Work sucks sometimes, but it gets really fun when you’re able to pull some Jim VS Dwight level pranks in the workplace. One of the best and most time-honored traditions is to mess with someone’s unlocked computer when they step away from their desk. These tricks also works at home, just don’t be a jerk about it in either environment!
A little over 14 years ago, I wrote this guide on computer pranks [ blogspot.com]. The article hasn’t aged well, which is why I am writing this newer and bigger version today.
In today’s article, I explore 13 of the best computer pranks you can pull on your co-workers, roommates, spouses and other people you want to prank.
This guide also serves as 13 reasons why you should lock your computer every time you step away… even for a few moments. After-all, you are only as secure as your weakest link!
Most importantly, I also include methods to stop each of the pranks so that you’re immune even without locking your system (you should still lock your systems!)
Send a Friendly Email on Their Behalf
So your colleague stepped away from their desk. Why not send off a company-wide email with the subject:
- “I’m buying everyone lunch & drinks at the ______ local pub!” or
- “I’m bringing in FREE donuts tomorrow morning for everyone!” or
- “Coffee Is On The House Tomorrow – Reply With Your Drink!” or
- “Free Pizza Tomorrow, Courtesy of Me!“
Why not? Lots of reasons. This can get you into big trouble, as impersonating the wrong person can have serious consequences. However, leaving a workstation unlocked can also have serious repercussions, which is normally the reason why this prank gets performed.
This, along with all the other pranks listed here, might be perceived as bullying. To try and avoid that, this “prank” should be disclosed to each employee beforehand so that they know anyone who leaves their workstation unattended is subject to this happening. Also, no one should actually have to provide free food or drinks because they left their computer unlocked.
Download and Use a BlueScreen Screen Saver
I couldn’t find one in the style of Windows 10, so I made this free Bluescreen of Death Screensaver for Windows 10 [ screensavers.icu]
There is this classic bluescreen screensaver [ microsoft.com] which was made in 2006 but wouldn’t run for me in Windows 10.
- Download my free Bluescreen of Death Screensaver for Windows 10 [ screensavers.icu]
- Run the installer.
- After setup completes, the screensaver control panel will automatically open up.
- Select BlueScreener2020 from the dropdown list of screensavers.
- Click the Apply button and then the OK button.
Add Terrible Auto-Correct Entries to Word & Other Apps
This one takes some time, so it’s best when you have a couple of minutes at least. The impact of this prank is definitely more noticeable on mobile devices, where you rely on auto-correct and suggestions to form sentences. However, for users who spend a lot of time either in-browser or in applications like Word, this can be a crazy prank.
- Open Outlook.
- Goto File > Options > Proofing > and click the AutoCorrect Options… button
- In the AutoCorrect tab make sure Replace text as you type is checked.
- Now enter common words in the “Replace” side of the list and enter in prank words on the “With” side of the list.
- Click OK, then OK, then Close.
Set Up Some Loud & Crazy Sounding Outlook Rules
You can do a lot of productive stuff with Outlook rules, but I’m not here to talk about that. Instead, the focus is on using Outlook rules to play a crazy loud sound audio clip when certain emails arrive.
- Download a funny audio clip to their computer. You can find a giant library of quick sound files at https://www.soundboard.com/
- Find a common email in their inbox and right click on it, select Rules. Click on Create Rule to bring up the Create Rule window.
- You should select one of the first 3 checkboxes for defining the rules conditions. These are the things that must happen to trigger a rule. For example, you could set your email address as the Sent To trigger for the rule.
- Under the Do the following section, select Play a selected sound.
- Now click the Browse button and select the sound file you downloaded in the first step.
- Click OK, then OK>.
Set Up Scheduled Tasks That Open Funny Webpages Regularly
How about getting Rick Rolled twice a day? It’s easy enough to set up and you can substitute any URL that you want.
- Open the Start menu and search for taskschd.msc or Task Scheduler and open it as an Administrator.
- Once Task Scheduler loads up, click “Create Basic Task…” in the Actions menu.
- Enter a name for task, such as Rick Roll and then click the Next button.
- Set the task to start Daily and click Next.
- Now you need to enter the time for the task to trigger. Make sure it is set to Recur every: 1 days and click Next.
- Select “Start a program” and click Next
- Click the Browse… button and select your web browser, such as chrome.exe or firefox.exe
- In the Add arguments (optional) field enter in the URL, such as: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ and click the Next button and then click the Finish button.
- To make the same page open several times during the day, select your newly created task in the list and then click Export… in the right sidebar Actions panel. Save your exported task and then click Import Task… and select the task you just exported. Now, edit the task and change the start time. Repeat as many times as necessary
Fake The Desktop
Imagine returning to your computer, everything looks fine, but when you click on icons, the start menu or the taskbar… nothing happens. The computer isn’t frozen, because the mouse is moving… but the desktop is completely non-responsive. Even rebooting doesn’t fix the issue. This is the fake desktop prank.
This one is old and gold. Anyone can do it, you don’t need any special software, and it works on almost any version of Windows from 95 and up. Here is all you do:
- Take a screenshot of their desktop (press the Print-Screen button)
- Save the screenshot (open Paint and then Paste [Control + V] the screenshot from the clipboard)
- Set the screenshot as the desktop background (In Windows 10 Explorer, right click on the image and click “Set as desktop background”)
- Hide the taskbar (right click the taskbar, click “Taskbar settings” and change “Automatically hide the taskbar in desktop mode” to On.)
- Move the taskbar (in “Taskbar settings” change “Taskbar location on screen” from Bottom to any of the other settings, with “Top” recommended.)
- Delete any icons on the desktop.
- Bonus points: Kill the explorer.exe process in Task Manager & then close Task Manager.
Rotate The Monitor in Display Settings
My monitor easily swivels from landscape to portrait mode, which is what these settings are here for and why I tend to change them on a regular basis. Anyone with basic computing skills will probably be able to quickly solve this prank, but computer illiterate folks will not have such an easy time with it.
- Right-click the desktop and select “Display settings” or open up Windows Settings, then click on the System icon.
- Find “Display orientation” and change from Landscape to Portrait or Portrait (flipped)
- Click the “Keep changes” button.
Do the Lazy Screensaver Swap in Comic Sans
One of Windows default screensavers is called “3d Text” and you can use it to write a 20 character message that is displayed when the computer is idle. This means you can make it say “I like farts” using the Comic Sans font in a process that takes less than a minute to set up.
This is by far the most basic and probably the most commonly deployed “prank” on this list. It’s not that good or original, but it is very low impact since it’s just a default screensaver. Honestly, I think this is the intended use case scenario for why they created it and Comic Sans in the first place.
- Right-click on the desktop and click on “Personalize“
- In the right side-bar, click on “Lock screen“
- At the very bottom of the right panel, click on Screen saver settings
- In the screen saver drop-down, select “3d Text” and then click the “Settings” button
- In the Custom Text box, write your prank message
- Click the “Choose Font” button, select Comic Sans and then click OK.
- Change the Wait time to 1 minute so that the screensaver is sure to be seen. Also, you should click “On resume, display logon screen” so that they maybe get the hint.
- Now click OK to save your settings, Apply and OK to enable the screensaver.
Turn Any EXE File Into a Screensaver
Screensavers are just .exe files that have their extensions renamed to .scr. Okay, there is more to it than that, but we can take that basic information and use it to launch some programs instead of a screensaver.
For example, we could set WordPad to be the screensaver, which would make WordPad appear to launch for no reason everytime the screensaver gets triggered. To do that, follow these instructions:
- Using Explorer, navigate to the folder that contains the executable file you want to turn into a screensaver. In my example, I picked WordPad, which is located in C:\Windows\ folder.
- You need to be able to see file extensions in order to change them. To do this, in Explorer, click on the View tab, then click on the Options icon. When the Folder Options window opens, click the View tab. Uncheck “Hide extensions for known file types” and click Apply and then OK.
- Right click on the .EXE file you wish to use as a screensaver and select Copy. In my example, I am copying write.exe
- Now press Control + V on your keyboard to paste a copy of the .EXE file into the same directory. You can also right-click in an empty space inside the main window of Explorer and select Paste. Or you can click on the Home tab in Explorer and then click the Paste icon. Regardless of how you do it, this will make a copy of the executable file. In my example, this action caused there to be a new file called write – Copy.exe
- Now right click the copy of the executable and select Rename. Change the .exe to .scr (in my example I changed write – Copy.exe to write.scr)
- Once the file has been renamed, right click on the .scr file you created and click Install. This will register this file as a screensaver and launch the screen saver settings so you can test to see if it works. Not all .exe files will work successfully. In my example, WordPad tries to open a non-existent file and prompts for Fax setup everytime… perfect for a prank but not so much as a functional screensaver.
Swap Left and Right Mouse Buttons
This trick is so quick and easy to pull off, yet it can be utterly confusing if you start using a computer with the left and right mouse buttons swapped.
To pull of this quick prank, just follow these steps:
- Open the Start menu and type in Mouse
- Click on Mouse Settings to open the Settings window
- Choose “Right” in the dropdown located where it says “Select your primary button“
- Now, close the Window. Remember that right-click is now swapped with left clicking, so right click is your primary action.
Lock It Yourself, Then Enter In a Bunch Wrong Passwords To Lock Them Out
This is a common technique from some sysadmins. This only works if the domain administrator has a limit on the number of failed login attempts (which every company should have enforced.)
Install Nicholas Cage Addons In Firefox & Chrome & a David Hasselhoff Wallpaper
Honestly, installing these plugins and wallpapers is less of a prank and more of performance and feature upgrade. The Chrome and Firefox plugins substitute most images with Nicholas Cage, while setting David Hasselhoff as a wallpaper is pretty self-explanatory… aka awesome!
- Firefox Plugin: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/niccage/
- Chrome Plugin: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ncage/mpnfndnehgmmonhfcfdnaemdeokofgaf?hl=en
- David Hasselhoff wallpapers: https://wallpapercave.com/david-hasselhoff-wallpapers
Open a Browser to This Page So They Can Learn How To Lock Their Computers
Yep, the long con. I had an ulterior motive this whole time which is to teach the importance of locking your system and exactly how to do it.
I mentioned at the beginning, the old adage “you are only as secure as your weakest link” and that is especially true when it comes to computers networked together in a business.
The best way to make sure the person gets the hint is to open this page, maximize the browser, and then hit F11 to make the browser full screen. This is also less intrusive and more acceptable than pulling a malicious prank on someone.
My Concluding Thoughts on Computer Pranks
Hopefully this guide has helped you learn the importance of keeping your computer secure, or provided some amusement. If I missed a prank, security blurb or another important bit of information, please leave a comment below!