20 bizarre and funny ways people have broken their computers

Sometimes bad things just happen, we all know that. And sometimes they happen to our loved ones (we’re talking about our computers here).

For the last five years the data recovery company Kroll Ontrack has been publishing a yearly list of strange ways people have broken their computers and/or hard drives. We here at Pingdom have gone through those press releases and handpicked the funniest and most bizarre incidents, for your reading pleasure.

On to the list! 🙂

(We’ve saved the weirdest incident for last…)

  1. Aaaaalmost there! When you’ve managed to sail around the world, you don’t expect to capsize on the last day of your journey. However, this is exactly what happened, with a laptop on board that had been used to document the whole trip.
  2. Gone fishing, part one. A lawyer on vacation brought her laptop with her when going fishing with her father, thinking she’d be able to keep up with business at the same time. This backfired when a friend of her father’s, furious that she had brought her laptop with her on board, threw it overboard. The lawyer jumped after it.
  3. Safe in the oven. Thinking it was an ideal hiding place for his laptop while he was away on vacation, a man put his laptop in the kitchen oven to protect it from potential burglars. Unfortunately his wife came home before he did, and turned on the oven to do some cooking…
  4. Gone fishing, part two. A fisherman brought his laptop with him on his rowing boat to play some games while waiting for the fish to bite. Then he decided to stand up, and fell overboard together with his laptop.
  5. Hard drive on acid? A scientist was doing an experiment involving acid, which he (of course) managed to spill on an external hard drive. Picture the scene from Alien where the acid melts through the floor…
  6. Academia greasing incident, part one. What do you do if your hard drive is squeaking? Certainly not what this British scientist did: He drilled a hole through the casing and poured oil inside. At least the squeaking stopped, but so did the hard drive.
  7. Anti ant. A photographer in Thailand discovered that his external hard drive had gotten full of ants. His solution to this problem was to open the cover and spray the interior with insect repellent. He managed to kill both the ants and the hard drive in one fell swoop.
  8. Don’t drop a computer from a helicopter. Really. If you bring a laptop onto a helicopter, whatever you do, hold on to it tight. Employees of a global telecom firm did not heed this advice and (accidentally) dropped a laptop from a helicopter while doing work in Monaco.
  9. Want conditioner with that? If you pack your laptop together with fluids, make sure they don’t leak… On a flight from London to Warsaw a man had his shampoo leak all over the contents of his bag, including seeping into his laptop.
  10. Going bananas. A man left an old banana on top of his external hard drive. As it rotted, its contents seeped into the hard drive, ruining the circuitry.
  11. Academia greasing incident, part two. Apparently you really shouldn’t mix academics with technology, because here’s another greasing incident. A university professor was hearing a squeaking noise from the hard drive in his new desktop computer. His solution was to open the case and spray the inside of the drive with WD-40.
  12. Heavy pottery. While rearranging her office, a woman managed to drop a five pound piece of clay pottery directly onto the hard drive area of her laptop. The hard drive contained a book she’d been working on for five years. Lesson: Don’t hold heavy stuff over your laptop, especially if you don’t have backups.
  13. Hammer + laptop = bad idea. If you have a temper problem, don’t keep a hammer in the same room as your computer. Or even nearby. A frustrated writer smashed her computer with a hammer, leaving a clearly visible hammer imprint on the top cover. Gee, wonder why it broke?
  14. Creepy laptop filling. An old laptop had been stored away in a warehouse for 10 years. When it was decided that the data on it should be recovered, it turned out the whole computer was stuffed full of dead and decaying cockroaches.
  15. Flash drive? When a worker at a medical company had finally completed 1,200 customer billing entries after several days of work, lightning struck a transformer just outside the building, taking everything out, including the storage with all the prepared bills.
  16. Steel beam on laptop = not good. During the construction of a large office building, a steel beam fell right on a laptop computer (with the building plans) and crushed it.
  17. Flush away your troubles. Here’s another person with a temper problem. A man became so furious when his laptop was acting up that he threw it into the toilet and flushed repeatedly.
  18. If at first you don’t succeed, back over it. A woman put her laptop on top of her car while she got in. She forgot about it and started driving, making the laptop slide off the back of the car. She then put the car in reverse and ran the computer over. People do this with sodas and coffee mugs all the time, but with computers?
  19. More wheeled incidents. People obviously love running things over, computer equipment included. Examples include a laptop run over by a “people mover” at an airport, and a backpack with external hard drives that was backed over by a truck (ouch). But the winner has to be the following entry:
  20. Airplane destruction. The number one spot in the in the strange laptop computer destruction contest has to go to this one. Although it’s very unclear exactly how it happened, a laptop computer apparently got run over by, of all thing, an AIRPLANE.

We hope you enjoyed this list. Truly cringeworthy examples, aren’t they?

One of the most amazing things is that in most (or all?) of the cases above, the data on the storage devices could be saved.

If you want to check out the original press releases from the company, you can find them listed here (but although we’re sure they do a great job, be prepared to filter out the usual corporate hyperbole).

What about you?

Do you have any incidents or anecdotes of your own to share? Please do so in the comments!


  1. I have spilled coffee all over my laptop not once, but twice. Gave me some trouble the second time, but overall it is still running ok (after some serious cleaning, which wasn’t fun to do). I suspect I have been lucky. 🙂

  2. i stood up while wearing headphones plugged into a laptop [forgot i had them on] and went to leave the room and it pulled the laptop off the desk and it hit the floor with a dull thud thankfully the floor was carpet and the laptop still works years later 😉

  3. Worked at Merck for a few months this year as a temp, fixing broken IBM X41 tablets.

    We had not one, BUT MULTIPLE tablets that had been backed over by cars. The one guy left laptop on trunk, backed out, backed over fallen laptop, then RAN IT OVER AGAIN pulling back into his parking spot.

    Even IBMs won’t live through that kind of treatment.

  4. I’ve seen better. Abrasive cloth to remove stains from the LCD screen is my favorite, but plugging unknown interface cables that just happen to fit into various sockets can do a lot of damage too.

    Personally I am sceptic about the effects of acid on hard disk housings. That works great in movies, but in the real world you should not hold your breath while it eats through casings.

    And things falling in the water are not typically PC-related happenings.


  5. Windex + Plastic LCD screen. Basically stuffed screen. Yes normal standard window cleaner. Answer from the person just made it. But it is a window is it not because I always hear you cursing about windows when you are near them.

    Yes person computer illiterate doing building cleaning. As you can guess a lot of them.

  6. Going to work one day, I saw cars ahead of me swerving left and right. When I got to the spot, I saw the remains of a laptop. I think they left it on top of the car and drove off. It dropped off on the interstate and not everyone missed driving over it. There wasn’t much left!

  7. Left my laptop sitting somewhat precariously on the coffee table, only to have my cat pounce on it from about 5 feet higher off a shelf…

  8. A coworker decided to clean his keyboard and thoroughly sprayed out the keyboard with a can of spray duster, only to realize that he had accidently picked up the can of spray adhesive.

  9. I jumped up from a gaming session on a borrowed PS2 console kicking a pint of cider over which spilled across the floor and into the Sony. I turned it off but when I reapplied the power the drive spun up at a frightening speed and refused to read any disks. The caller was a friend who suggested putting the console on a towel on a radiator to dry out overnight. This didn’t work. The friend who owned the PS2 came round the next day and I innocently told him how his Playstation had suddenly gone berserk all on it’s own and how I knew nothing about it. This took some doing but I had him convinced until there was a knock at the door again and the other friend came into the room and asked “Hey – is the Playstatsion still working after the cider came out ?” Friend number 1 who owned the PS2 was not amused…

  10. I have a dv9000 HP series which happens to have episodes when it doesn´t boot up. Once, being out of my mind, I put it inside the freezer (-4°F) and booted it 1 hr later with the case still full of ice. It didn´t started up because of the temperature protection device in the mother board.

    Later I booted it again with the keyboard damped in water (the ice was melting). It survived and is still working.

    Months later I found the solution to the boot problem: overheating.

  11. i was spinning cookies in a mormon parking lot one snowey morning. only to find out later that a backpack had fallen on the screen, it was broken. now it works great as a desktop.

    if you are going to break a laptop, why not have fun doing it?

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