Geek Friday: Resetting Dell Latitude BIOS (CMOS) Password

Previously, I wrote “Geek Friday: Resetting a BIOS Password”, which outlined some steps that can be used to reset the security on a PC in which the password has been set in the system BIOS.  Sometimes, this is referred to as a “CMOS password”, which is technically more accurate because password changes do not require a BIOS flash (see Computer Hope’s article “What is the difference between BIOS and CMOS?”), but even techs often use BIOS and CMOS interchangeably.

This information is being made available for those unfortunate people who buy a second-hand computer, say from a pawn shop, legitimately own the computer but cannot make changes to the system.  Thieves will not normally go through the trouble detailed in these articles, but at the same time it isn’t rocket science.  If you own a laptop, you need to be aware of this as well and have backup measures available to you in case your laptop is lost or stolen (Absolute Software offers a low cost subscription to LoJack for laptops).

In that article, I went into how to remove the battery and discharge the motherboard in order to remove a password.  Likewise, I give hints as to how to look for jumpers to reset a password if that does not work.  I then wrote:


I don’t know of any current motherboard where the above would not work.  However, if neither of these works, then Tweaking with Vishal lists these and other methods in “How to Reset / Remove / Bypass a BIOS or CMOS Password?”.  Personally, I would go to the end of his article and try one of the backdoor passwords before trying to use software to crack it.  Resetting the CMOS with software is always a bit of a gamble, and even a small fluctuation in power while writing out new values can scramble your BIOS.

I should have written, “I don’t know of any current desktop motherboards where the above would not work.”  Laptops are a different animal, but it is valid to at least try the battery method with them.  The motherboard can be difficult to get to, and it is a lot of work should there not even be a jumper to reset the password (which is very likely).

Dell Latitudes don’t really have an easily decipherable backdoor password, other than some older models which might have “Dell” (without the quotes, natch).  You have to find a utility to generate the backdoor password for Latitudes.

Before going this route, I tried some of the other available password crackers, but none of them could read or wipe the CMOS settings.  It takes a Dell specific utility.  It was a pain to find, since most of the articles I found were about Windows passwords instead of CMOS passwords, and Google for whatever reason mixed them together.

Even though I couldn’t find much information on it, I was working on a Dell Latitude D820.  Turns out that the same Dell utility that works on older Latitudes also works on it.  You can find the torrent for this file, called “DELL 595B (Bios Master Generator) – DJB3000.rar” at The Pirate Bay.  It is a RAR file, so you may want to look into getting the free 7Zip (also available via Ninite) or some other archive program that can open RAR files.

I downloaded the file, ran it on another PC and got the generated password.  I was then able to go to the other computer and unlock the Admin Password.

setupscreen

Please note that “unlock” is not the same as deleting the password!  You will likely have to unlock it and then remove the password.  You delete the Admin Password by entering the current password and for the new password simply press the [Enter] key.  Deleting the Admin Password also removes the System Password.

I had wondered before about the debug commands listed in the external link (in my original article as quoted above).  Out of curiosity, I did put the system password back on and try the debug commands outlined in the linked article:

debug
o 70 2E
o 71 FF
quit

This did nothing except waste some time.  The system still required a password to get into it.

In short, only the Dell utility worked, but it worked like a champ.

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