Help me crack into a couple of laptops

So the wife got a couple of HP laptops from work. Legally. Seriously. They were cleaning out stuff.

Anyway they are HPs and relatively newish. They are password protected. They are also IT laptops. So rather good encryption.

I was able to get into the BIOS start on one. Every disk access was greyed out. Spent a while trying but no go. Short of pulling the drives and connecting them to another comp to format them, what can I do? I don’t want the data on the drives. I’d like to keep Windows if I can but I doubt that will be possible.


If they are SATA drives you can perform a Secure ATA erase.
If they are NVME then you can perform an NVMe Secure erase.

I use this utility (paid) Parted Magic that provides a nice GUI for you.

Manual method:

I guess this assumes that I can get past the password prompt? I cannot.

I have used it before to bypass locked drives. It destroys all the data on the drive in the process (obviously) but it did unlock it. I have a feeling it depends on the type of security set. Let me Google a moment and try to remember.

Can it be run from a thumb drive? Because I cannot get into the computers at all. Boot up. Password prompt. Can’t go further.

Yup, it runs from a thumb drive.

Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.

If your drives are using ATA security (sounds likely)…

There are 3 types of password:
User password
Master password
Manufacturer master password

The drives I unlocked had a forgotten user password but no master password set. I set the master password using hdparm and then performed a ATA secure erase to remove all security and format the drives. If the master password is already set then you can use the manufacturer password to achieve the same result.

The drives will most likely be marked “frozen” and will prevent you from executing any ATA commands via hdparm or otherwise. To unfreeze them you can either:

  1. Just enter laptop sleep mode and then resume (PartedMagic does this for you)
  2. Whilst the laptop is switched on unplug the drives, wait a few moments then plug them back in

If the drives are using ATA security then removing them and connecting them to another computer will not help. The security is part of the device itself.

Sorry, I realize I’m not formatting all this information too well but it’s 2am here and my brain is fried :)

To clarify:
You could encounter:

  1. BIOS password -
  2. ATA security - this is security at the hardware level on the hard drives themselves
    (See above posts for using PartedMagic or hdparm to remove password)
  3. Software based hard drive encryption
    (Using same method as 2 Secure ATA erase will remove this)
  4. Windows passwords (laughs) -

Best of luck :)

Well if nobody else is going to suggest it… Have you tried drilling holes in the monitors? I heard from a reliable source that it lets the password out.

Junkies with corporate looking laptops for sale in any pub in my old haunts is a no go I reckon.

I hate arsing about with BIOS stuff. Oh and if that lookup fails you might need to get the CMOS battery. I take it that involves, gulp, dismantling a laptop. Desktops i know well but lappies just seem a mass of springs and screws ready to be lost and lots of machined joins you can get tight or align.

The ones they sell to businesses are actually designed to be repairable so they can make money with the support contracts instead of just selling you the hardware once.

As for the BIOS password, the quickest solution would be to just replace the chip if you’re any good at soldering. Easiest would be to have IT try and find the passwords somewhere and unlock it for you. The Windows 10 key could be tied to the motherboard which would get wiped if you replace the chip. Reusing the old key is probably against the terms of service somewhere but nobody really cares.

Not possible.

Yeah. I’ll probably pull the drives and format them.