Tag Archive: HP

Many corporate laptops come with a Microsoft Windows license. Often the serial / key is embedded in the BIOS so if/when you format/re-install it will be automatically licensed/activated.

I had a few dead HP Probooks I needed to retrieve the license key from; I was able to dump the BIOS (see notes on an earlier blog entry https://tickett.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/unlock-remove-hp-probook-430-g3-bios-password-part-2/) then it was a case of scanning through lots and lots of garbage to find what looked like a valid serial. I eventually found it around address 00B14AE0;


Having bought a few of these cracking little laptops off eBay recently, fully functional but with slightly annoying BIOS passwords, I thought i’d take a look at unlocking them.

HP support are somewhat helpful, in that you can simply open a support case and they will generate an SMC.BIN file. You will need to provide them the laptop serial and UUID (both can be found by pressing escape when powering on the laptop and then pressing F1 for system information at the boot menu.

The SMC.bin file will in theory, when placed in the root of a FAT32 formatted USB drive, inserted into the laptop and powered on whilst holding winkey + up arrow + down arrow gain access to the BIOS without the password. This worked on some of the laptops but the next step is to reset security settings to factory defaults which immediately prompts for the BIOS password- doh!

Anyway, after lots of scratching, I had the idea to try flashing the latest BIOS. Initially this seemed like a no go; when trying from windows you are prompted for the BIOS password, when trying from the boot menu you are prompted for the BIOS password. Eventually, I found there is a BIOS update option within the BIOS. So, here we go again… this time armed with a FAT32 USB stick with my SMC.BIN and N78_0127.bin (latest firmware v01.27);

  • boot the laptop holding winkey, up and down
  • SMC message confirms successful execution
  • access BIOS with F10 (no prompt for password)
  • select update BIOS
  • reboot and confirm BIOS showing correct revision
  • power down
  • boot the laptop again, holding winkey + up + down arrows
  • SMC message confirms successful execution
  • access BIOS with F10 (no prompt for password)
  • select reset security to factory defaults (bingo! no password prompt)
  • laptop reboots once and asks to press F1 to confirm reset
  • laptop reboots a second time and asks to press F1 to confirm reset
  • laptop reboots a third time and now has the latest BIOS with no password

The above process worked on a few of the laptops, but then I hit a snag where the SMC.BIN initially worked, the BIOS update was successful but I could no longer execute the SMC.BIN to access the BIOS and reset the security settings (it seemed like it wasn’t seeing the USB device or file). I suspect this may be because of a BIOS setting like; USB disabled, UEFI or secure boot perhaps, i’m still not entirely sure.

I was able to get back into the BIOS by placing the SMC.BIN file into the root of a SATA disk (using another computer to load the file on). A few more down!

I’m now stuck with a few more stubborn laptops which I’ve yet to get to detect/execute the SMC.bin. I suspect it may be a specific version of the firmware which has a bug (again perhaps coinciding with another setup like UEFI/secure boot or disabled USB)- the problematic machines seem to be running N78 v01.12.

I have been trying to build bootable recover/upgrade USB keys and using winkey + b whilst powering on, but I get a variety of beeps, flashing caps lock etc but no sign of the BIOS being upgraded. I suspect winkey + b doesn’t allow you to circumvent a BIOS password.

I still have a few tricks to try- fingers crossed. Watch this space!

It’s important to note HP didn’t supply any of the above instructions and had told me if the SMC.BIN didn’t work out of the box I would need a replacement motherboard for roughly £350.

Some problems

Wireless network not operating at 802.11n 130 Mbps speed (only running at 802.11g 54 Mbps): I won’t go into too much detail- but the resolution was to change the security from WPA to WPA2 (seems crazy to me that the web interface doesn’t make this incompatibility clear).

ESXi / NFS problems: My virtual machines kept dieing and there were a lot of NFS events in vSphere "Lost connection to server x mount point y mounted as z". This must be related to the network maintenance over the last few weeks but I’m not quite sure why. I ended up fitting the new HP NC360T dual-port gigabit NICs to both HP Microservers then migrating the datastore to FreeNAS. Since then *fingers crossed, touch wood etc* I’ve had no problems!

I want to talk a bit about LACP but that’ll have to wait for another time:


New Virtual Lab – Part 1

Since I moved (about a year ago) I have been without a virtual lab- the old lab ran on 2x Dell Poweredge 2950 III & 1x HP Proliant DL385 G2, noisey and power-hungry! My intention was to run power to the garage so I could bring the lab back to life, but rising electricity costs and some interesting posts on Jason’s blog persuaded me to order some new, smaller, quieter and more green/efficient hardware:

£163 – Supermicro X8SIL-F (the motherboard Jason recommended and many seem to’ve reported success with)
£255 – Intel Xeon X3470 Quad-Core 2.93Ghz (Socket 1156)
£026 – Akasa Intel 1U 1156 CPU Cooler (AK-CCE-7107BS)
£123 – 4x 4GB Kingston 1333Mhz ECC (KVR1333D3E9S/4G or KVR1333D3E9SK2/8G)

I already had some spare 1U Supermicro chassis with power supplies (512L-200B) and USB pen drives laying around for the hypervisors.

I initially ordered one of the above-mentioned kit from LambdaTek (I intended to get comfortable with it before ordering more). Unfortunately the motherboard was on back order so I decided to look around for another supplier. I couldn’t find anywhere cheaper or with stock so i picked 2 up from an international seller on eBay. While I was at it I grabbed another x3470 from Amazon (£260), another 16GB of RAM from Crescent Electronics (£107) and another Cooler (this time the Gelid Slim Silence IPlus Low Profile Intel CPU Cooler from Cool&Quiet @ £20)

Part 2 to follow! Just a quick note about the Akasa Cooler- i’ve deliberately put a line through it because you should NOT order it (it’s no good- i will get onto that in part 2)


After arsing about for an eternity I think I’ve finally chosen a server… introducing the HP Proliant Microserver:

Ideally I was looking for a rackmount chassis but this ticks a lot more boxes than any other server I’ve found- namely: extremely low power consumption, almost silent and bloody cheap (HP were offering £100 cashback).

I’ve loaded it with 4x 1.5TB SATA disks but will probably add another one (or two?). The server comes with a mere 1GB of DDR3 ram so I’ve ordered 2x 4GB DDR3 (for close to peanuts from Crucial- also offering 7% off with coupon code and a further 7% cashback through quidco/topcashback) to bring it up to 8GB.

After a lot of experimenting with different operating systems i’m 99% sure i’m going to go with Windows Home Server 2011 (WHS2011). I will be installing the o/s on either a USB stick or SD card (once It’s released). Everyone seems to be getting their knickers in a twist about Microsoft’s decisions to drop Drive Extender but if I decide to go down that route there’s already an add-in being worked on by Covecube; StableBit Drive Pool

Expect an update once the remaining parts arrive and WHS2011 is released.


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