The 12 most dreaded help desk requests

These 12 questions and requests are guaranteed to draw groans from practically any IT pro in the world

12 lines the IT help desk hates to hear
Ben Barbante

12 lines the IT help desk hates to hear

Working on an IT help desk can feel like an endless case of déjÀ vu. Let's face it: Computer users are damn predictable. If you've heard a problem once, you've heard it a thousand times before.

Some things, though, have been said so many times that they've practically become help desk clichés -- and the very sound of them is enough to make any IT pro want to smack his or her head with the nearest blunt object.

If you've called your company's help desk with any of these problems, trust me: You've been the target of a serious eye-roll on the other end of the line. And if you've fielded one, feel free to share your favorite rejoinder in the comments.

1. I think the printer might be jammed.
Ben Barbante

1. "I think the printer might be jammed."

It's one of the most common help desk calls -- and one most every help desk staffer would be happy never to hear again. Whether the jam is caused by shoddy parts, shifty users, or shiny candy (yes -- shiny candy), it's no less likely to elicit an exaggerated sigh.

PC load letter, indeed.

2. Can you help me get my email on my new phone?
Ben Barbante

2. "Can you help me get my email on my new phone?"

"My non-company-supported personal phone, that is. While you're at it, can you also put the Facebooks and Twitters on there? And all the pictures of my kid? They're right here on my personal laptop. Oh, and if you could get all that done by lunchtime, that'd be great."

Nothing like a quick little favor, eh? As technology becomes more and more prevalent in our lives, IT pros are finding themselves more and more inundated with personal support requests. And when the requests come from high-ranking colleagues or executives, they can be especially challenging to tactfully turn down.

3. Isn\'t it time for my computer to be upgraded?
Ben Barbante

3. "Isn't it time for my computer to be upgraded?"

The nonspecific upgrade is the magic elixir of the business world: Users may not know what it is they want upgraded or what exactly they expect said upgrade to do, but gosh darn it, they just know it'll make all their woes go away. And hey, why ask a manager -- you know, the one with the power to actually place such an order -- when they can just pester the person who does the dirty work?

Come on already: Don't you have some extra RAM lying around for their hard drives -- or maybe a few extra gigawatts for their CPUs?

4. How do I stop all these system updates?
Ben Barbante

4. "How do I stop all these system updates?"

As much as they love the thought of upgrades, users seem to loathe the thought of updates -- the system updates that pop up on their computers and make them wait an extra 200 seconds before powering on in the morning or shutting down at night. It's not like those updates do anything important like fix critical bugs or improve system security, do they?

To be fair, part of the resentment probably stems from the fact that Microsoft delivers approximately 4,972 updates per month that take an average of 70 gazillion hours each to install -- but still, phoning up the IT guy to harass him every time doesn't make the process go any faster.

5. Help! I forgot my password.
Ben Barbante

5. "Help! I forgot my password."

The fella who calls after forgetting his network password is bad enough (especially when you consider that it was probably "password123" to begin with). Worse yet is the guy who calls after forgetting his password to Facebook, Friendster, or -- the crown of them all --

Of course, IT does its fair share to encourage this particular brand of brain freeze with increasingly complex password policies, which could be a recipe for disaster.

6. Why is the Internet so slow?
Ben Barbante

6. "Why is the Internet so slow?"

Known in the biz as "the best way to get an insincere 'we'll look into that' response."

7. I keep getting this weird error code. Can you fix it?
Ben Barbante

7. "I keep getting this weird error code. Can you fix it?"

This one wouldn't be so bad if it were followed by any actual information about the error code -- you know, such specifics as what the freakin' thing said, when it occurred, or what the user was doing in the moments before the issue arose. Inevitably, though, the user will have no recollection of anything other than the fact that an error message came up at some point during the day and/or night.

That reminds me: My car keeps making this weird noise. I'd better go tell my mechanic...

See also: "It just crashed."

8. My computer has a virus, but I clicked the prompt to update my antivirus software yesterday.
Ben Barbante

8. "My computer has a virus, but I clicked the prompt to update my antivirus software yesterday."

Whoops. And this despite numerous reminder emails from IT about malware masquerading as antivirus updates. To be fair, some of these phishing or social engineering scams are sophisticated and tricky. But that's why we send out the warnings. If only we could get users to cast aside messages from the baddies as quickly as they cast aside messages from IT, thinking, "Oh, it'll never happen to me."

9. But I didn\'t download anything bad -- I swear.
Ben Barbante

9. "But I didn't download anything bad -- I swear."

Those shady-looking porn files must have just been on the hard drive before. And someone else must have opened all those PDF attachments from unknown senders and clicked on all those questionable links from Facebook friends. How dare you accuse the computer's primary user of such outrageous actions!

10. I only deleted the stuff that I didn\'t need.
Ben Barbante

10. "I only deleted the stuff that I didn't need."

For some reason, drivers always seems to strike people as being particularly disposable.

11. My inbox is full. What should I do?
Ben Barbante

11. "My inbox is full. What should I do?"

Warning: Instructing users to delete unneeded items may have unintended consequences (see previous slide).

12. I only spilled a little bit on it.
Ben Barbante

12. "I only spilled a little bit on it."

Famous last words.

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