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Unlocking Locked Hard Drives

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Many clients receive hard drives that are locked and do not know what to do with them since a locked hard drive prevents any access. It is basically useless until it is unlocked so most of my clients cannot resell or re-use them as is. Below are the steps to get these hard drives unlocked so that they can be re-used instead of hitting the shredder.

#1 Do you know the Password?

Everyone gets confused when asking about the password since there can be a few passwords when referring to a computer. There is a user password, BIOS password, and the least familiar is the hard drive password which is also the one we care about the most. User password and BIOS passwords have to do with the OS or computer and laptop themselves and not necessarily the hard drive which is our case.

From my experience, when a client receives any quantity of locked hard drives from the same supplier, the hard drives are almost always all locked with the same hard drive password. This is very advantageous to us because all we need to do is know one hard drives password and then we can automate the process of unlocking them all under 30 seconds using Disk Drive Solutions hardware equipment.


The first place to check for the hard drive password is with the supplier themselves. It is best to ask the question to the IT department that most likely setup their systems. If that returns no information, the next step would be to crack the password using the Insight Forensic.


The Insight Forensic can automatically remove hard drive ATA passwords from a number of supported hard drives in under 2 minutes. Plug in the hard drives, select the unlocking tasks and let the hardware do its magic. Once its done, your password will appear on the screen. And when I say magic, it really is amazing in its ability to crack these long confusing hex passwords.


#2 Unlock using Disk Recycler

Now that we have the password for one hard drive, there is only one hardware solution on the market that can unlock a mass amount of hard drives in one fell swoop, its the Disk Recycler. The Disk Recycler is a script-able hard drive test and wipe solution designed for processing drives on a low or high volume scale. The fact that it is a script-able system allows you to create a custom script designed strictly for unlocking the hard drives with the specific password.


disk_recyclerIn the Disk Recycler, it has a command function for unlocking. To write this script, all you need is the password we recovered in step #1. There are two settings for hard drive passwords, one is user and the other is master. Not all hard drives allow both password settings so when you write a script you need to try plugging in the now known password as a user and as a master. One of them will work.


Once you try this on a hard drive, it is best to try and read the sectors. If you can read the sectors successfully, you have unlocked the hard drive using the Disk Recycler and now all you need to do is scale it. Plug in more hard drives, run the same unlocking script and you have yourself a mass unlocking hard drive tool!