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Harmless Computer Practical Jokes

I originally wrote this article a few years back, and its turned out to be the most popular articles on one of my blogs. I don't like to rehash old content, and I should have released this on April fool's day, but no use crying over spilled milk. A lot of the text below is from the original article, but I have added new content and updated some of the older information.

I have to admit I love to play a good practical joke on my friends as long as its harmless. The problem is, how do you make sure that you don't hurt the victim's computer, or its data.

Below are a few suggestions for some computer practical jokes.

Notes: Perform these practical jokes at your own risk, I am not responsible for the results (e.g. lost friendship, your job, family not speaking to you anymore, etc.). I would never recommend using any of these tricks then leaving the victim to their own devices. You should stay close, hopefully laugh with them, then help them to undo what you have done.

Keyboards and Mice:

  • Remove the ball from the computer's mouse on the older mechanical mice. If its the newer optical mouse, stick a small piece of tape over the optical sensor.
  • Unplug the mouse and/or keyboard from the back of the computer. If its a wireless keyboard or mouse remove the batteries from the device.
  • If several people in your office use wireless keyboards and mice and they are in close proximity to each other, you can reprogram the wireless receivers, to pickup the other user's keyboard and/or mouse.
  • This trick is just mean, and can be a little tricky to reverse. Remap the computer keyboard to Dovark layout.  Here are the instructions on how to perform this modification.

  • Almost every computer is a rat's nest of cables, removing or unplugging the right cable (power, network, keyboard, etc.) can cause frustration for the computer user.
  • Any good computer user will have a surge suppressor power strip where their computer is plugged into. Some of these power strips have a breaker, sometimes they manually allow you to blow them. This will basically make the power strip a useless piece of junk until the breaker is reset. (Warning: make sure that all the equipment is off before you blow the breaker).
    • Note: Some power supplies come with a power switch on the back of them.  This switch turns off the power supply completely when switched to the off position, so the computer can't be turned on from the regular power button.

  • This is a cool little trick, its called the 'Broken LCD Screen'. All you have to do is replace the background of your victims desktop, and it looks like they have a broken screen.
  • This trick will drive the end-user mad, they will try to click on the desktop and believe the computer is frozen when nothing works. I have seen people reboot their computer several times before they figured out what is wrong. Use with caution, save all the user's work before using this trick.
    • Take a screen shot of the computer's desktop (press the PrtScrn screen button). You might want to try taking the screen shot with open application windows, it might add to the realism.
    • Then open a graphics program like MS Paint (under Start menu | All Programs | Accessories) and Paste the image into the application. Save the file into the C:\WINDOWS\ directory as a bitmap file (.BMP) and set it as the desktop background. (Note: if you're using MS Paint there is a command under the File menu to do this.)
    • Then remove the icons from the users desktop, put them in a another folder under the user's 'My Document' folder. Or, you can right-click an empty space on the user's desktop, and uncheck Arrange Icons By > Show Desktop Icons (Note: you may have to cycle through [press Alt-Tab] an application that fills the screen to force the desktop to refresh it self)
    • For extra realism, you can hide the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. (Hover the mouse over the top edge of the bar until you see the up/down arrow, then click and drag the taskbar to the bottom of the screen)
      • Note: This doesn't work very well on multiple monitor systems
  • Tricks for systems with multiple monitors.  First thing you have to do is right-click an empty area of the desktop and select Screen Resolution. From here you can:
    • Change the order of the monitors.  For example move the monitor that is on the left to right or put on top of the other.  This will change how the computer desktop works.
    • Lower the screen resolution, this will make everything look really big on the screen.  Use the Resolution drop-down menu.
    • Change the orientation, from landscape to portrait.  Use the Orientation drop-down menu.
    • You can also mirror the contents of one display onto another display.  Use the Multiple displays drop-down menu or press the Windows+P keys.

  • Some laptops come with a switch that will disable the Wi-Fi.  Most people don't remember this feature, or don't know it exists.  This trick can drive them nuts trying to get their computer to connect to a wireless network.  To reverse this, all you have to do is turn the switch back on.

  • Turn the speaker volume up real loud on their computer and walk away.
  • Try playing with the computer settings, such as the monitor, cursor, mouse and keyboard configuration in the Control Panels.
  • Change the startup or other event sounds (such as changing the new mail sound, to something like the sound of someone passing gas [you know what I mean])
  • Embed the following link into an email, and send it to your friends ( I promise they will hate you after you send it.

Items for Sale:
  • Phantom Keystroker: Attach this evil prank device to your victim's computer and it makes random mouse movements and types out odd garbage text and phrases.
  • Annoy-a-tron: A little device designed to annoy people with a nearly undetectable intermittent beep. This device has a magnet attached, so it can be placed on any metal surface.