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.

  • 1
    Disable, invalidate?
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 15:42
  • "WARNING: Removing this sticker will invalidate your warranty!" :)
    – JYelton
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 18:07
  • 1
    It's not 1 word (and thus not an answer), but "render unusable" is what I'd use.
    – dpatchery
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 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
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 20:18

5 Answers 5


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.

  • 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. Commented Jun 15, 2011 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. Commented Jun 15, 2011 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. Commented Jun 15, 2011 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. Commented Jun 15, 2011 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. Commented Jun 15, 2011 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.


I think they usually say:

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


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.

  • @JoelB Sorry. I read more carefully and noticed you wanted a single word.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 13:13
  • Single word to be used in a statement...you're relevant.
    – Joel B
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 14:15

Perhaps to harm or harmful?

Allowing unauthorized access to the users data is considered harmful

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