Tuesday, August 31, 2010
ATA Passwords and Firmware Area
Almost all laptops and some modern desktop computers have the ability to lock a hard disk drive with an ATA password so that hard drive remains inaccessible until correct password is entered. Manufacturers call this technology different ways, for example, HP calls it DriveLock, but it is all the same. The password is stored inside of the hard drive's Firmware Area (on the surface). Since the password is stored on the surface, it cannot be removed by swapping circuit boards. And, since the Firmware Area cannot be read with any widely available software, the password cannot be easily read or removed.
Repair Station has the ability to access the Firmware Area and reset the password, thus making your hard drive unlocked. Unlocking process is done automatically and takes just a few minutes.
Since Repair Station does not alter partitions or file systems, it is absolutely safe to your data.
What is Firmware Area
Firmware Area (or System Area) is a reserved space dedicated to hard drive's own needs, such as: storing SMART logs, defect reallocation tables, program code (overlays) and so on. Flash EEPROM chip contains only a little part of the Firmware; its primary role is to spin up the spindle and unpark heads so that the drive can read the rest of the firmware from surface.
Firmware Area is inaccessible with generic ATA commands; it cannot be read or written with any software since the fact that the protocol is vendor-unique, and hard drive vendors do not disclose any information about their hard drive Firmware area structure or even about how to access it. We put more than four years of research and development into Repair Station, and we've made it able to access and recover the Firmware area.
Firmware Area failures
More than half of hard disk drive failures are caused by firmware area damage. Just a little damage is enough to render a hard drive totally unusable. In such cases hard drive becomes inaccessible and sometimes can completely disappear from the system.
For example, a hard drive can lose its parameters such as device model number and capacity. When it happens, there is no access to partitions and files. In most cases the problem is caused by firmware area damage and can be fixed with Repair Station.
Repair Station reads the Firmware Area, extracts and analyzes all firmware structures, rebuilds damaged parts and writes the firmware back to the drive. The process is absolutely safe to the data (partitions and files) and takes no more than 20 minutes.
If you have an issue with a hard drive, please feel free to download Repair Station and run diagnostics (which is free). Repair Station diagnoses the Firmware Area and hard drive mechanics and displays a short summary of hard drive's health.