PC Pranks to Watch Out For on April Fool's Day

Fool me once, shame on me....

father and son using computer at home
Alistair Berg/Photodisc/Getty Images


Why is it that we set aside April 1 of each year to celebrate pranks? Most of the invented holidays have a reason- money. Greeting card companies are in collusion with the government to create useless holidays to foist onto the people and force them to buy cards, gifts, candy and flowers for each other. Of course- that is just a conspiracy theory I invented. I wouldn't expect any Oliver Stone movie any time soon shedding light on the great greeting card conspiracy.

But, April Fool's Day- for the most part- is not a capitalistic marketing event like some of the other "holidays". So, why does everyone go out of their way to trick and confuse each other on the 1st day of April each year?

Origins of April Fool's Day

There are a variety of theories- but the most prevailing seems to revolve around the switch to the Gregorian calendar. The story goes that in France some forgot about the calendar switch or simply refused to honor the switch. These people continued to celebrate New Year's Day where it was on the Julian calendar- late March, usually ending in celebrations on April 1. Some adopters of the new calendar played pranks on the hold-outs by inviting them to non-existent celebrations or by sticking paper fish to their backs. For a detailed overview of the origins of April Fool's Day you can see The Origins of April Fool's Day.

Fast forward a thousand years, give or take, and we now have an annual celebration of pranks and mayhem on the 1st day of April each year. Often there are prank news stories or news events- like in 2000 when a man tricked the media into showing up at Times Square to cover a non-existent April Fool's Day parade. Or, there was the 1996 prank in which Taco Bell claimed to have purchased the Liberty Bell from the United States government and renamed it to the Taco Liberty Bell.

Lock Your PC When You're Away

There have been many computer pranks on this annual celebration of mayhem as well. There are a whole slew of popular and funny (as long as you aren't the one being caught off guard- but isn't that how all pranks work?) tricks you can pull on people.

RJL Software has an extensive collection of these classic pranks. For instance, there is the Add/Remove Programs prank which opens a fake window to trick the user into thinking all of their programs are being uninstalled, or the Mouse Droppings prank which will have your mouse leaving droppings all over your screen.

Many of these pranks are intercepted by antivirus software now because they are considered a nuisance. I point them out not to encourage you to choose the best one to send to your friends and coworkers, but rather to remind you to watch out for such things arriving from your friends and coworkers. Sending such pranks may be a violation of your ISP terms of service or corporate network usage policy. Getting fired for sending a prank is no joke so I would not advise sending any of these out.

They are sort of fun to play around with though. :-)

Top 5 PC Prank Resources

If you want to learn how to avoid getting scammed altogether (whether its April Fool's Day or not) check our are article on How to Scam-proof Your Brain

Editor's Note: This legacy article was updated by Andy O'Donnell