Our Favourite (Mostly) Harmless Geek Pranks

Our Favourite (Mostly) Harmless Geek Pranks

Being a geek amongst the non-technical has the advantage of making you seem like a wizard. Here are our favourite (mostly) harmless geek pranks — ideal if you’re the first one back in the office after a day off.

Photo by Marc Dietrich.

Turn The Internet Upside Down


Although it’s a prank that’s a bit obvious and likely won’t fool anybody who’s aware of what day it is, a fun and harmless choice is to literally turn someone’s internet upside down. If you’ve ever edited IP tables this won’t be a particularly difficult operation. All you have to do is redirect your victim’s traffic using the instructions over at Upside-Down-Ternet. With everything in place, your victim’s web browser will display every site in reverse.

Install The Troll Face Inside Someone’s Monitor

While it’s no simple feat, installing the troll face inside someone’s monitor will supply you with pranking joy that’s pretty much equivalent to the effort you put in to the prank itself. As you can see from the video, you’ll have to do a bit of work to take your victim’s monitor apart and install a lightly transparent print out of the troll face image, but once you’ve got it in there your victim will be wondering how it got there and how to get it out. If the troll face isn’t your style, this prank works just as well with any other image of your choosing.

The Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) Screensaver


The BSOD Screensaver is a classic geek prank that loads a fake Windows error screen to trick the viewer into thinking their computer has just experienced a major crash. The user can even enter commands and interact with it. This is likely to cause a bit of panic, and can be especially fun if you’re the victim’s go-to tech support person.

Trick Your Friends And Coworkers Into Talking To The Printer


If you’re actually stuck at work on a public holiday, make the best of the situation by tricking your coworkers into talking to the printer. These realistic upgrade notices make it look like the printer has voice commands. Readers will start to recite the commands and get absolutely nowhere while you watch and enjoy.

Control A Computer From Afar


When friends need computer assistance, I often help them over VNC. Whether we’re in the same room or not, it generally freaks them out to see their computer moving around without their control. If people get freaked out when they know what’s going on, imagine how they’d respond if they didn’t expect the computer to suddenly start using itself. Controlling another machine on the same local network is very easy.

All you need is to set up a VNC server on that machine and connect to it from your own laptop or desktop. Using VNC with Windows requires a little bit of setup, but it mainly involves installing a VNC client and server like TightVNC.

Macs can just use OS X’s built-in screen sharing feature. To turn it on, open up System Preferences and choose the Sharing section. Turn on Screen Sharing and then add yourself as a user. Alternatively you can click the Computer Settings button and enter a VNC password so you can access the computer with only that password. Either way, when you’re done you can just go into the Finder on your computer and press Command+K.

From there, type in vnc:// plus the IP address of your victim’s computer. That will load their screen and you might just be able to fool them that a ghost has possessed their computer. If they watched PBS in the early 90s, they might have a reason to seriously believe that.

Enable Dvorak Keyboard Support


Most of us are used to the QWERTY keyboard layout, but the Dvorak Keyboard was designed to make typing faster. Some people swear by it, but generally they like to have a keyboard that actually represents the location of the Dvorak layout. If you were to turn this layout on with a normal QWERTY keyboard connected, pressing most keys would not produce the expected result. ZDNet offers up some good instructions on how to enable Dvorak support on Windows so you can make the target of your prank wonder why their keyboard seems to have lost its mind. (via Ed Bott)

The Rapid Toilet Paper Dispenser

This toilet paper overdispenser is hard not to love even if you’re the butt of the joke. It’s just really funny to watch, and it’s hard not to feel flattered when someone puts that much effort into adding a crazy motor to your toilet paper roll. If you want to show your DIY prowess and pull a great prank at the same time, just follow this Instructables post and learn how to pull it off.

Use Text Expansion To Replace Common Words


If you’re not familiar with text expansion, it’s a term for a tool that lets you type a shortcut (e.g. “phone#”) that will expand to a different and often larger block of text (e.g. 323-555-1234). Text expansion apps work with entries called snippets, which include the word you type and the text it expands to.

As a prank, you can enter common words as shortcut. For example, if your friend’s name was Harold you could enter a shortcut that expands Harold to the word Idiot. (My apologies to any Harolds out there — I’m sure you’re all beautiful, smart people deserving of all the love in the world.) It’s a very simple trick to play and you can be as creative and detailed as you want. You can also be as appropriate or vulgar as your relationship with the victim dictates, making it a safe prank for almost everyone.

If you want to try this prank but need a recommendation for text expansion software, check out our top picks for Windows and OS X. You can even do it on an Android or iOS device.


  • In most companies you’d be breaking policy by installing this junk, interfering with other employees, leaving computers unlocked or hacking infrastructure.

    You might think you’re funny, but actually your just wasting time proving you’re a juvenile who needs more work.

    Next article – how to get ahead in corporate life – by not doing these things.

  • Remembering my days as System/Network Admin. there are lots of tricks to annoy users. And yes – taking control of someone’s console, printing on behalf of a user (office boy/girl will start screaming of the user), slowing down internet access, force log out, etc. God-like fun.

  • The office clown here likes to draw pictures or leave messages a few pages down in your notepad. So when you walk into a meeting or turn the page at the start of the day you’re confronted with the message.

    The other favourite in the office is to send an email out from someone’s computer if they fail to lock it. Sending an email telling all of the Asia-pacific staff that they love budgie smugglers is often enough to remind them to lock their PC everytime they step away from it.

  • I like to go into co-workers dictionary in MS word and change the entries for autocorrect. So for instance everytime they type a certain word, it changes it to something else eg “this” to “I’m watching you”

  • I always like creating a bunch or folders on the desktop with inappropriate names and taking a print screen and setting it as the new wallpaper and then deleting the folders.

    • I did something similar to this, I did a print screen of the desktop, moved the task bar to the top of the screen and auto-hid it, then set the image of the desktop as the wallpaper, my colleague thought it had frozen and couldn’t figure it out, was funny at the time and we did have time to kill so no productivity was lost.

  • The fine art of office pranks is choosing your target. Otherwise you’re just a jerk.

    I’m a systems engineer – so I usually have pretty broad admin rights. My goto harmless pranks have always been changing someone’s desktop – either via an unlocked workstation or by remote changing their registry. I’ve even used group policy to push out a prank before, with the caveat that getting your target wrong in group policy can go pretty horrifically wrong.

    A screenshot of their current desktop, or the SOE standard desktop and moving all their desktop shortcuts off to a hidden folder is the timeless classic. I’ve also changed desktops to be photos of various staff members either photoshopped a bit (a picture of one of the guys from the IT department in a dreamy heart frame from one of the tween girl camera filter sets) or a posed photo (one of the IT guys looking sternly out of the monitor with a caption ‘What are you downloading?’ or something else silly).

    Personal favourite was changing all of someone’s desktop shortcut targets to refer to youtube so that every application they opened was a rick roll.

    Comes with the warning that if you remote edit someone’s registry you can break stuff pretty badly, and using group policy to push out a prank can go horribly wrong if you accidentally push it to an entire business/OU instead of just the person you were trying for.

    But as mentioned, carefully considered pranks on a friend are one thing. Becoming the office jerk, or even the guy who can’t use the tools well enough to prank the right person can be a pretty rapid career killer.

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