Terrible computer pranks that could get you fired

Look, you're an adult human being. You're better than this. Don't do any of the things in this slideshow.

office pranks intro

Office pranks

I know, I know – that jerk from sales deserves it. That snippy attitude last time you showed up to fix his “slowdown problem,” which was obviously just him having like 150 Chrome windows open at once. Still, as tempting as it might be, you can’t just take revenge on the guy’s computer. Please, just go and read something else now. You’ll feel like a better person.

ALSO: A roundup of Google's 2013 April Fool's gags

future selves
Thinkstock

Send them messages from their future selves

Yes, fine – this was on an episode of the U.S. version of The Office. But it needs an update, and you’re just the person to do it. You can use a service like sendanonymousemail.net to set the “from” address of an email to anything you like. The Office example featured Jim sending Dwight messages from his future self, causing him to knock a cup of “poisoned” coffee out of an unsuspecting Stanley’s hand. Go on. I know you have ideas.

CRUELTY INDEX: Anywhere from 1/10 to 10/10 – it’s all in what you say.

FIRED?: Past a certain point of mean, most definitely.

 

The old Mouse-eroo

The old Mouse-eroo

In case you weren’t aware, there are lots of options for small travel mice that work wirelessly via an unobtrusive little USB dongle. It’s almost as if an evil-minded person could torment others with “phantom” mouse movements. Bonus points if you can get a wireless keyboard on there too, so it looks like their computer is opening browser windows on its own and laboriously Googling things like “sentient AI kill all humans kill all humans.”

CRUELTY RATING: 3/10

FIRED?: Nah.

The keyboard planter (courtesy Das Keyboard)

The surprise reset

Think about your workflow, and how automatically you pop up new browser windows whenever you need to know something new, or want to check on the Bruins game, or, really, do anything at all. Just think about how surprised you’d be if, instead of the predictable appearance of the Chrome window, everything you were working on vanished and the computer reset itself. Pretty surprised, is my guess. (H/T: PC Advisor: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/feature/desktop-pc/best-pc-tricks-pranks-3446592/)

CRUELTY RATING: 5/10. The victim could lose stuff they were working on, although I guess that’s less of a problem in the cloud era. Also, I picture myself being VERY surprised, if this was done to me.

FIRED?: Certainly runs the risk if valuable data is lost.

 

keyboard planter

The keyboard planter (courtesy Das Keyboard)

This takes some doing, but what an effect! Obviously, you shouldn’t do this to any keyboard you want to use ever again – essentially planting a herb garden in between the key is probably going to render most mortal keyboards inoperable. It’s probably best to deadpan something about “boy, you REALLY ought to clean your keyboard out” to the victim.
CRUELTY RATING: 3.5/10. They do get the real keyboard back, after all.
FIRED?: I feel like the creativity might protect you a little.

siri

Cranky Siri

There’s a LOT you can do with the various voice assistance functions out there for smartphones. Some of the more popular options include getting Siri to call your friend a nickname of your choosing (I recommend “Mighty Warcraft Hero”), and getting your friend to ask Siri about 9/11, which it will interpret as a request to call 911. (This apparently also works with 999 and 112, the U.K. and European emergency numbers.)

CRUELTY RATING: 4/10 for the renaming, 8/10 for the fake 911 call.

FIRED?: Probably not, and probably, respectively.

Ctrl+Alt+arrow keys
Jon Gold

Ctrl+Alt+arrow keys

This is a simple little trick that flips the screen orientation in the direction you push – Ctrl+Alt+up arrow returns everything to normal. Surprisingly few people know about this.

CRUELTY INDEX: 1/10

FIRED?: I can’t imagine why, though bear in mind that some people have absolutely no sense of humor.

Shift+Alt+Print screen

Shift+Alt+Print screen

Another handy, but little-known keyboard shortcut activates high-contrast mode for people with limited visual acuity – it’ll certainly confuse unsuspecting co-workers, though. Same keystroke fixes it.

CRUELTY INDEX: 1.5/10

FIRED?: Probably not.

Hey, your screen broke!

Hey, your screen broke!

Setting a picture like this as the background, then hiding the desktop icons and task bar, really does make it look like something has gone horribly wrong with the screen.

CRUELTY INDEX: 2/10

FIRED?: Shouldn’t be.

Lots of input gags

Lots of input gags

Surreptitiously plugging a wireless mouse into someone’s computer and subtly moving their cursor around can be hours of fun, as can switching their keyboard layout to Dvorak. Changing autocorrect entries in Microsoft Word is also a time-honored favorite of the digital jerk.

CRUELTY INDEX: on average, 3/10, higher for extensive autocorrect malfeasance.

FIRED?: Probably not, although this is really frustrating if you don’t know what’s going on.

Screenshotting their desktop

Screenshotting their desktop

Another of the oldest tricks in the book is taking a screenshot of the victim’s desktop, setting it as their background, then hiding the desktop icons and taskbar. Cruel, though hardly unusual, and easy to fix. Bonus points if you gather up the desktop icons into a folder somewhere, rather than simply unchecking “display desktop icons,” by the way.

CRUELTY INDEX: 3/10, raised to 5/10 if you do this to particularly technophobic victims.

FIRED?: Nah.

Shock images/sites

Shock images/sites

There are a number of infamous shock images floating around the Internet, showing particularly graphic sexual or gory content. Replacing desktop backgrounds or browser bookmarks can be a shock to the unsuspecting. And no, I am not linking you to any of them here. Pollute your own search history.

CRUELTY INDEX: 5.5/10

FIRED?: Very possibly.

Fake BSOD
Escapist forums

Fake BSOD

Yes, it’s another desktop background gag, but a particularly panic-inducing one. Although it might just be sort of confusing if you did it to someone with a Mac.

CRUELTY INDEX: 3.5/10

FIRED?: Probably not.

Adult entertainment

Adult entertainment

Various versions of “redirecting your co-worker to a porn site” or “placing fake porn on your co-workers desktop” have been around forever. Really, though, you could’ve been more creative.

CRUELTY INDEX: 5/10

FIRED?: Yeah, very possible. Or you could get your co-worker fired, you horrible jerk.

Task Scheduler fun

Task Scheduler fun

The Task Scheduler has a handy-dandy wizard function, which offers you an easy way to make a whole bunch of random crap happen on your victim’s computer, like web pages popping open and programs running seemingly at random.

CRUELTY INDEX: Varies – you can do a LOT with the Task Scheduler.

FIRED?: Depends on what you do.

The crabby clock
mer

The crabby clock

The fact that you can set custom a.m./p.m. icons in the clock menu makes it possible to send various messages to your victim via the bottom-right corner of their screen.

CRUELTY INDEX: 1.5/10

FIRED?: Probably not.

AutoHotkey

AutoHotkey

Like the Task Scheduler, this innocuous little app is an enormously powerful toolkit for all sorts of obnoxious pranks. All you need to do is put together a custom script and get the victim to run it on his machine, and you can induce screen flickers, random beeps, play specific YouTube videos…

CRUELTY INDEX: Variable, but potentially very, very high

FIRED?: Again, depends on what you do.

Surprise YouTube videos

Surprise YouTube videos

URL shorteners, deceptive descriptions – whatever it takes. Never gonna give this video up.

CRUELTY INDEX: -5/10. Rick Astley is great.

FIRED?: Hell, you’ll probably get promoted.

Chorus!

Chorus!

Cutting up a song into individual instrumental or vocal parts, and then scripting them to play individually, at the same time, on separate computers, is, frankly, an impressive achievement. (H/T: Redditor hootorama)

CRUELTY INDEX: 1/10

FIRED?: Probably not, but it’s possible. A lot depends on the song you pick, I would expect.

Your computer is constantly hanging

Your computer is constantly hanging

It’s a simple, subtle little change that is nevertheless highly effective – swapping the normal cursor icon for the “busy” one, so that the victim’s computer always appears to be mired in a slowdown.

CRUELTY INDEX: It’s the little things that get you – I say 5/10 because this would drive me insane, but your mileage may vary.

FIRED?: If I had my way, yes.

Talking Capslock key

Talking Capslock key

That’ll teach you to leave all-caps on next time you reply-all to a big group email.

CRUELTY INDEX: 3/10, 1/10 if they really deserve it.

FIRED?: Guessing not.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.