Sunday, May 25, 2014

Adventures in BIOS Password Hacking on an IBM Thinkpad Laptop

I work at a science museum as an educator, and this summer I am using a whole bunch of IBM Thinkpad T40 laptops to teach computer programming on MIT's Scratch platform.  The Thinkpad laptops were left over from when we had this thing called Immersion Cinema, by Immersion Studios.  They are out of business now, and since they stopped supporting their product we stopped using it, which was before I started working here.  Anyway, the folks at Immersion Studios put a BIOS password on these computers, and when the little CR2032 cell dies in them you can't reset the time, because you can't enter the BIOS, and they won't run if the time is not set.  UGH!  Not awesome.  What IS awesome though, is the internet.  I used a couple of websites to learn how to scan the eeprom chip on the motherboard for the password, and after about 4 tries it worked!  If you need to scan your IBM Thinkpad BIOS password eeprom, the websites I used are here and here.  The downloaded software that is required will often show that contains a virus, but I think it is a false positive.  Anyway, if you have a computer left over from Immersion Cinema that you want to use for other projects, the BIOS password is probably SUPPORT.

Here's the chip you solder to

Mobile electronics workspace in use!

Password is SUPPORT
I won't lie to you; this took me about 12 hours to do, between research on how to solve this problem, buying the parts, building a serial cable, breadboarding the circuit, and troubleshooting.  I first tried to use a serial cable and just crammed wires in the end of it on the circuit side, but it turns out that some serial cables are not straight through cables.  I ended up building my own with a part from Radio Shack.  Also you can use Radio Shack Zener diode IN47338 aka 276-0565 diodes in place of the C5V1 diodes the above links call for.  You're looking for a Zener voltage of 5.1v or so.

This is the best thing about the internet.  People figuring out problems and sharing the information with the world.  What did we do before the internet?  We kludged things together, and badly, is what.  Thank you to anybody who has ever figured something out and posted it to the internet.  We need a national holiday for those people.

1 comment:

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