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The 10 Most Ridiculously Awesome Geeky Computer Pranks

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Everybody loves a good prank… unless you are the one on the receiving end of the fun. It’s time to hone your pranking skills, not just to make sure you are the best, but so you can avoid being pranked by others.

Yeah, sure, we could go with the old standards, like a blue screen of death screensaver or something like that, but it’s time to use our geek skills and come up with something better. We’ll cover some of the old favorites too, but maybe with a twist. Note: Many of these pranks require being able to access somebody’s computer physically, and many others require them to leave their PC logged in and unattended. You’ll have to plan accordingly.

Disclaimer: Get a sense of humor.

Make the Space Key Write the Word SPACE

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Here’s a clever prank for you: Make the victim’s computer actually type the word “SPACE” every time they hit the space bar. They’ll be lost trying to figure out what on earth is going on, and it couldn’t be simpler.

Just create a new AutoHotkey script and drop in the following two lines of code—the first one is to hide the tray icon, and the second sets up the hotkey for replacing the text.

#NoTrayIcon
*Space::Send,SPACE

You’ll probably want to right-click on the script and compile it to an executable before putting it on their computer. I’m not providing a download for this! Just stick it somewhere on their PC, launch it, and watch the fun!

What’s really entertaining is that while I was testing this out, I accidentally pranked myself—my AHK scripts are stored in Dropbox and synced across all my PCs, and I’d forgotten about it on my desktop. Whoops!

Pretend to Install Linux on a Windows User’s PC with a Live CD

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This one can’t be simpler—just find somebody at work who turns their PC off at night, come in before them, and boot off a Linux Live CD. Then leave an official-looking memo on their desk saying they’ve been upgraded to Linux, and watch them struggle to figure out what on earth they are doing. You’ll probably want to get rid of the Install icon, of course.

Create a Shutdown Shortcut that Looks like a Folder

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This one is really simple to do—just create a shortcut to shutdown.exe on the desktop, and then change the icon to a regular folder, so when they double-click the folder to see what it might contain, they get a nice system shutdown notice instead. You can change the shutdown time to really far in the future so they won’t lose any work, but mostly so they get the full benefit of your nerd skills.

shutdown -s -t 1925000 -c “System error: overloaded porn folder”

If they are using XP, the effect is nice and dramatic, and you can even have some fun with the shutdown time… on Windows 7 you won’t be able to show off your geek skills quite as well, but they’ll still see something that will confuse them.

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Note: on Windows 7 or Vista you’d also need to disable UAC or else they’ll see a prompt.

Switch the Keyboard Layout To DVORAK

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If you really want to screw with somebody without installing anything, just enable the Dvorak alternate keyboard layout that even most geeks aren’t familiar with. When they type, everything will go haywire.

Head into Control Panel –> Region and Language –> Keyboards –> Change keyboards, then click the Add button and pick the Dvorak layout (or any other random layout you want). Once you’ve done that, use the drop-down above to set the default.

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You’ll probably want to flip over to the Language Bar tab and set that to hidden as well, so they won’t be able to figure it out easily.

Plug a Wireless USB Mouse / Keyboard Into Their PC

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This usually works out better if the other person has a desktop PC, because you can hide the wireless mouse or keyboard receiver behind their PC, and then every so often type an extra letter, or move the mouse slightly. If you do it right, you can have some fun with this one for a long time. The great thing is that this should work for almost anybody, including people that keep their computer locked all the time.

If they do have a laptop and a wireless mouse, you can simply replace their wireless mouse with an identical-looking one, since it won’t work for their PC. They’ll assume their mouse batteries are dead, and you can move the mouse pointer around the screen with their mouse. The prank won’t last as long, but it will be every bit as fun.

Obviously the picture, courtesy of ehavir, shows a wired keyboard—but it’ll work much better with a wireless setup.

Stick a Message Into their System Clock

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We’ve covered this before, but you can easily stick custom text into the clock that sits in the taskbar—and most people won’t have a clue how to switch it back. Just head into Control Panel –> Region and Language –> Additional Settings –> Time, and change the AM or PM symbols to whatever you want. Or you can read how to do it for Windows 7 or Vista.

Reverse Their Trackpad or Mouse Wheel Scrolling

reversescroll2

You can really throw somebody for a loop if you use a simple AutoHotkey script to flip their trackpad to scroll in the opposite direction. They’ll be completely confused! If they happen to have a laptop with a Synaptics touchpad, you can actually tweak this setting right in the Control Panel –> Mouse dialog, but otherwise, check out our article covering the script method, that should work anywhere.

How to Get the Worst OS X Lion Feature in Windows (Reverse Scrolling)

Add Common Typos or Funny Words to MS Word’s Dictionary or AutoComplete

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There’s any number of possibilities for this one, and the sky is really the limit—the idea is that you put something custom into the AutoCorrect so whatever they type gets replaced with something else.

You can go subtle with it, and just replace a properly typed word with a typo instead, or you can get in their face with something more fun—like making anytime they type their name end up replacing it with “<Name> is a jerk”. Loads of fun.

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For Word 2007 or 2010, head to the Office button –> Options –> Proofing –> AutoCorrect Options. For previous versions… I have no idea. If you want this to be system-wide, you can use AutoHotkey instead.

Setup Task Scheduler Jobs to Launch Random Apps (or a Web Page)

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Even a serious geek is going to be pretty lost on how to troubleshoot a new tab repeatedly opening to a certain page every couple of minutes, if you bury that inside the task scheduler. Just go in and create a new task, run through the wizard and pick the browser executable, plug the site name into the arguments box, and then set the schedule to repeat the task every 5 minutes.

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Set the Mouse Pointer to Look Always Busy (to Make Their PC Look Like It’s Hanging)

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Nice and simple, but oh so fun! Just head into Control Panel –> Mouse –> Pointers and change the Normal pointer to the busy one. They’ll think their computer is hanging all the time, but it’s really not. For extra fun, you could make the mouse pointers gigantic.

Activate High Contrast Mode (with a Single Hotkey!)

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There’s a built-in accessibility option that can be very confusing to somebody who doesn’t know how to turn it off, and it requires only pressing one shortcut key sequence:

Shift + Alt + Printscreen

That’s it. Once you press that key combo, their desktop will get flipped to the high contrast mode—you can press it again to go back to normal. The great thing is that even if their computer is locked, you can enable high contrast with the icon on the lower left corner. On Mac OS X, you can press Ctrl+Opt+Cmd+8 to invert the screen’s colors.

The Old-School Favorite: Move the Desktop Icons, Take a Screenshot, Set as the Wallpaper

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Most geeks have done this at some point in their career, because it’s both simple and irritating, especially for somebody who isn’t expecting it. The basic principle works one of a couple of ways:

  1. Take a screenshot of the desktop with the icons where they are, set it as the wallpaper, and then hide the desktop icons.
  2. Move the desktop icons around, or create bogus icons, take a screenshot, and then set it as the wallpaper. This way some icons work, and some don’t.
  3. Take the screenshot of the desktop, and then hide the taskbar below the bottom of the screen before setting the wallpaper (this only works on XP). Even better: flip the image upside down before doing it.

The result looks something like the image above, assuming you followed the second idea and created a folder on the desktop that they’d be sure to notice right away. They’ll keep clicking, but nothing will happen.

Bonus? Combine this with the shutdown shortcut so when they do figure it out and try and open the folder… it’ll give them the shutdown prank too!


Alright, so that was actually twelve pranks. Prank wisely.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/2/11

Comments (69)

  1. Seasider

    Yea like I’m going to try these out today, either way nice one.

  2. valz140

    nice one

  3. Mattglg

    I always enjoy the old intel graphics trick of ctrl+alt+arrow keys to rotate the screen.
    Watching a user try to work on an upsidedown screen while waiting for tech support (me) is brilliant!

  4. SuperGypo

    Brilliant! Especially liked the AHK jobby :)

    @Mattglg: Genius!

  5. Lachlan

    got our school laptops a few weeks ago, this should make them fun

  6. Julian

    This might not be as elegant but my favorite prank is to create a command prompt window spam. So: create three batch files and put the following commands in
    start 2.bat
    start 3.bat

    start 1.bat
    start 3.bat

    start 2.bat
    start 1.bat

    Then to finish it off make the link internet explorer or something commonly used like that. I remember actually crashing a computer like that once. And if you want to be extra mean set it as a startup program :P

  7. Alex

    Connect someone monitor to another computer, lock the screen, whatch then freak out when the computer is off but the lock screen is still there.

  8. Litbea

    Versioning the last one: you can also make a screenshot when any error message popsup and then set it up as wallpaper. Will clic the “cancel” button for a while… look for apps hanging… searching in task manager for an irritating app…

  9. dragonbite

    The best one I did was when I set up a co-worker’s computer, which had PCAnywhere, on and would randomly remote-control her PC during the day.

    So every so often, her mouse would start moving on its own, even opening a program and typing eerie messages. :)

    Hardest thing was trying to act like nothing was happening when she called me over. I even had to have the mouse continue moving while she knows I’m away from my desk and moving over (gotta counter those suspicions). So I took a ruler and a stapler and set up a ramp so I would put the mouse at the top of the ram and (noisily of course) get up and walk over to her computer. She knew I was not at my desk and the mouse stopped moving (so I could continue to play dumb) by the time I got there!

    My arm still hurts thinking about how hard she hit me afterwards ;)

  10. Mo

    I’ve used VNC to log into another computer that i’ve already configured and wright random letters and moved the mouse every while once; very funny

  11. simon

    WE modified our squid proxy server today to rotate all images 180 degrees for Facebook and Twitter.

    Most awesome prank ever. They all thought it was Facebook and Twitter pranking.

  12. justme

    My favorite is the blue screen of death screen saver. :)

  13. Charlie

    You guys have way toooo much time on your hands :) I love it.

  14. Snert

    Cruel and unusual!
    Sounds like fun; but you realize, of course, this could mean WAR!
    Really, fun is fun but ruining somebody’s workday isn’t nice.
    I’m not asying not to do it, just put yourself in their place.

    Now I’m waiting for an opportunity to ruin somebady’s workday

  15. Aliasgar

    This is very good……. I will surely try at my place

  16. tony

    my office mate has no sense of humour and a very bad temper so I gave it a miss

  17. tony

    and I saw this article after the 1 April 12 noon deadline

  18. MR x

    For most of these pranks you could install psexec and them from the comfort of your desk… =)

    for example

    psexec \\pcnamehere cmd

    that would spawn a hidden cmd on your machine

    psexec \\pcnamehere -i notepad

    would randomly load notepad, use -c to copy a app and run it, (sheep.exe) =)

  19. John

    If I’m the only one who uses a computer I will switch the keyboard layout to Dvorak – I always love watching tech support come up to my computer to try and work on it, they normally give up before they figure out what is going on.

  20. Chris

    I’ve always liked popping off the [N] and [M] keyboard buttons and switching them. Doesn’t work as well for a touch typer, but most people won’t even notice that the buttons are backwards and won’t be able to figure out why M comes up when they hit N.

  21. A

    A favorite prank of mine is actually similar to the extra keyboard and mouse thing. I remote control the prankee’s computer and allow them to see their screen and have control over their computer (while my computer has higher priority control) while I sit at my own computer and every once and a while screw up whatever they’re doing. It’s quite easy and fun.

  22. TTiger20

    Hi, nice pranks but how do you stop the script when you hide it? (the prank with space)
    i’m a noob with this so don’t be mad ^^
    Ty

  23. alan

    i put a sheep.exe (little sheep roam the desktop) on someone’s once and they were quite upset.
    Told her she must have gotten the sheep virus.

  24. RGamer

    I have a great AHK script!

    #NoTrayIcon
    RButton::MsgBox No right clicking allowed! (hit space to close)
    LButton::MsgBox No left clicking allowed! (hit space to close)
    AppsKey::MsgBox Nice try, but no right clicking allowed! (hit space to close)
    LWin::MsgBox No start menus allowed! (hit space to close)
    RWin::MsgBox No start menus allowed! (hit space to close)
    Del::MsgBox Don’t delete me! (hit space to close)
    Enter::MsgBox No entering allowed! (hit space to close)

    Yes, I know it’s simple, and people have already thought of it, but it’s kinda fun!

  25. Steve

    Good one. Ya got me HTG!! ;>)

  26. Adam

    what I do is “delete” all their files&apps. wink wink

  27. Juan

    Can’t wait until I pull one of those off !

  28. ShaunB

    Another old school prank was to tape 3-4 pages together with whatever content you wanted on it (bad content if you choose to send this to a person or business you dislike). Start faxing the pages to someone (a fax machine in a public area is fun) and tape the first and last pages together before it goes all the way through. Endless fax transmission!!! Best done from a working display in your local office supply store…

  29. Someone

    Where to put that message ? “shutdown -s -t 1925000 -c “System error: overloaded porn folder””
    I dont as per steps mentioned but no work. Can you post a premade script ???????

  30. hkb

    activating high contrast asks for confirmation in win 7

  31. sai

    shutdown -s -t 1925000 -c
    where do i put that??????????????????????????????

  32. Badgerfanz

    Does anyone have any good email jokes that when you open them up you scare the !$%%$%# outta someone????

  33. James

    I like popping off the number keys, and shifting them along one key to the right (so that the ‘zero’ is where the ‘one’ was, the ‘one’ is where the ‘two’ was…etc)

  34. Osman

    try this one open notepad type in :
    @echo off
    :a
    start %0
    goto a

    then save it as a bat file example someone.bat

  35. falblambiz

    It may not be a really geeky prank but I used to take some classmate’s computer that was left unattended and searched for the the image that they were using for their current wallpaper and then I opened it on MS paint and using the “curve” tool with a very thin line size I drew a hair on the corner of the picture and set it again as a wallpaper hahaha. Great laughs when you see them trying to remove the hair!

  36. kel

    hey,,,i,,,used,,,,the,,,,SPACE,,,,,one,,,,and,,,,,i,,,,,,cant,,,,,get,,,,,it,,,,,to,,,,stop..,,,,HELP,,,,ME

  37. Nathan

    definitely blue screen of death!

    or making a short cut to crashie.com, and making it identical to the ie launcher (of course deleting the real one)

    But I think I’ll try the live Linux disk :) (that could be done office, group, or school computer lab wide!)

  38. Frank Duffey

    Ok Thats fun what about Linux Ubuntu Pranks?? :-0

  39. Ja5087

    My fav was to do this

    @echo off
    start 1.bat
    exit

    and save it as 1.bat

    It doesn’t crash but it is good for a lot of laughs.

  40. Ja5087

    @kel

    Go to Task manager>processes and end autohotkey

  41. HellScream

    Create a Shutdown Shortcut that Looks like a Folder>>> I’m using this as my shutdown button and i added a message like quit using the internet i need to rest! hehehe!

  42. quasimodo

    Cool trick.

  43. Bobro

    i know its passed the 1st now but i like the one where you get an image or a broken LCD display, save it to victims PC open it full screen, turn off screen saver and unplug the mouse and keyboard! :^D hehehe…

  44. Thomas Clover

    Still love the old classic “Scotch tape under the mouse”. Find someone who doesn’t know how to touch-type and rearrange their keyboard too.

  45. George

    We have a lot of guys working in call center (low) cubicles, and we all have identical laptops with docking stations.

    So I switched a few monitor cables so that one guy’s docking station went to his neighbor’s monitors and vice versa. That freaked a few folks out.

    We also use Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) a lot to administer our servers. So I created a Damn Small Linux bootable ISO disk, named the boot-up after one of our servers, got it running in Virtual PC, and then RDP’d to it. “Uh, boss, i think I found the problem with the server, it’s not running Windows anymore.” “What the….??”

  46. glowflu

    niffty i tried but it did not work

  47. HellScream

    @George LOL!

  48. Sharad

    MOst of the trick i have already used at my college time…but really nice… thanx for the post

  49. Batgrrl

    Only prank I ever played was during a very boring no call night at a gov’t call center. I tin-foiled a co-workers entire cubical. Even each klenex in the box…. People where coming to see it from other buildings… epic… but these pranks sure would have saved alot of time lol

  50. SuperCoolFool

    Did the AM/PM trick on the accountant’s PC…..Changed it to You Suck!

    It ended up adding You Suck! to the timestamp of all sent emails……..Still funny, but some of our clients didn’t think so….

  51. melissa phillips

    how do u do it on someone elses computer? Especially if they are on it 24/7?

  52. bydaway

    Back in the good ol’ Rick Roll days, I replaced the sound for opening a folder with Never Gonna Give You Up. I named the sound file “you’ve been rickrolled” for when he eventually figured it out. That was good for a laugh.

  53. Thanks a Lot.

    Tried out the high contrast prank on my own computer, now it refuses to go back. Google seems to indicate that the only way to fix it is to revert to an old theme, and I haven’t saved my previous theme. Should probably put a warning that windows 7 doesn’t know how to revert.

  54. Awesome!

    I tried out most of these on my System and now that I know what to do, lol. I have some ppl in mind…
    @Thanks a Lot – I have Win7 and the High Contrast prank reverts just fine.

  55. mckinnley

    i actually do use a dvorak keyboard, i have for quite a few years now. if anybody finds that they make a lot of typos, get hand cramps, or you just want to type faster, i would highly suggest switching to dvorak. it’s a pain at first but after a few weeks you’ll be typing a hell of a lot faster than you were with qwerty

  56. Lars van der Sangen

    Haha,
    totaly lolled on this one xD

  57. MUTHR

    Oh my Lord these are too funny ! Thank you for the post. A co-worker and I share the same computer. LMAO…He works nights. I could leave him with some great pranks that will have him scratching his head for hours. Great Post HowtoGeek…Hope you keep these posted for a while.

    (Seriously, I tried to find an old post from you guys but it said error can not find page. Do you have archives)?

    Hey BTW, may I ask a Q? Many years ago when Windows 95 was fresh and new, I was in a Yahoo general chat room. Another person and I were talking and someone didn’t like it and threaten me that they could shut me down. I blew them off LOL. In few moments they sent me 12,000 messages with three words repeated 12,000. Infact it lock my machine up and forced me to reboot my PC. Any idea how they did that and or can that still be done today? It was weird and aggravating, that someone in a general chat room could do such a thing. You know….stopping to think about it…that may not be something you want to post. LOL….But I would like to know how they did and can it still be done today with windows being better more complex now. (Just asking)

  58. Jim Nielsen

    Another excellent prank is to replace the explorer.exe with for example notepad.exe

    The Windows logon will still appear as normal but instead of receiving the standard desktop interface, notepad or whichever app will open.

    Change the SHELL key > HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\
    SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\shell from explorer.exe to notepad.exe, calc.exe — when someone closes down notepad the system will reboot and re-appear again – have spent countless hours in stitches seeing people getting more and more flustered ;-)

  59. phantomenacer

    i changed the windows startup sound to a loud wet fart and cranked up the volume! user turned like 15 shades of purple!

  60. Gail

    I work at a school. One of my favorites is we downloaded a wav. sound effect of a baby crying on a co-worker’s computer who just had a baby. Every time he opened a file the baby would cry.

    We also put barnyard animal sounds on another co-worker’s computer. Every time they opened or closed the computer it was funny. The kids in the class thought it was a riot!

  61. Chris

    @phantomenacer: Heh, I almost busted up out loud at that! I’m just imagining the user trying to act nonchalant while being completely stunned and irreparable embarrassed.

  62. Theodore Diamantidis

    HowSPACEdoSPACEyouSPACEstopSPACEit?SPACELOL!!!
    Haha, just kidding. But I can’t understand two things about the SPACE trick: 1) What language is this (C#, C++ etc) and 2) How do you execute it?

  63. Theodore Diamantidis

    @RGamer If you ran that script from RGamer, you can “by-pass” it by pressing Ctrl and then the key you want. I’m telling this, because I was trying to stop it and couldn’t press End Process in Task Manager, but after 10 tries, I figured it out.

  64. Robert

    nerds

  65. THE WARLORD FROM HELL

    guys i need to make a really wicked evil combo virus batch with everything containing all codes to send the user dead….!! so far combined cd eject + mad windows+ msg loop+ flooder virus+keybord virus+ screen 280′ tlit virus nd so on….nd put that a bat that loops the bat file nd itself nd saying HELL WAS FULL SO I CAME BACK

  66. TiagoTiago

    Alt+Shift+Printscreen doesn’t return the colors back when you press it again, it resets the colors to Windows’ default colors; so if you customized your colors watch out…

  67. Hotel Web Design

    a good list, no deadly pranks, just some interesting ones. prank with care people.

  68. lucb1e

    Changing the keyboard layout to Dvorak isn’t a prank but a huge gift :P

    And except for the AM/PM change prank, they’re pretty uninterresting anyway. High contrast was done about 20 times a day on average at school (don’t ask, I already moved away from ‘gildeopleidingen’), printscreen of desktop is an old one, by 3rd party programs like autohotkey you can can do anything (like move the start button every time you try to click it, there are dozens of such programs out there) so that’s not interresting either, the shutdown prank is quite obvious when you know the command, changing the mouse pointer isn’t actually that bad, and all of those (‘cept the high contrast) require the user being logged in. The ubuntu livestick one is just too much work for hardly any fun so I don’t really count that one.

  69. dude

    i tried out the high contrast prank on my nans laptop and then tried to get it of just like u sead but it wouldnt come of. and could you put on one that makes your folders invisable.

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