By Collin Allen

Hacking Dell

December 23, 2005

I recently learned of a cool hack at my new job, pertaining to recovering Dell laptops from a BIOS password protected state. While I don’t use a PC at home, I deal with various PC related hardware all day long, and it’s great to be able to do little tricks like this. Assuming you have a Dell laptop in which you can no longer access the BIOS setup, it may be possible to short out the chip responsible for storing the setting (as well as the Dell Service Tag) and grant access to the previously locked setup. Personally, I’ve done it on several Latitude models, although getting physical access to the chip required completely disassembling the laptop and removing the motherboard. On the bottom of the board, quite often near the RAM slots, is the target 24C02 serial EEPROM. By shorting pins 3 and 6 while powering up the machine, the chip is disabled and the Dell laptop goes into “manufacturer mode,” where the BIOS password no longer exists. I’ve read that the Service Tag data can be re-entered using the ASSET.COM utility, available from Dell’s FTP server. For more detail, you can check out a tutorial I found which no longer exists at the original location, but is thankfully saved at Archive.org. It’s a dangerous, but clever and impressive little hack that just might get you out of a tough spot with a machine that would otherwise be a simple paperweight. I hope to post more hacks like this as I discover them.