Super UserWhat's the weirdest thing you've ever seen a non-techie do to a computing device?
[+70] [81] googletorp
[2009-07-16 11:41:26]
[ fun humor ]

I thought it would be fun to bring out the stories on what people have done throughout the ages with computers due to their sometimes, to put it politely, less than perfect grasp of technology.

I'll start out with a little story from my high-school days. After graduation, a classmate of mine, who took IT and subsequently scored an A in the subject, was sent an e-mail by a friend.

She replied to his mail:

"I'm sorry, but I can't reply your mail, since I don't have your email address."

Till this day I still can't understand why she gave such a weird reply as she was a bright girl although not a techie.

Now, let's hear those other battle stories from the real world...

(3) there are many aspects of intelligence; so there are for idiocy as well. - icelava
(3) Referring to someone as "a technical-impaired" rather than "a technically-impaired person" is pretty derogatory IMHO! - John Topley
(2) Yeah, what an awful title. - barfoon
(2) I altered the title slightly, to not put any one down for being stupid ect. - googletorp
I changed the title a lot. "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." - GeneQ
(11) Stupid people are job security for a lot of us - Larry
(1) Topics like this reminds me that we're all a weird minority to the outside world. - Mike
(1) Omg folks are getting upset because of technical-impaired....gimme a break... - NoCanDo
90% of the people I walk up to help claim themselves to be technically impaired..... - squillman
(4) When somebody gives me their email address, and I email them to send my contact info, I often add to the email: "If you don't receive this, please contact me immediately!" - user14068
[+171] [2009-07-16 12:29:35] hmemcpy

I hate it when people have a picture of their kids as a wallpaper stretched to an incorrect aspect ratio. I just want to scream "Can't you see your kids are all distorted?! Why doesn't this bother you?!"

(70) I see that sometimes when people are watching their television... I just can't stand it... Even worse once: after I changed the aspect ratio so it was good, she complained and wanted it back they way she was used to it... Eeuwch... I just don't get it... - fretje
(45) Also when they have their monitor set to the lowest possible resolution (Or worse a incorrect ratio resolution) because "it makes the words bigger". - Simon P Stevens
(13) I just hate incorrect aspect ratio. When people tell me that they enjoy watching high quality wide screen plasma TV with a natural resolution of 1024*768, I want to scream at them. Well - maybe I should control my anger management issues... - Noam Gal
+1 Evil! Even worse, they do that in stores quite frequently. People, you want to sell these TVs! - balpha
(1) incorrect aspect ratio drives me crazy! - John
(28) What are you talking about? Her kids really are shaped like that! - GalacticCowboy
(2) @fretje how dare she have a preference on her own TV! - TM
(8) My requirement for buying an HDTV is an easily accessible "ratio" button on the remote. I hate it when people watch 4:3 as 16:9. - Chris Thompson
(2) @Simon: How dare they want to make their computer easier to use! - John Fouhy
(1) @Chris: Maybe you don't mind the extra black bars on the sides of the screen for, ah, every channel on cable, but I do. But on computers that actually do it properly, it doesn't matter. - Ernie Dunbar
My mother always watches TV on the analog signal (where the don't broadcast in widescreen). I always switch to our digital satellite where it's widescreen and much better quality... she can't see it though. - DisgruntledGoat
+1 This sounds so familiar! - Dimitri C.
This deserves its own gold badge. - squillman
What alternatives are there for muggles? Cropping the image using MS Paint? Having part of the image repeat? - Andrew Grimm
haha..I am the same! - debug
My grandfather bought a cheapo wide-screen TV at Meijer and the thing seriously has no aspect ratio control - it permanently displays every signal at 16:9! I checked through the manual and every button and menu on the thing and it just doesn't exist. - Brian
My parents watch TV like this all the time. They're not happy when they're watching and I come down and fix the aspect ratio. Yes, the picture is smaller, but it looks much nicer! @Andrew Why not just set the image to be centred in the screen or to scale without stretching? You might get some black bars, but it looks nicer. - Michael Mior
[+134] [2009-07-16 13:14:27] Simon Hartcher

I hate it that just because I'm a computer person, that everyone thinks that I should know everything about every piece of software available.

"I thought you were good with computers?"

(14) "and you certainly are not" - icelava
Haha, that's why you've gotta keep a low profile regarding that. If people ask if you're good with computers, you say no. Saying yes only sets you up for this, whilst making you sound narcissistic. But yeah, I feel you :( - Jorge Israel Peña
(1) Heh its hard when you're a software developer. All they need to do is ask where you work... :( - Simon Hartcher
(2) Thats why I always tell them I am a pilot.. or a street sweeper.. Its easier that way :) - Arcturus
My family know I only write software. If I screw up my system I can recover from it. If I screw up my dad's system I'll never hear the end of it. Although, these days my dad is actually pretty good at figuring things out on his own. - Colin Mackay
(2) For me it's really only the thing that everyone seems to think there's this magical connection between me and computers, so it's something akin to "XYZ doesn't work - do you know what's wrong?" and I'm like "no, how would I know, you need to give me something to work with" but of course that never happens. - kastermester
(16) "Why doesn't this paragraph line up with that one in Microsoft Word?" I don't bloody know! - Simon Hartcher
(3) "Hey, you're a computer guy! Can you fix my printer?" - musicfreak
Even worse. "You're a software developer, what's your opinion of a well priced, fully featured laptop?" - Matthew Lock
Not everyone have... The knack... - LiraNuna
(2) Worse. Phone conversation: "I can't do Y in program X." "Sorry, I never used X and don't have it on my computer." "I thought you were good..." - dbkk101
(9) It's then that you send them this link - humble coffee
At this point I just tell people that ask me to fix there computer that because it didn't have a 6 figure price tag I can't fix it. - mrdenny
Well I guess you'll just have to learn more about computers dear newbie. :P - Andrei Rinea
(1) See also - WishCow
[+133] [2009-07-16 11:47:57] fretje

I hate it when I see someone double-clicking on things that only need one click... happens all the time...

(6) it's not just technically impaired that do it... as it's generally the default action it's become hard-wired into most computer users brains - geocoin
(13) And may indicate a design flaw. How many times do you click on a hyperlink? 1, How many on a desktop icon? 2. If the it looks like an icon it will be double cliked, if it looks like a link it will be clicked once. ( and right clicked if the user is not sure what to do with it ) - Oscar Reyes
Yes, I think I actually have a physical response to seeing that - Mike Sickler
(33) Why is this the user's fault? The computer is the one being inconsistent. - GorillaSandwich
(1) This is not consistent amongs windowing systems - windows, mac, kde, gnome. Heck, you can even customise it. I don't understand what the fuss is about. - Robert Munteanu
(3) I am not talking about general OS things. I am talking about users double-clicking on things in custom software they are using every day for a long time already, and still double-clicking... - fretje
+1 lolz I see it a lot too. - chakrit
I for one find this rather amusing. :) - musicfreak
(1) This is a common problem with HTML forms. People double click the submit button and it posts to the server twice. Why don't browser makes stop that behaviour? - Matthew Lock
There's a brilliant article by SO's very own Jeff Atwood: - Redandwhite
+1 to make the answer's score an even hundred - Lord Torgamus
[+76] [2009-07-16 12:22:43] raspi

Customer: Copy something in computer A with mouse, plug it in to computer B. "Why it doesn't Paste??? Is my mouse memory broken??? Fix it!!"

Me: ...

(107) Hmm... making a mouse double as a thumb drive specifically for holding the clipboard contents is an intriguing idea, though. - Joel Coehoorn
are there any mouse+thumbdrive combo's out there? think i have a new project :) - geocoin
(24) Quick! Patent it! - Blixt
(3) It'd be a toy project at most. How often do you really carry a mouse around? Still... intriguing. - Joel Coehoorn
Every mouse could have a number that can be set like in a combination lock (but longer), and special software would sync the clipboard of computers attached to mouses with the same number. You could use your social security number for this perhaps. - flybywire
I must say, the concept itself is not flawed. It's not a stupid thing to expect if you have no idea how the clipboard and memory works. I think I'd still rather set up a direct connection or use a stick because walking around with a mouse in my pocket might be embarrassing. - Bernhard Hofmann
If there is software involved, you can as well use only software. Like Ditto for example. On the other hand that won't really work for the intended audience. - mxp
@Joel: well what if it's a mouse for your laptop? You carry it around with your laptop, and it will be cool to be able to copy little things from your laptop and plug it in to another laptop or desktop. - kkaploon
(8) In a fit of drunken inventiveness I once decided my phone should function as a bluetooth mouse and portable ID/storage. So I could sit down at any computer and it would detect my phone so it new who I was and log me in using the data on my phone rather then the internal harddrive. I gave up before I was sober... but I still think it's a good idea. - beggs
(3) The Wii Remote has memory for storing a Mii character and as far as I know some high end gaming mice have storage for mouse configuration. So the concept already exist somewhat. - Grumbel
(1) Actually, Microsoft has a mouse like this (not copy and paste, just memory). It is a wireless model with a flash drive in the receiver. Again, questionable use, but still. - Mike Cooper
there is synergy for this! - Sujoy
Me: it isn't the mouse that keeps it in memory. You can also copy and paste using the keyboard. Customer: Already tried that. Didn't work. - Andrew Grimm
[+66] [2009-07-16 20:08:00] John Topley

People who have a nice big TFT screen and then proceed to run it at less than the native resolution i.e. 800 x 600.

(2) My dad did that - bought a huge (for the time) 21" screen because the salesman convinced him he needed it for his photography, then proceeded to run it at 800x600 because it made the letters bigger. - Paul Tomblin
Although I set my screen to less-than-optimal resolution, it was because the letters and buttons are all too small. I have it set at the correct aspect ratio though :) - chakrit
(7) To be honest -- we have a number of staff who do that because they have poor eyesight. LCD's tend to have high native resolutions (18" @ 1280x1024) that make then hard to use for those with poor vision. My worst case of running a lower res was running a 22" square LCD @ 800x600 for a legally blind staff member. - SirStan
(7) It's a compromise, and there is no right answer. Let's not get too condescending about people who resolve tradeoffs differently than we do, for whatever reason. - David Thornley
@charkrit, this is crazy, all letters are fuzzy, how can you look at it at all? - vava
(8) Just to point out that you could keep the native resolution and scale the text up. Assuming Windows XP, through Control Panel > Display > Appearance. You can fine tune size of individual GUI elements if you hit "Advanced". There are also display themes with extra large text, but you need to switch from XP display style to Classic display style to be able to use them. If you go to Display > Settings > Advanced you can increase the base DPI instead, but I'm not sure what the practical difference is. - e100
Even small LCD displays are often run at low rez for no reason. Whenever I visit people I check their display rez. It always seems to be low, don't know why. - DigitalRoss
(2) There are a number of broken applications that have problems with non-default DPI settings. - Alexandre Jasmin
While I'm sure there are people who do this out of ignorance or stupidity, I'm equally sure that the vast majority of people who do this simply have less-than-perfect eyesight. Yes, the OS might have assistive technologies for enlarging portions of the screen or displaying text in a larger font, but those tend to lead to other problems (e.g. programs that enlarge the text but not the window it's in). Setting the display resolution lower is a nice global setting that everything will obey. - Martha
(1) @Alexandre Luckily this problem was fixed in Vista and above, with a new method of handling DPI changes. "Broken" programs simply get scaled up completely (like how they would be if you changed the resolution of the entire monitor), while correctly coded programs scale up their fonts. Gives you the best of both worlds. - davr
[+60] [2009-07-16 11:43:08] Jonathan Sampson

I came home from school when I was younger (many moons ago) to find that my cd-drive wouldn't open. After forcefully pulling it open, I discovered a 3.5 floppy disk jammed inside...Mom isn't allowed to use my computer anymore.

(6) I once forcefully pulled my entire tray right out my cd-drive. Luckily I was able to get it back in. That was an "oh, crap" moment. - Joseph
(9) I had the exact opposite problem. My mother once put a CD in a 5" 1/4 drive. - spectre256
@spectre What I would give to have been a fly on the wall when our mothers sat down to use the computers :) - Jonathan Sampson
Consider yourself lucky. Years ago I came back to find Windows wouldn't start. Apparently the windows folder was moved to another folder... Mom isn't allowed to use my computer anymore. - Manos Dilaverakis
@Joseph: Done that more than once, did it with my first DVD burner that cost me almost $300... Luckily like yours, it was fixable. - Joshua Nurczyk
(12) @spectre256 : WTF?! When did CDs and 5"1/4 drives overlapped in time axis? - Andrei Rinea
(1) @Andrei: (a) Music CDs have been around a long time - most people owned their first CD player long before they had a computer in their home. (b) Not everyone lives on the bleeding edge. Some people live on the wheezing edge, instead. (We're finally replacing Mother's old Windows 2000 Thinkpad. Near as we can tell, that laptop has been in use since 1997.) - Martha
(1) LOL you're mom has humour. I wouldn't be so hard on her. Or buy her some iPad or such simple device (remind not to wash in the dish washer though). - Wernight
[+54] [2009-09-10 23:47:26] TomB

Doing phone support for a clinical user.

Me "ok..right click on the icon labeled 'My Computer'."

User "OK"

a minute or two go by while asking other questions.

Me "I want you to right click again on your 'My Computer' icon."

User "I don't have a 'My Computer' icon anymore."

Me ?????

I discover the guy has Pc Anywhere on the machine. I connect to his PC and look at the desktop. Sure enough, no 'My Computer' icon. But there is an icon labeled 'Click'.

Yep...I had told him to write 'Click' on his 'My Computer' icon.

I put that down on my annual review as one of my proudest moments of the year.

This is a great story. I liked this one. - Troggy
(3) I thought this was a joke but you can actually rename the My Computer icon on Windows XP. - Alexandre Jasmin
(2) For the homage of this, now I renamed my "My Computer" icon to "Click". - petersohn
[+49] [2009-07-16 12:34:36] icelava

When my mother moves the mouse to the utter edge of the mouse pad, and the mouse pointer is not at the edge of the desktop screen, she panics, totally at a loss how to make the pointer move further.

(17) i think most moms are like this... it's the default setting - geocoin
(1) @p5ycho_p3nguin: I was going to post that! - mmyers
Get her a graphic tablet, on those things you can have a mouse with absolute positioning where the edge of the pad really is the edge of the screen. - Grumbel
@p5ycho_p3nguin great comic! however what's with all the zeros? - Redandwhite
[+48] [2009-07-16 12:42:25] Simon P Stevens

My mother in law once complained that she had put a CD in the drive on her laptop and when she came to take it out there was nothing there. She was convinced that the laptop had swallowed her CD.

I was certain she had just taken it out already and forgotten about it so put it down to old age memory, but agreed to take a look anyway to keep her happy.

I found the CD rammed between the edge of the drive and the laptop's case. She'd gone to insert it, missed the drive totally and forced the plastic trim aside.

(12) That's incredible... - Cristián Romo
(3) Wow. Just wow... - çağdaş
And probably destroyed the disk in the process... - GalacticCowboy
(4) Actually last week one of my colleagues had the same problem in their HP laptop and the cd was actually found on top of the drivecasing. They insisted they inserted in regularly. I'm not sure what happened. - Pacifika
(7) It's crap product design, hiding the cd as an unmarked slot in the case. I blame apple! - Martin Beckett
(1) I've seen this happen in cars too. Someone (ah-hemm) is driving at night, with their eyes on the road, with one hand fumbling through some CDs, and then inserting it into the slot just above or below the actual CD player. This is realized when the CD doesn't start playing after several seconds. - Bratch
(3) I've heard of a computer having many CDs inside it as a result of this. - AaronLS
I had someone at work do this on a desktop PC. He claimed he thought it was like the CD player on his Megane (car). Took me an age to pull all the cables and drives out so I could fish it out - Tim Alexander
My boss did this too, exactly as described above. I still laugh about this once in a while because his DVD is still stuck in the Dell Inspiron casing (we couldnt get it out). - Martin
Slot-load CD drives are just evil, plain and simple! - Brian Knoblauch
[+39] [2009-08-05 08:05:23] Artur Carvalho

I've been asked if a computer virus could infect humans.

(15) I actually responded to a 911 call where a lady thought she had been infected by one. We actually took her to the hospital for this!!! Needless to say she waited in the waiting room for hours - Larry
HAHAHAHA! I thought those symptoms were rare... - Artur Carvalho
(20) Nah, dude, it happened to me. I kept getting popup ads and pharmaceutical spam floating across my field of vision. Hurt like crap to dig that junk out of my registry. - GorillaSandwich
(3) We've all read Snowcrash, right? - Ronald Pottol
One of my best friends was actually afraid of this. - Andrei Rinea
(4) I think this will become possible in the future. - StackedCrooked
Electro-Gonhorrhea: The Noisy Killer. - Kevin Panko
(1) I've been asked if dust on floppy disks causes computer viruses. - Michael Mior
As a variation o this, I've seen a man convinced that human viruses can infect computers! - AndrejaKo
[+35] [2009-07-16 12:10:36] Gerrit Wessels

A few years ago I read a forum post where a guy didn't quite grasp the principle of a liquid / water cooled PC.

I still can't believe it, but apparently he made his casing water-proof (no leaks), after which he proceeded to fill the entire case with H2O.

He was completely baffled when his PC made it's final SHRIEK when he turned the power on...

Wish I could find the link. Maybe someone also read this?

(2) Ouch. (15 char) - person-b
seems like he did not attend science classes on electricity... - icelava
No way! - Dennis Williamson
(9) I also read it. However, I suspect that it was a joke. - Javier Badia
(1) it's been done (semi)successfully with oil... i think on Toms hardware - geocoin
(14) - Brad Gilbert
@reyjavikvi All I have to say is "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein - Daniel Huckstep
[+34] [2009-08-03 13:54:32] wazoox

In 1990, a secretary I knew used a Mac II for her word processing chores. The Mac II chassis has two floppy drives slots, however the left one is rarely used ( if ever, I never saw one in use) and is filled with a blank plate.

mac ii

One day she called the support : "the computer doesn't work: it eats my floppies! they don't appear on the desktop, and they won't eject neither!". What happened? The left floppy drive blank plate had fallen inside the computer case, and she inserted floppies in the non existing drive. When we opened the chassis, there was a pile of 10 or 15 floppies lying inside upon the hard drive.

(17) That's weird/funny, but isn't surprising. I might make that mistake if I didn't build a system myself. - A. Scagnelli
(3) You can feel the spring tension when you insert the floppies. At least the 3,5' ones. So if you're careful you shouldn't actually be able to make the mistake. But then again ... - ldigas
(2) I did make that mistake once, a long time ago (although I realized it a minute or so after it was Too Late). It's an easy mistake to make if you're not paying careful attention. - David Thornley
(3) I got the impression that she'd been using the machine with the blank plate and then when it fell off, she started using the open slot as if magic pixies had come in and installed a second drive without telling her. - Paul Tomblin
[+32] [2009-07-16 11:44:52] balpha

Someone I know spilt water into a CRT monitor while watering a plant that was standing in a window above the desk. Luckily, the monitor was powered off at that point.

To see if it was still working, she turned it on right away.

(1) Well, obviously she turned it on right away. You need to test things. You must not be a tech person, if you don't know that. - Telemachus
I can just imagine the sound that came out of that. - Brad Gilbert
@Brad Gilbert: Me too... But I didn't hear it, I wasn't there (I would have stopped her). - balpha
um, I would've probably done the same :/ - hasen j
(6) This is horrifyingly common with laptops too (especially during my college help desk days). As in: 1. Spill water/soda on laptop. 2. Dump liquid from laptop, pad down keyboard. Wait all of ten seconds and then... 3. Power on laptop, for the last time. facepalm - Kevin L.
(12) And lived? (at least 15 chars) - Ernie Dunbar
(6) My (ex) girlfriend did that to my TV. Switched it on "to dry it out". - pelms
People sometimes don't think straight when panicking. - Andrew Grimm
I did this. Overwatered a plant and my laptop was on the shelf underneath. Except I turned it off immediately afterward. Didn't help. - endolith
[+27] [2009-07-16 12:12:57] Joe Schmoe

It sounds like urban legend but I've actually seen people hunting for the Any key, as in Press any key to continue

...or worse still, Hit Enter to continue unleashes a considerable keyboard impact

(12) I labeled the space key in an on screen keyboard (HMI app) with "any". Nobody took notice for FIVE years! - EricSchaefer
(4) Same category, but with flashback to the MS-DOS era: "Who is this General Failure character? And why the h*ll is he reading MY disk?!" - peSHIr
(12) He must be related to Colonel Panic? - GalacticCowboy
(1) I've seen someone try to do that, but fortunately he figured that typing A-N-Y was good enough. - MiffTheFox
(2) Even a marine in StarCraft: Brood War had this problem - Dutow
(3) "I see esc, catarl and pig-up. There doesn't seem to be any ANY key... All this computer hacking is thirsty work... I think I'll order a TAB." -- Homer Simpson - DisgruntledGoat
I have a friend who sold PCs in the early days - he had "ANY" stickers made up that he would paste on the space bar. - Mark Ransom
(1) Microsoft has a pressure sensitive keyboard in development, so hitting "Hit Enter to continue" could soon be implemented to actually require extra force... - Grumbel
(1) I know Fry's used to sell stick-on keys with various labeling - bought my mother-in-law a red "Panic" button once, pretty sure they had "Any" as well. - chris
Compaq used to have it on their FAQ for ages: "Where is the ANY key located" - S.Hoekstra
"Microsoft has a pressure sensitive keyboard in development". The Commodore 64 beat them by decades (= Its "Restore" key didn't respond to a normal press - you had to tap it quite sharply. (it produced a non-maskable interrupt) - Hugh Allen
(1) Well, it still can get worse: - Bobby
[+27] [2009-07-21 13:33:22] community_owned

i once built a computer for my sister and labeled each port and cord with matching numbers. i then told her to plug all the other ends into the surge protector i gave her. she calls me up and tells me the computer won't turn on.

turns out, i failed to label the surge protector cord to tell her to plug that into the wall. she plugged it right back into the surge protector.

What's the surge protector? - hasen j
Incredibly hilarious! - alex
(20) I always buy the power strips with perpetual motion machines in them, so this works OK for me. - GorillaSandwich
(1) Sounds like she followed your directions exactly! - Kevin Panko
[+25] [2009-07-21 12:27:14] Paul Tomblin

I try like hell to convince my parents that I don't know anything about Windows, because once you go down that road there is no going back. But worse than having to spend your weekend visits to your parents cleaning out their viruses and spyware and driver screw-ups, is that once people think you know computers, suddenly you're expected to know how to do anything with any technology at all, from their cordless phones to their home theatre setups.

Been there, done that. "Why isn't my iPod working?" How am I supposed to know? I don't even have an iPod! - musicfreak
(6) One of my buddies (the most technical of all my geek friends) who knows windows, but is better with linux, told his Mom he would only help with computer problems if she switched to linux. Now whenever she has a problem, he just ssh's into it and fixes it faster than he'd be even able to drive home. - Dan
@Dan, Windows has a lovely feature called "Remote Assistance" and an even more lovely feature called "Remote Desktop". - iconiK
[+25] [2009-07-16 12:15:20] tjrobinson

Lifting the mouse in the air and pointing it as if it's a remote control.

(46) or saying, "computer!" into it... - icelava
(2) Haha. You should get them an air mouse -… - Simon P Stevens
@icelava i saw that on a movie once after being shown the keyboard he said 'How quaint' :) - geocoin
(7) Star Trek IV the Voyage Home 1986 - Brad Gilbert
(1) thanks Brad I totally forgot what movie it was ;) - geocoin
"Computer, kill Flanders." - MiffTheFox
(4) Conversely: people who press a remote control against the dead center of a TV, push buttons furiously, and then claim the TV is broken. Awesome. - Kevin L.
reminds me of people who point infra red remotes at screens when doing presentations, even though the receiver is on a stand in front of them. (god bless wireless remotes) - kevyn
[+25] [2009-07-16 13:19:22] Axxmasterr

My favorite amusement to send in the direction of the technically challenged is in the form of netsend messages. Typically your most technically challenged user is also going to be one of your most excitable.

So that being said, I really like to use "Press OK to Launch the Nuclear Weapons" as my cage rattler. Since it is a netsend message and allows recipient to only click OK, this one has great comic potential when used on the right audience that is easily unsettled.

I've had many laughs watching as they toil with their choices what to do next.

Paying great homage to Wargames.... The only winning move is not to play.

(37) That's easy to spot as a windup though. I'd send something like "Press OK to delete" and leave them wondering what was deleted. - Sam Hasler
(4) HaHaHa! That is just cruel. I know people who would literally go running down the hall like their skin was on fire if you did that to them. They would also invariably end up at my desk with designs of having me help them sort it out. What can ya say tho... when you're that popular it just goes with the territory. - Axxmasterr
My money goes to "Press OK to format drive". - musicfreak
(1) Wouldn't this answer rather belong to… - Ilari Kajaste
Unfortunately one can't do that for so much longer... Messenger service disappeared with Vista. - Nathaniel
When I was in high school, it used to be possible to broadcast messages using Novell NetWare to the entire school. Needless to say, some students had a little too much fun and it got disabled quickly. - Michael Mior
[+23] [2009-10-23 02:38:59] Juliet

I've heard similar stories, but didn't really believe it until it happened to me...

So, at my first programming job, our in-house tech support handled most calls just fine, but every once in a while a user would report a bug which our support couldn't fix immediately. Tech support was across the building; whenever they needed someone with more knowledge of the software, they'd just shout for a programmer, and usually we could resolve the problem in a few minutes. Users quickly picked up on this: whenever they called tech support, they'd immediately ask for a programmer since we could answer most questions in a heartbeat.

After we released a new version of our software, we got a frantic call stating that our new software completely hosed the computer. Tech support says "tell me what happened, maybe we can fix it", and the client shoots back "you guys are useless, get me one of your programmers".

The conversation which follows is almost surreal:

User: After we upgraded to the latest version of your software, one of our terminals shows a blue screen.

Juliet: Can you tell me exactly what you did?

User: I didn't do anything?!? We upgraded, now we can't even use the computer.

Juliet: So you just installed it, and the computer crashed?

User: Well, no, it started up and worked fine for a few minutes. But now it just shows a blue screen.

Juliet: What did you do before it bluescreened?

User: I told you, NOTHING!? Why did we even upgrade if its---

Juliet: I'm afraid I can't do much about a bluescreen, but it would really help to know what caused it. Does the screen say anything useful. Maybe "null reference exception" or something like that?

User: Ummm... no.

Juliet: Nothing?

User: It has a picture in the corner.

Juliet: A picture?

User: Yeah, like a little computer.

Juliet: [Suddenly it clicks with me, and I know the cause of this "blue screen"] Looks like you minimized the program and you can't find it because your taskbar is set to auto-hide. Just move the mouse to the bottom of the screen to show the task bar, the click on Super Awesome Ninja Program 7.0 to restore it.

User: [Fumbles around for 30 seconds] OH MY GOD, IT WORKED!!

Juliet: Glad to help.

User: Let me ask you one more question: what was that blue screen?

Juliet: Your desktop.

User: HOW DO I GET RID OF IT?!?!?!

Juliet: ...

(5) You're training your users all wrong - this means you'll spend your whole day fending off dumb requests while you fail to get any programming done! - alimack
[+23] [2009-09-02 08:11:08] Matthew Lock

My friend tried to photocopy his laptop screen as he didn't have a printer handy and needed a hard copy of a Word Document.

(3) That's ingenious! The question is... did it work? - Ilari Kajaste
(3) It sure didn't! You just get a blank blurry screen on the copy. - Matthew Lock
(1) That's still awesome. :P - Breakthrough
Nice idea. If it works, it's a neat hack. If it doesn't, what have you lost? Thanks for letting us know it doesn't, though. - David Thornley
(1) I had a similar thing after asking for a "screen shot" of a problem from a user, I received a digital camera photo of the monitor instead which admittedly was enough to diagnose the problem but still caused amusement in the office! - Richard
That's beautiful. Reminds me of Web 0.1 - Doug Harris
[+22] [2009-07-16 11:59:48] Lennart Regebro

In 1989 I worked as a PC admin. Lot's of funny things happened. I guess the stupidest/funniest was when a user argued that although the network cable had been diconnected, she should still be able to access the network as the power cable was still connected.

When she after a while of arguing asked if she could still use the network when the power cable was disconnected I got stumped. She evidently could not grasp that different cables between the computer and the wall had different functions, even though I had explained that one was for power and the other for network several times at this stage.

Another firm and classic favourite is the user who prints a 50 page document ten times, because it "doesn't print". Of course it's printed to another printer. Never fails.

Was she Swedish and blonde? ;) - Blixt
(20) I love it when they argue with you when they ask for your help. - Ernie Dunbar
Omg the "let's try again" print job mayhem... just, omg... how do we fix that anyway? There gotta be a user-friendly solution.. - Oskar Duveborn
Require the user to physically identify themselves to the printer before it begins printing their job? - Kevin Panko
@Kevin - that would also solve the problem of them printing a 50-page document and then leaving it on the printer for 3 hours instead of going to pick it up... assuming that someone will deliver it? - GalacticCowboy
[+22] [2009-07-20 00:34:07] Jeff Leonard

I used to work with a person who performed tech support for the US Customs Service. He told me that about twice a year he would be called on-site to repair a computer and find a bullet hole in the monitor or the chassis.

And no one knew what happened....

(9) Were the clients using Windows ME, by any chance? :) - musicfreak
(2) Nah, it was probably IE6. - Cristián Romo
The worst I've had to deal with is a dented case (fist). The guys at the office with CCW permits were more level-headed. - Loren Pechtel
[+22] [2009-07-20 01:12:09] d03boy

I was visiting relatives and they asked me to set up their Internet (ADSL) for them. I didn't think there would be any problems with that so I spent the better half of the night trying to get it to work. Eventually I had to ask them if they are currently purchasing the service and they finally told me that they weren't; the modem I was setting up was an old one that they must've thought they could use again without paying for the service.

(1) This same thing has happened to me! Got to learn to ask the most obvious questions first. - alex
(10) "No, I'm sorry, I've been deliberately wasting your time." - GorillaSandwich
ha ha that also happened to me a few days ago when fixing a PC of my neighbor - Casey
(17) Nowadays, some people buy laptops and just get Internet service in their apartment, and don't think anything of it. Then their neighbor moves or puts a password on their wireless router, and they have no idea what happened. - David Thornley
(2) @David I like the upside-down-ternet better... especially fraser's reply at the bottom - Tobias Kienzler
[+17] [2009-07-19 00:19:32] GameFreak

I knew somebody who used the voltage switch on the back of the computer to turn it off. shudder... I am still surprised the thing still worked after doing it hundreds of times.

(17) On a related note: On two separate occasions both of my sisters managed to blow up their respective systems by switching them from 220 to 110v (we live in Europe), fully expecting that somehow, magically, that little red switch was what caused their problems.. Needless to say the smell of burnt plastic was horrible. - Tim
(1) My dad did that once by accident. After replacing the PSU that subsequently burnt out in a haze of burning plastic, he's a bit more careful these days. - Colin Mackay
(7) That's how it used to be done back in the day... - d03boy
eh? I used to do that all the time (when it freezes, etc). Nothing bad ever happened as a result of it. - hasen j
(17) I know someone that switched from 220 to 110 to save power... guess what, it didn't. - Martinho Fernandes
(12) Sure it did. I bet his system didn't use any power after he did that. - Kyralessa
[+16] [2009-07-21 15:04:48] Oliver Giesen

A user once called to complain that the software was asking him to insert the third disk and wanted to know how the hell he was supposed to do that.

Turned out the reason why he simply couldn't manage to insert the third disk was because there were already two in the slot... (this was in the days of 5.25" floppies)

To be fair, bad software translation also played a part in this. This actual interface wasn't English so it's a bit hard to explain. Suffice to say that with a bit of imagination the on-screen message could indeed be interpreted to mean "insert three disks"...

(2) Please remove disk 2... :) - GalacticCowboy
[+16] [2009-07-16 12:26:48] Jim C

I had a customer in another state whose equipment included a PC with a monitor. He called that the monitor was not working. I ask him to switch it out with a spare. The new one didn't work either. I had him check the power, cables, and so on. Finally deciding it must be the computer that was bad, and knowing it was beyond his skill to replace it, I got a spare, made travel arrangements, flew to the customer site. Fortunately before swapping computers, I tried the new monitor one more time. It worked fine. In talking to the customer I discovered that he had physically swapped it, but never connected the cable.

(2) lol, and who payed for the trip? - hasen j
(4) Fortunately the system was not in warranty so it was already a billable call. - Jim C
and he had you fly to him because there's no technical person in his city? - hasen j
(1) None who work for us on our systems. The PC was part of a controller for an industrial robot. It was not a standard office type PC. - Jim C
[+15] [2009-07-16 16:51:26] Zifre

I've seen people leave their computer on for days because it completely froze and they're worried that pulling the plug might cause it to lose data (as if it might magically recover sometime soon).

(9) Computers can come out of comas just like people, right? RIGHT??? - tj111
(1) Leave it for a few seconds to see if it's just momentarily frozen. Then leave it for a few minutes more, just to be sure. Then wait some more. It's sort of a reinforcing cycle for people who don't know the economics of sunk costs. Of course, it beats people who just turn the computer off if it does something odd and then ask what went wrong. - David Thornley
(1) I've seen a "frozen" PC respond to a command after MANY minutes. (I had tried something and then gotten called away--once going back past it it was obviously frozen but I was doing other things, but later it had responded. I didn't actually sit there for minutes.) Final diagnosis: A memory leak involving data locked into memory. Virtually all RAM was locked up this way, it couldn't do anything without swapping beyond the level of insanity. - Loren Pechtel
I've got a linux box on my "to-fix" list which regularly freezes for upwards of 10 mins, apparently at random. Always comes back to life though. It's something to do with Flash. - Colin Pickard
[+15] [2009-08-21 08:33:41] Hemant

I received an email couple of days ago in which a girl accidentally emailed me her photographs. My email address is very similar to her fiance leading to the mistake. When I gently told her that you have reached the wrong address, she replied back with:

hi .sir ..there is heartly request frm my side …sir acctuly i was sending my pics to my fiance but it goes to u as ur id is jst similiar to my fiance id sorry fr that ..and plz sir forward my pics back to me

WHAT? Forward back to her? As if forwarding the email back to her will remove all her photographs from my email box…Perhaps she thought email is like a physical envelop which can be returned to original sender leaving no trace.

(5) perhaps she had accidentally deleted them, and you had the last remaining copies? - Rich Seller
Maybe she did not know the mail copy is stored in the "sent" box and wanted you to forward it to her so that she can send it to the right person? - Suma
"Give me back my damn pictures!" - musicfreak
(5) But the important questions, how risque were the pictures, and was she good looking? - mrdenny
(2) She was good looking but pictures were not risque at all! "Standing in front of statues" or "Sitting in garden" type of pictures only. :) - Hemant
(2) Have you tried asking certain favours to return them? =)) - Andrei Rinea
(4) There's a hilarious inversion of this idea here: - stib
Pics or it didn't happen! - Kjensen
@Kjensen: I am not going to post pics of a girl without her consent. But to prove that it was a real incident, here is the link to snapshot of my Gmail inbox: - Hemant
I was merely making a pretty common joke. - Kjensen
[+14] [2009-12-03 19:27:48] user14068

My 4 year old daughter just learned to play a game on the Wii. When she needs to select something on the screen, she finds her cursor by waving the Wii remote in circles in front of her until she gets the hand cursor somewhere on the screen, then she homes in on the spot she wants to click on.

Last week, I found her waving around the DVD remote in circles in front of the TV, trying to get the "hand" to appear on the screen so she can select the DVD menu item she wants. I explained to her that only the Wii remote works that way, that the DVD remote only works by clicking the buttons, not by aiming it at the right spot. So she left the room and returned with the Wii remote, and proceeded to try and use that to select the DVD menu item she wanted.

I kept thinking of Scotty talking into the mouse.

I'd +2 this one if I could for the sheer amount of "D'awwwwww..." involved. - Aeo
My 1 year old has often seen my 4 year old pressing the AV button on the TV to use the DVD player. I sometimes find him alone in the room hopefully pressing the AV button when no DVD is playing. - Colin Pickard
Hey, not her fault. The DVD remote should work like the wii remote. It's far more intuitive! And she was right to try the wii mote when you corrected her. From what you write, you didn't explain that the wii mote only worked in the wii context. Go her! - brice
[+13] [2009-07-16 12:34:24] Arcturus

The answers to these questions are really funny:

Its about the weight of your hard drive..

(1) +1 Hard to believe he's asking that question seriously, but it certainly appears that way - Joe Schmoe
(1) McLovin is an obvious troll, but it's still pretty funny. "Thank you for posting on Microsoft Answers Forum." - Telemachus
That's a very nice example of a Joke Question (! And that MSFT Support Engineer just fell for it. - fretje
In fact, there is the same question here as well by now:… Even with useful answers (and frayed moderator nerves :)) - Joey
its hilarious!!! - Hemant
"If you have very large files, you can compress them and then compress the compressed file etc. until the files are down to 1 byte. That should make you laptop lighter than when you bought it! I use this trick all the time so that I can save my entire music collection on a 5-1/4" floppy (yeah, I found a use for them :)". Lol, I am pretty sure he is joking but you never know. xD - DoR
"This is a rare error when the overwriting mechanism of the memory banks lead to an overflow of data because it cannot add on and thus super-stack, increasing the weight significantly. While normal weight/file ratio is approximately 0.02 oz/GB, in rare cases such as these, it can go as high as somewhere around 6 oz/GB. One solution is going to the system32 folder (C:\WINDOWS\system32) and deleting certain unnecessary files, but too much tampering may cause permanent changes to your computer." - Breakthrough
[+13] [2009-11-17 19:19:52] pelms

I've had several people worrying that they'l lose all their desktop icons when their monitor is replaced.

[+12] [2009-07-16 17:30:18] Kelsey

A user reading an older manual that referred to the 'Return' key and not knowing how to continue.

User holding the mouse in the air and trying to move the pointer.

User using the CD/DVD rom tray as a cup holder.

User that pulled off the shift keys because their hands kept resting on it and screwing up their typing by adding captial letters and odd symbols. This person thought the using the caps lock key was the correct way of capitalizing.

User that setup their computer by plugging in their monitor and then the mouse/keyboard into the USB hub on the monitor and expecting to work with no CPU. When asked why they hadn't taken the case/cpu out and set it up, they responsed that they thought that was just a stand to put the monitor on.

(1) I've had my fair share of users pull keys off keyboards because they were tired of accidentally hitting that key. THEN, they complain because some program uses the key and they have a hard time pressing it since it's not there anymore. Ugh. - Brian Knoblauch
(2) CD tray as a cup holder?! wow some people are .. sigh - hasen j
(1) ever seen the show "Monk"? - RCIX
(1) As for mouse in the air: There is no immediate sign that a mouse has to be moved on the surface. Has been documented by at least Donald Norman, I think that this is a common mistake for people who never have seen a mouse (although they get increasingly rare). As for caps lock for capitalizing: I've seen people doing this all the time. Typing with exactly two fingers and always using caps for capitalizing. They tend to become quiet adept at doing this, though :) - Joey
When I first used a computer when I was 8 (late bloomer), I always used he Caps Lock key. - alex
(7) I've had a fancy keyboard with power and sleep keys. Pulled them out after 3 days of using it. Accidentally hitting that power button can be... painful :] - Slink84
(1) Help, My computers cup holder won't come out anymore! - Tester101
(1) I've pulled the caps lock key out of every keyboard I've had, aside from Microsoft ones with IntelliType software that lets you disable caps lock on windows. Never missed it. Not once. - Colin Pickard
Obviously, the monitor is the computer; not sure what all the rest of that junk is for. - GalacticCowboy
[+11] [2009-08-05 07:11:16] Bernhard Hofmann

Not so much an issue these days, but people who would have their CRTs flickering madly at 60Hz when it was designed and capable of 70+. One person actually told me she got headaches. After a quick settings change, things got much better.

(3) This actually isn't a joke, my old CRT (21" Sony) running at 59Mhz would 'get in sync' with the flurescent tubes in the over head lighting and I really did get headaches. I would change it back to 72Mhz or 75Mhz and solve the problem!! (see here for way too much info - Matt 'Trouble' Esse
(you still get a +1 from me though!) - Matt 'Trouble' Esse
[+11] [2009-09-02 09:56:37] Sorskoot

I had a call from a customer a couple of years ago, telling me her computer wasn't working. At first it seemed she didn't turn it on, but flipping the switch didn't turn it on. I asked her to look behind her computer to check if the power cable was unplugged. After a few seconds she told me she couldn't see because it was to dark under her desk. So, I asked her if she had a desklight she could turn on and take below her desk. She told me that wasn't an option. The lights were down because of a power failure…

(4) That's one I heard several times from the usual "best of customer service", but still funny. - Gnoupi
(1) I heard this one years ago. - alex
(1) Fortunately, people keep getting away from the old-fashioned phones that get their power from the phone lines, so it's increasingly unlikely that she can call during a power failure. (I bought an old-fashioned phone from Radio Shack recently, so at least I can phone in a power outage.) - David Thornley
(2) unfortunately, cell phones are more and more popular and work just fine in a power outage (so long as the cell tower itself doesn't lose power too) - quack quixote
[+9] [2009-08-26 16:50:48] CoffeeBean

I was dispatched to set up a wireless router for a home user. Turns out, the customer did not have an ISP, but bought his "Internet Ready" laptop and a wireless router and thought I was the "challenged one" when I asked him about his ISP and where his modem was.

Same thing has happened to me - I spent ages double checking phone lines etc, then asked the dumb questions "Have you guys got an ISP" to which they replied "Yeah, at our old house 20kms away". - alex
(3) Well, it was marketed as "Internet Ready". That really does sound like it's ready to go to the internet without any extra hassle, and I'm pretty sure the salesperson didn't go to any extra lengths pointing out that they still need a wireless router and an ISP-contract. - Ilari Kajaste
(9) "Internet Ready" is such a stupid phrase. I mean, you'd be hard-pressed to find any computer or laptop that isn't Internet Ready. - DisgruntledGoat
[+9] [2009-08-05 11:37:02] P.Bjorklund

Hands down switching the "voltage" switch on the back of the power supply on a computer a few years ago when the computer was running.

It actually explodes, pretty awesome. Why she decided to take a screwdriver and flick the switch I will never understand.

Depending on what you mean by "voltage" switch and "a few years ago". A few years ago that was the usual way of turning your computer off. Physical switch. - ldigas
(2) The small red switch at the back of the psu that you need a screwdriver to switch that somehow regulates what kind of power it expects to get or something. And it was probably 4-5 years ago. - P.Bjorklund
So... there's this weird red switch at the back of my computer... Hey, maybe it's some kind of turbo that'll make it run faster! Yeah! - Ilari Kajaste
@Ilari Kajaste: I used to have a computer with a turbo button! :P I was young though, and it's gone now - so I'll never know what it did... - Breakthrough
@Breakthrough...And I thought I was young.. - prestomation
[+9] [2009-07-16 16:40:23] Paul Nathan

I was working as IT help once in a campus, one sunday morning at about 8. No one's there. A guy comes in and sits down. He stares at his computer for a while, and then beckons me over.

"The screen is black"

I stare at it thoughtfully for a moment, noticing the lack of a light on the monitor, and reach over and turn the switch on. I say, "Sir, you have to turn it on", and then walk over to my desk and sit down.

(1) I had one of those last week =S - Qwerty
[+8] [2009-08-05 06:01:17] Larry

We teach computer classes to new employees. Teaching them how to use our software for charting patients etc. One of the nurses, when she got to the edge of the mouse pad and still needed to move the pointer further would hold the mouse in place and move the mouse pad which would of course move the pointer back the other way, she would then move the mouse to the edge of the pad again and start the whole process over.

(1) You'll be surprised how often people do that. - alex
(5) She needed to rotate the mouse pad around the mouse, not slide it ;) - DisgruntledGoat
(1) That's what she was doing wrong. Brilliant! I cannot wait until someone does that again. - Larry
I'm having trouble teaching my kid the right way to do this. On the other hand, he's only five. - Kyralessa
[+7] [2009-07-16 15:48:43] user2367

My dad called me down because the mouse wasn't working. I tabbed through the Windows dialogs for 10 minutes, then the following exchange happened:

Dad: "I sprayed Lysol on the mouse. Could that have broken it?"
Me: "Why did you do that?"
Dad: "Well, you've all been sick, and I didn't want your germs!"

(3) I've sprayed lysol on a mouse and a keyboard before, with no ill effects. Did he douse it? - Nathan DeWitt
(1) I don't know, but knowing my father it wouldn't surprise me. Once it dried out it worked again. - user2367
I don't really find hygiene "weird"... - Breakthrough
[+7] [2009-07-16 15:57:34] Oscar Reyes

For some reason I don't quite remember I was trying to add a hard drive to a PC at home.

I was so despaired about the "shutdown everything/count to 5/unplug/start/" cycle that I decided to skip step 1: "shutdown" ( why not? ) .

The next thing I saw was a small smoke fog, coming from behind the pc.

Since then, the closest I get to hardware is the keyboard. :)

(2) A brave admission. - GorillaSandwich
(22) Computers actually run on smoke. Your problem was you let the smoke out. - Mark Ransom
(1) They're like gas engines! Once they warm up, the smoke will fade. - Breakthrough
Reminds me of those people who gas up their car without turning it off. - Kyralessa
[+7] [2009-08-20 16:32:52] Elkidogz

I had a user who thought that the mouse had to remain on the mouse pad for it to work properly. He called with the comment that his mouse was about to fall off the mouse pad and that I needed to get over to his cube right quick. Well, when I lifted the mouse up off the pad, he screamed "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!" almost as if he were in pain.

after a LONG description of how the mouse works, (I took it apart actually) and explaining to him that the pad had little to do with the working of the mouse, except for the ball to get clean traction he started to get the picture.

Same guy hit the power strip on his desk, turning off his computer and cube desk lamp. Called me about it, I called it a PEBKAC (do you know that one?)

Doh! I guess I did an ID-10t - Elkidogz
You can edit your post (or anyone else's with sufficient rep) to fix the spelling. - Barry Brown
I always knew of it as POEBKAC - Reuben Mallaby
(1) Many years ago, at a company that's long gone, I discovered that, if I just casually stretched my legs, there was at least a 50% chance I'd kick my plug out of the outlet. The sysadmin was using it as a print server at the time, so it affected more than just me. I wound up using a much older computer to sit in front of the plug. - David Thornley
(2) Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. - tsilb
I also like to use "that is a H2IK issue" which is "Hell if I know". - Dan
[+7] [2009-09-11 17:07:07] moodforaday

Not a personal story, but something I found that's been in my .sig for a long time now:

Well, I can get the "a". But how do I put the circle around it?

(1) +1 Took me a while to work this one out, I'm obviously having trouble thinking down to the non-techie level! - GAThrawn
[+6] [2009-12-03 19:37:26] Thomas

Ever used a Apple remote in a classroom full of apple laptops? They will usually not have disabled the reception of remote controls and so you can have some fun e.g. putting up their volume or starting Front Row. Even techies start to wonder what happened to their computer!

Done this!!! :) - alex
(1) My first thought when the volume went to max wouldn't be that a guy to the other side of the room used a remote. - iconiK
+1 - I should try this sometime. >;3 - MiffTheFox
[+6] [2009-10-23 02:57:17] Juliet

Here's a story my dad tells me -- I think I've heard it once before, a long time ago, but my dad insists it really did happen to him.

So, my dad is preparing for to demo his company's latest software. He sets up a demo box, connects it to the company's network, loads it up with the latest and greatest software. A user is scheduled to stop by and demo the software later that day.

This new user, my dad assures me, was estimated to be at least 7000 years old. Gnarled hands, white receded hairline, blotchy skin that barely adheres to the rest the man's flesh -- a living personification of the phrase "old geezer". So my dad sits the old geezer in front of the machine and instructs him to start the program and give it a test run.

Old geezer is flabberghasted, but seems to have a vague idea of what to do. He grabs out to the mouse, turns it upside down, and uses his fingers to move the little ball around. My dad corrects his error, says "no, do it like this", and proceeds to show the man how to maneuver the mouse with ball-side down.

So, old geezer grabs the mouse two-handed, and for next 5 minutes move the mouse cursor crazily around the screen for 5 minutes. Wide-eyed, old geezer is clearly enjoying himself, clicking and dragging icons all over the desktop.

He says to my dad, with the biggest grin on his face, "this is really great, did you make all of this??!"

This allegedly happened in 2006.

Outstanding - that gave me a a laugh! - alimack
[+6] [2009-08-05 01:57:07] alex

I went over to help a friend's friend get on the Internet. She had just bought a new laptop, and she had told me "the card doesn't work".

I asked her "ugh, the card?" and she showed me where she had pulled out the plastic piece which sits in the PC Card slot (to keep dust out I guess) and had placed a card that the ISP had given her (just a laminated piece of plastic with login details) on top of the piece of plastic, and then reinserted the whole thing into the laptop.

I pulled it all out, and set her up on the Internet. She then offered me a few measly dollars in return... the amusement of her antics were worth the effort!

[+5] [2009-07-21 13:03:40] DaveK

One time I was trying to walk my mother-in-law through the process of plugging in the USB cable for her printer. She told me that she had indeed plugged it in and that the printer still wouldn't work so I drove over to her house to see what was going on. She had taken the USB cable and jammed it into the serial port where it got stuck on the pins. Since she took her hand away and the cable stayed there she thought it was plugged in.

I had the same exact problem with a friend of mine. - Ludwi
[+5] [2009-09-07 05:34:27] Ronald Pottol

Once upon a time I worked at an anti virus company, and while I was not there long enough to have it happen to me, several of my coworkers swore that people had faxed them floppies when asked to send an infected one in.

The CEO one place I worked ran his 17" monitor at 640x480 so he didn't need to wear glasses at it.

That last one is funny - alex
[+4] [2009-08-05 05:55:56] Larry

One of the doctors (he is the medical director) where I work recently got an email address, he is old school to say the least. He had had email for a few weeks at this point and had sent and replied to some email already. He received an email from one of the cardiologists at a hospital we had transported a patient to, telling him how good of a job our Paramedics had done, and complimented our system as a whole.

He was so excited about the email he printed it, and faxed it to the director.

This same doctor, was told I'll email you such and such, said "Just mail it to me, I'll probably get if faster."

Really meaning he reads his real mail more often than checking his email. But funny just the same.

If I wasn't a geek I probably wouldn't find this that strange. Computer users in the world population are still a very small minority. - ldigas
[+4] [2009-09-28 02:25:13] Good Time Tribe

I've seen help desk tickets for cats using the laptop keyboard as a litter box.

[+4] [2009-09-11 01:35:56] Breakthrough

Well this one was just... bad.

My girlfriend's sister was plugging in her camera via firewire cable into the computer, and needed my help for transferring the files. I ask her first, "Does your computer even have a firewire port?" to which her reply was, "yes". I was then called away for something, so I told her "well, plug it in, and let me know how far you get."

It wasn't too long before I was called back with a "it's not working!". My first instinct was to jump down on my knees and see if she pushed the plug in the entire way.

Oh, she did alright. Right through an empty USB port (as in there was nothing there - a blank hole), bulging out the metal shielding on the case. Yes - she plugged the thing into an empty hole and because the casing held it in, and because it "fit", it was "plugged in".

If that wasn't bad enough, the computer didn't have a damn firewire port to begin with!

At least USB3 will solve the issue with the damn FireWire. - iconiK
[+4] [2010-01-07 02:04:03] Kythos

I have two stories

The first went something like this:

A Mother and her 2 year old daughter came into the store, the child seemingly apprehensive. They put down their computer at the front desk, the dvd drive was ripped out and several front panels were pushed in. Out of curiosity I asked how it happened.

Mother: So would you like to tell the nice man what happened to the computer?

Daughter: Well.. I was playing as a princess and I went to sit on my special throne but it fell right off...

That and my friends sister thought the computer was hungry because it said "Low Disk Space", So she feed it a peanut butter and jelly sandwich through the floppy drive.

I doubt that a 2 year old child can speak such complicated sentences. - mklhmnn
@mklhmnn: You'd be surprised. - person-b
[+4] [2009-09-02 05:44:29] salmonmoose

I've done my time as a tech.

I've also spent half a day trying to work out why a computer wouldn't turn on when I'd used an extension lead to plug it into itself. (The monitor turned on, so CLEARLY the power-cable was ok).

[+4] [2009-09-02 07:40:32] RoyalKnight

A friend of my sister somehow screwed up her computer so that the Internet wasn't working anymore. In a panic, she installed a 1000 hour free trial of AOL, complete with all the promotional software, to add to the several dozen Flash game icons she had on her desktop.

Same user later daisy-chained about ten or more USB extension cords so that her wireless dongle could be duct taped down to a better location on the wall, near the ceiling.

The solution was to have the wireless router not stuffed into a dark hole, buried under five feet worth of books and other junk.

I call B.S. on the ten extension cords - the USB would crap out after a certain length (5m IIRC). My printer stopped working after the third. - Breakthrough
The total cable length only went about halfway across the (small) room, so maybe only three or four meters of actual length. Apparently it never crossed her mind to get a bigger cable instead of several smaller ones that she apparently bought in bulk. In any case, it didn't really matter; I never said that it worked, and it didn't. As mentioned, the solution was to have the router in a nice, clear, open area (the reason why it was buried in the first place is a long and awkward story). I'd take pictures and show you (and my friends), but she's long since moved from her apartment. - RoyalKnight
[+3] [2009-09-02 05:17:25] Ludwi

A boss called me in his office asking for help. While staring at his keyboard he asked "Hey, where is the 'Save' button?"

It turns out the Save button was in the software on his monitor. So I instructed him to click it with his mouse.

Then the problem escalated because he kept on using the middle scroll wheel as the primary button and not the left mouse button.

Then I realized that he's never used a computer before. So I made up excuses to get as far away from him as possible as fast as my feet can carry.

[+3] [2009-09-11 17:32:42] community_owned

we used to have a secretary in our office that (on more than one occasion) would email pictures for me to print out so i could scan them.

[+3] [2009-09-07 05:14:16] alex

Being a Web Developer, I often ask clients with a problem to produce a screenshot if possible. I usually run them through some instructions or give them a link on how to do it.

One time however, we got a screen shot. A real screen shot! It was a large photo (complete with timestamp in the corner) of the LCD monitor showing the site, taken by a digital camera.

[+3] [2010-02-10 06:53:00] Paul D. Waite

One of my flatmates bought a rice cooker, and then told our other flatmate (who was studying for a PhD in Neuroscience at the time) that it was voice-activated.

He tentatively tried saying “Cook rice” to it before realising it was a joke.

[+3] [2009-12-03 22:01:57] SjoerdV

Well, when I bought a brand new iMac, my brother thought it would be awesome to play some old 3" CD in it. Of course, the CD drive of the iMac can't handle those things.

So actually I had an iMac just for a few days and I already had to turn the thing upside down because the CD had dispeared in the drive. Took me a lot of tools and time to finally get that thing out. And luckily, nothing was damaged.

[+3] [2009-09-23 12:42:07] Natrium

A user had a problem with some program.

I asked him to send me a screenshot.

A few minuites later I received an email with screenshot: a scan of a printed version of the error.

[+3] [2009-11-17 19:08:13] user14068

A friend just told me yesterday that a coworker handed him a CD-R that he had just burned and labeled -- on the data side.

[+3] [2009-08-05 13:26:43] prestomation

Conversation with my mother: Her: "My CD won't play" Me: "Mom, There's nothing in the CD drive, where's your CD?" Her: "I put it in the drive" Proceeds to pull a CD out of the 5 1/2 inch floppy drive

This was a while ago...

Well, those cd mechanisms in which you just push the cd in and 5,25' floppy drives can be awfully similar :) Btw, interesting how nobody noticed you've got the wrong floppy drive dimensions. - ldigas
I was.....testing you - prestomation
[+3] [2009-11-18 04:41:20] User1

I used to work at Best Buy in the early 1990's. On more than one occasion, a customer would ask "Do I need to have a color monitor to use these color diskettes?" I guess they thought certain computers weren't allowed to have colors. Worse yet, every computer we sold at the time had a color monitor.

[+3] [2010-05-20 21:48:20] Satanicpuppy

I've got a couple of amusing ones:

Installed this huge linux thin-client setup at a huge law firm (500+ people), and got a call from the firm three days after we'd gone live that EVERY SINGLE machine in the building had crashed and no one could work. Small army of screaming furious lawyers. But when we checked the system remotely, everything seemed normal. They insisted it wasn't so we hopped in our cars and drove half an hour to get there, jumped out of the cars, and ran into the building.

First thing we see is that every single computer is blue screened...But it's a Windows blue screen. Windows 2000, to be exact. I walked up to the closest machine, and wiggled the mouse...And the login screen popped right up. We'd left the screen saver on "random" and it had (eventually) pulled up the "bluescreen" screen saver. The server saved cycles by only rendering it once and serving the same image to every client computer, so every computer got the blue screen.

And not one single person in the entire building had hit a key, or moved the mouse, or tried to reboot.

Worked for a government agency supporting a legacy webapp (this is about 7 years ago). When I got the job, they started complaining instantly about all the flaws in the UI. I went down and sat with the data entry clerks and inadvertently discovered that the users had been trained so poorly that they didn't realize that the application WAS a web app...Had no notion of "minimize" or resizing the window. Didn't know what the back arrow did, just crazy stuff. To get back to an earlier page, they'd close the app, open it back up, and go to the page.

Got a call to fix a mac that had one of those keyboards with the power button on it? Swapped out one computer with two different backup computers because they wouldn't power up, finally picked up the keyboard and a stream of coffee poured out of it...The keyboard power button was shorting out, and keeping the computer from turning on.

[+2] [2010-06-04 09:14:09] mcha

I knew someone who use mouse with his two hands ...

[+2] [2010-08-18 13:55:27] Robert Massa

At the time DVD were getting popular my mom rented one at the box-office for the first time. We always used to rent VHS-tapes.

After watching the movie she asked me to rewind it.

(1) Be kind, rewind! - Kevin Panko
[+2] [2009-12-26 01:22:40] Nick

My mom once called me and asked how she could type a € sign....

(1) I don't get it... - Martha
(3) Well on my old keyboard it is not even printed... so why is this strange...? - Johan
[+2] [2010-04-21 04:18:36] Bakkal
  • Trying to power up a computer by pressing the eject diskette button
  • Renaming the desktop icon of Internet Explorer to the name of the website in an attempt to open the website.

[+2] [2009-09-02 08:51:07] Ilari Kajaste

I was diagnosing a problem where a computer didn't connect to network. I had previously asked over the phone, wheter the network cable was connected (it was), and as I arrived at the site, with a quick glance everything did look connected.

After the first quick diagnostic steps failed, I began to check the wires anyway - maybe a connector was flimsy. But they were ok, the phone line connected to the HPNA box quite firmly, and the wire to phone seemed to continue ok too. Then I realized - of course - they must be connected to wrong slots on the box, the uplink being in the phone port and the phone in the... wait... phone...? These people don't even have a wired phone!

So after tracing the wires behind the desk, I found there was only one wire - the phone line was connected to the ADSL box from the box itself! As I connected the wire to the wall socket and pointed out what had been wrong, they were thankful but quite embarassed, trying to explain they'd thought it was a wireless connection...

[+2] [2009-09-11 17:44:12] tsilb

I worked for a call center it dept where the users referred to the Windows Clipboard as "Copying to the mouse".

[+2] [2009-09-02 05:41:26] Revolter

Pressing [ALT] and [2] at the same time to get the @ sign ...

(keyboard layout my be different for you)

(3) [Alt Gr] and [2] is @ on an AZERTY-keyboard - Natrium
And on QWERTY-keyboards with non-US layouts. It can also be [Alt Gr] + [q]. - voyager
[+1] [2009-09-28 04:21:34] dhasu
[+1] [2009-09-23 14:25:04] Phillip Ngan

A while ago ... I gave a computer lab to a group of university students who had never used a mouse before. When asked what it was for, I picked it up and gave spoken instructions to it. Some students knew I was joking, but others didn't notice anything strange.

Scotty for the win! - Bobby
[+1] [2009-09-23 15:07:54] Anarkie

One of my most common ones. People complaining their files don't save. I walk over and point on their screen to the [READ-ONLY] in the header. Happens all the time. I have to then explain how network stored files work. But it's really sad when I have done this process with the same user 4 times.

[+1] [2010-07-11 19:19:10] endolith

I work at a company with "technology" in the name, yet these things still happen:

  • Coworker sent me an email with nothing but a several MB JPEG attachment. The image was from a scanner. The scanned document was a printout of a Wikipedia article, with a paragraph highlighted in yellow highlighter.
  • Different coworker was asked to take a screenshot of software he was having trouble with, and used a digital camera.

We had a supplier once, who did send as a more or less important document via fax...the guys used a highlighter to mark the important parts. XD - Bobby
[+1] [2010-08-18 14:32:00] mklhmnn

In a forum I saw screenshots of a (Windows) application made by using a camera.

Even worse, if we request users to send us a screenshot, we often get Word files back with the screenshot embedded.

[+1] [2010-08-19 13:39:35] MiffTheFox

I once saw a printed Word document containing only a screenshot.... of a Word document.

(No, Word was unimportant, there was no reason that they couldn't have just sent the original document instead.)

[0] [2010-07-11 20:59:07] Michael Mior

The printer at my dad's office was printing blank pages one day. He walked over to tech support to ask them to fix it. They told him his pixels were too big.

[0] [2010-08-18 14:11:22] cYrus

Using Windows Picture Viewer's zoom feature + the Print Screen key + Paint (just for remove the GUI...) to shrink/enlarge a picture.

[0] [2010-06-04 07:44:22] Nitz

when i was in school,
i heard two girls who are talking about some game. [ they were, students from top 5 in class ]
A : "hey i will gave u some games which my brothers had installed, its very nice !";
B : "ok... give me in this cd. gave all..";


A : "hey this is ur cd, i have filed it full, and store all the game.
B : "thanks....",


A : "how was the game? "; B : "what game? all are not working. ";

then they came to me and told me check the cd as i having a laptop....


THERE ARE ALMOST 70-100 games , but it was only ICONS of it?" :)

Reminds of one customer who backuped only icons using Drag'n'Drop to CD. - raspi
I dunno why all the downvotes, just cuz his english isn't great doesn't mean it's not a relevant story. - tj111
[0] [2010-05-17 05:41:07] Martín Fixman

I firmly believe that nobody becomes a computer expert until they destroy some hardware.

In my case, I

  • Changed the voltage switch from 220v to 110v.

  • Connected the power cord or a DVD recorder while the computer was on (because it was a SATA drive, and I figured out that if it worked for the information cord it also would for the power one).

  • For no particular reason, played with some wires from my motherboard, accidentally disconnecting the one that powered the fan...

  • ...And, not being able to make it work again, use my computer with the case opened for a long time.

Thanks to that, I have a great half-job as Technical Support in a big company.

[0] [2009-09-23 12:03:06] domen

My English is not too good, but I think it can handle this one.

One of my friends, who worked at the computer store for some time told me:

a woman walked in our store and requested computer "that had everything the best in it" and we built a custom PC with all the high-end parts for her. The next day she rused in and screamed: "I told you I wanted the best PC! The coffee rest has already broken!!".

So we tried to calm her down and asked for the PC. She brought it in and...

Yes, the poor CD drive had been broken off, it coldn't take the weight of the coffee cup.

(5) I do not believe this one. I have heard it too many times. Seems like Urban myth to me. - Suma
a cup of coffee does not weigh that much that it breaks after just 1 day - Natrium
(2) I don't insist you believe me. I've heard it from a friend and posted for your fun. That's all. - domen
(1) Natrium, well, I assume you don't like a biiig cup of coffee. :) - domen
not like 2 liter or something :) - Natrium
(1) ... I just tried resting a 1 litre bottle of water on my optical drive tray when fully open (a spare one). I put it down gently and it was able to hold the weight fine. if I can find a 2 litre bottle, I will try again! - Wil