OK - Taking a brief break from pontification to discuss a little computer brain surgery.
Anyone who's been reading my nonsense for the past year knows that my workhorse laptop in a Sony VAIO SZ370P - a great machine that was purchased just before the Vista releases. In late Spring of '07 I upgraded the little bastard to Vista - and it ran beautifully.
Well, the SZ series from VAIO is now up to series 9 (SZ9xx), and includes faster processors, more memory and faster drives. Although I have my traditional Uber Gadget Lust for the newer SZ's, I don't want to shell out the coin for a new SZ until Sony throws a Blu-Ray drive in there... in the meantime, the 100Gig, 5400rpm drive that came with the SZ370 is starting to feel a little cramped and slow... a quick run down the Information Super Highway (tm) shows that 200Gig, 7200 rpm Seagate drives (Seagate Momentus 7200 2, or the ST9200420AS) are going for about $130 a pop.
No brainer, time to crack open this sucker...
This post will give readers a step-by-step guide to breaking into their SZ series (the cases on the SZ series are all the same), as well as how to replace to replace a drive in a Vista laptop without Vista screaming rape on the Internets back to the mothership. Last thing I need is freakin' Balmer showing up at my door with a baseball bat. (Oh, and you all know he'd do it.)
Ok, stuff you need:
- a small phillips screwdriver
- a smaller phillips screwdriver (a watch repair screwdriver is best)
- a small flathead screwdriver (for prying)
- a copy of Acronis True Image (TI) Echo Workstation
- an external SATA chassis
- a bottle of Knob Creek whisky
- a supreme lack of common sense
Oh sure, we could do this the safe way: copy the data on the old drive to a backup location, format the new drive and put a fresh copy of Vista on it, find all your applications from the old drive and re-install them on the new drive, etc.... Or, we can do this my way: just ghost the eff'ing thing to a new drive and hope for the best. Hey, that's what the Knob Creek is for...
So, fine - let's get this over with...
Step 1: Getting the new hard drive connected to the laptop
The new SATA drive has to be attached to the existing computer for ghosting - because the Seagate Momentus series SATA, and the SZ series doesn't have an external SATA port, you'll need a SATA external enclosure that translates SATA to USB-2 or Firewire. Rather than buy one specifically for the 2.5" drives, I took an enclosure that I had purchased last April for the Vista upgrade which houses 3.5" drives... since this wasn't going to be a permanent arrangement, who cares?
Step 2: Scaring up a Ghost...boo!
Ghosting is the act of making a bit-by-bit copy of one drive to another drive: the whole deal - boot sector, data, applications, file access tables...all of it. It's not a straight-forward operating system copy, and - in fact - can't be done from the native operating system at all. (Modern operation systems are always running, swapping cache data back and forth to the drive - meaning, that the OS itself is changing the contents of the drive as the drive is being copied.)
To successfully ghost, you need a application that will cause the system to boot up using a small little kernel that is resident in the computer memory - and doesn't fill up the drive with crap of its own. I picked Acronis Workstation 9.1, an application that was recommended to me last April for my RAID0 issue with my tower station, and did an amazing job. I upgraded the application to True Image Echo Workstation (or TI for short), and went to work.
Arconis starts in Vista, to give you a nice user interface, sets up a configuration file, and then reboots the computer - loading the smaller kernel in memory with the information from the configuration file.
When fired up, Acronis TI asks you what you want to do - although you may be tempted to hit "Backup," don't. What you really want to do is "Manage Hard Disks." Selecting this reveals a second screen that gives you the option of cloning your drive - cloning is another name for ghosting.
Very bad Acronis Action #1: Selecting on "Clone a Drive" reveals a very important screen that will make you swear like a sailor with the clap: "Automatic vs Manual" cloning. If you do what I did and pick "Automatic," Acronis TI will walk you through the appropriate steps for cloning, take just as long as an actual drive ghosting (about 3 hours) and....do absolutely nothing. Nice. Real eff'ing nice.
So...go with me here, and hit "Manual." Really. Trust me.
Hitting manual brings you through the drive selection process. You should see at least two drives listed here: the original drive still onboard the SZ370, and the new drive sitting on the enclosure that you have attached to the system. Selecting which one is the source and which one is the target is left as an exercise to the reader. As the new drive is larger that the original, Acronis TI's default action is to partition the new drive to its fullest capacity and then just move the contents of the old drive to comfortably into that space. You do, however, have the option at this point to play with partitions, making a second virtual drive.
After you've made your selections, Acronis TI examines both drives, reads the file allocation table on the old drive looking for sizing information, and sets up the boot partition on the old drive.
When it's done, it will present you with an information screen telling you what it plans to do, the number of steps it will take, and then asks you if your want to go ahead and do the deed.
At this point, take another shot of Knob Creek, and go for it. Your system will lock your old drive down so it can't be written to, and then commence a reboot.
Step 3: Creating the Clone...uh...Ghost...uh...Exact Same Drive
At this point, the SZ370 will reboot, but the operating system will not engage - instead the Acronis micro kernel will take over and start the ghosting process. Suck it up, grab a bigger glass, and pour a larger glass of the ol' Knob Creek, because you're here for a while. 3 hours to be exact. Sure - you could go play Halo3 on your XBox and not fret over the fact that the ghosting software that you purchased from a company you've never heard of before could be thrashing your hard drive. Well, I'm not that relaxed, ok? I'm just not...
The first think you'll see TI do is reanalysize all the partitions, defragment them, lock them down, and then check the new partitions on both drives to see if they are incapable of the clone process. Once this is done, the actual bit-by-bit cloning takes place. This process, referred to as "Operation 2 of 3" by Acronis TI is the step that takes the longest, and can be the most destructive to the drives.
Have a drink...be patient.
Very Bad Acronis Action #2: OK, here's another way that Acronis can waste three hours of your life through bad user experience testing. When the cloning is done, you get the "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!" screen - "Congratulations! You have successfully completed the hard drive cloning procedure."
Well, yes, that's very true. As is the "Press any key to reboot" suggestion at the bottom of the screen. What TI does not, in its exuberance at completing it's complicated ghosting task, tell you is this: If you reboot with the ghosted drive still attached, Vista will come back from the reboot, see two boot enabled drives, and remove the boot sector from the second drive - effectively effing up your ghosted edition. Three hours. Gone. Again.
Trust me here: when you get the congratulations screen immediately unplug the ghosted drive before touching any other bleeding button on your laptop. It's like religion at this point: just have faith that the ghosting worked without any proof whatsoever.
Step 3: Rip the Puppy Open!!
OK, all the namby-pamby software crap is out of the way, let's grab some manful, manly tools and get to work.
Like a helpless turtle found on the calm shores of life, flip the SZ over on its back. (Analogy too much?) Remove the battery before proceeding. You don't need to pull this off to work on the unit, but it makes it lighter, and removes the last remaining power source. (Uh, you did unplug the laptop, didn't you?)
There are four phillips-head screws that have to be removed at this point. These screws release the keyboard and the case covering on the front of the unit.
Flipping the unit back over, you can now ease the keyboard off. Between the F1 and F2 keys, and between the INSERT and DELETE keys, you will see barely visible little spring-loaded tabs that need to be eased back with the flathead screwdriver while you slowly pull the keyboard up. (This is where Niven and Pournelle's "Gripping Hand" would come in handy.)
At this point, the keyboard easily flips up. You can pull out the little flat ribbon cable connecting the keyboard to the motherboard, but its not necessary and not worth the risk of ripping the thin little cable. Simply lay the keyboard flat against the laptop's wrist-plate, or (preferably) up against the screen.
With the keyboard out of the way, three little screws that lock the wrist-plate in place are revealed. It's for these screws that you will need the little watch screwdriver - they are small, delicate and can be very easily stripped. Be careful taking them off, and - more importantly - be careful putting them back. Just tighten "to feel" when you do.
At this point, the wrist-guard can be slid away from the screen, revealing the hard drive. Like the keyboard, the wrist-guard has a few ribbon cables that connect the biometric scanner and the trackpad. It's not necessary to remove these either, as the wrist-plate can be flipped over and put on top of where the keyboard rested.
With the hard drive clearly revealed, yet another three screws (why always three, Sony??) need to removed in order to get the old drive out.
OK - scariest hardware move coming up: removing the ribbon cable to the drive. This thing is packed in there tight. Even with the drive screws removed, the drive cannot be lifted until the thin ribbon cable is removed. Unfortunately, Sony taped the damn ribbon cable from underneath. You need to spend a nice, relaxed, long period of time easing that cable off -- if you rip it, you're screwed. You'd have to order a new ribbon cable from Sony, and I have no dea what the part number is...so, uh, careful kids.
It's out! Excellent. All that's left to do now, is to take the two small rails off the side of the old drive, put them on the new one, and then your ready for Step 4!
Step 4: Uh...Repeat Step 3. Backwards.
Seriously. That's it. No pictures. No step by step. Just drink your Knob Creek, and put everything back together...I hope you were paying attention.
Step 5: Turn the Damn Thing On and Hope for the Best.
Ok - you've reassembled the unit, battery is back and the power is plugged in. If you've done everything right, you'll be greated by a final Acronis TI screen during the reboot cycle that says "Cloning Completed." Oh, happy day. The machine should now boot, with Vista being none the wiser.
After logging in, you will see Vista establish the drivers for the new hardware it has detected. At this point, one more reboot (the last one, I promise) needs to be performed, so that the drivers for the new drive can be firmly established. That's it, you're done.
Step 6: There is No Step 6
Seriously. You're done.
Let's prove it. A quick glance at the drive size reveals that you are now beefed up to a whopping 200gigs. (Well, minus 10Gigs for the boot sector and some lost clusters.)
What about the speed? Opening up the Vista performance rating test (Computer->Properties->Performance) will show the previous rating from the old drive - in my case, a paltry 4.6 out of 10.
Now, run the test again - it takes a few minutes. When it's done, you should see a noticeable increase in the disk transfer rate - in my case it went from 4.6 to 5.4...a 15% increase.
I did the upgrade about 2 weeks ago - so far, absolutely no problems, and nothing is lost. The unit generates a bit more heat (not much more, actually), but applications and data load noticeably faster - and the drive has plenty of space for all those Media Center videos I watch on the road.
OK, back to pontificating.