The Complete Lifehacker April Fools' IT Tricks Guide

Tomorrow is April Fools' Day, and what better way to celebrate than by messing with the computers of colleagues, friends and family members? We've rounded up some of the all-time classics ready for April 1.

Couple picture from Shutterstock

This is an updated version of the guide we produced last year, with additional tips and ideas. Get pranking!

Note: Many of these tricks rely on you having access to your victim's computer, either because they're stupid enough to leave them open and accessible or because you have administrative privileges and you're not afraid to use them.

Alter Their Desktop With A Sneakily-Modified Screenshot

By far the most popular prank suggested by readers in 2014 was to take a screenshot of someone's desktop, subtly alter it, and then change the desktop wallpaper to that image. Among the better variants (thanks to everyone who suggested these last year):

  • Take a screen shot of their screen, set it as the background wallpaper, open Task Manager and end the explorer.exe process. They'll be clicking so hard, but nothing will happen! (You can restart Explorer from Task Manager provided you know the keyboard shortcut.) For added excitement, rotate the screen upside down (see below for more on how to do this).
  • Create a folder in the centre of the screen and name it "Amateur Porn" or something similar. Take a screen shot, set it as background then delete the folder from the desktop. It's gone but the picture of the folder remains.
  • For a weirder variant, create a batch file that displays a message like "This is your computer: I hate you". Create a shortcut to the file, and change the icon and name to 'Google Chrome' (or IE or whatever).
  • The really extreme version is to share access to an individual's Windows folder to others, and routinely change desktop images and screen effects. This won't always work in environments with more robust security policies.

Turn Screens Upside Down

So simple, so evil, so effective. Type Control-Alt-Down on almost any Windows machine and the screen will flip upside-down. Restore things to normal with Control-Alt-Up -- but that can be hard to discover when you can't use Google properly. (Whether this trick works depends on the graphics card and drivers, but it's very common.)

A variant on the same thing is the much-loved Upside-Down-Ternet, which will display just web sites upside down. It requires a little skill in editing IP tables, but the instructions are fairly comprehensive. With everything in place, your victim's web browser will display every site in reverse.

Swap Every Lightning Charger For A 30-Pin Dinosaur

If your office is anything like ours, then all the newer iPhone owners are constantly begging for a Lightning charger. If anyone leaves one plugged in at their desk, change their cable for an older 30-pin model, then sit back and watch the fun. If anyone asks, say that Apple has just announced it is reverting to 30-pin because of safety issues.

Nasty Ways To Mess With A Mouse

There are so many ways to make a mouse non-functional:

  • Put sticky tape across its sensor.
  • Disconnect the cable (surprisingly effective if it's a desktop concealed under a desk).
  • Replace the batteries with flat batteries. For added effect, replace the stationery cupboard supply of flat batteries with flat batteries too.)
  • Plug a wireless mouse receiver into the computer, and then randomly move the cursor during the day.

The Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) Screensaver

OK, the Blue Screen Of Death looks a little different these days, but not everyone has updated to Windows 8 even in a post Windows-XP world. The BSOD Screensaver loads a fake Windows error screen to trick the viewer into thinking their computer has just experienced a major crash. There are several variants out there; hunt around for one that appeals.

Trick Colleagues Into Talking To The Printer

Another low-tech genius move, and one that doesn't require any admin access. 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. These original notices have 2010 copyright dates, which may not be an issue depending on the age of your office printer. If it is, they're easily edited.

Enable Dvorak Keyboard Support

We don't recommend using the DVORAK layout, switching a colleague to using it can make life amusing. Just search for 'Keyboard layout' on a modern Windows machine and alter the settings.

Use Text Expansion To Replace Common Words

Text expansion is the term tool that lets you type a short sequence (such as "ph#") that will automatically expand to a different and often larger block of text (such as "(02) 9999 9999"). 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. 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 Mac. You can even do it on an Android or iOS device.

Tell Them Every Single Internet User In Australia Is Being Tracked

Oh damn, that actually happened.

What pranks and tricks would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments.


    Another good one is Happy Hour Virus.

    I would so do half of these, except they would call me to come fix it :(

    Found a VBS script a month or two ago when a colleague continued to forget to lock his computer.. this script is harmless really but forces the CD tray to open and shut every 5 minutes.. :)

    Found a nice hidden CLI program called "The Flautlator" It would - at random times, turn the volume up to full, play a rude sound and reset the volume to what it was before.
    I installed it on the office prankster's computer in a fit of vengeance and he had to spend the rest of the afternoon interviewing people and explaining that it was not him it was his computer!

    Another good trick (though it only really works on those that can't touch type) is to pop off a few keys on the keyboard and subtly switch a few keys around. Switch the "M" and "N" for example, the "," and the ".", the "A" and the "S", the "Insert" and "Delete". Don't go overboard with the key swapping, otherwise they'll catch onto it pretty quickly. But if you're subtle enough, you'll create those "what the hell?" moments in their head.

      That was my first programming prank,
      microbee computer at school, I reprogrammed the whole keyboard on 15 computers.
      Screens displayed "I AM" "THE" "GREATEST"
      Every key was run key except for "B" it was escape key, auto reprogrammed the keyboard back to normal and deleted the program.
      God I got in the s&$t when they found out it was me.. But worth it!

    Gave the voice activated printer a go today, posting them up around the office as we have a bunch of Konica Minolta's. OMG I never thought people would actually fall for it and they still are. With the current office gossip banging on about how the printers have been updated and can now accept voice commands. Watching people try it out is hilarious. Never tried so hard to keep a straight face.

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