So this Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop lands at my doorstep. New owner reported that the erstwhile owner had forgotten the password. Since I had reliable information that this laptop was not purchased from a mugger for $20 and was inherited genuinely, I set about genuinely trying to restore the functionality of the machine.
The password on the laptop that was set, was not a Windows password. It was a BIOS password. Much harder to deal with. While there are utilities on Hiren’s Boot CD to perform simple reset of Windows passwords, the BIOS password tools do not work if the BIOS requires a password even before booting from any device. The only solution, reset the BIOS password or get rid of it.
There were textbook websites offering computer maintenance tips, some suggested battery removal, some suggested battery terminal shorting, some suggested shorting the pins of a particular chip on the motherboard, some suggested contacting Dell.
Searching Google revealed a surprise: there were tons of websites, each offering a BIOS password back-door for amounts between $20 – $50. Pay the money, email the BIOS Error Codes and voila! You get the BIOS back-door password by email. Simple. Not. Most of these websites are run by people with better financial acumen than technical. They just ride the google keywords boat and $20 is not what I was willing to spend on this free exercise.
Delving deeper, I wanted to download the same tools that these 1-page websites were using. Surely there are enough well-meaning people in the world who would rather help people than leech off their misery.
A little under an hour later, I stumbled on the motherload – Dogbert’s Blog.
Dogbert has been researching and reverse engineering locked up devices for a while now and provides comprehensive education and tools at no cost to those who manage to sift through the filth in google search results.
Among the many tools on the website, there was one for generating passwords for Dell machines whose BIOS ID ended with 595B. Lucky strike for me.
Downloaded the tool, ran it three times (my bad) and got the back-door password. BIOS unlocked. I went a step further and taped the BIOS backdoor password to the bottom of the laptop; should the laptop ever lock itself up automatically again – as some users reported.
Windows XP starts up and I am greeted with Windows Password required screen. By now, my paying client’s work had been on the bench long enough and I needed to earn my $20. Hence laptop was returned to owner with advise to contact erstwhile owners about the Windows password.
If it comes back to me, you will know. Because there will be yet another article about password removal. And the article will be laced moderately with google ads. You see, I too ride the google keywords boat.
Here’s a tip for the paranoid: If you are sensitive about your data, use TrueCrypt to protect it and don’t bother with setting BIOS / Windows passwords.
Update: Now that the TrueCrypt project has gone belly-up, a number of other alternatives have sprung up. Some free, some paid. Check out this article to discover a few alternatives >> https://www.cloudwards.net/best-truecrypt-alternative-services/