13 Easy Computer Pranks Guide (13 Reasons To Lock Your Computer When Away)

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!

Disclaimer:
These pranks are all basically harmless, however, the content here is provided for informational purposes only.

Do not perform these pranks on computers you don’t own! Pranks can get you fired, cause physical or mental injury including death and could be used against you in a lawsuit or criminal proceeding.

I recommend using this guide to block these pranks by following the security information included with at the end of each one.

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!)

How To Manually Lock Your Computer
Choose one. The first one is really easy to remember and quick to perform when walking away from your computer.

  • Hold the Windows Key + L
  • Press Control + Alt + Delete and then hit Enter
  • Windows 10: Click on the Start menu, on the far left side of the Start menu, click your Avatar/Username and then click Lock
  • Mac: Opt + Cmd + Eject to put your computer to sleep.
  • Mac: Control + Shift + Eject to turn off the monitor only.

At the end of the article, I discuss multiple ways to automatically lock your computer. However, you should still manually lock your computer because there are some real problems that come along with automatically locking.

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:

Example Email Subject Lines
  • 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.

How To Stop Users From Sending Out Email From Your Machine

LOCK YOUR WORKSTATION!!!

If you’re using a web-based mail client, like Gmail through your web browser, then require a Master Password for your password manager and don’t stay logged into anything.

If you’re in a company, have your sysadmin look into rolling out multi-factor authentication [ microsoft.com].

For Outlook individually, you can require manual password entry each time mail is processed, but this includes every time Outlook refreshes your mailbox to check for new mail. I don’t recommended it, but here is how to enable it if you like pain:

  • Open Outlook.
  • Goto File > Account Settings > Account Setting >
  • Select your account. Click the Change button.
  • Click on the More Settings button and then the Security tab.
  • Click the Always prompt for logon credentials checkbox so that it is checked.
  • Click OK, then OK, then Close. Now restart Outlook.

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.

How To Use Windows 10 Bluescreen Screen Saver
  • 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.

How To Disable Screensavers on Windows 10

You will need Windows 10 Professional or better, as Home will not allow you to set up Group Policies. In addition, if your computer is a member of a domain, then your sysadmin will need to deploy these policies.

  • Open the Start menu and start typing Edit Group Policy. Click on the Edit Group Policy control panel. Alternatively, hold the Windows Key and press R to open the run window. Then type gpedit.msc and click the OK button.
  • Using the folder structure in the left sidebar, navigate down to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Control Panel > Personalization
  • Double-click “Enable screen saver
  • Change the option to Disabled, then click Apply and OK.

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.

How To Use Auto-Replace In Word
  • 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.
You can’t really prevent users who have physical access to your machine from changing your Word options unless you deploy the GPO in this link [ edugeek.net].

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.

How To Make Noisy Outlook Rules
  • 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>.
I was surprised when I couldn’t find any GPO to disable Rules in Outlook. However, I did find this thread [ microsoft.com] that has advice on using OWA policy to disable the rules.

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.

How To Use Task Scheduler to Open Webpages
  • 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

How To Stop Users From Scheduling Tasks

You will need Windows 10 Professional or better, as Home will not allow you to set up Group Policies. In addition, if your computer is a member of a domain, then your sysadmin will need to deploy these policies.

  • Open the Start menu and start typing Edit Group Policy. Click on the Edit Group Policy control panel. Alternatively, hold the Windows Key and press R to open the run window. Then type gpedit.msc and click the OK button.
  • Using the folder structure in the left sidebar, navigate down to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Task Scheduler
  • Double-click “Prevent Task Run or End
  • Change the option to Enabled, then click Apply and OK.

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:

How to Create a Fake Desktop
  • 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.

How To Stop Users From Changing Your Wallpaper

You will need Windows 10 Professional or better, as Home will not allow you to set up Group Policies. In addition, if your computer is a member of a domain, then your sysadmin will need to deploy these policies.

  • Open the Start menu and start typing Edit Group Policy. Click on the Edit Group Policy control panel. Alternatively, hold the Windows Key and press R to open the run window. Then type gpedit.msc and click the OK button.
  • Using the folder structure in the left sidebar, navigate down to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Control Panel > Personalization
  • Double-click “Prevent changing desktop background
  • Change the option to Enabled, then click Apply and OK.

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.

How to Rotate the Desktop
  • 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.

How To Stop Users From Changing Display Settings

Caution: you will not be able to change any display settings, including resolution, if you implement this policy. However, NVIDIA and AMD control panels may still work and have to be disabled separately.

You will need Windows 10 Professional or better, as Home will not allow you to set up Group Policies. In addition, if your computer is a member of a domain, then your sysadmin will need to deploy these policies.

  • Open the Start menu and start typing Edit Group Policy. Click on the Edit Group Policy control panel. Alternatively, hold the Windows Key and press R to open the run window. Then type gpedit.msc and click the OK button.
  • Using the folder structure in the left sidebar, navigate down to User Configuration > Administrative Template > Control Panel > Display
  • Double-click “Disable the Display Control Panel
  • Change the option to Enabled, then click Apply and OK and reboot.

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.

How To Use 3d Text Screen Saver
  • 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:

How to Use an Executable as a Screensaver
  • 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:

How to Swap the Left and Right Mouse Buttons in Windows 10
  • 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!

How To Stop Yourself From Not Downloading These Essential Tools

Lets face it. You need the Hoff as your wallpaper as a matter of optimization. In addition, replacing almost every image on the internet with Nicolas Cage is a huge performance upgrade that is considered a sign of strength and indicates that the coming harvest will be plentiful.

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

How To Automatically Lock Your Computer
I’m going to cover 2 ways to automatically lock your computer, Dynamic Lock and Timeout Lock.

Dynamic Lock is pretty awesome, since it locks your computer when your Bluetooth compatible phone is too far away from your system, but isn’t perfect. The Timeout Lock isn’t very good because you need to shake your mouse periodically to keep the computer from locking, which isn’t very practical.

I started the article with manual locking because there are some big problems with automatic locking:

  • If you’re using Dynamic Lock, you might still be in Bluetooth range even though you’re in another room, meaning your system is unlocked.
  • With both Dynamic and Timeout locking, there is a 30 second (dynamic) or 1 minute or greater (timeout) time delay before the system will lock itself.
  • If anyone uses your system before the automatic lock has engaged, then their use will prevent the PC from locking. This is why you should still manually lock your PC when you walk away.

How to Automatically Lock Your Computer Using Windows 10 Dynamic Lock

Both your computer and your phone will need to have Bluetooth. In addition, you need to have Windows 10 version 1703 or higher on your computer.

  • Open up the Windows Settings app.
  • Click on Devices and then click on Bluetooth & other devices
  • Turn on Bluetooth on your phone, then toggle the switch to turn on Bluetooth on your PC.
  • Click on the Add Bluetooth or other device button.
  • In the “Add a device” window, click on Bluetooth.
  • Find your phone in the list and click on it.
  • Now use the prompts on your phone and computer to sync the devices together.
  • Click the Home button to go back to the front page of the Settings app.
  • Click on Accounts
  • In the left sidebar, find and click on Sign-in options
  • Find the “Dynamic Lock” section on this page, and then check the box where it says “Allow Windows to detect when you’re away and automatically lock the device

If you can’t find your phone in the Bluetooth list on your computer, it could be your computer’s Bluetooth drivers. Try updating the drivers and then try again. Otherwise, you might be stuck with our second automatic lock method:

How to Use Your Screensaver To Lock Your Computer

  • 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
  • Check the box that says “On resume, display logon screen
  • In the box, you can enter the number of minutes before your screen locks. If you’re going to use this setting, I recommend 5 minutes or longer so that you don’t need to move your mouse every minute or three to keep your computer from locking.

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!


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