply

    Around 2002, I worked in a group that all shared a room. To “encourage” the other team members to be sure to lock their laptops when stepping away, we would go to their system when they had stepped away, and changed their browser home page…ideally to something NSFW or some thing they would not care for (ie. Dallas Cowboys home page for Redskins fan or vise versa). Being a Steelers fan, I created a special “host” file and put it on the system of the Ravens fan in the room so when he tried to jump to, say, microsoft.com or ravens.com, it would take him to the Steelers website.

    1. Julie Martinez Reply

      That’s a classic! When working at Georgetown University we would switch any Cowboys fans desktop to the Redskins.

      Another fun thing was to change the WAV files for a guy named Dave to be the voice of HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey. Every time he made an error instead of a clunk noise it said “I’m sorry, I can’t do that, Dave.”

  3. Linda Reply

    A designer in our company thought he was pretty cool sending pop-ups alerts to his co-workers screens until finally one of his co-workers came to me looking for a way to get him back. The setup took a little work, but was well worth it. I created a fake Admin email account + used it to send him a message stating he had been accessing Internet sites that were against company policy. The message also said his Internet access was being terminated and a copy of the email was being sent to his manager + department head. I disabled his Internet access via a remote registry change so if he tried it it would not work. We had another team member hang out near his desk pretending to help another user while he watched for the user’s response. At first he thought it was a joke, until he wasn’t able to get to the Internet and then he started freaking out. My partner who was watching him called me yelling, “put it back, put it back”. Fortunately the user thought it was a pretty good trick and congratulated us on getting back at him.

  4. Julie Martinez Reply

    One of my favorites was putting cellophane tape over the optical mouse’s sensor. No more mousie!

  5. A Nano Mouse Reply

    I came up with two versions of the walked away without logging out prank in 1992.
    They always got the first and then the repeats got the second.

    The first was changing the prompt to something along the lines of:

    “You Should really remember to log out when leaving the lab.”

    To really get the point across however Every character was separated with a ^G character. Because every other character was non-beep in the string it didn’t hit the too many ^G alerts in a row block. Every new prompt they received after a command was about a 5 second long beep with the other characters slowly appearing on the screen as the beeps completed.

    A great part is they wouldn’t get the reminder until the next time they logged in.

    The second version was ‘logout’ in the login script. It was user fixable but most of the Support Staff didn’t know it. Our school let us FTP into our home directories, so the fix was to ftp in and download your .login file, remove the logout, and upload it again.

  6. Kit Lueder Reply

    When my boss was away, I changed his screen saver to the one where worms go around eating the display. He was careful to lock-screen after that.
    My son reprogrammed her cellphone to have a ringtone of his voice “Mom–answer the phone! Mom–answer the phone!” It drove her crazy.

  7. Kit Lueder Reply

    A linux prank was to change the error prompt to “OK>” and change the OK prompt to “Err:”. The system continues to work just fine but confuses the user.

  8. Jon Hughes Reply

    The easiest – and most fun – prank I ever played went this way: make 30 (or so) photocopies of a paperclip. Load that paper into the victim’s printer. Sit back and enjoy while they search their printer in vain for the rogue paperclip. In my case, my victim actually called IT support – I walked by while the tech was looking at the printer, but the moment he saw me he knew what was going on. I kind of have a reputation around the office.

  9. That Guy Reply

    Another option: get a bash bunny (USB device which identifies as a keyboard and sends predefined keystrokes once plugged in.) and automate any of the above suggestions, or try one of the many user-submitted ones here, https://github.com/hak5/bashbunny-payloads/tree/master/payloads/library/prank.

    Disclaimer: I’m in no way affiliated with Hak5. Just a fan of their stuff. You can also build your own for around $5 w/ Arduino-clone hardware. Can’t be bothered to google the link for that right now, but it shouldn’t be hard to find.

  10. David Cataldo Reply

    Back in the day I opened a DOS box on my boss’ computer and started a program. This program shows the command line:

    “DEL C:\*.* /S (Y/N)?”

    Of course, my boss walks up and sees this and immediately hits “N” on the keyboard, but “Y” pops up!

    Scared him to death. I claimed no knowledge.

    Dave