Frozen Hard Drive Password Problem Solved

I have a Dell Studio 1640 XPS I bought in 2009.  It is an older machine but still runs reasonably well.

Right after purchase I set a HD password in the Phoenix BIOS.

About 4 years ago I was looking in the BIOS and noticed that the HD password was frozen.  I had done nothing that I could recall which would have caused this freeze.  I could not figure out how to unfreeze it.  I was told that Lojack caused the problem, but after discussing this problem with Lojack, I was certain that Lojack was not to blame.  Because I wanted the hard drive to be password protected, which it was, I decided to ignore the problem.

Recently my HD started to shows signs of failure.  Index corruption and significant hesitancy in saving work or moving files made me purchase an SSD to replace the conventional HD.  I used EaseUS (EXCELLENT back up software I highly recommend) to back up the failing HD sector by sector, including the MBF (master boot record).  EaseUS did a great job, but when I rebooted the computer after the old HD OS and data were transferred to the SSD, the boot up did not require entering a hard drive password.  Because I am required to password protect my hard drive I needed to solve this problem.

I went into the Bios/Security and could only set the Supervisor password which protected the access to the BIOS.  It did not change the status of the frozen HD password.  Because I didn't want the BIOS password protected, I removed the Supervisor password.  I thought I was not going to be able to solve this problem so I called Dell out of warranty service and the technician asked me to look at the BIOS and describe the problem.  When I went into the BIOS, to my total surprise, I found the Password was no longer frozen.  I was able to set the password, clear it, and set it again.  This resulted in the password being set on the hard drive and for that last multiple boots the computer has required entering the password before getting access to the hard drive.  It did not revert to a frozen password state in the BIOS so far.

So here was the sequence and good luck to anyone suffering from the same problem:

How to reset a frozen HD password in the (Phoenix) BIOS.

Remove the battery. Run computer from the power supply.

Enter a system password in BIOS and save it on exit.

Shut down computer from Windows after boot up.

Reboot the computer and enter the BIOS.

Delete the System password. Let the computer boot into Windows.  Then Shut down the computer from Windows again.

On next reboot enter the BIOS.  The frozen HD password should be cleared.  If it is set, clear it and reset it.  If it is not set, try setting the HD Password again.

Reboot.  The HD should now be password protected.  (My BIOS states that the supervisor password can not be set if the hard drive password is set.)

Reboot to confirm the HD password is set. There should be a requirement that the password be entered before the HD allows access to booting up the operating system.

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3 Replies
9 Rhodium

RE: Frozen Hard Drive Password Problem Solved

The thing for everyone using a hard drive password to note is that the password ties the drive to the sysetm - in other words, if the system fails, it is absolutely essential to have a backup made in advance, since there's no way to remove the password from the drive using another system.

That is something to consider BEFORE employing drive security.

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RE: Frozen Hard Drive Password Problem Solved

Not sure what you mean here.  If you have a password protected hd, the password protection is embedded in the hd so that if someone steals or removes the hd, they can not access anything on the hd without the password.  It is device independent.  If you place the hard drive in a different computer, you will need to enter the password before booting into the operating system or, if it is a second hd, before getting access to the file system or any data.  

The supervisor password in my BIOS controls access to the BIOS.  There is another password option in my BIOS called user password.  I don't know what that controls.  Windows OS allows you to set a password for access to the OS for any of the users or administrators.  That is software dependent, comes after Windows has booted but before access to the users or administrators configurations and does not seem to provide the same security.

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9 Rhodium

RE: Frozen Hard Drive Password Problem Solved

What I mean is:  if the system fails and has a password protected hard drive in it, the data on the drive is inaccessible without data recovery.  Once a password is set, the drive is forever tied to the system that was used to set the password.

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