It’s once again that special time of year where we treat our friends (and perhaps frenemies) to some good-natured pranking in celebration of April Fools Day. The technology industry in particular has a storied history when it comes to April Fools. Google, for example, has done a bang-up job over the years of pulling the wool over our eyes. Last year alone, the company pretended to release “self-driving” Chromebooks and Google Fiber dial-up.
To celebrate IT jokesters everywhere, we rounded up some awesome tech pranks that will help you let the good times roll. While these jokes can be annoying, they're also potentially illuminating for users. We all say how much we rely on technology, but nothing makes that more clear than when we think our IT is crippled. Be forewarned, however — these pranks range from mildly annoying to majorly frustrating, so choose your marks wisely!
DEFCON 5: Harmless Fun
These pranks are easy to do, easy to fix, and generally result in only mild annoyance with a healthy side of laughter.
Cracked Screen Wallpaper
For a moment of sheer panic that’s easily fixable (unlike an actual cracked screen), download your favorite cracked screen image and replace your unwitting friend’s computer or mobile background with it.
Mess with Their Mouse
This one is a pretty cheap thrill. In Windows, you can change the mouse cursor to, say, always look like something is loading. It’s simple to execute and will drive your victim crazy.
On Macs, pranks are not as readily available, but there are still several ways to make life just a little more annoying for your intended target. Among other things, you can switch the primary button. Left click becomes right click, and vice versa. You can also adjust the speed and size of the cursor (not to mention make the screen a nightmare to look at through inverted colors and intense contrasts).
For that extra touch, you can always add a Post-It note to the underside of their mouse, which will block the laser from reading surfaces, rendering it unusable. But be forwarned: This prank is the groan-worthy equivalent of having that weird uncle “magically” produce a quarter from your ear.
DEFCON 4: Annoying Headache
If you’ve already tackled the Defcon 5–level pranks in the past, it might be time to step up your game a bit! These pranks are a more time-consuming (but easy), both to pull off and to fix, but they’re still simple and relatively harmless — assuming you don’t get too obscene with your nefarious changes or forget whose hardware belongs to whom.
These can range from absolutely hilarious to downright evil, depending on how nasty you want to get or how absent-minded the target is about realizing what they’ve done. For the uninitiated victim, this can be a downright annoying prank. On their iPhone, go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. On their Android, go to Language/Keyboard Settings and then User Dictionary. Long-press a word to edit or delete, and add auto-corrections to your heart’s desire. Is your victim in love with grammar? Try having ‘their’ autocorrect to ‘they’re,’ or ‘its’ to ‘it’s’ and watch their reaction.
If you giggled at that heading, shame on you. This one is great for roping in multiple victims and usually results in frustrated hilarity. Swap your coworkers’ wireless keyboard and mouse dongles to give them unwitting control of each other’s computers. Bask in the knowledge that you’ve just convinced everyone their computer is haunted.
DEFCON 3: Infuriating Jokes
Ok, now we’re getting to the good stuff — the prime time, “Why, I Oughta …” sort of tech pranks that are destined to raise the temperature of even the most good-natured victim.
This is a bit more robust version of the previous auto-correct prank. This tweak can be made systemwide and will extend to the user’s entire system, changing your victim’s auto-correct settings in their favorite document application (e.g., Word, Google Docs). Depending on how many changes you want to make and how subtle you want to be with the changes, this can be a simply maddening prank.
What's a DVORAK? Is it Poisonous?
Marry this prank with the autocorrect 2.0 prank, and you’ve got yourself a seriously infuriating prank. Only your savvy friends and coworkers will be able to fix this one. On Macs, go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources and add the DVORAK keyboard layout. In Windows, go to Control Panel > Region and Language > Keyboards > Change Keyboards, and then click Add to enable the DVORAK keyboard.
Now that you’re all set there, add an extra layer of infuriation by manually rearranging all of the keys on your victim’s keyboard. They’ll quickly see that something is wrong, but even after they’ve successfully rearranged the physical keys, there’s still another layer of prank to be discovered. It’s the tech-prank equivalent of a rich, decadent layer cake. Take a bite, IT prankster, April Fools never tasted so sweet.
DEFCON 2: Rage-Inducing Hijinks
These pranks might not cost you any friends (assuming you still have any), but they will definitely cause major headaches, depending on how resource-intensive you decide to be.
Startup Folder Fun
This is really easy to pull off, and absolutely enraging for the victim. You can add a TON of applications to the victim’s Startup folder and watch him or her writhe in confused misery as it takes an incredible amount of time for their machine to boot up. On Macs, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items, and then click the plus sign to add programs to Startup. On PCs, go to your Startup menu and copy/paste the app shortcuts to the Startup folder.
Schedule Random Tasks
Do you know someone who’s slightly skittish? A paranoiac who’s always checking their phone? Push them over the edge with a barrage of random tasks! This one is unique to Windows, but it nonetheless will drive your target wild.
Access their Task Scheduler and bury a multitude of tasks in there. Create a new task, run the wizard to pick a browser to execute, enter the site name and set the schedule to repeat as often as you’d like (you evil, evil person).
DEFCON 1: "You're Dead to Me"
These are strictly for people you seriously want to mess with and who preferably have the skill set to undo your evil shenanigans. We’re not advocating their use, but if you need to go nuclear on someone, these are surefire ways to end a friendship.
Shut Down Everything
Right-click their browser icon (Chrome, Firefox and the lesser ones) and set the target to
%windir$\system32\shutdown.exe -r -t 00
Now, whenever your target wants to browse the Internet, their (Windows) computer will shut down. Diabolical.
If your conscience is weighing on you, this prank can be undone by changing the target to point back to the original application:
How to Lose Friends and Influence No One
In Google Chrome, add "chrome://quit/" to the list of startup pages. Yep, you guessed it — this automatically closes Chrome as soon as it’s opened.
And this one is tedious to fix too. You need to find the .txt file that contains all your Chrome preferences, ID the startup string and manually delete the Quit action. Truly, a tech prank of last resort.
Want to fix this? On a Mac, you'll need to go here to access Chrome settings (but don't worry — the file structure is similar for PC users):
Find the startup string and delete the Quit action and you'll have your victim back in business.
Oh, I'm sorry, m'colleague, is there a problem with your internets?
For That Special Someone
Got an especially gifted Luddite coworker or friend? You could always go big, IT crowd–style, and offer them the entire Internet. But only if they’re extra careful with it.