I got an HP notebook off someone who is no longer alive. For some reason it's BIOS locked. I managed to solved that problem, then during reboot it asked for "unlock disk sda3_crypt".

I can't get any info from friends or family for what the password is.

How do I get past this?

  • 2
    Do you need to see the contents of the system? If you do not: format the system.
    – Rinzwind
    Dec 31, 2020 at 11:59

2 Answers 2


The encrypted volume cannot be unlocked without the decryption key. It's impossible to access any data on this partition without proper authentication.

You will need to format (erase) the volume to be able to use it.

There is a disk formatting tool called "Disks" that can be used from a live session of Ubuntu. This will allow you to format the volume or the entire disk.

To use a live session of Ubuntu, boot from Ubuntu installation media and choose the "Try Ubuntu" option.

Then open the "Disks" application. To format the whole disk, select the disk on the left and choose the "Format Disk" option from the hamburger menu on the top right.

Since this device is "new to you", it is best practice to wipe all of the hard drives this way before installing an operating system. This will ensure that you don't inherit any malware or other software problems.

If you just wanted to format that partition, select the disk and sda3 and choose "Format Partition" underneath "Additional partition options".

  • I would personally keep an image of the disk for a year or two, just in case the passphrase turns up somewhere (in a will, safe deposit box, cloud service, etc) and the family might want to try to recover data. But I'm a nice guy. Dec 31, 2020 at 22:16
  • @Martin - LUKS encryption cannot be broken or hacked into. You either have the credentials to unlock, or you don't. That's the whole point of encryption! You may not like the answer, but it is what it is.. If OP wants to use the volume, it needs to be formatted, or they will need to enter the correct decryption key See: askubuntu.com/questions/97196/…
    – Nmath
    Jan 1, 2021 at 0:44

Don't format the partition, when you'd be looking to retrieve the data,
but try bruteforce-luks, while having the power supply connected.
When it's just a simple password, your chances are pretty good.

The number of threads depends on how many threads the CPU has;
and be aware, that the default -s doesn't contain special characters.

This also could be run off live Linux ...it's only a matter of time.

  • This is a highly unethical answer suggesting to use unethical hacking methods. If the original owner of the laptop went through the effort to use full disk encryption, they clearly did not want other people to access the contents. The way the question is worded, we don't know that OP actually has any relationship to this person, only that they asked family for the password. Even if OP is family, why should the original owner's wishes be invalidated on death? Read the question: OP has only asked how to continue and never asked how to access the data.
    – Nmath
    Jan 1, 2021 at 16:23

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