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Forgot a password to your switch? Fine, send it back…

Recently I found out the hard way, that password reset procedures – once you have physical access to the device – can be a true challenge. I had to resurrect and reconfigure a switch, to be precise a SMC TigerStack II 8848M. It is a L3 switch with multitude of features – something that in theory should be able to be a drop-in replacement of a typical Cisco L3 (or insert other manufacturer here). Specs are powerful, the box wasn’t cheap (link to SMC’s entry).

First look at the machinery did not reveal any buttons nor reset holes. I continued with accessing the box via built-in serial console port and I discovered that no default passwords work – so it was clear – let’s reset it! And here the “fun part” begins. After consulting Google one finds a 846 pages manual just to discover, that for “Forgot or lost the password” you should “Contact your distributor”. Impossible!? See below.

That simply meant – more Google. Unfortunately both tricks with CTRL+j and CTRL+y at boot did not work – the switch was still asking for a password and booting normally. I must admit I was seriously surprised. All devices I was working with up to that date were always giving you an option of factory reset – provided you have physical access to it. Sending the switch back to a local distributor because of a lost password/factory reset is simply a waste of time.

That “trick” can make SMC distributors happy because I assume the reset service isn’t free. On other hand I have a feeling that the reset procedure seems to rely on some kind of “secrecy”. There are posts on the Internet saying, that factory reset can be done via SNMP – but I did not continue my investigation (the device or a replacement was supposed to be back in service fast). Just to be 100% sure I took the cover to see if maybe there’s something inside – nothing. There are also rumours that the reset procedure is described in the version 1 of the manual – but I did not verify that either (again – time pressure). I would love to hear if someone managed to reset a box like that.

This encounter was enough for me not to check whether this issue has been fixed in their other products. It really had a potential for a decent switch.

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