Windows 7 Forums
Welcome to Windows 7 Forums. Our forum is dedicated to helping you find support and solutions for any problems regarding your Windows 7 PC be it Dell, HP, Acer, Asus or a custom build. We also provide an extensive Windows 7 tutorial section that covers a wide range of tips and tricks.


Windows 7: ATA password question

14 Aug 2018   #1
F22 Simpilot

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 
ATA password question

I've owned nothing but Dell laptops and with most of them I set the ATA password for the HDD in BIOS. My newest laptop, a Latitude E6530 has an option to erase data if the default password is supplied. I was wondering what type of erasure is used? Is it perhaps a simple format? I'm thinking that's probably what it is.

I encrypt my computers anyway, but the ATA password is extra security pertaining to the Evil Maid hack.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.
15 Aug 2018   #2
dg1261

Windows 7/8.1/10/XP multiboot
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by F22 Simpilot View Post
I set the ATA password for the HDD in BIOS. My newest laptop, a Latitude E6530 has an option to erase data if the default password is supplied. I was wondering what type of erasure is used? Is it perhaps a simple format?
I'm not familiar with exactly what your BIOS options are, but if the erasure is controlled by the BIOS, it's almost certainly going to be via an ATA/ATAPI command.

It won't be a "simple format" because (this may sound a little pedantic) you "format" file systems, not disks or partitions. And ATA/ATAPI commands do not deal with disk sectors on the partition or file system level, they deal with sectors as a part of the whole disk drive unit.

If you want to learn a bit more about this, take a look the official ATA/ATAPI standard, particularly Section 4.18.6. Disk utilities can issue specific ATA commands to the drive unit's onboard controller, such as "SECURITY SET PASSWORD" and "SECURITY ERASE UNIT", which will invoke built-in routines in the drive controller itself.

When you (via the BIOS or a utility program) invoke the ATA "SECURITY SET PASSWORD" command, the password is set on the drive unit itself. The security is not dependent on the BIOS or Windows or some program, it is integral to the drive. Removing the unit to another host computer won't help because the password is still in the unit. It can only be unlocked by having the unit's controller unlock itself.

Similarly, when you invoke the ATA "SECURITY ERASE UNIT" command the drive controller will do the erasing itself, so it will not be dependent on some external program to step through the sectors and tell the controller to overwrite each one.

There are some ramifications to be aware of, depending on which method (ATA vs. external program) you use:
  • An external program (such as DBAN) can perform repeated overwrites using a variety of data patterns to get what you've probably heard of as "DOD-level" erasures. It's debatable whether that's actually necessary, but if it matters to you, keep that in mind. In contrast, I believe the ATA command does a single-pass overwrite. Note that the purpose of multi-pass overwrites is targeting residual magnetism on the disk platters, so this issue is only relevant to magnetic disk drives, not SSDs.

  • The ATA command may be more likely to reach all the sectors--particularly on SSDs, where TRIM and "over-provisioning" can hide blocks of sectors from external programs. The controller constantly remaps which blocks are visible to the outside world, and external programs can't touch blocks they don't see.

  • Since SSDs don't really store 1's and 0's (the cells are either set or not set), external programs could be harder on a SSD by trying to write 1's and 0's. In response to an ATA erase command, OTOH, an SSD's controller can simply issue a reset command to each block and be done with it, without extra write cycles.

  • The ATA command, if implemented properly by the drive manufacturer, will erase the entire disk, including any HPA ("Host Protected Area"). See Section 4.5 of the ATA/ATAPI reference. Some computer manufacturers (notably, Dell and IBM/Lenovo) have in the past used hidden HPAs to hide their own custom utilities. When an HPA is created, external utilities will think the disk is smaller than it really is because part of its capacity will be squirreled away by the controller, and so those utilities often won't be able to erase the HPA part of the disk.
Hope this helps give you some background information to go on.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Aug 2018   #3
F22 Simpilot

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

Okay, thanks. I guess it's like what Parted Magic does to erase SSDs.

I am familiar with DBAN.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

Reply

 ATA password question




Thread Tools




Similar help and support threads
Thread Forum
Yahoo Password Change Question
Hey all. Im having issues logging into my primary gmail account as i posted this in my other thread. The thing is i have my account and password but apparently google doesn't let me in my account because the recovery email address i type is incorrect. I dont know how this is possible because its...
Browsers & Mail
Log in Password question
When first installing Windows you entered your email and password. I believe this became your Microsoft account. This same password also became what you entered when you first booted up your computer. My question is We want to change our email address password, and will be doing that...
General Discussion
Account Password Security Question
Hello forum, I'm the only person who uses my computer, and I never travel anywhere with it. Now consider the following two situations:- 1.) Using administrator account with no password, no UAC and automatic login/wakeup. 2.) Using administrator account with a password, no UAC and...
System Security
Question about Win7 Password
I'm using Windows 7 Ultimate x64. Heh, it's me again. I got some problems fixed but now I'm worried again. Someone said that changing the admin password can make bad things happen to your computer! Is this true? This is scary because I have an admin account and it has a password.
General Discussion
Password protection: basic question
Hi: I can't seem to find an answer to what seems to be a pretty basic question. What is protected by the password logon in Window 7? If someone gets ahold of my notebook, can they remove the drive and access the data as a secondary drive? I keep various data all over the drive, not just in my...
General Discussion


Our Sites

Site Links

About Us

Find Us

Windows 7 Forums is an independent web site and has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Microsoft Corporation. "Windows 7" and related materials are trademarks of Microsoft Corp.

Designer Media Ltd

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 23:14.
Twitter Facebook Google+