Unlocking a locked hard drive

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AnonymousONIagent

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So I've been trying to fix the hard drive from an Alienware M14 laptop for the past few days now. While I've pretty much concluded that the drive is completely and utterly borked, I thought I might as well ask here and see if anyone might have a suggestion for something that I haven't tried yet.

The problem is that the operating system is corrupt. The machine refuses to boot into Windows or into a recovery environment. The owner of the laptop contacted Dell and got ahold of a recovery USB. The computer can boot into the recovery environment off of the USB, but the repair process will fail, stating that the hard drive is locked and cannot be accessed.

So I removed the hard drive and plugged it into a desktop PC running the same operating system as is installed on the laptop hard drive via an external enclosure, in hopes of running chkdsk. The disk would not appear in Windows Explorer when plugged into the PC via an external enclosure (although it would show up in device manager and the disk management tool). I could get it to show up in Windows Explorer by connecting the drive directly into the motherboard and rebooting without updating the boot settings in the BIOS. However, the disk cannot be written to, read, or even formatted. chkdsk can be set to run from command prompt, but when you reboot and check disk runs, it will simply sit at 0% for several hours before freezing and becoming entirely unresponsive. If you boot the computer with the drive connected alongside a healthy drive and update update the BIOS settings, the machine will either run chkdsk or boot into a recovery environment. However, none of the options in the recovery console will run; it will immediately produce an error stating that the disk is locked and must be unlocked in order for the selected operation to work.

For now I just replaced the bad drive with a working 120 GB 2.5'' SATA drive I had sitting around and imaged it using the USB recovery media that Dell sent the owner. But if I can get the original drive working again, that would be preferable to giving the owner back the laptop with none of his old data and 1/7 the storage space.
 
I believe you'll need to work with Dell on that one. Anything further could appear to be bypassing security, whether nefarious or not (probably not), but is against the TOS for this site. I'm sorry, but we really cannot help you.
 
I never heard of a locked hardrive, only locked floppy drives or other removable media. I would say the drive is toast for whatever reason and its just throwing that error back at you because it cannot successfully write to it. Try to format it and see what happens.
 

AnonymousONIagent

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Already tried. It says it cannot wipe the drive because it's locked.


For some reason I hadn't thought of using a program other than the formatting tool included in Windows to format the drive. I'll try a couple different programs for this tomorrow and see if anything works. If it doesn't, my guess is that somehow the disk itself has been physically damaged and the drive has locked itself down to prevent further damage, and is therefore just totally shot.
 

AnonymousONIagent

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Using a third-party disk formatting utility worked, sort of. I didn't use DBAN, I used kill disk instead, and while it was unable to format the drives entirely, it was able to reset the partitions into unallocated space. This somehow broke the lock on the disk, allowing me to format it normally through the Windows utility. The OS is reinstalling as I type this.
 
I'd check that disk thoroughly for problems. If it has bad sectors on it, it may have had a head crash; this means there will be particles in the drive, which will lead to further head crashes and data loss. If you were not able to recover the contents, it may make more sense to replace the drive.
 

AnonymousONIagent

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I was already planning to have it run check disk, but thanks for the heads up. Even if everything looks okay, I'll probably give the owner the spare healthy drive I imaged when I return the laptop anyways, just so that they have a backup on hand.
 

Billtoo

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After struggling with the W10 update locked hdd problem for too long I decided to do something out of left field (or in left field). I tried to run an install disk for a piece of software to see what it would do. The first CD I cam across was a " Samsung Solid State Drive One-stop install Nanigator Manual & Software" CD and it not only installed but it unlocked my C: drive in the process. I wonder how many other software installation disks would do the same. You might try installing an already installrd piece of software. It won't hurt and for me it worked. Good luck and congratulations to the Chicago Cubs.
 

Billtoo

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I think I could make my "solution" more clear. The disk I used came with a Samsung Drive but my C: drive is not a Samsung. And the Samsung disk is version 4.5.
 
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