I'll start.

I was working the night shift at a data center and a snowstorm knocked out our power. One of our Generators failed, but it was the one that controlled the AC. Nobody else could make it in to help out and the servers started to heat up. On my suggestion, me and the only other guy that was there grabbed some big fans and put them at the top of the stairs from the outside and drew cold air down into the data center which prevented having to shut everything off until the power came back on.

What's your story? How did you not get appreciated for it afterward? ;-)

  • 3
    Should be a community wiki... – Milner Jun 25 '09 at 15:37
  • 4
    I once had a MacGyver moment where I used a piece of foil wrapper from a stick of gum as a jumper on a hard disk drive. It doesn't realy qualify as an "answer", though. smile – Evan Anderson Jun 25 '09 at 15:37

13 Answers 13


Well, I have my own dailywtf story :) : how to open the office door remotely with a PC?

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  • Thats pretty cool. Thinking outside the box. Nice one. – Kip Jun 25 '09 at 16:09
  • That's hilarious. – MathewC Jun 25 '09 at 17:20

Here's the obligatory link to the ITAPPMONROBOT.

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Generally I think all solutions are creative, otherwise you are just repeating yourself, which is not necessary a good thing. But I guess you ask more about the ones that involve duct tape and tie rips :-)

Well, I once needed to move an old mainframe of the type bloody heavy, I used a couple of plastic sacks with some strategic placed holes and a powerful vacuum cleaner. In essence I build myself a hover platform to spare my back and shove the mainframe in the recycle container. My colleagues rewarded me with the 'I rather build a hovercraft than ask another colleague to help me move stuff' trophy.

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The most creative IT tool I've ever used is the PCI slot cover plate. Every time you add a network card to a server, you add another one of these to the stack on the spare parts table.

They are secretly the most useful tool in your server room. Here are some of the things they're good for:

  • Screwdriver.
  • Disconnecting an ethernet cable with broken latch.
  • Opening side panels on anything when fingernails aren't strong enough.
  • Breaking seals and opening packages.
  • Holding patch panel cables out of the way.
  • Fishing for loose screws.
  • Propping open a door.
  • Keeping a manual open to the page you need.
  • Pushing a hard-to-reach power button.
  • And did I mention screwdriver?
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  • haha, box opener of choice, for sure. – Kara Marfia Jun 26 '09 at 14:41
  • Hint: they're not good toothpicks. – Fahad Sadah Dec 30 '10 at 18:10
  • I've successfully used one as slim jim to get into my car. – Doug Kress Oct 21 '11 at 6:56
  • Shimming a sagging metal doorframe. – Scott Pack Nov 30 '12 at 2:00

We had a Nortel Norstar MICS PBX with an old NAM Voicemail system. The system was wallmounted. There was a fire that caused the sprinkler system to release gallons of water from the floor above that traveled down along the walls. The water blew out the power supply. This system was old and very expensive. It provided voicemail for 1000 users and the voice menu system to incoming calls.

When I took it apart, I noticed it was just a custom built computer with an AT power supply that was specially keyed. Lucky for us, there was a flea market across the street open that day. I found a guy selling old computer parts and dug through a giant pile of power supplies and found the only AT he had. The guy didn't even know it was there.

I took a knife and cut off the plastic to get rid of the special keying. The fan in the flea market power supply was locked hard, so I wired in the one from the fried power supply. There was no power button for the flea market power supply, so I had to take two paper clips and short it to on. I plugged it all in, and it worked! I put a big, DO NOT TOUCH sign on my Frankenstein job, and we used that voicemail for another 6 months before replacing it with a newer version.

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  • McGuyver merit badge time... – Kara Marfia Jun 26 '09 at 14:38

One fun one i did last year was using login script and the bios editor from dell to enable wake on lan for all desktops when people log on. Then using the mac addresses (from another script) I would turn the machines on at weekends to allow wsus updates to download and install without affecting users. Then another script to shut them all down afterwards. Works like a charm.

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I call these 'work-arounds' and like to strut, shirtless, through the IT Dept each time I save the day with one of them.

The most recent was: I needed to replace 20 sections of CAT5 that were just installed, but were all faulty (I bought the cheap stuff - lesson learned). The 'run' was from a small server closet, through the ceiling, through a cinder block wall, under some HVAC, across another ceiling, through 20' of conduit to a junction-box, and finally down another piece of conduit to another box where they would be terminated.

So, I carefully measured twice, then instructed our intern to go into the parking lot and cut off 20 100ft sections of CAT5...and NOT to screw up. "Cut long, not short."

We bundled them together and began dragging them from the server closet to their destination. Once I arrived at the destination I realized that they were all too short....by about 10 feet after stretching. There was no way to reach the box and no way I wanted to make that pain-in-the-butt run again. I was hot, sweaty, and angry. The intern had cut accurately, I had measured wrong...TWICE.

I ended up moving the patch panel to the top of the rack AND moving the box up the wall to about shoulder-height.

This may not sound very creative, but it really saved me.

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  • OOOoh thats gotta hurt. Measuring twice and still being out! Thats tough. When we used to run cables i would leave the boxes (always had multiple boxes) and run the cables directly from the cable box. Never cocked up then. Not easy to do unless you hav emultiple boxes tho – Kip Jun 25 '09 at 16:06
  • Yep....we had 3 boxes I think. The budget didnt allow for me to purchase ANYTHING. – cop1152 Jun 25 '09 at 16:21
  • I learned my lesson after overseeing a few jobs to cable an entire office building. ALWAYS leave yourself extra wire since most of the cost of running the wire in is in the labor, not the materials. I think we did 10 feet extra on each end in a nice tidy loop and tucked it away in the ceiling. – David Archer Jun 25 '09 at 17:14

We finally found a use for the instruction manual that came with our telephone system, after removing the side of a comms cabinet, which caused it to turn from a rectangle to a parallelogram. The front could be encouraged in with a couple of strikes from an open hand, but the back had sharp edges, so we had to use the manual to give us something to hit against..

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We had to keep a datacenter running while we upgraded the hardware - which required pulling all the servers out of the rack. so we pulled the servers one by one (HA/clustering is a good thing) and put them on a cart in the middle of the row in the data center a plugged them back in. We managed to not kill anything once we did that ... worst datacenter wiring ever!

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I was adding another pair of Ethernet ports to another room when I realized I didn't have any cat 5 cable. Then I came up with the great idea of just cutting the heads off an existing 50' cable. Once I got it wired up, I also realized I didn't have a cable tester, so I powered up two computers on either side and just tried the cables before closing up the wall.


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I think that one of the best that I did was way back in the day when our dialup RADIUS server was running AAA Radius on BSD/OS 4.2. There was no accounting for each users' time online, and newer RADIUS software wouldn't run on the OS, so I built my own script to create individual accounting records.

I just used the output from tail -f /var/log/radius.log, and looked for logins and logouts, then dumped them to individual files for each user. Then it was just a matter of building a perl CGI script to parse those logs and calculate their time online. This was much faster than parsing the entire radius.log file and our users weren't interested in waiting half an hour(!) for an answer to "How much time have I used so far?" At the end of the month, it would go through all of them for billing purposes.

The new radius server just saves the data to a MySQL database, which is much, much, much less kludgy.

Oh yes, and by the way, I was rewarded with "You totally got the job". I'm now working on my 7th year here.

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Maybe not the most creative thing I've done, but it cost zilch and protected us until I implemented Exchange 2007.

At my old company, in perhaps 2002, our HR person's hard drive crashed with her Outlook PST files on it. And in those PSTs was vital and mostly irreplacable information on our myriad employee benefits. We sent it to Drive Savers, but they couldn't recover the data.

We needed a way to get PST files off individual workstations and given some recoverability. We didn't have disk space nor backup capacity to store the 50 employees' PST files on the network as configured, nor had we the budget for anything that would significantly mitigate the problem. So I started brainstorming.

We happened to have a pair of old Adaptec SCSI cards and a bunch (like 12 or something) of 8 GB SCSI drives out of an old AS/400 lying around, so I thought I'd try to make those work for some kind of solution. I took a pair of identical old mid-tower PCs, installed a SCSI card and four SCSI drives into each, as well as two old computer fans per PC to keep those scorching hot SCSI disks cool. Mind you, there were only two 3.5" bays in these boxes, one occupied by the system disk and one by a floppy drive. So I ripped out the CD drives and all the filler plates, and screwed the drives in to one side of the cage. The big opening combined with the fans provided decent cooling. The PCs had W2K on them, and I configured each for software-based RAID5 for redundancy.

Both PCs were tossed into a server rack in the nice cool Halon-protected server room, plugged into the network, and I wrote a script to use a third-party xcopy utility (xxcopy, I think) to duplicate the PST files from one of the PCs to the other every night. I then pointed every desktop user's Outlook to individually shared (for privacy and security) folders on on of the PCs, and moved their PSTs.

This system ran flawlessly, and non-stop, until September 2007 (or was it September 2006?) when I rolled out Exchange 2007, on a capacious server and with adequate backup capacity.

Total hardware cost: $0

My time: Maybe 40 hours. Certainly no more... probably less.

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The feed from the generator transfer switch (ATS) to the UPS had a unnecessary fused disconnect on the ATS side, and another in the computer room before the UPS. The fuse in the ATS side disconnect blew on a Friday at 6:30 in the evening. The UPS ran the batteries down until the room dumped. Staring at the problem, someone came up with the brilliant idea of stealing the fuses from the utility input side of the ATS and moving them to the blown output side. The generator was started and the computer room brought back up on generator power. The generator ran until the correct fuses could be located. Subsequent maintenances removed the disconnect, and solved the slight overload that caused the fuse to blow in the first place.

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