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What is a nice way to explain that performing a certain action will "break" a product? I have to explain to a customer that use of my product in an unauthorized manner will "break" the product, but I'd like to use a word that has the same meaning but more professional connotation while maintaining the robustness/integrity of my product in their eyes.

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Disable, invalidate? – rmx Jun 15 '11 at 15:42
"WARNING: Removing this sticker will invalidate your warranty!" :) – JYelton Jun 15 '11 at 18:07
It's not 1 word (and thus not an answer), but "render unusable" is what I'd use. – dpatchery Jun 15 '11 at 19:20
@rmx: To me, "disable" seems the best choice for a single word. Otherwise, dpatchery's suggestion is what I'd go with. – JAB Jun 15 '11 at 20:18
up vote 8 down vote accepted

For a physical object, "damage" is the usual choice in my experience. For software, you sometimes see "corrupt", though that usually applies to data and not the product itself.

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I never heard anyone talk about software being 'corrupted' by unusual user action or input data. More or less by definition, software is 'read-only', and not capable of being corrupted. Sure, you could corrupt a database, but that's not really the product itself. – FumbleFingers Jun 15 '11 at 15:20
I once saw an anti-virus package corrupt a previously-installed (competing) one, but that's of course an external factor, not something you did in the (target) software package itself. – Monica Cellio Jun 15 '11 at 16:25
Certainly an external factor (usually actual malware, rather than anti-malware) can corrupt an installed package. But in IT departments we invariably speak of users breaking our software by using it in 'creative' non-documented (i.e. - unforeseen) ways. – FumbleFingers Jun 15 '11 at 16:50
@FumbleFingers, fair enough. If you want something more formal than "break" (as the OP does), what do you say your users do? "Damage" doesn't seem quite right, perhaps because they can always re-install to get past it, unlike with broken hardware where damaged is damaged. – Monica Cellio Jun 15 '11 at 17:39
Using break in this sense is somewhat 'trade jargon'. The normal terms presented to end-users (of anything, not just software) are cause unexpected behaviour, result in damage, etc. It's pointless asking for a single-word equivalent to break because there isn't really one in common usage. – FumbleFingers Jun 15 '11 at 17:49

How about compromise?

To reduce in quality, value, or degree; weaken or lower.


I think this word has the advantage of implying any damage done would be due to user-error rather than a lack of "robustness" of the product.

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I think they usually say:

Usage of the product in an unauthorized manner may damage the product.

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We use the following phrases with our products:

The resolution of issues caused by using the product in a manner other than described will not be supported by our technical staff.


Using the product in a manner other than described is not recommended, as it may cause unexpected results.

EDIT: Oh, I noticed that you wanted a single word. You might try subvert or corrupt. Both of these terms would, I think, imply that the screw up was due to the user's interference, rather than the program itself.

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@JoelB Sorry. I read more carefully and noticed you wanted a single word. – Kit Z. Fox Jun 15 '11 at 13:13
Single word to be used in a statement...you're relevant. – Joel B Jun 15 '11 at 14:15

Perhaps to harm or harmful?

Allowing unauthorized access to the users data is considered harmful

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