Tech-based April Fool’s Day pranks for your devilish side

1 Apr 2013

Image via Hugo Felix/Shutterstock

It’s April Fool’s Day, and if you want to make a friend (or foe) feel foolish today, you need to look no further than their computer settings and hardware.

Some of the best pranks you can play on your selected victim (or victims) involve fiddling with settings on their computer. To make this easier, open Control Panel and change ‘View’ to large or small icons, as the category listings can make it difficult to find what you’re looking for.

From here, you can create all sorts of annoyances and embarrassments.

  • An oldie, but a goodie, is to replace your victim’s desktop background with a screenshot of their desktop, then hide or remove all of their shortcuts and watch as they wonder why their double-clicks won’t work.
  • A step up from this classic is to switch the images used for their desktop icons through the ‘Personalization’ menu and renaming them to match, of course.
  • Under ‘Mouse’ settings, you can change your victim’s pointer to a constant spinning ‘busy’ wheel (AKA the spinning wheel of death), switch the function of the left and right buttons, or adjust the pointer speed to extremely slow and add trails so it looks like their computer is on a go-slow.
  • Under ‘Power Options’, you can change when your victim’s computer display turns off, or make it so that it enters hibernation mode after just one minute out of use. To make this extra annoying, make it so that a password is needed every time the computer wakes from sleep mode.
  • In ‘Sound’ you can make it so that your victim’s computer makes an annoyinng sound after they do something as commonplace as open a programme or minimise a window. Be sure to turn the speakers up when you’ve finished!
  • ‘Administrative Tools’ has a function called ‘Task Scheduler’ that will allow you to schedule a programme to launch every five minutes
  • More recent Windows operating systems will let you schedule the desktop background to change regularly, and this can be used to a prankster’s advantage. For greatest effect, use your victim’s current desktop background and create various copies with gradual adjustments to appear throughout the day and see how long it takes for them to notice.

Alternatively, you could get tricky with your victim’s hardware.

  • Adjust the picture on their monitor until it is completely black and watch while they try to figure it out.
  • Cover the sensor underneath their mouse so that it no longer works. Clear tape works best for this as it’s less likely to be noticed, or you can be brazen and include an ‘April Fool’s’ message.
  • Make your victim think their computer is possessed by connecting it to a wireless mouse or keyboard (or both!) that you control.
  • Do a print run of an image (we recommend troll face) with its opacity dialed down so that it’s barely noticeable – at first. Put these pages back into the printer tray and see how your victim reacts to this strange ‘watermark’.

Finally, you can make changes that may go unnoticed by your victim for some time, but will affect any of their communications throughout the day.

  • Open up the language bar (click the ‘EN’ next to the system tray) and change the language input for the keyboard. For best results, choose a language that only switches a few keys, as your victim is less likely to notice their typos and misplaced punctuation.
  • In Microsoft Word, change the autocorrect settings through the ‘Tools’ menu. A good use of this is to arrange it so ‘I’ is automatically replaced with your victim’s name, so it always seems that they are speaking of themselves in the third person.

While most of the above pranks are for Windows users, we think there’s plenty of inspiration to prank Mac and even smartphone users with variations on these ideas. However, be sure to change everything back before April Fool’s Day ends, lest you be the fool!

Computer bandit image via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.