A common computer problem that Dell owners face sooner or later is forgetting the administrator password. Also called the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) password, a Dell computer's administrator password can be changed without hacking into the computer's operating system. Since computer security has made headlines recently, people have been advised to use longer and more complex administrator passwords. Unfortunately, these are also easier to forget.
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A computer has a BIOS password if after pressing the power button it does not show anything except a request for a password. The Dell administrator password locks up the BIOS and keeps the operating system from running. The BIOS is the first program to be run when a computer is booted. Its job is to inform the CPU which hardware parts are plugged in, then access the boot device which might be a DVD or hard drive that holds the operating system.
Every computer has a default administrator password for the BIOS. Dell computers use the default password "Dell." If that does not work, do a quick inquiry of friends or family members that have used the computer recently. It is possible that somebody else set the BIOS password to regulate computer usage. If you remember setting the Dell administrator password but cannot recall what it is exactly, it will be a little more difficult to change.
The Dell administrator password is stored in the CMOS battery, located on the motherboard. It can be accessed with the free software CmosPWD using MS-DOS. This is the difficult way to reset the CMOS battery and should only be attempted by experienced DOS users. The software and a link to an instruction manual can be found at CGsecurity.org. After resetting the CMOS battery, the BIOS password will be either be gone or it will be replaced by "Dell."
First ground yourself to protect the computer from static electricity. Take the case off the computer and unscrew the motherboard. Look for the CMOS battery on the motherboard. It looks just like a nickel. Gently grab the edge of the battery and try to pop it out. Some computers have a clip that holds the battery down. If the battery cannot be removed gently, temporarily removing the jumper plugs is a last resort. Visit Clearing Passwords and CMOS Settings in Dell.com's online manual for detailed instructions.
Using a Laptop
The hardware is only easily accessible if the computer is a Desktop. If it is a laptop, call Dell Technical Support at 800-624-9896 and request a master password to clear the BIOS. They will want to know the Service Tag and Express Service Code at the bottom of the laptop. If the laptop had a different owner in the past, a transfer of ownership form will have to be filled out on Dell's website. Visit Ownership Transfers on Dell's support page.