Over my years as tech I have noticed one major problem that some people create for themselves. The create a password to lock the hard drive. Just like on desktops there is away to lock the hard drive by placing a password on the drive. This makes the drive not accessible to anyone who doesn’t know the password.
Desktops vs laptops
On desktops you can put a password on your hard drive too. The difference is if you forget it you can reset the jumper on the motherboard and boot up. This will reset all password including the one you set on the hard drive. Than you put the jumper back and your ready to go again. If you forget on a laptop the only way to remove it is to have the chip on the motherboard replaced. This can cost you around $100 or more depending on the place you take it. Plus some companies do not work on laptops locally but send them to higher tech tier to be worked on. This can cost you more money.
Some laptops you can replace the hard drive and you can have access to it. Others will lock up the new drive making it unusable.
The main problem
Passwords are placed on the hard drives controller in firmware. Unlike the BIOS password which you can reset from BIOS normally you cannot remove a hard drive password on a laptop without knowing it. Many laptop hard drives have been declared unusable cause people will forget the password. If you have valuable information you will have a difficult time retrieving it. Some companies have had to pay thousands of dollars to retrieve sensitive information that has been locked away on a hard drive. There are companies who can help you retrieve your information but it will cost you.
Reformatting does not remove the password. The password is not on the drive itself but locked in the hard drives firmware. If you must use a password to protect your data its better to place a master password on the computer from the BIOS. From the desktop machine removing a BIOS password is easy if you forget it. Its a little more difficult with the laptop. Some laptops the reset is accessible in the BIOS. Others you have to have it reset from the chip.
As I said in the previous paragraph use the BIOS master password if you must provide security. You can also use windows passwords and screen saver passwords to provide extra security. This way if you forget them you can still get access through safe mode and in most cases through administrator access. Write passwords down and keep them in a safe place. If your memory is suspect make sure you have them stored away for those times you forget.
A locked drive can cost you a lot of money to retrieve data because of forgotten passwords. This is common problem for a lot of laptop users who demand security. I suggest you take precautions before this happens to you.