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Ten epic Windows 7 pranks you absolutely must try

Ready to get your prank on? This isn't your average, run-of-the-mill Windows prank list, so pull up a chair and stay a while! There's plenty to learn here and lots of laughter to be had by you at your victim's expense!
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1 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

This is hands-down one of the easiest, most mind-boggling pranks to pull on almost anyone. As such -- and because I'm going to reference it for a later prank or two on the list -- this is where we begin our journey. There are two ways you can make this happen:

Method 1: This is the fastest way to do this trick, but sadly, it doesn't work on all computers. All you do is press CTRL, ALT, and the down arrow. That's it! To reverse the effect, simply press CTRL, ALT, and the up arrow.

Method 2: Right-click on the desktop, select "Screen resolution," then, in the dropbox next to the "Orientation" label, select "Landscape (flipped)."

The result of this alone is usually enough to thoroughly confuse your victim, so give it a whirl soon and see what kind of reactions you get!

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2 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

If you know what a Dvorak keyboard is, then you know where this is going. If you don't, then all you need to know is it was a completely different keyboard with a totally different layout and Windows has in-built support for it. Enable that support, and anyone using a standard keyboard will quickly become frustrated when what they type isn't what shows up on the screen. Easy to enable but impossible for most to figure out, here's what you need to do to get this party started:

1 - Click the Start button.
2 - Click "Control Panel."
3 - Click on either "Clock, Language, and Region" or "Region and Language," depending on if you have your control panel items sorted by categories or icons.
4 - Click the "Keyboards and Languages" tab.
5 - Click the "Change keyboards..." button.
6 - Click the "Add..." button.
7 - Click on "English (United States)," then "Keyboard," and finally, "United States-Dvorak."

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3 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

This is my variation of the age-old prank where you take a screen shot of someone's desktop and set it as their wallpaper. The end result of the steps to follow is a desktop that only half-works: some things can be clicked and interacted with while others can't. Here's what you do:

1 - Open a program or document in windowed mode, then take a screen shot of the desktop by pressing the Print Screen key (or "Print," "PRNT," or some variation thereof).
2 - Open Paint, press CTRL and V to paste your screen shot, then save it to some place like My Documents.
3 - Navigate to where you saved the image, open it, then right-click on it and select "Set as desktop background."
4 - Right-click on a blank section of the taskbar, click "Properties," click the box next to "Auto-hide the taskbar," then click the "Apply" button.
5 - Open a program or document in windowed mode and position it so that it's partially on top of the window that's a part of the wallpaper you have set.
6 - To complete this prank, simply move whichever desktop icons you'd like into a new folder, then place that folder somewhere else temporarily (or just leave it on the desktop, if you'd like).

You're all done! Now, if you don't have the time to do all of that, then you can opt for a much quicker variation by taking a screen shot of the desktop as it is, setting it as a wallpaper, hiding the taskbar, and quickly hiding all the icons by right-clicking on the desktop, hovering over "View," then unchecking "Show desktop icons." Or, an even quicker choice is to hop on the computer and simply hide the taskbar and desktop icons.

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4 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

It's pretty awesome, all the options left at your disposal where configuring a mouse in Windows is concerned! I encourage you to explore them all, but to get you off and running quickly, try this on for size:

1 - Click the Start button.
2 - Click "Control Panel."
3 - Click on either "Hardware and Sound" and then "Mouse" if you have your control panel items sorted by categories, or just select "Mouse" if you have your control panel items sorted by icons.
4 - Click the "Pointer Options" tab.
5 - In the Motion section, move the slider all the way over to "Slow."
6 - In the Visibility section, check the box that says "Display pointer trails," then move the slider all the way over to "Long."
7 - Click the "Pointers" tab.
8 - Double-click "Normal Select" in the Customize section.
9 - Scroll down until you see "aero_unavail_xl.cur" and then double-click it.
10 - Click the "Buttons" tab.
11 - Click the circle labeled "Left-handed."
12 - Now click the "Apply" button.

Congratulations! You have now royally messed up how the mouse acts and effectively confused the bejesus out of your victim.

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5 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

Are you ready to absolutely confuse the heck out of your unsuspecting victim? I sure hope so, because everything I've covered thus far has all been to prepare you for this one glorious moment: the ultimate desktop prank! For the sake of brevity, I'm going to assume by now that you know how to do certain things like take a screen shot of your desktop. If you don't, refer to the previous pranks where I detail how to do everything.

1 - Take a screen shot of the desktop with an app or document opened in windowed mode, then paste the screen shot in paint, rotate it 180 degress, and then save it.
2 - Set that upside down screen shot as the wallpaper.
3 - Follow all of the "mouse hijinks" prank.
4 - Hide all desktop icons by right-clicking on the desktop, hovering over "View," then unchecking "Show desktop icons."
5 - Hide the taskbar by right-clicking on a blank section of the taskbar, then "Properties," then the box next to "Auto-hide the taskbar," and finally, the "Apply" button.
6 - Open a program or document in windowed mode and lay it partially over the window of the program/document that's a part of the screen shot wallpaper.
7 - Finally, follow the "upside-down desktop" prank.

The combination of these steps will have your victim so messed up that even the most seasoned Windows user would probably think they were hit with some sort of malware or script. Seriously. But it doesn't have to end here! If you can squeeze in the Dvorak prank along with some of the others to come, you'll soon be dishing out a massive amount of pain for your own twisted amusement! Mwah ha ha...

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6 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

Taking a break from the complexity of the ultimate desktop prank, this is an ultra-simple prank that's good for a few laughs. Since more than one mouse can be used on a system, all you do is plug in a USB dongle from a wireless mouse into an available USB port, then randomly mess with your victim by moving the wireless mouse around whenever you want. Mess with them while they're typing by moving the pointer somewhere else on the screen and clicking, or just randomly jerk the mouse while they're moving their own mouse around. Simple, but effective!

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7 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

Based on another age-old prank, here, you basically create a shortcut on the desktop that looks like the Internet Explorer icon, but when double-clicked, triggers a shutdown mechanism with a message that says whatever you want it to say. Here's how you do it:

1 - Right-click on the desktop, hover over "New," then click "Shortcut."
2 - When the window pops up, paste all of the following into the box:

shutdown -s -t 2000 -c "10 unsuccessful logins have been detected. All information across all hard drives will now be completely deleted unless you click the cancel button below."

3 - Click the "Next" button.
4 - Enter "Internet Explorer" (without quotes) as the name for your shortcut, then click the "Finish" button.
5 - Right-click on your new shortcut, then click "Properties."
6 - Click the "Change Icon..." button.
7 - If you get a pop-up that says your file contains no icons, click the "OK" button. If you don't get that popup, proceed to the next step.
8 - When the list of icons pops up, scroll through them until you see the Internet Explorer icon (reference the picture above), then double-click it when you find it.
9 - Click the "Apply" button, then the "OK" button.

You've now created a shutdown shortcut that's sure to scare the pants off of your victim! You can type whatever you want your message to display, but the unsuccessful logins sounded good to me -- especially the "cancel button" part, since there is no cancel button! Now, if you want to abort the shutdown sequence for them prior to it occurring, then follow these simple steps:

1 - Click the Start button
2 - In the search box, type the following and then hit enter:

shutdown -a

Voila. Now the shutdown has been aborted and you can delete your shortcut no harm, no foul. Alternately, you could create a shutdown abort shortcut that you can double-click, too! Simply follow steps 1-4 from above, except name it something like "abort." Or, if you wanted to go the complete opposite direction (see: malicious and cruel), create the shutdown shortcut and then add it to the startup folder, like so:

1 - Click the Start button
2 - Click "All Programs"
3 - Scroll down to "Startup," right-click it, then select "Open."
4 - Click and drag the shutdown shortcut you created into the Startup folder.

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8 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

Yet another simple but great prank that yields excellent results from the right people is making them think their monitor was cracked while they were away. Here's what you do:

1 - Find and download a realistic-looking cracked screen wallpaper, like one of these.
2 - Save and set the image as your background.
3 - Hide all desktop icons by right-clicking on the desktop, hover over "View," then uncheck "Show desktop icons."
4 - Hide the taskbar by right-clicking on a blank section of the taskbar, then "Properties," then the box next to "Auto-hide the taskbar," and finally, the "Apply" button.
5 - Unplug the mouse and keyboard from the system so they can't interact with the computer.

Now you're all set! For added effect, do something like this guy did and eat an apple down to the core, rub some of it on the monitor's screen, then leave it on the desk somewhere in front of the monitor. This will give the appearance that the monitor's screen was cracked by an apple core that was thrown across the room.

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9 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

This prank and the one that follows both make use of harmless lightweight applications that aren't from Microsoft, so they may not work for you if you work for a company with a strict policy. With that said, the first app is Start Killer and it hides the Start button while leaving the rest of the taskbar intact. This app is GREAT for combining with the "ultimate desktop prank!" Here's what you do:

1 - Download Start Killer straight from the developer's page.
2 - Install the app and run it.

That's it! When you run it, you will notice the Start button disappear. Down in your task tray, you will notice the app's icon (it's a knife). From it, you can exit the app or change settings, like hiding the icon from the task tray or having it start on system start-up. Now, even though the Start button is gone, the Start menu will still work when the Windows key is pressed. So if you want to be really thorough about it, you can also disable Windows hot keys via the registry. Here's how:
 
1 - Click the Start button.
2 - Type "regedit" (without quotes) in the search box and hit Enter.
3 - If you get a UAC pop-up, just click "Continue."
4 - In the left-hand side, navigate to the following tree:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer

5 - In the right-hand side, right-click within the large white area, hover over "New," then click "DWORD (32-bit) Value."
6 - Type "NoWinKeys" (without quotes) and hit Enter.
7 - Double-click on NoWinKeys, then type 1 into the box labeled "Value Data" and click "OK."

Bye-bye Start button and Start menu (though it may require a restart to take effect). To re-enable Windows hot keys, simply delete the registry key you created or give it a value of 0 instead of 1.
 

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10 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

Last but not least on my comprehensive list of pranks is an application that simulates a Windows Vista upgrade (albeit a fast one) which ultimately dumps the user to an OS X desktop just before letting them know they were pranked. Here are the deets:

1 - Download Vista Upgrade Prank straight from the developer's page.
2 - Open the zip file and extract vista.exe to the Startup folder like so:
3 - Click the Start button
4 - Click "All Programs"
5 - Scroll down to "Startup," right-click it, then select "Open."
6 - Click and drag vista.exe into the Startup folder.

You can couple this app with the shutdown shortcut, or maybe set it up for the next day they come in and boot up. There are plenty of options! And now, since you've made it this far, onward to a couple of bonus pranks!

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11 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

Bonus 1: Perhaps the oldest trick in the book is changing someone's home page, but there's one recent page in particular that seemed to get a lot of people's attention: Google's barrel roll. Put simply, set your victim's home page to this URL and watch their expression the next time they open a new search window! Alternately, you could create shortcuts to this URL and place them in the Startup folder. Mean, huh? :)

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12 of 12 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

Bonus 2: As we all know, ThinkGeek makes some pretty awesome gadgets. Well, as it happens, they make one nifty prank gadget that's sure to frustrate anyone you choose to make your victim. It forces random keystrokes, sporadic mouse movements, and toggles the caps lock key at random times. You can read more about it here, but being the owner of one, I can vouch for the side-splitting laughter it induces!  

[Related Gallery: 20 of the coolest gadgets and must-haves for your office!]

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