Unlocking a password protected solid state drive (SSD) can seem daunting, but with the right tools and techniques, it is possible to regain access to your data. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through the steps and methods for unlocking and resetting the password on both internal and external SSDs.
What is an SSD password?
An SSD password is a security measure that prevents unauthorized access to the data stored on the drive. SSDs can have a master password set in the drive’s firmware that must be entered correctly whenever the SSD is connected to access the contents.
Some common reasons an SSD may be password protected include:
- The drive was set up with a password by the user for added security
- The SSD is part of a corporate device managed with device encryption
- The manufacturer provided password protection out of the box
Knowing the password allows full read/write access to the SSD. Without it, the drive will appear locked or inaccessible.
Preparing to unlock the SSD
Before beginning the unlock process, it is important to gather information and prepare your environment. This includes:
- Identifying the make and model of the SSD – The manufacturer’s utility or method used to unlock the drive will depend on the specific SSD.
- Determining if the SSD is internal or external – Internal SSDs will need to be connected to a computer, while external drives just need a USB connection.
- Obtaining the correct unlocking software and tools for the SSD – More details on software options are provided in the next section.
- Backing up the SSD if possible – If you have any access to the drive’s contents, make a backup first.
- Preparing a separate system to connect the SSD to – Using a separate system than the locked SSD was set up on provides a clean environment.
Gathering this information upfront ensures you use the correct method for the specific SSD and provides the necessary tools for completing the unlock successfully.
Software options for unlocking the SSD password
Specialized software utilities exist to help reset or recover the password for most SSDs. The best utility to use depends on the brand and model of SSD:
|SSD Brand||Unlock Software|
|Samsung||Samsung Portable SSD Software|
|Kingston||Kingston SSD Manager|
|Western Digital||WD Security or WD Drive Utilities|
|Intel||Intel SSD Data Center Tool (ISDCT)|
|Crucial||Crucial Storage Executive|
These manufacturer utilities all provide a way to reset the password on the SSD directly or through the drive’s controller. They work by taking advantage of built-in backdoors that the manufacturers leave in the firmware of the SSDs.
For SSDs without an official manufacturer tool, third party password recovery software exists that can reset passwords as well. Some popular options include:
- HDD Unlock Wizard
- M3 Data Recovery
- Passper for SSD
- iSumsoft SSD Password Refixer
These tools can automatically detect the SSD model and implement known backdoors or exploits specific to that SSD to recover access.
Unlocking method 1: Using the manufacturer’s SSD utility
The easiest method for resetting an SSD password is by using the manufacturer’s own software utility designed for that specific SSD. Here are the general steps when using this approach:
- Download and install the manufacturer’s utility for the SSD.
- Connect the locked SSD to a computer system.
- Open the utility software and it should automatically detect the connected SSD.
- Locate the security functions of the utility and choose to reset password, disable password, or recover key depending on the terminology used.
- The utility will communicate with the SSD firmware, which typically takes 10-60 seconds to complete.
- Once done, the SSD password should be reset allowing access again.
The process varies slightly between different manufacturers, but the overall process follows this general pattern. With hardware level access, the utilities can easily reset the password or encryption key.
Samsung Portable SSD software example
For a Samsung Portable SSD, the steps are:
- Download the Samsung Portable SSD software for your OS.
- Connect the Samsung SSD via USB and open the software.
- Go to the Security Settings tab.
- Select “Reset Password” which will prompt a warning that data may be lost.
- Confirm the action again in a popup box.
- The software communicates with the drive to reset the password. Status will display when complete.
- The SSD can now be accessed password free.
Following the manufacturers’ provided method for that specific SSD model provides reliable results in most scenarios.
Unlocking method 2: Using third party password recovery software
If the SSD manufacturer does not provide an official utility or the utility fails to reset the password, third party password recovery tools are the next option to try.
Here are the overall steps when using third party software:
- Download and install the password recovery software.
- Connect the locked SSD to the computer.
- Open the software and select the target drive.
- Select options to reset or recover password/key depending on terminlogy.
- The software will automatically interact with the SSD controller.
- Wait for the process to complete, which could take several minutes.
- If successful, the password should now be reset granting access.
The software works by implementing known backdoors or security exploits that the developers have reverse engineered for various SSD models and brands. However, results can vary across different software tools.
Several options like iSumsoft SSD Password Refixer or M3 Data Recovery provide free demo modes, so you can test if the tool works on your specific locked SSD before purchasing.
M3 Data Recovery example
As an example, here are the steps for using M3 Data Recovery to unlock an SSD:
- Download and install the free version of M3 Data Recovery.
- Open M3 Data Recovery and click Add Drive to select the locked SSD.
- Choose SSD Secure Erase & SSD Password Unlock.
- Select the SSD and click Unlock SSD Password.
- M3 will now read the SSD metadata and implement known exploits.
- When complete, reboot the system and the SSD should now be unlocked.
The paid version of M3 Data Recovery offers technical support, but the free tool can unlock many SSD models.
Unlocking method 3: SSD firmware downgrade
One advanced technique that sometimes works if other options fail is to downgrade the SSD firmware to a known vulnerable version that can be unlocked with available tools.
Here is the general process:
- Research the SSD to find a firmware version that has known password reset exploits.
- Download the older firmware binary file for the SSD.
- Connect the SSD to a system booted into DOS.
- Use a firmware flash tool to write the older firmware version onto the SSD.
- Reboot back into the OS and use a password recovery tool designed for the vulnerable firmware.
- If successful, the tool with downgrade the SSD password allowing access again.
While more complex, this gives access to reset methods that may have been patched in newer firmware releases. However, downgrading firmware can carry risks of bricking the SSD if interruptions occur during flashing.
Research the specific SSD model thoroughly when attempting this method and proceed cautiously. Only use official firmware binaries from the manufacturer to avoid potential issues.
Unlocking method 4: SSD controller transplant
The most extreme method to unlock an SSD is performing a controller board transplant also known as an SSD swap. This involves:
- Obtaining a working donor SSD of the exact same model and revision.
- Physically swapping the controller board from the donor SSD into the locked SSD.
- The unlocked controller will now have access to the SSD flash memory.
While highly invasive, this allows access to the flash storage on a hardware level bypassing any firmware locks. However, it requires specialized skills, tools, and an identical donor drive.
Damage or destruction of the SSD is very possible if the transplant is not done properly. Only those well-versed in electronics and computer hardware should attempt this method.
Preventing locked out SSDs
While the methods above allow you to unlock a password protected SSD, preventing the issue in the first place is ideal. Here are some tips:
- Carefully consider whether SSD password protection is necessary for your specific situation.
- Store any passwords or keys for the SSD in a safe place like a password manager as backup.
- Use shorter password reset timeouts if the SSD supports it.
- Enable password hints if the utility allows it.
- Keep firmware and drive utilities updated to have reset tools available.
Implementing these practices reduces the chances of a lost password locking a drive and the data on it.
Unlocking a password protected SSD is possible through various methods both official and unofficial. The optimal approach depends on the specific SSD model and tools available. When selected appropriately, these utilities and techniques can successfully regain access even to securely locked solid state drives.
Implementing preventative measures is still the best way to avoid dealing with an SSD lockout situation down the road. But if you do end up with a locked SSD, this guide provides several ways to approach resetting the password and recovering your valuable data.