Unlock Hard Drive From an Old BT Vision Box

Introduction: Unlock Hard Drive From an Old BT Vision Box

A couple of years ago I cancelled my subscription to BT Vision. Since then the box has been gathering dust in my shed. I started putting together a server for my Xboxes running XBMC and was hunting for a suitable hard drive for the operating system when I came across the BT Vision box. I opened it up and found a 160gb sata hard drive. Ideal!

I first realised this wasn't going to be straightforward when I tried to install an operating system. Linux reported errors writing the partitions. A quick Google search found that BT Vision box hard drives are locked. Bugger! After a bit of research I managed to unlock the drive and install a operating system on it.

This instructable shows how I managed this and hopefully it will be of use to others in the same position.

What you will need:
~BT Vision box (Black version, the older silver/white ones have an IDE hard drive).
~Torx screwdriver (T10).
~Torx security screwdriver (or vise grips).
~Windows PC or laptop (I used Windows 7).
~PC and cables to connect the sata drive.
~USB pen drive (1 Mb is fine)

Step 1: Liberate the Drive

First thing is to get the hard drive out of the BT Vision box. There are three T10 torx screws on the back, some times these are security screws with a post in the middle, that need to be removed. This lets you lift off the top cover. If you don't have a security torx bit, you can get a hold of the screw head with a pair of vice grips and unscrew it. Unplug the connector from the back of the drive and remove the 4 screws that hold it in. Lift out your 160 gig drive.

If you are like me and like collecting bits and bobs for future project, there are also some other goodies in the box. The power supply gives 5 and 12 volt outputs. There is a small 12v fan and some buttons soldered to the front panel under the black plastic cover.

Step 2: Download the Software.

Next you need to download two pieces of software.

This is the software that will be used to unlock and erase the drive
Download from www.hdat2.com select the download link at the left of the page and scroll down to the SINGLE PROGRAMS section and download the HDAT2.EXE for usb dos boot.

Note: You could create a CD image and boot directly from the CD. I didn't use this method but it should be straight forward.

is used to create a dos bootable usb drive.
Download from http://rufus.akeo.ie.

Step 3: Prepare the USB Pen Drive

*Insert the USB pen drive
Note the drive letter Windows assigns to it by checking in MY COMPUTER

*Start Rufus
You don't need to install Rufus it runs straight from the downloaded exe.

*Format the USB drive as a free dos boot
Make sure the correct drive is selected, and use the default settings, hit START and in a few seconds it's done.

*Create a folder on the USB drive and call it "HDAT2"

*Copy the the HDAT2.EXE file that you downloaded into this folder

Step 4: Connect the New Hard Drive to Your PC and Boot From the USB Pen Drive

Shutdown your PC, remove the cover and install the BT Vision hard drive. I recommend that you disconnect the existing hard drives so you don't accidentally erase the wrong drive.

Note : Before touching static sensitive components inside the case, discharge youself of static by touching the metal case of the PC.

Insert the USB drive you prepared in the previous step. Switch on the PC and it should boot to the dos prompt. If not, you need to change the boot order in the BIOS of the PC.

To run HDAT2 we first change to the HDAT2 directory and run the EXE file.

Step 5: Using HDAT2 to Unlock and Erase the Drive.

The first screen shows the attached storage devices. Item 1 that has the red exclamation mark next to it is the locked drive. Highlight the locked drive with the arrow keys and press enter

From the next menu select the Security menu

Choose Erase Unit. The identifier is user. Press P to enter the password :"PACE FRANCE Master Security PWD2" then enter. The password is case sensitive

Next press I to change the identifier to Master, then S to start the erase. Answer Y to the prompt asking if you are sure you want to run Erase Unit

Almost done, you just need to let it erase the drive.

Step 6:

Last thing is to partition and format the drive using the operating system of you choice.

The next thing I want to do is get a hold of a BT Vision plus box, which has a 500 Gb drive, to see if the same procedure will work.

Would appreciate any feed back, be kind this is my first instructable.



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56 Discussions

Hi, this isn't a bad guide, but you would have saved me many hours if you had just quickly mentioned how to direct to and load the executable from within DOS , I would reccomend adding this quick piece of information.

Hi, thanks for the instructions but I have hit a snag. I'm trying to erase a 500GB WD GreenPower disk. When I get to the end of Step 5 and start to erase the disk after exactly 1 min 59 sec the program displays the following message, 'Command completed successfully. Press any key...'

Is there a reason why it should fail after 1 min 59 sec? The program indicates the whole process should take approx 120 minutes. Any help would be gratefully received. Thanks

2 replies

Just a quick update to say that I have now managed to wipe my 500GB hard drive. I had to use the earlier version of the HDAT2 program. It failed with v6.0 but when I used v5.3 it no longer paused at 1 min 59 sec but continued until the drive was erased.

Now that is useful, I have a 160GB HD sitting on my shelf from our old box.....

If I unlock it, is there any way to read any of the old files before clearing it I wonder?

I remember reading somewhere that they are encrypted....

3 replies

This method doesn't unlock the drive, just lets you erase the disk. From my understanding of the BT vision boxes the recordings are not encrypted. You may be able to hot swap the drive from the BT vision box to your pc if you are brave

hi,trying to do this on a 500gb bt but I carnt but from usb,I've selected to boot from usb,but keeps saying invalid partition table, what can I do,thanks.

Hi, is the USB pen drive that you are booting from recognised if you insert it to a running Windows or Linux system? Is the harddrive from the BT vision box plugged into an internal SATA port inside your pc?

im trying to unlock a youview box hdd i downloaded your tool and everything work but that password for the hdd even matched the hex key no luck just says command aborted in red im presuming because its not the right password could anyone help thanks

2 replies

I had the same problem and then I realised I'd missed the press I to set it to master when I did that it worked like a charm

I had a quick Google about. From what I've read I'm guessing that the drive isn't password protected. It will be formatted with a Linux filesystem. Did you try plugging and trying to format it from your normal operating system? Let us know how you get on.

Great Instructable

Running the erase so hopefully in 2 hours or so I will be able to reuse the 500Gb drive from my BT box

Much Thanks


Many thanks for this instructable, I have liberated two 160Gb and one 500Gb hard disks from redundant BT vision boxes including ones I picked up from ebay for a few £s. I intend to try and use a couple of them in a RAID mirroring array in my elderly desktop PC. One area where I had a problem was that I had to enable USB legacy support in BIOS before my old PC would boot from the USB stick. Other than that It was exactly as you described.

Again many thanks, Sparkgap.

Thanks for this info. FYI was able to use this information to unlock a disk from linux using the standard 'hdparm' command.

hdparm -I /dev/sdb

hdparm --security-erase 'PWD' /dev/sdb

hdparm --security--unlock 'PWD' /dev/sdb

hdparm --security--disable 'PWD' /dev/sdb

Where PWD is the PACE one you gave. (It seems there is also a 'master' password set by the manufacturer, which could possibly override PACE's user one. Didn't try that approach, though.)

4 replies

I never even thought of doing this with Linux! That would be so much easier. I'm definitely going to try it when I get some time. Thanks for the info.

One thing I forgot to mention was that after I came back after leaving it to do the erase, there was a kernel backtrace - I think it was complaining that the ata command had taken longer than 120s to complete, which I guess it hadn't been told to expect. But it appeared to have worked.

https://tinyapps.org/docs/wipe_drives_hdparm.html suggests I might have been using an old version of hdparm which caused the timeout, and may only have partially erased. (Not that I care in this instance.)

I finally got round to trying this with linux. My first attempt was with a SATA to USB adaptor on my laptop. This was unsuccessful as the USB adaptor wasn't passing the security commands to the SATA drive.

On my second attempt I plugged the drive into the motherboard SATA on an old dell running Lubuntu and it worked first time, no problems. The commands I used were:

sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdb

sudo hdparm --user-master m --security-erase "PACE FRANCE Master Security PWD2" /dev/sdb

sudo hdparm --user-master m --security-unlock "PACE FRANCE Master Security PWD2" /dev/sdb

sudo hdparm --user-master m --security-disable "PACE FRANCE Master Security PWD2" /dev/sdb

Thanks for the linux suggestion!

Brilliant instructions!! Spot on!

I liberated a 500gb Western Digital Drive.

You did not mention how long it would take to erase the drive. HDAT2 indicated 120 min. It actually took 3 hours 10 mins!! I was about to give up as the program does not show any progress, just the elapsed time.


1 reply