08-04-2009 06:08 PM
There are several ways to remove the password from the unit but my guess is they would restore the unit back to factory settings or reinstall windows on it.
08-04-2009 06:53 PM
08-04-2009 07:37 PM
Whether the files remain depends on the brand of laptop. Some HP's and Compaqs will save the my documents, pictures, music into a folder when it does the factory restore.
08-05-2009 08:44 AM
Was it a Windows password or a BIOS password?
If it was just a Windows password, all they need is a Linux LiveCD like Knoppix or Ubuntu and they have the contents of your hard drive. Windows passwords only prevent someone from logging in, the hard drive is not encrypted.
If it was a BIOS password, they'll have to remove the hard drive and put it into an external enclosure, but at that point they'll still have your data.
In some rare situations, the BIOS password also locks the hard drive, at which point they would need special equipment to retrieve the data.
Even rarer, some hard drives encrypt their contents, but if you had a system with these kind of features, to be honest you would know about them and wouldn't be asking here - those are very high-end expensive features.
In the future, if you want to make sure no one can get at your data without a password, I suggest using some sort of encryption. I believe some variants of Vista offer some sort of encryption function, TrueCrypt (http://www.truecrypt.org/) is another good choice.
Be somewhat careful with encryption though - if YOU forget the password you're toast. Unless the data is super-ultra-sensitive, I suggest backing up data in unencrypted form onto DVDs and physically securing that data (e.g. never leaves your home, or if you want extra security, a safe deposit box in a bank.)