FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

This topic was created by Drewc .

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    Commentards! We are researching an article on incompetent IT pros. What is the most stupid FAIL you have seen from a co-worker or ... cough ... what is the most stupid mistake you have made. This could make a good story - but we need your help to make it fly.

    1. Inachu

      Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

      15 years ago I was hired to be an IT admin.

      The dress code was to wear business suit and tie and dress shoes.

      Every day I was killing computers just by touching them.

      Lesson learned? Do not wear leather bottomed soles.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

        In my mind, accepting a position where the dress code didn't actually match the operating requirements is the fail ...

      2. Mephistro

        Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

        " Do not wear leather bottomed soles."

        Or alternatively call an electrician and have him fix your mains grounding. ;-)

        I tell you this 'cos I sometimes use my leather soles as an 'electrician's bollocks detector'. Sometimes I even did it on intent!

        XD <--- That's me suffering a mild electric shock

        1. jake Silver badge

          @Mephistro (was: Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)

          Has nothing to do with mains grounding. Has to do with lack of human grounding. I've personally measured 61,750ish volts on an empty, unused Styrofoam coffee cup set down on an isolated table after a colleague walked across a nylon carpet wearing Nikes ... That's more than enough to cock up a CPU. HiPot is one of my favorite destructive testing "what if" games ;-)

          As a side note, most gas(petrol) station pump fires seem to be caused by females with man-made fiber underwear getting back into their cars after starting the fuel flow ... and then not grounding themselves before getting close to the fumes surrounding the fuel-flap when completing the scenario.

          Static electricity can be a bitch.

          1. TeeCee Gold badge

            Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)

            Pump fires. Yup, I recall "Brainiac" doing this on TV.

            They took on the "Do mobile phones really present a risk at petrol stations?" thing. The technique they adopted was to slosh a shedload of petrol around inside a caravan and then ring a mobile left inside it.

            Nothing happened.

            They tried with ever increasing numbers of mobiles rung simultaneously and got nothing.

            Then, in a fit of pique, they ran a copper wire from just shy (spark gap) of the caravan's stove to outside and got some bloke to stand in a plastic bucket while wearing a nylon shell suit and jiggle about for a bit. Finally they handed him the end of the copper wire:


          2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)

            "As a side note, most gas(petrol) station pump fires seem to be caused by females with man-made fiber underwear getting back into their cars after starting the fuel flow"

            How can you get into a car while simultaneously filling the fuel tank? Must have arms like Mr Tickle.

            1. jake Silver badge

              @J.G.Harston(was:Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros))

              "How can you get into a car while simultaneously filling the fuel tank?"

              Have you ever actually fueled a motor vehicle? Start fuel flow, lock the valve open (until it detects too much back-pressure and shuts off automatically, of course), get back into vehicle. It ain't rocket science. Most sane people use the time to clean the windows/lights/mirrors instead of updating farcebook/twatter and/or touching up makeup.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @J.G.Harston(was:@Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros))

                Fuel pumps in the UK do not have locking valves. You have to hold the trigger continuously while filling.

                1. jcitron

                  Re: @J.G.Harston(was:@Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros))

                  Where I live in New England, we don't have that however I have travelled elsewhere in the US and other states have it.

                  The biggest advantage of having a gas nozzle lock is to keep the hands from freezing to the metal handle when it's below zero with a 35 mph wind on to of that!

                  Just getting in and out of my Jeep Liberty, I have felt a good zap! The cloth seats really build up a nice charge!

                2. Known Hero

                  Re: @J.G.Harston(was:@Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros))

                  @Fuel pumps in the UK do not have locking valves. You have to hold the trigger continuously while filling.

                  Try the diesel pumps where the vans and trucks fill up, they lock even in the UK :)

            2. jcitron

              Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)

              Some petrol pump nozzles have a locking-prop to keep the gasoline flowing without the person needing to hold on to the handle.

              When these come in handy is when it's really, really cold and windy. Go sit in the car until the handle "pops" and then you can finish up the transaction.

              Many of the stations have removed these additions to nozzles, and are pretty rare these days, but some still exist.

          3. Mephistro

            Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

            Sorry for the delayed answer. Four years! That must be a record!

            The first time this happened to me I was a newcomer to professional IT. I had read articles (in paper magazines!) about electric issues and how they affected IT equipment.

            About a dozen new IBM XTs and ATs were misbehaving badly. Memory errors, HDD errors, shutdowns and the whatnot. Our techies had been visiting the customer's facilities for two weeks without any success. As I was beginning to get some fame in my employer as the official smart-ass who fixed hairy issues involving both hardware and software, I was sent to the client's facilities to try to identify and solve the issue.

            The building had been erected in the forties, the floor was made of stone tiles, with a metallic separation between the tiles. In my opinion, a kind of floor in which it's difficult to accumulate static.

            When I touched the computer I was zapped. I told the client to send in his in-house electrician to check the installation with a special focus in the grounding, and phone me later with the results.

            The in-house electrician claimed that everything was OK, so I went back the next day with my multimeter and found out that everything wasn't OK, as the earth wire was connected to one of the power wires. I seem to recall also that they obtained 220V50Hz by using two leads from a three wire plug, at least for part of the machines affected.

            After a chat with the "electrician" -for lack of a better name- and his superiors (sorry, that couldn't be prevented, though I tried to soften the pressure on the poor chap) they all agreed to adapt their electrical installation at least to second half of the 20th Century's standards. ;-)

            It took them a week, and when the fixes were finished I was called in to check if everything was OK. The PCs worked like a charm, and the plant manager invited me to a cup of coffee and offered me a job on the spot.

            I've had several similar cases and when carpets were involved, my advice was invariably to use an anti-static carpet (which were somehow common back then). One of these clients improvised a cheap workaround inserting wires and metal bands below the carpet, and the guy swears it worked!

            Anyway in all these cases the vast majority of problems vanished after updating the electric installation. And in all those cases I used myself as a multimeter. Masochism? Death wish?

            Again, sorry for the delay! :D

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

              Still has nothing to do with mains grounding. Your scenario discusses why, exactly, hiring a non-certified electrician to save a few quid(bucks) is a fast way to quadruple your insurance premium ...

              There are no delays. This is TehIntraWebTubes. Time is suspended in these here parts.

              Beer. Just because it's been awhile :-)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

                Fuel pumps in the UK do not have locking valves. You have to hold the trigger continuously while filling.

                Ironically enough, a BIC lighter is the ideal size to jam in the gap and keep the pump going

              2. Conall O

                Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

                has it though? if time is suspended , then I guess you could say you had one, are having one, and will have one for an infinite period of time.

                Not that that's a problem , in fact I think i'l have a little taste...

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

                  Time is an illusion. Except at planting and harvesting time ...

        2. big_D Silver badge

          Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

          In Germany, the sockets are sunk into the wall and they have to metal prongs sticking out to earth connections as the plug is pushed in i.e. the Earth attaches first, much like a UK plug, but the 2 prongs are exposed.

          This is handy-dandy when wanting to earth yourself before touching equipment...

          Except, I was in an office and lost balance, I reached out behind me and managed to clamp my thumb on the window sill and 2 fingers in a power socket, to stop me falling. Usually no problem. In this case, I got a wopping belt up my arm!

          I went to the electrical department and they wouldn't believe me, even though I couldn't move my arm! Then they came and tested the socket, the original electrician had wired a series together and in the middle, he had somehow managed to switch phase and earth! Somehow, over 15 years, nobody had used the socket to plug anything in! I was very lucky, I just got a hard belt in the arm, but otherwise OK.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

        And to think my boss disallowed "non-static shoes" on my expenses after a trip to US clients. tsk tsk tsk.


      Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

      booked for a site visit at 2pm (very civilised) because their sister company was not available until that time as they are in a different time zone. Big problem with one user not having access to corporate database despite much trouble shooting by inhouse techs. Arrived at users computer and discovered they did not have access to anything as their ethernet cable had been disconnected when they moved their computer to a desk a little further away. . .

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

      DEC engineer, early 80s. He came to do a memory upgrade on a VAX 11/780.

      The ops moved the load to the next machine in line, moved all the users over and shutdown the VAX.

      The DEC engineer then went behind the cabinets to turn off the power... Nothing happened... Nothing happened... Then the ops on the next machine, the one with all the extra jobs and users, started screaming! He'd thrown the jumper on the wrong cabinet!

      Mainframe sales guy: he delivered a test unit (big line of boxes) for a prolonged test, as we were looking to replace a bunch of VAX and ICL machines. He gave us a tape for the VAX, with the instructions, "put that on your test VAX, compile it with all optimizations, and run it. Run the job on th emainframe as well. Call me next week, when the mainframe is finished, the VAX will need about a month."

      With that, he disappeared back to his office. 2 hours later, when he got into his office, there was a message saying he should call us back.

      The VAX had finished the job in around 20 minutes, including compilation. It turned out, that, while the VAX lost out on grunt, its compiler had the smarts. It worked out that Input: none, processing: huge array that was filled with numbers from complex calculations, then dropped, output: none. Therefore it decided to optimise the processing out of the equation and finished straight away.

      Cue one red faced sales guy.

    4. CameronB

      Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

      Recently new employee hired in our IT company as digital marketing manager and he does not anything about digital marketing and seo. He has good communication skills that is why boss hired him. Very surprisingly and demotivating for many others

  2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    The most incompetent contract programmer...

    ... I ever met was fired from the large Govt contract I was on a bit over 30 years ago. He evidently didn't know that a COBOL paragraph falls through to the next paragraph because all his paragraphs ended with GO TO NAME-OF-NEXT-PARAGRAPH. He was famous for arriving at work late, followed by working late and claiming overtime. Other contractors who knew him said that over several years he'd never been known to deliver a working program: he'd always managed to resign before his work was tested or inspected.

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: The most incompetent contract programmer...

      If he went into telecoms, then I may have met him.

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: The most incompetent contract programmer...

      That sounds horribly familiar. If he went into VB coding without managing to pick up the basics of event handling or being able to spell the word "Message" in text-box titles then my boss hired him and I fired him.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    depends on what you mean by incompetent...

    I used to work with a person who did the same thing every day. He'd park in the office lot (but worked in the manufacturing building), walk to his desk (about 1/8mi) stopping for coffee on the way. Once there, he'd check his email and then drink coffee and read the newspaper until lunchtime. He'd go go lunch (probably... corporate security never said) and not return until 4:30, in time to finish the paper, have another cup of coffee, and then leave for home at the end of the day.

    And he did this every day, but no one really knew how long this had been going on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: depends on what you mean by incompetent...

      That's not incompetence, that's genius if you can pull it off. Or gross misconduct from the boss' POV.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: depends on what you mean by incompetent...

        That is incompetence. Gross incompetence, in fact, on the part of his management. Who hopefully also got the sack ... but probably didn't, alas.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: depends on what you mean by incompetent...

      Muahaha I got away with that for 3 month at one place. All my boss wanted was a progress report on his desk each morning for some reason they thought this would take up my hole day, 5 minutes and that included tea and biscuits and it was done. I still cringe when I see serious(oil in this case) companies using spreadsheets as databases, but I was soon unburdened of these thoughts on my way home for breakfast. Always made sure there was plenty supplies at the tea station before I left though! Right behind my desk it was.

  4. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

    Back in the distant past...

    When I was a Junior Operator, we had a Senior Operator who specialised in mixing up George 2+ console commands.

    His particular favourite was mixing up "Go 27" and "Go 25" (IIRC), "Restart a stopped job" and "Restart a stopped job from the beginning".

    The effects on a two-day run could be dramatic - we often went home further behind than when we arrived.

  5. jake Silver badge

    Rather than re-type them ...

    First old post: "That's the switch, they do that!"

    Second old post: "A shower of Sparks."

    Third old post: "Unclear on the concept of recycling."

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Backup FAIL

    I knew an IT manager who was too lazy to walk upstairs each morning to the server room to check the backup and change the tape. Instead, he delegated the job to the office junior. He told the poor girl that if the tape had been ejected from the drive, the backup was complete and to change it.

    Unfortunately for all concerned, she got the tapes mixed up and ArcServe promptly spat them out asking for the correct tape, by which time she was on her way back downstairs to her desk.

    It seemed nobody ever bothered to check the backup logs or the tapes, so they went for months without actually backing the server up.

    Needless to say, the IT manager concerned had to answer some awkward questions when the server was damaged in a fire and it was found that all the backup tapes were useless.

    Last I heard, he was running a burger bar.

  7. Peter Gordon

    Maybe you should just post a link to thedailywtf? ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I had entirely forgotten this blog. Thanks for reminding me.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very recently ...

    One of our customers called up to say they had truncated the part table and could we recover it for them, please ... We asked where was their backup and they responded with "What is a backup?"

    One of the lads I work with managed to move planets and stars to recover enough of the data for the customer to continue trading.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can top anybodies.

    Better late than never.

    I think I can trump everybody elses, but nobody will believe i'm not making this up. I could provide collaborative proof from other IT Professionals if there is ever a "worst hundred IT professionals ever" competition, however until such a point I would prefer to remain firmly anon.

    My submission for most incompetent IT pro had the following setup:-

    1) a domain, but with local profiles across the entire place, not stored centrally.

    2) Users weren't allowed to change their passwords.

    3) All passwords were the same; username0, so everybody knew each others passwords.

    4) Everybody was a local admin.

    5) Backups were performed by periodically burning a copy of C:/ from the server to CD. Data was on D:/

    6) He built the computers himself, and didn't buy licenses for windows or office.

    7) He didn't see the point of anti virus software. Until bugbear hit the network.

    8) He then went and bought 60 copies of norton from PC world. The home edition, with no central management, this being the OBVIOUS choice. Later politely queried about the lack of central management, he said that the salesdroid in PC world tried to sell that as well but there was "no point" in centrally managing them, and it was more expensive.

    9) He then bought another 25 copies of McAfee to cover the rest of his machines, because they ran out of Norton boxes in PC world(!)

    10) All of the previously mentioned home AV products updated individually...

    11) Over what when finally replaced in 2007 was probably the countries last kilostream connection (128k)

    11a) his users had been complaining about slow internet. He told them it was a problem with the websites they were visiting and not the line, since it had 1:1 contention!

    12) His site actually had fibre thanks to the previous tenant. A 10MB leased line actually worked out cheaper than the kilostream did.

    13) Upon checking that the firewall wasn't configured with a static external IP when installing the new line we discovered that the firewall rules table consisted of "allow * from interface.external to interface.internal and the same in reverse. After choking, laughing to the point of tears and then panicking we'd be blamed for the settings and performing one quick firewall config later, a colleague commented that it (the firewall) had been one f****** expensive router. Why was it setup that way? Previously it had been blocking connections so he changed the rules to allow all of the traffic through.

    14) The management once took advantage of his absence while he was off on holiday and bought us in to "cover" for him. We diligently sorted through what could only be described as a heap of paperwork and neatly filed and dealt with anything that was outstanding from the users as well as a *couple* of configuration issues that we thought inappropriate that sent him into an apoplectic fit when he returned.

    15) Those outstanding issues from his users? One example.

    A user had sent a memo requesting a new mouse because of problems with it. (roller ball mice installed since he didn't like those newfangled glowing mice. He didn't know what to do if they picked up lots of dirt like the ball ones.)

    We bought a box of spares since he didn't stock "unnecessary" things like spares. I diligently took the user a spare mouse and cheerily said to him that I had his replacement mouse. The user looked at me blankly and said that he hadn't requested a new mouse.

    I apologised, thinking I was at the wrong desk (despite directions and a description of the user) and said I was looking for user with the name in the "from" field in the memo. The user looked baffled and said that was him. I said that I had a memo to the IT manager asking for a new mouse. He denied sending it, I waved it. He asked to see it, and I handed it over.

    He stared at the memo incredulously before exclaiming "I sent this memo TWO YEARS AGO!".

    I asked if the mouse was still a problem, he replied somewhat flabbergasted that it was and he'd just gotten used to it. I smiled, held up the mouse and told him that it was his lucky day.

    16) He didn't do network printers. Every computer had it's own printer installed locally.

    17) Plenty of those printers were inkjets, because they were "cheaper" and they needed to print colour. (about once every thousand pages, roughly)

    18) All of the previous printers were different models to deny any opportunity for bulk buying on cartridges/toner.

    19) He actually had a leased colour copier that could double as a network printer. We ran a CAT5 cable to it to put it on the network, and then added the drivers onto the server before explaining to the users how to print to it and the requirement for colour printers on the desktops evaporated.

    How did he last so long? Father of one of the partners, who got him the job. I expect that he's still there.

    As you can imagine, I could probably continue for some while however I think I win already.

    1. mark 63 Silver badge

      Re: I can top anybodies.

      yeah you win.

      I feel sick thinking of the AV and the printers.

      not to mention 1 to 7

    2. jcitron

      Re: I can top anybodies.

      You more than win, you take the gold award while running laps around the building! :-)

      Whilst reading your list, I had a suspicion that this was a smallish organization and the IT person was family or a friend of the owner. I've run into a couple of these situations, but not as scary and off the walls as yours!

    3. Dan 10

      Re: I can top anybodies.


      "I say we take off, nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

      I am reminded of the on-site tech who called me on the service desk (yeah, my first job) to ask if resetting the users password on the AS400 would resolve the SCSI id boot error on the workstation. Explaining that the client bios config had no concept of the os2 user, let alone the mid-range box on the other end of a 3270 session was like teaching Chinese to a toaster. The client config was a company-wide standard build, so it was either a one-off error or a hardware failure (and he hadn't tried a reboot). The best bit was that he got the password reset, rebooted the client, then because it booted ok, he called me back to call me a clueless fuckwit!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can top anybodies.


      not sure if this will top yours or not.. in some ways it will, others it won't:

      Contracted birefely at a college - 13,000 students, 1,000 staff - every user in the domain was a domain admin.. the reason?? Domain admins are automatically local admins on PCs - which reduced workload and support calls. It also made dealing with UAC easier.

      These machines also had PowerShell readily available on the start menu.

      the RDP box used for "Accessing college work from outside the college to help you learn/work etc.." had RSAT installed.

      There were no backups.

      Most painful 6 months of my life locking that lot down.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Whilst a senior IT Manager for a huuuuuge Japanese company, I was demonstrating our amazing new UPS capabilities to some visiting dignitaries from Japan. All well and good, or so I thought.

    Rather than pull the power out of a particular UPS, I pulled the power, er, out of the back of a very important server.

    How we laughed...

  11. Simon Millard

    Cream Cake Anyone

    Back in the days of old, I did some works experience in a City Councils computer ops suite. It was my first experience of an air conditioned envrionment.

    A week into this placement, one of the secretaries was arranging a farewell party and though as it was nice and cool.

    Does anyone remember removable disk pack? This lady decided to plonk a gateux on top of one of these units without realising exactly why there is air conditioning. The gateux decided to "dissolve" all over the drive unit. What a mess.

  12. john mullee

    Government. Giant Consulting Company. What could go wrong.

    Java 1.4 server, about half a million lines of copy-pasted juju struts mess.

    One line stands out head and shoulders above them all:


    1. mark 63 Silver badge

      Re: Government. Giant Consulting Company. What could go wrong.

      isnt that 'C' for x=x+1?

      i dont get it

      1. Derek Clarke

        Re: Government. Giant Consulting Company. What could go wrong.

        x++ is another term in C for x=x+1

        The extra x= makes a big difference as x++ is a postincrement and returns the value of x before it is incremented


        x=x++ means

        t = x (t is a temporary)

        x = x+1

        x = t

    2. stevel

      Re: Government. Giant Consulting Company. What could go wrong.

      Honestly? In half a million lines of code, *that one line*?


      My personal favourite, in C++ written by someone who "preferred" Java, the last statement in a function that returned a reference:

      return *new Thing(...);

  13. Pedigree-Pete


    As a humble Video Conf/AV engineer I was drafted into a audio call with a client that couldn't get his VC to work in their Global Trusted WAN environment. His Global WAN Network Mgmt GURU was on the call.

    This GURU insisted that the VidConf system had to be on IP address Fortunately, our suppliers insist we have some networking knowledge so I had this vague discomfort that the IP address was divisable by 8.

    The Sub net was a /29 so worked fine. So much for experts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sub-Netting.

      you would think the first thing he would do if he couldn't remember off the top of his head / was too lazy to count subnet bits would be to check a subnet calc and check validity of the addresses.

      I remember explaining subnetting to some tech support agents for support Samsung AV/Smart TV equipment so that they could determine the validity of ip addressing for atypical home setups and also explain misc things like why some admin gateways on home routers are on .1.1 rather than 0.1 etc. Too many blank stares in that room for comfort.

      feels painful when people don't get things, and then proceed to stop caring even though it is the basic of the basic.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Sub-Netting.

        Yes. "You would think". I would think. But would they think? Not so much.

  14. Pedigree-Pete

    @TeeCee ref Braniac

    Yep! I saw that one too. Excellent use for a caravan.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Warehouse flood

    Company moved to new location within the same area. Build new Office w/ 250K Square foot Warehouse complex. My I.T. Director got buried in e-mail from corporate regarding the new facilities, 2.3K to be exact.

    Fail number one, upon installing the new diesel backup generator the installing company fires up the generator for load testing and cracks the head on the diesel engine.

    Fail number two, in the new warehouse since the I.T.. Director never answered any e-mails, NO floor drains were installed in the warehouse. This is fine, UNTIL, an operator on a Raymond Reach is navigating through the warehouse and takes out a fire line. A month later in exactly the same spot another Raymond Reach operator takes out the same fire line in exactly the same spot.

    Fail three was when i was working in the server room and didn't realize that they had plugged the whole server cabinet in a power bar. One miss step in the server room....

  16. SiempreTuna

    My favourite: we paid a consultancy a fortune to convert an app that we calculated was saving the company a minimum of £100 million a year (in the 80s when £100 mill was big money).

    When we came to test the code, we saw some very strange results. I investigated and found that in the crucial part of the code, a couple of hundred lines of the original had been converted to a single comment that read: "I couldn't understand this so I left it out".

    And that part of the conversion had been done by .. the principal consultant.

    Another consultant, when asked why his code wasn't commented and looked like he'd had a fit at the keyboard, said in perfect seriousness "It was hard to write, it should be hard to understand".

    He might have been the guy who gave an urgent fix I'd written a critical failure (= absolute no go) for .. a typo in a comment.

    Another time, at a trading company, an operator chatting to a mate in the server room, leant on the emergency power cut off and killed all the servers in the building. There was a pause of maybe 15 seconds before every phone in IT lit up with irate traders screaming about their screens going blank.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deployment on one of my projects went wrong. Weird as I tested it thoroughly. Re tested and it was all fine.

    Guy in India who ran the scripts was adamant he followed instructions. To clear it up I went to check logs to see what had been run, to find the guy had wiped the logs a few minutes after I had said I wanted to check. He ended up not being around for long, not for making an simple enough mistake which didn't really impact anything significantly, but for being an utter tool and trying (failing) to cover it up.

  18. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  19. jcitron

    I had a manager that thought batteries for the big UPS units in the server room were unnecessary expenses until we lost power followed by a quick surge that killed the main data server. I was promptly blamed for the incident and I stormed not only into his office but in the GMs office as well. My fault? No way! I had put in the request, in writing no less because I follow the CYA rules always, and his response to my PO request was "declined".

    He was let go some time shortly afterwards due to other poor decisions.

  20. OzBob

    There's a shortage of laptops, so I am commandeering yours

    Had a lunatic Data Centre Manager who under-estimated the number of laptops he required, so he opened the Cabinets of the HP XP512 Disk Arrays, removed the maintenance laptops inside and reformatted them and distributed them to users.

    My co-worker only found out when he opened the cabinet at 2am on a support call. "Unimpressed" was one way of describing it.

  21. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Father Dougal

    A sandwich student, recently arrived for his mid-course year of work, find himself staring at the Big Red Emergency Shutdown button and wonders what it does. To find out he presses it. Bringing the building containing several hundred developers and all the dev and test systems back up took an entire day as we discovered that all the kit that we had piled in over the years couldn't all be started at once without tripping the power supply.

    The next week all the Big Red Buttons got Big Perspex Lift Off Covers to make pressing them an more conscious decision.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm sure many have heard of the wonders of MCSE, however one particular and I shall call him Muppet bought a customised computer with a switch on the power supply, queue the comment "I'm an MSCE and know all about computers, this one is dead and needs to be returned", to which the reply was "Have you turned it on at the back?", short silence and an "ok, thanks".

    Insert proverb or historical witty comment here

    1. rdferrier

      Re: MCSE

      I was gifted a sick AMD K6-2 500 based computer many years ago. It would run MsDos from a floppy, but would not install Windows 95 or 98. It ran so slow, a 386 could have beaten it in a benchmark.

      It had been replaced under warranty and written off by the company I worked for.

      An in house A+ certified tech, and his MCSE super had troubleshot, approved, and completed the warranty replacement. Another MCSE tech had purchased it for parts from the company, and gifted it to another A+ certified tech after he couldn't get it to run and had stripped anything useful from the chassis. With a replaced hard drive, ram, optical drive, and floppy; the machine still wouldn't run.

      This last tech told me that if I wanted it I could have it. After 10 minutes on my bench, the machine was happily installing Windows 98. The problem? Power supply set to 220, plugged into 110. Came out of the box like that, brand new.

      People ask me why I don't believe in certs. See above.

  23. Known Hero

    Private server in company server room

    I am so ashamed.

    Twas the time of LOIC. Me and some mates had been drinking and gaming and were screwing about and nuking each others connections and giggling as each other got kicked off and so on and so forth, anyway ..... I had my private server sat on the network at work which was a hosting company, straight onto Virgin's network, 10MB with 1:1 contention ratio, they hosted many many sites and mail servers.

    Yes you can see where this is going....

    So I RDP'ed onto the server and installed LOIC. entered my mates details ..... I might of forgotten to set the time limit as we had all been doing it from home and Hit the Big Button.

    its very hard to RDP into a machine that is going mad killing somebodies phone line half the country away. I realised I couldn't turn it off and I apologised in a very slurred voice that rebooting his router might sort it (or not because he had a static IP) but much laughs were had. It was a Friday night I had no Idea it had nuked the entire Server farm and some of virgin's local area. First I heard was Saturday lunchtime that virgin technicians were onsite and could not figure out what was causing it, I VERY sheepishly suggested to try rebooting my machine as it had "crashed" last night and I couldn't reach it. I actually had to argue that they try it as they kept saying no no the entire site is down it's not just your machine and they were considering digging up the road.

    I was told to pickup my machine and never bring it back.

    I have definitely learnt my lesson and feel very bad for what I did. It's all fun and games until you take the datacenter offline.

    I could of posted about some other Fails from other people that are pretty close on par, but I believe that some honesty is needed here.

    And again my apologies for my stupid drunken behaviour

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was at home, not at work, but the dumbest thing I've seen from an actual IT pro was me. I have a file server at home that was backing up to an extra drive on the kids' PC via rsync. Yeah, I know, the alarm bells are already ringing here, but it gets worse. (Also, in my defense, their computer is the one that I can count on to be left on and not have the backup drive tinkered with. I actually shut my computer down, sometimes for days at a time, and they don't use theirs for anything except YouTube and Minecraft.) When the file server failed, which was thankfully a problem with a cable rather than the drive itself (I didn't know that right away), I went to pull my backups. At which point I found that I'd been backing up a 2TB drive to a 300GB drive. Doh. So right now my plans for the 5 day weekend (Yep, I'm a Merkin and this is the week of Thanksgiving) include tearing their computer down, setting the 300GB drive as their primary drive, then setting the 2TB drive that's currently sitting on /home to receive my backups.

    Anon for obvious reasons.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      I am sitting here in 2016 wondering whatever made me want to post a weather blog in the middle of a forum about computer tech.

      Then I picked up a laptop I have been meaning to reboot for the last few moths but lost the dvd for.

      It just occurred to me to lift the lid and see if I put it there.


      Good job!

      Time for bed.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @ I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        "Time for bed."

        Way, WAY, WAY past time, apparently.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes the thing that's broken is the power light. Just because it looks dead, doesn't necessarily mean it is. I was reminded of this in the most surprising way possible whilst attempting to repair a strip plug.

    ~ =8-(

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Ah yes. Reminds me of just the other day. Stripped the central heating boiler down, cleaned everything, tested all the components and reassembled. Made no bloody difference at all.

      I still haven't found out just who it was who turned the heating function off at the programmer, probably because whoever it is knows damned well that my finding out will dramatically shorten their life expectancy.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I see your central heating boiler story and raise you one (while also keeping the surprise theme going).

        I'd just got the pilot light ignition system going successfully when my wife absent-mindedly turned the hot tap on upstairs (after being requested not to; but she had stuff to do and had forgotten). The boiler went *WHOOOF!* and it looked just like backdraft; with flames roiling along the ceiling, along with the sooty remains of my fringe and eyebrows. Luckily my wife reacted to the bellowed stream of profanity and crashing noises of me diving for cover and turned the tap off within a second or two, so nothing got too hot and no harm was done.

        I was very, very surprised indeed.

        1. jake Silver badge

          "I was very, very surprised indeed."

          I am, too. What kind of crap system would allow that kind of thing? I mean, seriously, the pilot was lit (implying normal service), and yet the simple act of igniting the burner to make hot water introduced enough gas into the system to cause what is described above?

          The mind absolutely boggles.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "I was very, very surprised indeed."

            Wasn't me who downvoted you BTW.

            I didn't know for sure that it was the ignition system when I started, so I probably had more of the front off than was strictly necessary. Including -and this is the relevant bit- the front of the heating chamber (if that's what it's called).

            (for those of you who don't know; the pilot light ignites gas released into a (usually sealed) heating chamber which has a sort of reverse-radiator thing through which water needs to pump a fair bit of air-assisted gas in there because it has to heat the water as fast as it's running through the pipes).

            Now had I known it was the ignition to start with, I could have got at that bit without opening the heating chamber; but I didn't. And anyway; the kids were at school; my wife knew I was working on the boiler and I was giving it a general tidy up and cleaning while I was in there.

            This is where the IT incompetence comes experienced boiler engineer would probably not have the heating chamber open and the pilot light lit at the same time. I thought I was safe because the only other person in the house knew I was in there meddling with things that man was not meant to understand. She knew I was messing with the boiler, so gave the radiators a wide berth; but just didn't connect that with the oft-repeated act of running a bit of hot water. Until she heard the swearing.

            I knew it was risky; but thought I had covered the bases; and had failed to account for absent-mindedness as things turned out. As one who has lost their phone and eventually found it in the fridge, for fuck's sake, you would have thought I would have planned for that most powerful of forces. Possibly I did, and subsequently forgot about it.

            The moral is: pilot light OR heating chamber; not both. If you are going to have both open; then make sure you are the only person in the securely-locked building. Pro-tip: Also radiators coming on on an automatic timer can have exactly the same effect as absent-minded wives (*WHOOOOF* *sizzle* *swearing*). I'd actually planned for that.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: "I was very, very surprised indeed."

              Got it. PBKAC.

              We are all human, we make mistakes. It's in the design spec, near as I can tell ;-)

  26. jermaine_E

    I was working for a well known Bromley-based SME who has (or had ) a contract with a Government agency. I had a call that required a new 42 inch flatscreen Plasma screen to be installed in a court in Warrington as it was 'dead'. Worrying how on earth I would get the damn thing off the wall with no ladder or support from staff on-site, when I eventually reached the site after a 4 hour drive from central London, I went to investigate the issue of the 'dead' screen, only to find out the screen was not plugged in.

    Somehow this had escaped the attention of any sort of vetting of the service desk, before yours truly was bundled into a VW Caddy and sent up the M6 with a replacement screen to remedy the situation.

    Imagine how keen I was when a month later, the same issue appeared at Telford Crown Court - but somehow I was still sent to 'fix' it by switching it on... I was concerned by the vetting process and thought my employer could have made a better selection when it came to use of resources by asking the client more questions on what they've done to resolve the fault before an engineer is sent out...

  27. LewisRage

    Where to start.

    Very early on i my career I was generously given an external iomega Zip drive, but no PSU. No problems as I am also studying towards my BTEC in electronics and computer technology; I whizzed up a spare cable, jury rigged it to a molex hanging out of the side of the box and plugged it in. Everything ran as expected and I was pleased with myself.

    Cue a few months down the line I'm not using the Zip drive for anything and have unplugged it, leaving a pair of bare wires hanging out of the side of the box. Bare wires that, I realise, are hovering millimeters above the surface of my cup of coffee. I very carefully try to move one away from the other and instead lump it with my meaty fist and blow my PSU.

    Much later I'm in charge of a file server for a client. This is my first foray into virtualisation. I've built a new box in vCentre, got it up and running, replicated shares and confirmed permissions. All is left to do is to mirror the data from the old server to the new.

    I setup the mirror (using Double Take I believe) and let it get to 100%. Jigger and poke the logon scripts to redirect our users to map the new server location, check its all ok and leave it a week.

    After a week I check that no-one is using the old server, which they aren't, and set about deleting the data from the old server.

    Have you spotted it yet...

    I get a call half an hour later from the client saying "all our stuff is disappearing in front of our eyes". I check their share and they are correct, everything is deleting in front of our eyes. It was then I learned the vital maxim; break the mirror before deleting the source.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      facepalm. mine.

      I did that the other day. was writing a batch file to copy an app to a destination pc's program files dir. Decided id use robocopy with the mirror command - to remove any old files in dir from olderversions.

      Tested it on colleagues laptop, specified path as "c:\program files\" thinking it would add the dir of the app, instead it treats prog files as the destination dir and deletes anything that is not this new app. - colleagues laptop now trashed! whoops.

  28. Jedipadawan

    "How do I do that then?"

    OK, I can't resist a couple of examples of support calls.

    I started off my IT career (I have since which countries and careers) in PROM testing and telephone support. OK, we were supplying fuel monitoring systems to truck drivers who are not the brightest bulbs in the desk… if you catch what I mean in my deliberately mixed metaphor.

    Anyway, there was this guy who, when he called, which was fairly regularly, would always ask, "How do I do that then." He even had a certain rhythm to the saying and so we included a voice that asked 'How do I do that then?' in the help file section marked 'How do I do that then?' written by yours truly.

    Once you heard "How do I do that then?' you knew the next hour would be spent explaining painfully exactly what key had to pressed, what icon had to be clicked and possibly what a mouse was in the first place. On day, to my despair, I realised the pointers of the downloaded file needed for the month's fuel reports would have to be reset. This required use of a DOS program and dropping to the command prompt. This was going to be deeply painful with Mr "How do I do that then?" We had already spend half and hour on the phone talking through how to point and click to check the fuel reports and the data stored on site. "Move the mouse up the icon with a book on it with the word 'reports' on it and click it once. Now, you have a screen marked report, yes? Good… no you move the mouse to the button marked 'fuel summary…"

    [I then begged the developer to write a GUI for the utility which he duly did.]

    The thought of guiding the guy through opening up the command prompt, navigating to the required directory, running a DOS prompt by typing complete with switches… was too much to bear. So I asked him,

    "Do you have an IT department?"

    "Yes." He said.

    I draw breath to ask "Can you please put him on the phone…?" when he added…

    "You're speaking to him."

    Breath strangled. Breathe deeper.

    "Okay. Move the mouse to the 'start' button and click once…"

    Not exactly I.T. Pros here but we did have the fuel depot manager who called up asking for assistance on matters described in painstaking 'press-the-yellow-button-then-the-red-button' detail in the manual that I had spent three months writing.

    "This is all in the manual." I pointed out.

    "Yes but… I'm not very good at readin'."

    "Okay. Press the Red button…"

    Then there was the case of the engineer, in the days of software on floppy disks, who found the DOS software on the office PC on site had been corrupted.

    "Do you have copies of the disks?"

    "Oh yes." He was told. "We made copies as you told us."

    So they went to the filing cabinet and brought out two photocopies of the disks.

    But my mistakes? Er, cleaning out test data painfully collected from the server which was still in use killing testing stone dead.

    Several times.


    And... managing to mangle a batch file copy such that I wiped out drive C: completely on my machine just before going on leave!

    I returned to a new install of Windows 98 on my PC with a start up message "Engage brain before using!"

    Fair enough!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "How do I do that then?"

      painfull stuff. Talkingto users and not seeing the screen is pure torture. thank god we have remote control now. in a previous job I would spend hours just getting customers to spell a fairly simple URL on their phone . I was on the verge setting up a send-texts-from-the-net thingy out of my own money!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anon for very obvious reasons.

    Work for a software company, recently we ran into some issues and asked the local Admin to run in verbose mode to pick up some extra info, asked him to login and up popped his password in plaintext along with all the other AD logins being entered on the network!!! Very awkward call after that.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    zero forethought

    I worked briefly with a chap (lets call him Dave) who if he saw someone do something , his two braincells would charge at each other from either side of his otherwise empty cranial cavity, collide and form what could be classed as a rudimentary thought. The thought was always the same "I can do it, not a problem!"

    We were desperately short of engineers, and his girlfriend who was our secretary at the time said he was really good with computers and knew loads. so we gave him a shot, unfortunately it was a high calibre bullet to his head.

    This was back in a time where Small Business Server 2000 was the server OS of choice for our client base and it was very common to see instances of the VPop3 mailserver out there as well. One of our clients was based in rented office that had 1 shared internet connection for the whole building, and one central mail server running Vpop3 for all of the tenants. One day in this building they were all given the news, they can now all get their own internet connections, so our client wanting more then 1/2mb shared between 50 others opted to go for this ASAP. So we sent in Dave with a little ADSL router, and to our surprise he got this going. He struggled with setting up the SBS2000 Pop3 connector but with some help over the phone and then me having to VPN in and use VNC to show him he eventually got this gist and bumbled through.

    I got a phone call half an hour later saying that exchange was being funny and only half the mail was coming through. I had warned him that before he configured the mail account on the SBS server, he needed to get the I.T. support team in the business house to disable the mail accounts for our client on their VPop server so it wouldn't go and collect their mail anymore, leaving that up to our mail server instead. He had forgotten this, when he was reminded he went downstairs to have chat to get this organised. He phone me up pleased as punch that he had solved the issue now and proceeded to regale me with a new version of the last three hours history in which he had single handedly done everything brilliantly and solved all the problems with no help.

    Then he called again, asking about how to restore Vpop accounts. For his knowledge of VPop was limited to he had seen someone use it for five minutes. Instead of asking and waiting for the I.T. team from the house, he had conviced the girl at recption he knew exactly what he was doing and he did remove the 5 accounts for our client from the VPop server, and removed the accounts for 200 other users of all the other companies in the house as well.

    This was but the first of many in his brief career in I.T. with other such greats as formatting a sage server with 3 years worth of custom written invoicing templates, and after being demoted to only being allowed to do cabling work which he assured us he could get right informing us that he was colourblind and that job he did last weekend may have a few duff ports (70 out of 100).

    We let him go very shortly after that, we knew his next career choice was that of a part fitter in a garage as his girlfriend came to work the next week with her car bonnet being unable to close properly after he changed a light cluster.

  31. tinman

    "can you hear me mother?"

    This isn't as epic as previous stories here but it tickled me

    I work in medical devices governance for a hospital trust and had arranged for our IT department to fit an I/O card into a PC for a thermometer calibrator. I could have done it myself but it wasn't my PC so I thought do it right, and get them to install it. A little later I get a call from the ward sister to say that someone had called out but said the card didn't fit. Having seen the card and PC myself I knew immediately what the problem was, so I called the helpdesk.

    "Hi, I'm calling about a request to get an I/O card fitted"

    "Yeah, I called out but the card doesn't fit"

    "It's a low-profile machine, did you try turning it sideways?"

    I get a grumpy "no, I'll call over" in response

    and then as I wait for him to tell me when he'd be out, the next thing I hear from the phone is

    "Cheeky bastard!"

    "Eugene Doherty, who the fuck is he anyway?"

    Me, "Hello?"

    "...Telling me how to do my job..."

    He had obviously cut off my side of the call but not his. There then followed several more minutes of ranting to his office colleagues about me and then his supervisor who'd had the temerity to tell him to go to another building a short distance away to fit new hard drives, "...and it's raining outside!"

    After trying to interrupt his tirade several times, I hung up as it was clear he couldn't hear me, though I could clearly hear him.

    I subsequently emailed his boss, in amusement rather than anger as he hadn't realised he was addressing me, but advising that they teach him how to hang up before slagging off the caller

  32. Supatra

    In my mind, accepting a position where the dress code didn't actually match the operating requirements is the fail ...

    1. jake Silver badge

      There must be an echo in here.

      Is a five plus year delay for an echo some kind of record?

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: There must be an echo in here.

        Is a link fail in 17 days a record?

        But seriously , yes , these forums move fast and if you dont pop in at least once a year you might miss something!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: There must be an echo in here.

          Well, if ElReg insists on adding an entire paragraph to a commentard's one-liner, strange things are bound to happen. Seriously, it worked a couple weeks ago. ElReg bug?

          (The real link, if anyone cares ...)

  33. JJKing

    Screw it up once, shame on me..... + part 2

    I had setup Ghost in the company I was working at and had one day right before knockoff time had used the Ghost boot floppy to connect to the Server and deploy the image. Reboot the machine when finished and bloody nothing was there. Haha , silly me, I must have reversed the Source and Target Source. My cockup so I worked passed finish time to complete the job. Forever after I double checked the Source and Target to make sure that never happened again.

    Fast forward 6 or 7 years and I have a private job to setup and install software on 2 identical machines. Yoho thinks me, do the first one and then Mr Ghost can do the second one really quick and ..... profit! Finish the 10 hour install (lots of software) about 8pm on the Friday night ready for the 10am delivery the next morning. I removed the empty HDD connect the identical HDD of the completed machine and because the drives were the exact same, I triple checked the Source and Target. Checked a forth time and hit the go button. About 20 minutes later connect the Ghosted drive only to have it, yes you guessed it. Spent the rest of the night installing the bloody software again and this time I got Ghost right.

    I was working at a school and they wanted a new computer lab. I got a professional cabler and an electrician in to give the quotes as I didn't want to run the cables for 35 points in a brick building that didn't have a false ceiling. The principal decided to go with the quote from a mate from his teacher training days. I later found out that this quote was AUD$4,500 more than the ones I had obtained. I do remember my sparky saying that the lab would need 2 circuits due to the number of power points required. Computers arrived and the school IT teacher and I were busy unpacking and connecting the various parts up plus cable tying the cables so it all looked nice and pretty. I plugged computer number 21 or 30 into the power point and all the lights went out. At this point the computers had not been turned on, just plugged in. Short story, the principal's sparky had wired all the points into a single circuit and number 21 killed not only the lab but the whole block that switch board supplied. His sparky returned and the fix was to remove the safety switch from that circuit. Warning emails sent to multiple addresses and I left once the lab was imaged. I don't value my life much but I get to choose when and where I die but it ain't going to be in a bloody computer lab.

  34. David_Michaels

    The biggest IT fail of co-worker I would like to highlight is that he was almost done with his MBA, working with me in Software House and he didn't even knew how to "COPY AND PASTE ON EXCEL SHEET".

  35. macjules Silver badge

    IT Fails?

    Where to begin?

    iOS developer interview yesterday:

    1) Do you have any experience of using Vagrant, Docker, VirtualBox, VMWare or other virtual development software? No

    2) Using a stylesheet, how would you offset the top of an app, to allow for the new iPhoneX design?Dunno

    3) I ask you to clone from a repo and create a feature branch, how would do that?

    What's a repo?

    Interview terminated after 5 minutes.

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