Sunday, May 11, 2008

Drive Swap: Tearing open the Trusty Sony VAIO SZ370P

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:

Got it all, chief?

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!

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) 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 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, 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.


Anonymous said...

thanks for a nice step by step guide. Just one question. Is it safe to use a 3.5 enclosure for a 2.5 sata hdd? I mean, there is the same voltage for them? Nothing can happens?

RocketMan said...

Thank you.

Yeah - completely safe - the power specs are the same - in fact there are "converter" kits to allow a 2.5 SATA to go into a 3.5 bay - and all they consist of is a rack sled to just hold the drive in place.

Anonymous said...

i just have one thing to say. FREAKING SPRING TABS!!!

spent an hour looking for those bastards.

Lorraine H├ętu Manifold said...

Hi, Great post. so you have a Sony Vaio SZ370P. Have you been happy with it? But you have Vista installed on it? I'm looking to get rid of my current laptop and don't need that much speed, just something that works well and has XP on it. I see Refurbished SZ 370Ps going for half price. What do you recommend? The specs seems to suit my needs, but I don't want to be disappointed with a laptop that overheats or that is not very good. Thanks!

RocketMan said...

Hi Lorraine -

Thanks for the comments on the post.

Yeah - I'm very happy with the SZ series of machines - and the 370 in particular has been very good to me. (Hence the upgrade rather than just selling it or tossing it out.)

Vista is very snappy on it, and runs well without any real reported problems -- the newer drive gives it that extra kick. ;)

Since this article, I purchased another SZ (the 790) because of unrelated work requirements, so I am obviously happy with the series. The SZ370 has been retired as my work laptop - when I have a few moments free - I plan on sticking Ubuntu on it to see how it does.

So - yes, if you can grab a cheap 370P, I would recommend it. It will run XP like a champ, and it will run Vista just as well. If you do the upgrade to Vista (or downgrade to XP), you will need to grab the Sony-specific 370 drivers from the Sony support website -- but they install very quickly.

Good luck!

jupe said...

A most important resource for every VAIO-SZ user!

I sure would love to tinker with & upgrade mine.

I'm NOT a very trusting person so i would rather do it myself than risk my laptop to be roughly handled by techs who don't realy care as much as owners do (scratches on the unit so long as they get the job done).

Mine'a a VAIO-SZ55GN/B.

Is your "manual" good for my laptop too?

I hope to upgrade my harddrive too (from 120 Gb to 250 Gb) - one with a faster rpm, of course. Any suggestions?

I am also hoping to upgrade the graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS GPU) to something faster and with larger memory, if it's possible. Any advice?

Hope to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks man!!! That was very helpful, especially about the tape. I would have certainly have given up.

One question though. My laptop is stopped booting up, so I had a bright idea of taking out the hard drive putting it into an enclosure and backing it up that way... except all of the enclosures I have are pins!!! What should I do?

RocketMan said...

As long as the source of the problem isn't the drive itself, that weill definitely work...

As to getting the data off: it sounds like you are not using a SATA enclosure, but rather some older drive enclosure. Go buy a SATA-to-USB enclosure, they are about $20, and just take the drive out of the Sony, attach it to the drive cable on the SATA enclosure, plug in the power and you're up and running. There is no difference in cabling between a 2.5" SATA laptop disk and a full size SATA drive for desktops. You don't need to seal it up in the enclosure for the 20+ minutes it takes to suck everything off that drive.

Mike M said...

Hi! This is a great resource that you have up. You've inspired me to grapple with a few upgrades on my trusty SZ-120P, which I've had for nearly three years now.

One quick question: have you ever removed the chassis under the keyboard? My laptop's fan has been whirring for several months, and I may try a home repair. Unfortunately, it only seems accessible through the front (not the back).

Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. I've already found a PDF online with directions on how to disassemble the chassis, etc.

gh said...


Could you plz share this pdf manual u've got? My fan is like a chopper


RocketMan said...

Hi Mike & GZ -

Sorry about the slow response - holidays and all that jazz...

Glad you guys like this write-up, over the years I've become adept at souping up VAIOs, so I'm less timid when it comes to taking them apart...

...EXCEPT removing the chassis under the keyboard on the SZ. I have to do this too, in order to replace a failed headphone jack. Unfortunately, according to the PDF used by the Sony Repair Guys (I assume the same one you have) it's a 38 step process... that involves an entire afternoon for me, and I just don't have the time right now.

If one of you two gives it a shot, take picts with descriptions, and I'll give you a guest blog spot.

Good luck!

- Rob

Mike M said...


On a further examination of the fan, I realized that the thin power cable was making contact with the fan blades. I was able to repair the situation with a little crazy glue! So fortunately I can avoid the 38 step-process for now...

GH, the PDF is available here.

RocketMan said...

Mike -

All Hail CrazyGlu! Yeah, it definitely beats the 38 step process!

...uh, its also good you found that that, or you would have been looking at a severed power ribbon.

Thanks for the PDF of the deconstruction guide, too.

- Rob

TRN said...

First and foremost, good post.

I too have to replace the headphone jack. After looking at the pdf, it looks like you have to remove everything to get to the vga/headphone board. Since you guys have dug into it a bit more, is there no way to get to it earlier?

Also, have any of you had problems with the crazy touchpad problems? I saw someone use electrical tape to insulate the aluminum board, and wonder if any of you have tried that.

Rob C said...

Great guide! I used it to upgrade my VGN-SZ140 from the stock 40GB to a brand new 320GB 7200 rpm drive.

It was cake to swap drives on my old Toshiba, but this Vaio definitely needed some guidance.

I'm installing the Windows 7 public beta now to see what it can do.

Thanks again!

RocketMan said...

Glad it was helpful, Rob.

Let us all know how the Win7 public beta install went. I'm holding off on buying a VAIO laptop (the Z) because I just am not in the mood to re-install a new I'll wait for Win7 to come out, if its worth it.

...let us know!

C Devor said...

I just installed a 192GB solid state drive following these instructions into my Vaio SZ330P. Except for two failed boot-up attempts, everything went smoothly. Thanks for your help! Awesome job.

With regards to the fan making a loud noise in a Vaio:
(1) Get a program called "SpeedFan". Check your idle CPU temp. Mine is now about 48C. My GPU idles around 57C tho.
(2) If your CPU temp is higher than 50 or so there are a couple things you can try:
--(a) Check to see if your heat vent is clogged with dust by taking it out from the bottom side of your laptop. My heat vent had a serious layer of dust blocking 2/3rds of it. Ever since I cleaned that, my computer no longer constantly maxes out the fan.
--(b) Apply some AS5 (Artic Silver 5) between the CPU and the heat sync to increase the heat conduction.

RocketMan said...

C -

Glad you found this helpful!

Thanks for the post about SpeenFan - I forgot about that little bugger, and didn't know it worked under Vista. Good to hear.

- Rob

Anonymous said...

I just succeeded to dismount the harddisk with the help of this article. Thanks for it.
I have one litle note to add:
It is much easier to remove the end of the harddisk cable, that connects to the main board. You may lift it with a little screw driver and then you may remove the disk with the cable still attached to it.
Hope this helps someone else.
Rgds, Lukas

halk bilimi said...

very nice

Anonymous said...

this is a great post! thanks for sharing. i have a couple questions as i'm contemplating upgrading my hard drive in my vaio sz240:

do you have any more details regarding removing that ribbon cable from the hard drive so you can get the drive out? i read on another post that there's an accelerometer (or similar sensor?) attached to the "glue" stuff in between the cable and the motherboard; and it's very sensitive and easy to destroy (and subsequently very hard to replace if destroyed). did you find such a device? if so, any more tips about how to get the ribbon cable off the drive and separated from the motherboard without damaging the sensor? "peel" slowly?

also, has anyone tried using a 3.0 Gbs SATA drive in an upgrade? will the vaio configuration be able to take advantage of the extra transfer rate or does the vaio need to have a SATA 1.0 Gbs drive?



Bend said...

Hey, just wanted to add another THANK YOU for this really good (and funny) guide, I got SO mad at Sony when they REFUSED to give me the instructions.

I have a SONY VGN-SZ491N and i got the hard drive out, the ONE STEP that was a little different was when I actually got access to the drive the SATA cable was TAPED both above and underneath the drive, so I found the easiest way was to just unplug the cable from it's source and pull the drive out.

Once the drive was out it was much easier taking the cable out of it.

RocketMan said...

Hi Bend -

Thanks for the thanks...glad you found it helpful...and thanks for letting us know there are variations out there.

Hill - the accelerometer is in the base of the drive's for the G-Shock detection... you don't destroy it by pulling out the ribbon.

Also, the 3Gbs SATA won't work in the SZ series (at least the older ones... 3xx and below.) The drive I installed switched between 1.5 an 3, and the 3 was unusable. Sorry.

- Rob

Leo said...

Nice!! I could update my HD to WD3200BEKT (

Thanks for the tutorial.

RocketMan said...

Hi Leo, you're welcome.

Be careful with the WD3200BEKT - as I mentioned to Bend above, the older SZ series doesn't support 3Gbs SATAs. You need to set the jumpers on the WD3200BEKT to 1.5Gbs.

- Rob

Leo said...


WD3200BEKT has no jumper config to force SATA I. It work very well with my VGN-SZ370P.

Thanks again

Legal Alien said...

Thanks RocketMan, with your guide I swapped hard drives in about an hour. Never would have managed it otherwise.
Now I just need to replace the fan and heat sink :)

Cheers matey

RocketMan said...

No worries dude, glad to help.

Let me know how the fan replacement went. I've got another SZ that is pretty noisy...

- Rob

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

I'd like to upgrade my sz79gn hard disk(asian version) to a SSD, any suggestions? anything i need to pay attention to?

Thx in advance and thx very much for the nice walk through!!


RocketMan said...

Hi Arthur -

First, thanks for the complement

As long as the SSD has the same physical footprint as the outgoing drive, and takes the same mini-SATA power jack, there should be no difference in the installation instructions.

Good luck - let us know how it turns out.

- Rob

Daniel Noll said...

Thank you so much for this post. I have a Sony Vaio VGN-SZ110 and searched high and low for assembly schematics.

My hard drive failed (3 years of taking a beating on the road) while my wife and I were traveling in Guatemala.

While I didn't use the information here to take my laptop apart...I winged it (not wise), I did need it to properly seat the hard drive and put the thing back together.

Many thanks,

RocketMan said...

No worries Daniel - we aim to please.

An SZ110? Yowsa.

Anonymous said...

Great guide RocketMan!

I recently received a message about S.M.A.R.T. failure detected, or the message about impending hard drive failure, so I will be attempting to ghost/clone my hard drive and replace it soon.

I have a VGN-SZ330P and was wondering what hard drives were compatible. I saw your previous message about "the 3Gbs SATA won't work in the SZ series (at least the older ones... 3xx and below.) The drive I installed switched between 1.5 an 3, and the 3 was unusable." And I'm kind of a noob, so I'm not sure what hard drives will be compatible. Do you know if this hard drive would work: WD5000BEVTRTL ?

Thanks, Frank

RocketMan said...

Hi Frank -

First, thanks for the comments. (I'm wondering if the SZ line of VAIOs is ripe for upgrades lately, since I am getting a whole raft of comments on this 1 year old posting.)

I checked out that drive, and I'm afraid you are out of luck with it - it has a fixed bus size of 3Gigs, which makes it incompatible with the SZ3xxx and below. (The bus size on a drive can be thought of as the size of a pipe through which you can shove data to the motherboard. Until recently, laptop drive buses could only handle up to 1.5Gb, now they can go up to 3Gb...which means you should see improved drive performance, since it takes less time to get the same amount of data to/from the drive.)

The key things to look for on a drive replacement for your SZ330 is: the physical size of the drive (it should be listed as a 2.5" drive in the marketing literature), use SATA as its bus mechanism, and the size of the bus should be either 1.5Gb or switchable to 1.5Gb.

Stay within those parameters, and you're going to be ok.

- RM

ionrane said...

I also want to extend Many Thanks! for publishing this info.
It enabled me to sucessfully swap drives last year when the upgraded one (friend installed for me) failed.
But the orig drive (100G) is far to small (I work constantly on a USB drive, that looses USB connection sometimes -YIKES), so I have finally purchased a 500G to install, Imaged it, Re-partitioned, copied another external drive's files over, and am almost ready to go.

BUT two concerns:
1) I noticed, that this new drive it is 3Gb/s only. How do I know if MY vaio VGN-SZ370P is compatible (purchased Oct06 -top of the line then).
2) I cannot get my machine to boot from the external drive. I have BIOS set to boot externally, & drive boot order is proper.
BUT, I get a blue error screen everytime boot with this drive plugged in..
What does this mean? Is there something else I need to set?

If my machine doesn't work after I swap drives, I won't know if it is a 3Gb bus issue, or something related to the error I get when trying to boot externally..

Anyway, I'd rather not risk accidentally breaking my computer permantly in the case of numerous unnecessary drive swaps.
(Even though your step-by-Step is Fabulous, and it worked like a Charm previously, anything can happen:)

Thanks for any feedback!


Anonymous said...

The fan on my SZ270 failed completely a few months ago - picked up a refurb off the internet for around $10. Finally plucked up courage this weekend and followed the 38 step deconstruction process and replaced the fan. Took me around 4 hours (going carefully).

Not too bad, though it's a bit fiddly fastening the heatsinks and fan onto the motherboard without mucking up the heatsink compound.

The screws strip pretty easily too - I had a heck of a time getting one of the CPU heatsink screws off.

Here's the laptop in pieces on my workbench

Couldn't find my threadlock, so I guess I'll have to go back and redo the chasis and lcd-mounting screws sometime.

It's a really daft design when replacing the fan is hard but replacing the CPU is trivial.

giffengood said...

hi, thank you for your explanation. Could I ask you for a help? I have the same Sony vaio sz370 and my cpu fan is acting up. I need to clean it. I can't seem to access the cpu fan's location. could you explain or post a DIY- how to disassemble the notebook to clean the cpu fan? I know I am asking for alot but your help would be so helpful!! thanks so much!

Gavin said...

Just swapped out my 160gb hd from my sz5 to a 320gb drive, followed the guide and all is working very well.

Many thanks for this super easy to follow guide :)

RocketMan said...

Hi Gavin: you're welcome. Glad that you found this helpful.

Anthony Sellitto said...

Don't know if this got sent yesterday.

Thanks for the help - it worked and when finally installed correctly it booted right up and runs like a charm. I went from a 120 Gig drive to a Western Digital 500 gig. WOW! I have space again.

a few notes.

The hard drive on mine had four screws on the rails - not three.

The other end of the ribbon cable unplugs making it easy to remove the drive (That's how Sony must get the tape on the bottom. They plug the ribbon into the drive and then install the two as a unit and then plug the ribbon into the mother board. I found this out after following your directions - installing the new drive and getting a "no operating system found" message. Thinking the clone did not work, I removed the new drive and re-installed the old one. As I was re-installing the wrist plate I noticed the ribbon was loose - I pushed it in tight. and then changed back to the new drive. Re-assembled again and the computer runs like a charm. With more space then I'll ever need (somehow I think I will regret saying that!)

wu said...

hi, can you pls re post the pdf of deconstruction process of the sz again ?

I need to fix my SZ's fan (it's making duck noise sound too frequently now).

thank you

RocketMan said...

Thanks for the tip, Anthony. I suspect you're right.

wu: I can't locate the PDF anymore...they seem to have moved it from the link that the other reader posted. So sorry.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


RocketMan said...

Thank you Alana - very much appreciated.

Feel free to keep commenting. ;)

Dennis said...

Hi Rocketman,
I have SZ370P with a dim monitor, and I am sure, the cause is a bad back light invertor. I orded one and when I opened the screen cover, I couldn't find one... Is there an external inverter in sz370p or it's built-in to the screen?

RocketMan said...

Hi Dennis - not sure about this, but I would bet $20 that it's built into the screen. The LCD panels on the Sony VAIOs are all using the Sony XBRITE, which is not Sony proprietary (XBRITE is just their marketing name), but in order to get that sharp, crystal clear, non-eyestain "glow" that comes from the XBRITEs, I would suspect it has to pack its own inverter. Sorry about that...

Richard said...

Disassembly instructions here:

mlwilliams1 said...


Thanks for posting great instructions. My problem was slightly different in that my hard drive was fried and I installed a new Toshiba like the original. My one remaining issue is that even though I have reinstalled all the software and drivers, the computer will not start up beyond the bios screen (where I could hit the F2 key to enter the bios) unless I hit the F1 key. It just sits there on the screen forever until I hit F1. Anything you can think of?

Andy & Mayden said...

Hey Thanks for the info on how to change the drive. I have an VGN-SZ4MN that I would like to upgrade the drive to a SSD 256GB. Do you by any chance know if this laptop uses the SATA-150 or 300?

Thanks again

RocketMan said...

Hi Andy - no worries on the help.

I have two SZ series laptops, one is the 370P that you see disemboweled here, which has now been pressed into service as my Ubuntu laptop. The other is my SZ 791 which is my Windows7 machine.

Both of these series can handle either the SATA-150 or SATA-300s, so you should be safe...

Please comment back after you slipped in the SSD 256G and let us know how it went. I'm anxious to try it as well, it will keep the heat down and the battery life high. Can you let us know which model you are buying?

Thanks in advance!

Anonymous said...

Hi RocketMan,

First, many thanks for the nice tips!

The hard drive from my vgn-sz1m is fried and I would like to built in a new one with your helpfull recipe. But, do you have any idea which hard drives I can use to do this? Or where I can find a list of hard drives that will work on my old baby?

Thanks a lot in advance!


RocketMan said...

Hi Rick -

First - thanks for the comments!

Second - at this point, almost any 3.5" SATA will do what you want...however, look up the specs on the SZ1M to make sure that it can handle transfer speeds of 3G, otherwise you will be stuck at 1.5G

Good luck!

Andy & Mayden said...

Update from my previous post....
I had originally asked if placing an SSD drive in my Sony Vaio VGN-SZ4MN would work, because I did not know about the sata interface.

Well... Good News !!
I have now installed an 128GB SSD Drive from ADATA it is model no.S592.

This works great. Have also installed win7 but had to use drivers for vista. If anybody has the Win7 Specific drivers for my laptop please let me know.

Now my laptop with new SSD drive and Win7 has got a hole new lease of life. I hope it lasts a few more years now.

Thanks for your instructions on how to replace the Hard Drive. Worked a treat.


RocketMan said...

Thanks for the update Andy - that's excellent to get confirmation that the SSDs work well in the SZ series.

Congratulations and thanks!

- Rob

Steve B. said...

Fabulous site RocketMan:

Any thoughts about the following approach to replace the HD on a SZ370p due to a corrupted Win XP Pro OS without deleting existing files?

Microsoft Service took control of my SZ370 to correct a minor problem in which I was prompted to install security updates that had already been installed. They corrupted my Win XP Pro installation so that I can't boot. Despite 9 hours of phone time with them trying to repair XP Pro I still can't boot.

I plan to install a new HD and then restore to the new HD using my external HD where Acronis True Image Home 10 has been doing a continual Backup up until 5 days ago. Then I want to use an external HD enclosure to recover from the old drive with the bad XP those files from the last week.

Does that make sense to you? Thanks so much for your response.
Steve Brown

RocketMan said...

Hi Steve -

First, thanks for the nice comments.

Second, I'm stunned that a 2 year old blog post is still getting comments.

Third, yikes! Seriously? They whacked your drive during a service call? They need to take responsibility for their actions, so definitely go after them for re-imbursement.

As to your drive - what I would recommend is to execute on your plan. Slap the new drive in a SATA-to-USB enclosure - they run about $20, and you'll need it for future projects anyway. Then proceed with Arconis' restore to the new drive. (Make sure that you have Arconis create a bootable drive.)

Remove the old drive from the SZ per my instructions here, and put the new one in. If the laptop boots, you're almost done. Take the bad drive and put it in the enclosure, and then plug it into the laptop.

I suspect that you will see the laptop CPU cycle up to 100% as it tries to make sense of the corrupted TOC on the old drive - but if you're lucky it will settle down and you should see some of the old files. However, you should be prepared for the hard, cold reality that your old drive is unrecoverable.

Sorry that happened man - very best of luck and let us know how it goes.

- RocketMan

Steve Brown said...

Your blog post is really the only useful one I could find anywhere so thanks again.

Thanks for your response. Unfortunately I had to do a bare metal install but had my acronis backup for all but two days worth of files.

One useful suggestion for others might be the following. I purchased a new 500gig drive to use as an external HD. I restored from Acronis NonStop backup to the 500 gig drive. By doing that I knew if I screwed up the restore to the original internal drive I would have a backup of all my files. That approach saved me some real headaches.

Next step is to buy the WD3200BEKT drive mentioned by Leo above and install in my SZ370p. I might also see if I can then use windows 7 as my operating system. More later!

Thanks again RocketMan.


UberRocket said...

Thanks again for the kind words, Steve.

Yeah - that is an EXCELLENT suggestion. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your guide, and it was also helpful for me two years after your original post!

I just replaced the orginal 120 GB drive in my SZ330P with a WD3200BEKT, and it worked great. I followed that with an install of Windows 7, a operating system that so far I'm thrilled with.

At first my computer screen was on the fritz with flashing multicolored lines, but eventually I figured out that my intel integrated graphics card on the mobo must be on its way out. Once I restarted the computer and installed the Nvidia GO 7400 driver with a modified INF file from, everything was workin fine. My drive has a windows experience score of 5.9!

Thanks again. -Cy

RocketMan said...

Hi Cy -

First: congrats! Glad the upgrade went well for you.

Yeah, I'm constantly amazed how much this post resonated with everyone - I rarely do a "how to" on this blog, but this one has been getting the most traffic of the handful that I have - I think there's a ton of SZ's out there. (Which is good, they are a great laptop.)

My main windows 7 laptop is now an SZ9xx series, and my SZ370P (the topic of this post) is still kicking and happily running Ubuntu. It's still a great machine - although I can't get Ubuntu to control its fan speed, so its as noisy as a racetrack. :/

Anyway - glad it all worked out, and thanks for the complements.

- UberRob

cactoctin said...

Nice work - wish I'd seen it back when I had hard drive problems. I replaced my original hard drive in Sep 2009 when it failed with a nice 320G 7200rpm. The new drive has worked very well. I'd like to caution people to be VERY careful with the keyboard. Despite my care, I managed to snap two of the little keycaps off. Replacements were very difficult to find and then install.

Now my LCD has gone dim. I can plug in an external monitor but the laptop will only stay alive for about 30 minutes at a time. It gets quite hot right over the hard drive area - I think the fan has stopped working. I opened up the back of the laptop but could only get access to about 1/3 of the fan. No obvious problem.

Question 1 - any one know the part number for the fan in the SZ-370P (and where to buy one)?

Question 2 - where is the temperature sensor that controls the fan operation? Could it have failed and the fan be ok?

Question 3 - could the fan/heat problem caused the LCD to go dim?

Any advice on the above or on how to get at and remove the fan would be very much appreciated. I love the little laptop and would like to keep it going.

Anonymous said...

thank you man!

this notebook is very complicated to disassembly.


Anonymous said...

I have a VGN-SZ538N (S.E.Asia model number). I've removed the keybaord and the palm rest. But having problem as to which part of the cable to remove from the hard drive. Is it the black part that connects by pin to the hard drive or the thin white strip after the black plastic part? The arrange by order you see will be: hard drive, black plastic part then the thin strip that I think holds the ribbon in place on top of the black plastic part. So which do I remove to disconnect the cable ribbon OR
do I just lift the other end of the ribbon cable that is connected to the motherboard? Do I lift just the orange bit that sits on top of a little black square or do I lift both the ribbon and the small black square the is plugged onto the motherboard/printed circuit board ?

I hope someone can clarify this as I am stuck here and worry if I disconnect the wrong bit, it will damage the laptop.

Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Tip for the delicate part of removing the ribbon cable from the drive:

Simply lift the drive up a little and slip a screwdriver underneath the drive and lever off some of the black backing sticky paper.

Then use the screwdriver to lever off the next layer of sticky tape paper which holds the ribbon to the drive. I did it by wedging the screwdriver in then twisting the screwdriver which entangled most of the tape. Then the ribbon plug comes off easily.

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Pon Ting said...

Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u.

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Nice post with awesome points! Can’t wait for the next one.

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