It is common that an HDD or SSD built into a personal computer has much personal information and confidential company information. Therefore, if your computer is stolen or lost, important information may be extracted from the HDD or SDD. In case of theft or loss, it is important to take measures in advance. One method is “ATA password lock” introduced this content. However, since this ATA password lock is a very strong security feature, if you use it incorrectly, you may not be able to access your data. Let’s learn how to use it correctly in this content.
・1. ATA password lock that restricts reading and writing of an HDD / SSD itself
HDDs and SSDs have a function called “ATA password lock (hard disk password)”. This is a function that if you connect an HDD or SSD to a specific computer and set a password, you will not be able to read or write even if you connect to another computer unless you enter the password. Windows user passwords are well known as passwords to prevent others from using your computer. This is the password you enter when you turn on your computer, start Windows, and sign in. Since you cannot sign in without knowing your user password, you might think that you don’t have to worry about data in the HDD or SSD, even if someone gets you PC.
However, if the user password is simply set, you can access the data by removing the HDD or SSD from that computer and attaching it to another computer. This is because the user password is just a password to allow the use of Windows, and does not restrict reading and writing of the HDD or SSD itself.
On the other hand, the ATA password lock is set on an HDD or SSD device itself. Even if your connect drives to another computer, you are not be able to read or write unless you enter the correct password. It’s a very powerful security feature.
There is also “encryption” as a method to hide the data even if it is connected to another computer. However, this method has the disadvantage of increasing read and write time because it requires the processes of “encrypting when writing” and “decrypting (undoing) when reading”. On the other hand, ATA Password Lock does not slow down because once you enter the correct password, you can read and write normally.
・2. How to set and unlock ATA password lock
If you make a mistake in the procedure from here, Windows may not start or the contents of your HDD or SSD may be lost forever. Do not operate except when necessary. Also, pay attention to the operation and do it at your own risk.
To lock the ATA password, use “BIOS” function of your computer. You’ve probably seen the manufacturer’s logo and text appear when you turn on your computer (starting from shutdown, not waking from sleep). In that state, you can boot BIOS by pressing the boot key of BIOS from your keyboard. Since “BIOS boot key” and screen display operation method differ depending on computer models, it is recommended to check your instruction manual or contact user support.
The general procedure is to set a “supervisor password”. This is a password that is required to change BIOS settings later. Depending on models, you may be required to enter the password when starting up your computer. Then enable ATA password lock. Now, the built-in HDD or SSD cannot be read or written even if it is connected to another computer.
・3. What if you forget or don’t know your password?
So what if you forget the password you set on your HDD or SSD? Unfortunately, the HDD or SSD will no longer be available. Since ATA password lock is not set on partitions or drives , it cannot be fully formatted and undone. If you forget your ATA password, you will not be able to do most of the operations on that HDD or SSD. Even when purchasing a used HDD or SSD, avoid products with an ATA password lock.
If you lock the ATA password, you no need to worry about your data being seen by others even if your computer or HDD or SSD is stolen or lost. However, since the data is recorded unencrypted, it is easy for someone to to see your data if the one knows your password . Also, if you forget the password, not only you lose the data, but you are not be able to use the HDD or SSD itself. Be careful to use it.