April fools computer pranks to liven up the cube farm

Posted on March 29, 2005 at 12:37 AM

With April Fools Day fast approaching I thought I would enlighten you on the age old tradition of computer pranks. While working in field of information technology, I have been privy to the existence of computer pranks for as long as I can remember. While I can neither confirm or deny my involvement with any computer related pranks at work, I would like to offer you, the reader, some general observations on performing a computer prank. First I'll start with reconnaissance, then I will give you a few examples of classic pranks.

Know your target

Monitor their habits. Notice when they go to lunch, refill their coffee, or if they have a tendency to walk around and gab to other cow-orkers for inordinate periods of time. Also, depending on the difficulty of the prank, it may be good to know what kind of operating system they have. It is easier to perform a gag on someone's computer if you are familiar with their OS. So if you aren't sure what OS they're running, pay attention the next time the target's computer boots up or sneak over to their computer sometime and do the following:

  • Click on the start button, then click run. This will open the Run dialog box.

  • In the blank type "winver" (without the quotes dummy). A window will open with information about the OS.

Know the temperament of your target. Tread lightly if you are going to pull a prank on someone who can tend to be a little high strung. A good rule of thumb would be to pull a prank on someone you are friends with and who will appreciate your special kind of twisted humor.

Speed Kills

There is nothing worse then getting caught in the act of setting up a prank on someone's computer. I would first advise you to practice performing the prank on your own computer. This will allow you to become more familiar with what needs to be done and possibly develop some shortcuts, allowing you to reduce the amount of time necessary to carry out the prank.

Use An Accomplice

Sometimes it is helpful to work in pairs. You may need more time in some situations, so having a partner distract the target can be helpful. Have your accomplice stop the target by the water cooler or the coffee pot and ask them about their weekend or other boorish questions. This should allow you enough time to get in and get out safely. Utilize some sort of signal between you and your partner to signify that the target is returning back to their desk sooner then planned. So be discreet, a loud cough or having them start whistling an obnoxious tune works much better than having them yell out "Abort! Abort!"

With recon out of the way let's discuss the pranks. Here are some basic examples to get you started. But first, a word from the legal department here at JoeSchmidt.com:

Disclaimer: The following computer pranks may not work for those of you whose office computing environment resembles that of a Gulag. The author cannot be held responsible in the event you are terminated for violating some computer usage rules in your company's employee hand book, nor is the aforementioned party responsible for your actions causing a cow-orker to go postal. Use with discretion. Your experience may vary. Consult a physician before use.

Unplug their computer's power cord

The easiest and fastest prank you could possibly pull. Show up before the target arrives at work and unplug their computer. The beauty of this prank is that most people who work on desktop computers usually have it tucked away under their desk. Generally the target wouldn't expect someone to pull the power plug on their computer and wouldn't think to check if their computer had power. Plus the prank could be easily blamed on the cleaning crew being a bit too reckless with the vacuum.

Replace their desktop wallpaper with something obnoxious

This trick requires you to be able to change the background wallpaper on a computer. Easy, right? Good choices would be for a new background would be:

Ed. Note The teletubbie image previously listed in this post has been removed due to severe leeching. Please feel free to do Google image search to find a similar picture.

teletubbies, care bears, smurfs, or that tool from the greatest american hero tv show. Stretch, tile, or center the image as needed. For bonus points, you could add something sarcastic to the picture like "I love care bears".

Take a screen shot of their desktop and set it as their wallpaper

Good for a few laughs, this one never gets old. While your target is away from their desk sneak over to their computer and take a snapshot of their desktop by hitting the "Print Scrn" button. This copies an image of their entire desktop to the clip board. Now open a graphics editing software (MS paint will do in a pinch) and paste the image from the clip board to the screen. Give the image an easy to remember name and save it to their c: drive. Open the display properties and set the image you created as their wallpaper. Next get rid of all the icons on their screen. You can just drag all the icons off the edge of the screen (make sure they do not have the icons set to auto arrange) Finally, set their task bar to autohide. You can do this by right clicking on an open space on the task bar, then click on properties. Check the box next to "auto-hide the task bar" and click OK to apply the settings.

This prank is best performed when they have applications open on their screen as they will come back to their desk and find that they apparently are unable to click on the applications in which they were working.

Reverse the left and right mouse buttons

Always a classic. Being exposed to this prank for just a few seconds is bound to drive any one insane.

Go to their control panel and double click on the mouse icon. This will open the properties for their mouse. You should already be in the tab labeled "Buttons". In the section labeled "Button configuration" check the box next to where it says "Switch primary and secondary buttons". Click OK to finish.

You should now notice that the left click on your mouse is now set to right click and vice versa. Insanity will soon ensue.

The mother of all computer pranks. The Blue Screen of Death Screensaver

Every windows user knows about the dreaded Blue Screen of Death and the absolute terror it can cause. That's why this prank is so insidious as it mimics the blue screen of death (BSOD) phenomenon almost exactly. When running, it will appear to be rebooting the computer. But rest assured, no harm is being done because it is only a screen saver.

First, download the BSOD screen saver from SysInterals by clicking here.

Save the file to the desktop. Using Zip software, unzip the files.

Copy the file named "SysInternals Bluescreen.scr" to the system32 folder in the windows root directory. Look at the readme file for further instructions and delete when finished.

The system32 folder exists in the following locations:

  • For windows 2000, copy the file into the C:\winnt\system32\ folder.

  • For windows XP, copy the file into the c:\windows\system32\ folder.

Go into the desktop settings and click on the screen savers tab. If you scroll through the selections you will find one labeled "SysInternal Bluescreen". Select it and set the wait time to 1 or 2 minutes. Click Ok to apply the settings.

Now, sit back and wait for the magic to happen. Remember, the only way to exit the screen saver and return to windows is to hit the ESC key. Clicking on the screen or hitting the keys will not awaken this screen saver.

Word of caution: Hang around the targets desk while executing this prank. The screensaver realistically mimics that of an actual bluescreen. To the tech un-savy, they may actually think that this is an actual BSOD and try to restart their computer, possibly causing a loss of data. (Read: this may not bear well for you)

Happy April Fools day!

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Also, try changing one's system sounds to those of bodily functions. There are sound packages available on the web.

Posted by: kadavy | March 30, 2005 12:44 PM

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