Recovering a Laptop After Forgetting Windows and BIOS Password

My sis-in-law loves a bargain (she's from Yorkshire!) and recently rang to ask me (via her sister, my wife) if I'd be able to recover a laptop she'd been offered, before she went ahead and bought it.

Apparently the owner of the laptop had forgotten the Windows password and had written the laptop off as worthless, so was willing to sell for next-to-nothing. I said yes, I'd able to do something with it.

What I didn't realise was that it might have a BIOS password, which it did!

Initially I'd thought it would be as simple as sticking in a Windows install CD and building from scratch. However, without the BIOS password I couldn't change the boot order of the disks to get it to boot from CD.

I tried Google and there's lots of complicated hacks out there, as well as BIOS removal tools for sale. None of the hacks worked for me. Nor did stripping the laptop down to hot-wire jumpers or remove the CMOS battery (which was un-removable).

Then I had a brainwave.

The Simple, Fool-Proof Solution

If you find yourself wanting to boot from CD on a laptop (or PC for that matter) where you can't modify the BIOS try this:

  1. Remove the hard drive
  2. Insert the Windows install CD
  3. Start the laptop
  4. Hope that BIOS fails-over to the CD after not finding a hard drive
  5. If it boots from the CD, while that's happening, quickly re-insert the hard drive.
  6. By the time Windows is ready to install the hard drive will be there
  7. Remove the old disk partitions and start afresh

Hey presto. Worked for me. Hope it helps somebody else.


  1. Ah yes, the old "forgotten the password" option, so beloved my thieves and dodgy blokes down the pub.

  2. Won't the BIOS password still be there the next time you reboot?

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Wed 4 Dec 2013 08:46 AM

      Yes, but next time it reboots it will (does!) have a fresh password-less install of Windows on it. Job done.

      Hide the rest of this thread

        • avatar
        • Jake Howlett
        • Wed 4 Dec 2013 08:46 AM

        And because the hard drive it back in there it will boot from that first.

          • avatar
          • harkpabst_meliantrop
          • Tue 10 Dec 2013 03:07 PM

          Depending on the notebook and/or BIOS vendor, you might even be able to force a full BIOS settings reset through the approriate flash tool. Just in case you ever need to go there again.

          But on the other hand, it would mean, that your sister-in-law could go there too and screw it up. :-P

          Well, you could set your own BIOS password then. Most notebooks have few meaningful settings anyway. Setting the operation mode of the SATA controller would be one, if it isn't set to AHCI anyway.

          Or you could just give yourself a little slap on your shoulder, be proud of your idea, enjoy a good drink ... and wait for the next support call.

      • avatar
      • IanB
      • Thu 5 Dec 2013 08:11 AM

      You were thinking like me, that 'bios password' meant a pre-boot password needing to be entered before loading the OS.

      From reading through it though I think Jake means a password protected bios. So it boots, you're only prompted for the bios password if you press f2 (or whatever).

      Show the rest of this thread

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