Need a laptop with a TPM?

For the third time in a week someone asked the question "If I want to use BitLocker with a Trusted Platforms Module (TPM), which computer should I get?"

Wonderful question. For some reason, the hardvare vendors seem to treat the TPM chip as the ugly stepchild that they do their best to ensure nobody knows they have. Som even ship with the chip disabled in the BIOS by default. And, if you want to find out whether a particular computer has one, be prepared to read long and geeky tech specs, looking for keywords like "TPM 1.1", or, if the manufacturer decides to make things a bit snazzier, key words like "HP ProtectTools Embedded Security", which is HP-Marketing speak for "it has a TPM chip."

I finally found a decent resource. Wave, makers of software that utilize the TPM, provids a matrix of platforms that ship with a TPM, and, if they know, which version. To run BitLocker with a TPM, you must have a version 1.2 TPM chip. The page is not entirely up to date. For example, the HP nx9420, 8510p, and HP6715b, all have a TPM chip, but are not listed. For Lenovo, they list only "ThinkPad Notebooks", when, in fact, the T-series and X-series both have version 1.2 compliant TPM chips. The Dell Latitude Dx20 and Dx30 also have a version 1.2 chip, but only the, Dx20s are listed.

If you have a computer that should have one but BitLocker says you do not have one, check to see if it is enabled. Windows Vista Enterprise and Ultimate will detect it automatically. Open Computer Management, click the Device Manager node, and see if there is a "Security Devices" node there. If there is, expand it. You should see a Trusted Platforms Module there, complete with version. If you do not, check the BIOS. Dell, for example, ship with the TPM turned off. Go into the BIOS and look under the Security entry or tab. There may be a TPM or "TPM Security" entry there. See if the chip is disabled. Enable it and Windows Vista will pick it up the next time you boot.

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