Jan 02 2012

Spontaneous Security

Over the holiday weekend, I experienced the ultimate computer security mechanism:

“Spontaneous Security”

I was using my new Dell Latitude E6420 to do some network reconfiguration when the machine started acting weird with regard to the network.

Since this machine runs Windows 7, I decided to just reboot it to clear the network configuration.

After I restarted the machine I was asked for a password by the BIOS.

The odd thing was … I never set a BIOS password.

The only things I changed in the BIOS were related to operational settings (power, integrated devices, etc).

I tried a few of the likely candidate passwords … nothing worked.

I tried pulling out the hard drive to make sure the password wasn’t tied to that, but it still wanted a password.

Some friends suggested that I pull the CMOS battery from the machine to see if that reset the password, but that didn’t work.  I really didn’t expect it to … what good would a BIOS password be if all it took to get around it was pulling the CMOS battery.

Since I know the laptop has a master password (tied to the service tag, I assume), I called Dell technical support to get it.  After a bit of discussion to ensure that I am the rightful owner of the laptop, they gave me the password.  It was long & convoluted (as good passwords should be).

Unfortunately, the master password didn’t work either.

The first suggestion that the support rep had was that I should return the laptop and get a new one.  Well that’s not acceptable.  I had already installed all my key software and a significant amount of data on it … and I really didn’t want to be without a laptop for 2-3 weeks while they built me a new one (OK, I admit it, I still have my old D630 around … but it’s the principal).

Because I called late in the evening, they weren’t able to get the new motherboard out until the next day … so the day after that I had the laptop working again.

After a bit of discussion with the support rep’s supervisor, they agreed to send out a new motherboard and schedule a service tech to come out to the house and replace it.

The service tech indicated that he had never seen that kind of problem before … I’m hoping this means I won’t have it again.

I guess I should mention that the Dell Latitude E series hasn’t been improved much … the docking station still doesn’t identify itself as one … but I know this now and am willing to cope with it.

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