I been given a Dell T5500 Workstation that used to be maintained by a gentleman that no longer works at the company I work for. The workstation has a BIOS admin password as well as a BIOS boot password that are not the same. I know the boot password because I used the machine prior to him leaving but failed to get the admin password from him.

I need to install a new OS on the workstation, but I'm not given the option to boot from CD before or after the BIOS boot password prompt. I assume this is because the option was either disabled in the BIOS or because it's not presented when theres a BIOS boot or admin password present. I figure my only way around this is to flash a new BIOS on the workstation which is probably a good idea since I currently have no way to make changes to the existing BIOS.

What's the process for flashing the BIOS on a workstation such as this? Is a floppy drive needed (this machine doesn't have one)? Is it even possible if I don't have access to the current BIOS settings?

  • I know I focus on the fact that the machine's a T5500 when flashing a BIOS likely depends more on the specifics of the motherboard, but I failed to gather the motherboard info before leaving the office today. I won't be back into the office until Monday, but wanted to go ahead and post now in hopes that folks would have a chance to answer over the weekend. – Bryan Aug 17 '12 at 3:48
  • Most Dells have a jumper on the main board to clear the BIOS settings. – jscott Aug 17 '12 at 4:10
  • Cool, I'll look Monday to see if I can locate such a jumper... – Bryan Aug 17 '12 at 13:51

The Dell Precision T5500 has jumpers specifically for clearing passwords.

From the Dell Precision™ T5500 Service Manual:

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Jumpers (#3) PSWD and RTCRST_PSWD. Also from the service manual the Clearing Forgotten Passwords section details how to perform the reset:

  1. Remove the computer cover.
  2. Locate the 4-pin password connector (PSWD) on the system board.
  3. Remove the 2-pin jumper plug from pins 3 and 4 and set the jumper plug aside.
  4. Replace the computer cover.
  5. Connect your keyboard and mouse, then connect your computer and monitor to electrical outlets and turn them on.
  6. After the operating system loads, turn the computer off.
  7. Disconnect the keyboard and mouse, then disconnect the computer and monitor from their electrical outlets.
  8. Press the power button on the computer to ground the system board.
  9. Remove the computer cover.
  10. Replace the 2-pin jumper plug onto pins 3 and 4 of the password connector (RTCRST_PSWD) on the system board.
  11. Connect your computer and devices to electrical outlets, and then turn them on.
  • This looks very promising, thanks jscott! I'll try this out on Monday and post my results here as an update. – Bryan Aug 17 '12 at 15:05

Pulling the CMOS battery (it generally looks like a shinny coin) should reset the BIOS to a default state. You'll lose the TPM Key, so backup everything you'll want to before you do this if something is using the TPM, e.g. BitLocker. (Though this doesn't sound like an issue for your particular case.)

Once you've done that you'll have to flash the New BIOS using an external floppy drive. We have a couple USB2 floppy drives we use of cases like this.

If that's not an option you can use something like HP Drive Key to load the BIOS update onto a USB drive. (You'll have to make an appropriate Windows/DOS environment on them.)

EDIT: It looks like the BIOS can be updated from your existing OS, so you can probably disregard the floppy trickery. I was looking at a different and earlier set of Dell T5500 BIOS updates. (You may still have to reset the CMOS, though I suspect that the Flash will just overwrite the existing BIOS without doing any form of security check.)

  • Thanks for taking the time to provide all this info! If I reset the BIOS to a default state by pulling the CMOS battery, will that get rid of the BIOS admin and boot passwords? If so, then I probably wouldn't need to flash the BIOS correct? Or will some other BIOS setting that doesn't get reset still keep me from being able to boot to CD so I can install the new operating system? – Bryan Aug 17 '12 at 13:50

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