Help Desk Horror: Tech Support Stories from the Crypt

Boo. Did I scare you? Probably not as much as that time you received a request to "make my computer faster."

Whatever the request, inquiry or statement (I don't have a "ControlAltDelete" button), as a technical support professional, it's safe to assume some – no, most – of your tech support stories have been scary. In honor of Halloween, here are a few help desk horror stories we've drudged up from the social media trenches.

'Tis the Season for Scary Tech Support Stories

Support desk pros hardly have a moment to breathe in between questionable end-user requests, internal meetings, the occasional (and frowned upon) deskside drop-by – not to mention the actual fires you have to extinguish (like how to turn the volume up on one's speakers). You've likely heard it all – from "double pane" as a response to "What version of Windows do you have?" to, simply, "What's a browser?"  But no matter how many times your forehead lands against your palm (with a hearty smack), the examples of end-user disconnect keep pouring in. But being that it is October, and October means Halloween, and Halloween means ghost stories, we asked you to share your Help Desk Horror Stories for a little seasonal catharsis.

What's Your Scariest Help Desk Horror Story?

What we got was pretty frightening, and also funny. But mostly frightening. Here are the two scariest tech support stories: Lights Out

I had a user call and say his mouse would not work. I asked him to disconnect the mouse and reseat it. After a minute, he said it still would not work. So I asked him to reboot his computer. He said he could not find the on/off switch, so I asked him to unplug the laptop and reinsert the power cord. He put the phone down and all I could hear was a lot of noise before everything went dead...including the phone. About 5 minutes later he called back and said that everything was OK now. I asked what happened to the phone connection and he said that since he could not find the power cord, he went to the basement and turned off his household electricity at the main electric panel and restarted everything. Turns out he rebooted his entire house because of a computer mouse...then never called back again." (Submitted by Peter Fritsch on LinkedIn)

The Ghost of Windows Versions Past

In 1997 a top oil exec with a penchant for handling his own IT issues ran into a problem with Windows NT. He fixed the problem by bringing install disks from home to reinstall the operating system himself. He called the help desk in a panic after he'd lost all of his spreadsheets, etc. When I got there, I learned why: instead of Windows NT, he'd installed Windows 3.1!!! Oh the humanity! Is there no end to this bloodshed!?! It took me 8 painful hours to reverse what he'd done, but it was only with the help of a UNIX guru (who shall remain safely anonymous) and his amazing toolkit that we were able to save what was left of his reformatted partition. To this day, I still have nightmares of this exec sliding in floppy disk after floppy disk – and the echoes of him typing 'Yes' when prompted to reformat his drive continue to haunt me to this very day." (Submitted by Mike Bradley on Facebook)

Have a Terrifying Tale? Here's How to Share it:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Dig into your most repressed help desk memories
  3. Pour yourself a glass of [beverage that calms the nerves]
  4. Take another deep breath
  5. Put your most horrific tale to words (around 150 or so)
  6. Submit it in a comment at the end of this post
  7. Include your name (or pseudonym), title and number of years in the biz
  8. If yours is selected, it will be featured in future Help Desk Horror posts
  9. Breathe a sigh of relief
  10. Return to that inquiry about how to get the latest version of the Internet
Tags: Geeking Out