how do you remove an ata hard disk password?

Discussion in 'Computer Security' started by David McDowell, Feb 4, 2006.

  1. Hello all!
    Being an entrepreneurial ebayer I have bought a laptop hard disk which
    is protected with an ATA password with the idea of removing the password so
    that I get a larger hard disk at a bargain price, you can set this type of
    password in the bios of any laptop. After trying various methods of removing
    these types of passwords I'm a bit stumped.
    So far I have tried:
    - downloading and using atapwd.
    - connecting the drives to my pc using a 3.5->2.5 adapter, (as my pc
    does not support ata passwords in the bios) booting in unix/windows and
    running a format (and forced erase in unix), but the drive does not respond
    to any commands without the password.

    What I know so far:

    The disk lock is a built-in security feature in the disk. It is part of the
    ATA specification, and thus not specific to any brand or device.

    A disk always has two passwords: A User password and a Master password. Most
    disks support a Master Password Revision Code, which can tell you if the
    Master password has been changed, or it still the factory default. The
    revision code is word 92 in the IDENTIFY response. A value of 0xFFFE means
    the Master password is unchanged.

    A disk can be locked in two modes: High security mode or Maximum security
    mode. Bit 8 in word 128 of the IDENTIFY response tell you which mode your
    disk is in: 0 = High, 1 = Maximum.

    In High security mode, you can unlock the disk with either the user or
    master password, using the "SECURITY UNLOCK DEVICE" ATA command. There is an
    attempt limit, normally set to 5, after which you must power cycle or
    hard-reset the disk before you can attempt again.

    In Maximum security mode, you cannot unlock the disk! The only way to get
    the disk back to a usable state is to issue the SECURITY ERASE PREPARE
    command, immediately followed by SECURITY ERASE UNIT. The SECURITY ERASE
    UNIT command requires the Master password and will completely erase all data
    on the disk. The operation is rather slow, expect half an hour or more for
    big disks. (Word 89 in the IDENTIFY response indicates how long the
    operation will take.)

    There are websites out there that offer to retrieve info from these locked
    hard disks, but they charge a small fortune, but it proves it is possible.
    Does anyone have any suggestions of how to remove these passwords? If it
    helps the hard disk is an IBM travelstar.

    I've had a search on google and come up with nothing, the only promising
    suggestion I came across was a solution using a mac. Which sadly I don't
    have :(

    Any ideas????


    A very puzzled ebayer....
    David McDowell, Feb 4, 2006
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  2. nemo_outis

    nemo_outis Guest

    "David McDowell" <> wrote in news:l09Ff.4818

    > Hello all!


    Congratulations, your research is spot on.

    However, sadly, I know of no way of removing a master ATA password other
    than ponying up the bucks to those who do know how.

    nemo_outis, Feb 4, 2006
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  3. Jim Watt

    Jim Watt Guest

    On 04 Feb 2006 22:21:26 GMT, "nemo_outis" <> wrote:

    >"David McDowell" <> wrote in news:l09Ff.4818
    >> Hello all!

    >Congratulations, your research is spot on.

    Indeed, except that the default password (for the ATA command
    not what the laptop wants, for IBM drives) is all spaces.

    Heres a competent article on the subject;

    Jim Watt
    Jim Watt, Feb 5, 2006
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