3 Unforgettable stories of people who needed IT support in a bad way

3 Unforgettable stories of people who needed IT support in a bad way

Everyone needs IT support — it’s just that some need it more than others. Rochester is no different even though it boasts the number one school in the country for Computer Science and Applications degrees. But after 17 years in the business, we’ve never seen more entertaining stories than the ones posted to /r/talesfromtechsupport.

If you’ve ever doubted how hard it is for a single technician to keep up with support requests across an entire organization, check out some of these anecdotes.

Reply-all hell broke loose

Have you ever been stuck on an email thread with way too many recipients sending meaningless reply-all messages? It’s inevitable nowadays, but it’s rarely as catastrophic as our favorite story on this list.

As the tale goes, a mammoth academic institution created an email address for anyone who wanted to send something to the entire staff, something like [email protected] It’s a small but useful configuration if you set it up correctly. But this list had 30,000 people on it and was nowhere near optimized.

So when a new hire sent an email to the group about looking for an apartment, a few very bad things happened almost simultaneously:

  1. Hundreds of people replied all about the faux pas and left the original group in the recipient field. It didn’t matter whether they were asking to be removed from the chain or providing links to properties, each response was another 30,000 messages the server had to send.
  2. At least a few hundred out-of-office automatic replies eventually kicked in. Assuming it was just 1% of the list, that created another nine million messages (300 x 30,000).
  3. Some of the out-of-office replies were set to reply to every incoming message (versus one time per email thread).

The server crashed, but the story doesn’t end there. Staff members toiled to delete the millions of problematic messages and set restrictions on who was allowed to send messages to [email protected] Sadly, they didn’t fix Very Bad Thing #3 before sending an “all clear” message to the company-wide address. The autoresponders picked up emailgeddon right where they left off.

For a more serious take on this topic check out: Has your company’s email been optimized?

That does not mean what you think it means

There are certain things technicians can’t help but assume: users know how to power on their computers, why they shouldn’t respond to Nigerian princes, and what happens when you drop a file into the Recycle Bin. Once in a blue moon, we’re reminded of how dangerous those assumptions are.

This six-line exchange between a confused user and a technician is a perfect example:

  • IT: Here are all your files in the Recycle Bin, did you move them into here?
  • Confused User: Yes I did, I moved them in here to recycle them so they will be clean for me to work on them.
  • IT: .....Excuse me?
  • Confused User: Yes, I move them to the recycling bin to make them new again so I can reuse the files.
  • IT: This is the trash bin, you would move files here to delete them off of your computer.

Hilarious, yes, but closer to the truth than many realize. Recovering deleted files is a painless process, even after you’ve emptied the Recycle Bin. Learn more in our post: 4 Ways to delete computer files (including one that works!)

A ripe old age

Like tens of thousands of tech support stories before it, this one starts with a young man getting a request for help from his grandfather. All the young man knew was that his relatives had bought a new laptop and that he was in for a long night.

But when he arrived at his grandparent’s house, Windows 10 had already been installed and the octogenarian’s hands danced across a keyboard shortcut to close a game of Minesweeper. The call for help came simply because there was a problem with the internet connection.

Before the youngster can do any investigating of his own, the elderly man opened the black-and-white text-only command prompt that even technicians rarely use. The elderly man typed in a string of code to initiate a connection with his cellphone. It failed and that’s how he knew the internet was down.

Apparently, he knew how to do that but not how to enter the WiFi password. The grandson showed him in less than a minute and asked his grandfather when he had learned all those unnecessary tricks.

“Grandma,” was the response.

We’ve found that the best advice falls somewhere between “enter a password here,” and “ping the nearest device using the command prompt,” see for yourself: 4 Serious computer problems and how to fix them.


Technology evolves faster than most people can keep up with so we’re willing to give these folks a break. But if you don’t want your business to end up as a punch line in /r/talesfromtechsupport, managed IT services are the way to go.

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