BIOS is an acronym for Basic Input or Output System, also known as system setup. BIOS is firmware that is embedded on a small memory chip on the computer's system board or motherboard. It acts as an interface between the computer's hardware and the operating system. The BIOS also contains instructions that the computer uses to perform basic instructions such as date, time, whether to boot from a hard disk drive, USB drive, or the network, and so on.
There are three types of passwords that can be set up in the BIOS of a computer.
- System or User password - Password that you must enter to log on to the computer. Prevents an unauthorized user from using the computer. Without the user password, a user cannot enter the BIOS, access the one time boot menu (F12 menu), or boot into the operating system.
- Setup or Admin password - Password that you must enter to access and make changes to the BIOS settings of the computer. Prevents an unauthorized user from accessing the BIOS or making changes to the settings in the BIOS.
- HDD password - Password that you must enter to allow the BIOS to access the hard drive and continue booting into the operating system. Prevents an unauthorized user from accessing the HDD and booting into the operating system.
For more information about BIOS, how to access the BIOS, and how to update the BIOS to the latest version, see the Dell knowledge base article Dell BIOS Updates.
BIOS passwords provide a layer of security for users to prevent unauthorized access to the computer. Follow the instructions in this article to get help to reset the BIOS password.
How to reset or clear the BIOS password
To reset or clear the password that is set inside the BIOS of a Dell desktop, all-in-one, or laptop:
- Browse to the Dell Manuals website.
- Identify your Dell product
- Click Download & Install SupportAssist to auto-detect your Dell product. Follow the on-screen instructions to install Dell SupportAssist. For more information, see the Dell knowledge base article Dell SupportAssist (formerly Dell System Detect): Overview and Common Questions.
- Or, enter the Service Tag, Express Service Code, or the Serial number of the Dell product and click Search.
- Or, click Browse all products to manually select your Dell product from the catalog.
- Locate the service manual under the Manuals and Documents section.
- Click View PDF or View Page next to the service manual of the Dell computer.
- Follow the instructions under the Deleting or changing an existing system setup password section.
How to recover a forgotten BIOS password on a Dell desktop
BIOS passwords cannot be recovered. If you have forgotten one of the passwords that is set in the BIOS, resetting the CMOS or NVRAM helps reset the BIOS to factory default settings and remove the passwords from the BIOS.
WARNING: Clearing the CMOS or NVRAM using a jumper resets the passwords in the BIOS. This includes the BIOS user password, admin password, and HDD password. This does not include any other passwords such as Windows logon, online accounts, and so on.
The location of the PSWD jumper will vary between different Dell desktops. For more information about the location of jumpers, see the User Manual
of the Dell desktop.
- Before you begin, follow the Safety Precautions When Working with Electronic and Electrical Equipment.
- Turn off the computer and disconnect the power cable from the computer.
- Locate the password reset jumper (PSWD) on the system board.
- Remove the jumper plug from the password jumper-pins.
- Power on without the jumper plug to clear the password.
- Wait until the desktop is loaded and then shut down the computer and replace the jumper plug in its original location.
How to recover a forgotten BIOS password on a Dell laptop
BIOS passwords cannot be recovered. If you have forgotten one of the passwords that is set in the BIOS, contact Dell Technical Support to obtain a password release code. The password release code is based on the unique password prompt that is generated by your Dell laptop.
NOTE: Users will be asked to provide ownership information about the Dell computer to prevent unauthorized users from obtaining the password release code.
For assistance with Microsoft Windows logon password issues, see the Dell knowledge base article Problems with Windows 10 local account password or Microsoft Account
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