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Survey: 5 Most Ridiculous Things IT Admins Have Seen Business Users Do [INFOGRAPHIC]

on April 19, 2012

If you work in an office, chances are you have seen a frantic IT guy or gal running around trying to put out virtual fires, and you’ve wondered what all the fuss was about. In addition to the numerous, legitimate, technical glitches that can come up when operating a data center, there are also lots of mind-numbing issues that IT admins run into when it comes to supporting users. GFI was curious to find out how stressed IT admins are and what causes all that tension, so we surveyed hundreds of IT admins in the U.S. and the UK. The topline results were very interesting, but it was when we dug deeper that we learned just how strange the daily user support situations really are.

Here are the top five categories for the most ridiculous things users do, as well as some odds and ends you have to read to believe . . .

1.       We Need More Power!!

An overwhelming amount of IT administrators said they have received complaints or support calls from users who did not know that a computer does not work without power. In one case, the user’s frustration caused them to destroy their machine, not realizing it simply needed to be plugged in.  One respondent even told us that a user did not understand that they had plugged a power strip “into itself” and couldn’t figure out why their computer wasn’t powering up.

2.     My Computer Looked Thirsty

One admin put it best with a tongue-in-cheek response that read,

“[Users] drink and eat in front of the computer and they feed the keyboard with water.”

Spills are bound to happen, but IT admins cringe when liquids find their way directly into the keyboard, in most cases ruining the machine. Coffee, water and soda were the most often cited offending liquids.  In fact, there were several instances of users turning their CD/DVD tray into a coffee cup holder! One respondent pointed out that not all spills happen in the office either.

One user “brought in a damaged work laptop, swore that her kids never go near it, and then we found spilled soda in the keyboard and the kids’ homework on the hard drive.”

3.       We Don’t Need No Stinking Passwords

One of the biggest problems IT admins see when it comes to security is that users frequently subvert the purpose of passwords by not securing them. Aside from the traditional bad habits of sticking passwords to monitors with Post-It notes, using “password” as a password, and talking about a password publicly, there was even one case of a user posting their user name and password on a social network to “see how many people would steal it.”

4.       This PC Will Self-Destruct in 5 Seconds

There were also quite a few IT admins who said their users have KNOWINGLY downloaded malware, through a number of different methods. Similar to the social network password poster mentioned earlier, one user clicked on a link in an email that they knew was a virus “just to see what would happen.” Another clicked on the same pop-up ad frequently, installing a virus that had already been removed multiple times from their machine, even after being warned by IT to stop doing it. Yet another user continually responded to phishing emails with their personal credentials while one person even tried to download and install a forbidden software application and completely erased the hard drive.

5.       Just Making Some Room Here . . .

Many of our respondents said that their users had deleted important files or data to make room on their hard drive, which in most cases already had plenty of space remaining. In some cases, the deleted files were actually drivers that the computer needed in order to run.
Perhaps one of the more comical things that IT admins see is “creative” use of the mouse. Users have been known to use their mouse like a remote control – pointing it at the screen and clicking it. There was also a reported case of a user putting their mouse directly on the screen and rolling it around on the surface to maneuver the cursor.

Also, while largely an ineffective method, IT admins have witnessed users talking directly to their computers when they have an issue.

One user spoke “to a PC because the sign under the screen said ‘If you have problems with your computer speak to IT’.”

On the darker side, users have been known to take out their frustrations on their machines and colleagues as well. From throwing a machine on the ground because it “didn’t work right,” to shaking a computer “like an Etch A Sketch,” to throwing a piece of equipment “at someone” because it didn’t function properly – IT admins have seen it all. One IT admin even reported that a user threatened him with a hammer when faced with a frustrating computer issue. Talk about stress!

One final piece of feedback from the IT administrators we surveyed . . . Contrary to popular belief, they are not super human. Expecting them to work 24×7 or turn around major changes with unrealistic deadlines is not always feasible. So keep in mind some of the problem areas above if you want to stay on your gatekeeper of technology’s good side. And failing that, if nothing else they’d probably be thankful enough if you could simply avoid “watering” your machine.

Are you an IT admin with a unique user faux pas story? Or a user who wants to clear your conscience about causing some stress for your IT department? Let’s have some fun. Leave a comment below.

Do any of these findings surprise you?

Here’s our infographic visualizing the survey’s US data:


Infographic IT admins stress survey - US


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Mel Bisba April 19, 20126:26 pm

I had a director who said his wireless keyboard wasn’t responding(I wasn’t even in IT, he just knew I was good with tech) and after agreeing to take a look at it, I noticed that the computer and monitor were both turned off. Seeing as this guy was in charge of our entire office, I decided to figure out how to “troubleshoot” without outright embarrassing the guy. But I still know the truth. And I rolled my eyes and sighed as I relayed the story to several of my peers.

Dave Montgomery April 19, 201210:46 pm

Users who deliberately don’t do backups – when a hard disk failure eventually occurred and the customer was asked for his backup tapes (this is a while ago) he openly admitted that he wasn’t doing the backups he’d been instrcuted to do. When asked why not, “well, I’ve never needed them before, have I?”

William Koon April 24, 201211:24 pm

I have a customer that had me look at a pop-up he kept getting on his workstation he said “Every time I go to this website I get this pop-up” as I peered over his shoulder he goes to a porn site and Vipre Business give an alert it blocked some malicious software from installing and the customer says ” see what I mean this keeps happening every time I go to this website” Needless to say we had a chat about what was happening.

Teri Huntington April 25, 20128:21 pm

I enjoy the staff that decide to save me some work and have the inventory guy setup a printer, etc…in their office and then I spend more time fixing the problem that was created…due to lack of following simple logical steps…I know they mean well.

Tanya Roustom May 29, 20125:59 pm

This is hilarious. Einstein was right, you know. There are no bounds to human stupidity. I’m not sure how some people got oriented on knowing how to use computers in the first place.

This can eat up a lot of an IT personnel’s time, you know. That’s why it is very critical that HR screens people based on their computer skills, as well. Or if they’re stuck with a person who really is to a certain degree “illiterate”, a crash course would actually be less expensive than have an expensive IT guy use up his or her hours responding to senseless scenarios.

Terry July 5, 20127:06 pm

I have a user who constantly complains about how slow their email program is. They claimed to only have 3000 messages. I pointed out that that number was “unread messages” and they have over 16,000 in their inbox dating back to 2006. They also have a folder where they keep all the spam they recieve and did complain when I emptied their deleted items folder since they were “keeping some stuff in there.”

Brian Schumacher July 6, 201212:57 am

I had a user not too long ago that needed help with editing a PDF file. After finding out that the PDF that needed to be edited was created by our Xerox copy machine, I told her that this isn’t a PDF you can edit. It’s basically a picture of the file you just scanned. She couldn’t understand the concept that the file she just scanned was a picture, even though it said .PDF on the file. I spent over an hour trying to explain that you need the original document that was created in order to edit it, not a picture. She went as far as to buy a program to create and edit PDF files, thinking this would help. I honestly can’t remember what happened at the end but I know other people around me at the time could tell I was starting to get very frustrated with her. I always find it funny when people ask for your help but don’t want to accept that something simply won’t work just because they think it will.

Tshisekela Bayanga July 7, 20125:45 pm

I had a user who said one key was missing from the keyboard,i must get her a new keyboard ,when i got there she pointed to a message saying press any key to continue and said i have been looking for this any key to press its not in this key board iam sure they forgot to put it.i just said to myself yes they forgot to put something in your brains.

Freddy D July 10, 20128:15 pm

I had a customer have me install a wireless access point in the office they purchased from the store. After 2 days I received a call from the customer asking why when they drive around in the country, the wireless didn’t work on the laptop. I had to explain what wireless meant and tried not to make them feel dumb.

Мыкола Рванасрака July 19, 20127:26 pm

That just shows how stupid you are, and Americans and Brits! Education you have available a simple citizen, and the rich do not want to learn.

An average joe September 6, 20122:16 pm

Whoa whoa whoa…! Some of the most intelligent beings ever created were from the US and Britain, so don’t come here being a keyboard warrior, spreading insults about nations that may not statistically be the brighest but certain individuals outshine the majority of some countries combined!

Matthew M September 21, 201212:43 pm

A friend of mine was head of an IT support department and he told us (down the pub)of a support issue he’d had earlier that day…
The user was having trouble finding some options on the software they were using and called the IT department. My friend told them they needed to “right click” anywhere on the screen and a menu would pop-up. The user repeatedly tried but couldn’t access the menu. My friend decided to go to their office rather than try to sort it over the phone. When he arrived, he saw that the user had typed “click” several times over the spreadsheet!
Reminds me of my favourite IT phrase to “educate” users…”error between keyboard and chair”