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Restoring Dell Vostro: broken screen, no password, can't see BIOS?

For those of you that like a challenge, I have a really good one for you here. I have a Dell Vostro laptop with Windows 7 Professional that I am trying to get up and running. No, this is not a stolen laptop, but one that is third hand that someone has given up on how to fix.

Here are the problems: I don't have the password, and the LCD screen is broken (not visibly damaged, but will not come on). To "see" I have hooked up an external monitor. I have tried to guess the password with simple ones like "12345" and "admin", but have not gotten anywhere. I don't care about the data on this machine; a factory refresh is actually preferred than getting in through logging in. The problem is with the factory reset, I cannot see the BIOS screen flash or see the "advanced boot options" menu by pressing F8 repeatedly on startup. The external monitor only comes alive for the login screen, but nothing before. Even if I had found a way to see the advanced boot options, I would still need the password to do a factory refresh, correct?

I have thought about doing a password cracker like ophcrack, but how would I change the boot order to the optical drive first, and how would I complete the prompts from there if I can't see the screen? Does Dell boot from the optical drive by default if there is a CD in the drive with an .iso image on it?

Regarding fixing the screen first: I see there are some screens for sale for around $70 USD on ebay. I give myself a confidence level of 2 on a 1 to 10 scale with my ability to replace the screen, and even then, it will not matter if I can't crack the password.

Of note: When the windows login screen does appear, there is a choice for "other user", but this needs a login and password too. Maybe there is a default ID and password for this?

I am not sure where to start; I really don't want to bother with replacing the screen if I can't reload windows (say, if ophcrack does not work). Should I just give up? Thanks, all.
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  1. Best answer
    I suspect members will be sympathetic with your situation, but unable to help with Password cracking as it's against Forum Rules. You'll have to contact Dell, probably with the Serial Number, and have some proof of ownership. The sreen is easily replaced,many vendors on Ebay provide step-by-step...
  2. or try hitting f2 or f11 as these are the keys for BIOS setup and BOOT ORDER respectively.

    If you get a copy of windows, or linux on a boot cd or USB you can just format and install a new OS.

    If there is no apparent damage to the screen it could simply have a loose cable connection. Look at how to install a laptop screen on youtube and see the connector on the back of the screen. Also check the connection on the motherboard (usually requires removing the keyboard.

    If you start with the screen you should find it easier to get a fresh install on there.
  3. Looks like the screen needs to come first before I tackle the windows re-install.

    Is there an "adapter" of some kind that can convert the signal sent through the cable (between motherboard and LCD) to an external VGA monitor? If such a device costs much less than a new LCD screen, that would be better. i would hate to sink $100+ into a new screen, and not be able to get anywhere with the Windows reinstall.

    If I do have to get a new screen, which is the best place to buy one? Are generics just as good as original equipment? thx
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