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My Sony Vaio VGN-SZ430N Hard Drive Crashed and How I Fixed It

Posted in Computers by Joe Colburn on the March 1st, 2008

I use my laptop a lot. I work all day and then I go home and work (and play) some more on my laptop. Sometimes, I go to sleep and my laptop is still running processes (I like to play with theoretical statistics and number crunching). I bought this Sony Vaio last April when my seven year old Dell’s drive finally bit the dust for good and I decided it was time to get a new laptop – one that wasn’t slower than my Windows Mobile cell phone. After seven great years with my Dell, I wouldn’t have guessed that the drive on my new Sony would tank the way it did, and I certainly didn’t anticipate it happening at a critical time like the second day of Affiliate Summit West, but it did.

(note: you can click any image for a large version)
Laptop Hard Drive Crash

While it would be easier (and cheaper) to just call Sony and have them come out and replace the drive, I opted to do it myself for a few reasons. Mostly, I need to retain the original drive because it contains sensitive client (and personal data), and for those who don’t know, you can usually get a lot of data off an old drive even after it’s been formatted. I didn’t want to take the chance the the drive wouldn’t be disposed of properly. I also think it’s much more fun and provides an excuse to write this post if I do it myself. Besides, someone whose warranty has expired may eventually find and make use of this article.

Before there’s a problem
It seems that the first step in recovering from a hard drive error on my laptop is to kick myself in the butt for not running routine backups. DVDs can be had for about 25 cents each these days, so there is absolutely no reason to not be running backups. I NOW have my laptop set up to run backups once a week to DVD, and if you have a vista laptop, take a look at Sony’s tutorial on how to backup and restore your important files in Windows Vista (it’s a link on that page). I didn’t think I’d need to worry about that yet with a newish laptop and most of my critical files are on my work computer or online, but you really don’t know how much you have to lose until you start to lose it. You should also create (or purchase) your recovery DVDs before you have drive problems. If you wait, you may be without a working laptop for days while you wait for the mail man to bring your disks. Additionally, I think you can still (at the time of this writing) order the recovery disks for Windows XP if you have Vista, just in case you decide you want to downgrade.

Your warranty and my disclaimer
The disclaimer part is simple… If you follow any instructions here, you release me from any claims of liability. It’s your computer and I hope you don’t break anything. With that said, here’s what Sony thinks about you opening up your computer to replace the hard drive yourself:

Hard drive upgrades in the notebook computer are not supported.

* Some notebook computers have instructions for warranty replacement of the hard drive by an end user.
* Although third-party upgrades may be available for some models, they are not supported.
* If the hard drive needs service, repair should be done by an authorized Sony® service center.
* External hard drives may be attached if the appropriate connections are available.

In short, playing doctor with hardware can be fun, but if you can get Sony to replace it for you for free, by all means, do it. If not, keep reading.

The elusive system recovery disks
If you already have recovery disks, skip this section. If you don’t, grab a crossword, TV show, work, or something to read while each DVD burns, two blank DVDs, and make sure you have a spare hour or so for just this process.

After not finding recovery disks, an obvious option on in the computer’s program menus, or any helpful information on Sony’s support pages about how to create recovery disks (did I not search hard enough?), I called support. The first representative told me that there was not a way do create a recovery disk from my existing installation. She then forwarded my call to the parts department so that I could order recovery DVDs. Delivery of the recovery DVDs would take three to five business days, and would cost me $28, I was told. I have no intention of paying for software that I feel should come in the box with the computer and I voiced this concern. The Sony guy explained that they don’t include recovery disks because they’re already on the hard drive. Coming full circle, I had him transfer me back to support so someone could explain how I could burn them. The second support tech put me on hold for a couple minutes and then emailed me the support article and walked me through the following steps, even offering to stay on the phone with me the whole time it was going to take to burn the DVDs. As I imagined someone like me waiting on hold forever for support, I declined so he could help other customers. Here’s the magic recovery disk creation process:

1. Make sure that your laptop is connected to an external power source so the process does not get interrupted.
2. Close all programs.
3. Disconnect any network connections
4. Disconnect any external peripherals (like an external mouse)

5. You can get to the recovery area in one of two ways:
– Search for “vaio recovery center” (this did not work for me) OR
– Hold down the Windows key and hit F1 and then click “Backup and Recovery”

6. Click “Launch Vaio Recovery Center” (at the very bottom)
7. Click “Create Recovery Disks”
8. Click the START button

When prompted, you’ll need to throw in a blank DVD. After it finishes the first DVD, you need to throw in the second blank DVD to make the second recovery disk.

It’s not all that painful once you know how to find the tools to do it.

Replace the bad drive with the new one
Before you start pulling apart your machine, make sure you have both Phillips head and slotted head screwdrivers handy. I also like to keep a blank sheet of paper on a flat surface and a pen handy so I can put screws on it and write where they came from. OK.. lets get started.

1. Unplug the external power supply and remove the battery.

2. Remove 4 screws from the bottom of the laptop.

3. Flip it over and look at the top of the keyboard. To release the keyboard, you’ll need to push in two small tabs. One is just above the F1 and F2 keys, and the other is just above the Insert/Pause key. I gently pressed the tip of the slotted screwdriver into each tab one at a time, while lifting the keyboard with my other hand.

4. Now flip the keyboard toward you, but be careful of that green cable.

5. Remove the three additional chassis screws now visible (circled in the picture below).

6. Flip the keyboard back over and let it rest there.

7. Gently slide the palm rest chassis toward you, but be careful of the hidden white cable.

8. Go ahead and flip it over. THERE’S the hard drive! We’re getting close.

9. Now remove the three hard drive mounting screws shown below. If you have four, you’re lucky. Sony stiffed me a screw.

10. Now you can unplug the SATA cable from the drive. Be very careful to not rip that cable. Mine is taped to the drive, and you may have to give it a little tug. Just be patient and careful with it. AFTER I got mine unplugged, I realized that they taped it on the bottom of the drive, too. You may not even be able to remove the tape until the drive is already out, so have fun with that.

11. Now remove the old drive from it’s cage by removing all four edge screws (they’re hiding under small strips of black tape) and replace it with the new hard drive, replacing the screws, as well.

12. Now you just need to put it all back together by reversing all the directions above and replace the battery and external power connection.

NOTE: We all make mistakes, and I’m not immune. When I got into the BIOS (see below), it wouldn’t find my drive. I pulled it all back apart and realized that I had accidentally disconnected this little guy. Watch out for that.

Format and Install
With every screw back in place, it’s time to set up the drive and bust out your recovery disks. For starters, turn on the power and hit the F2 key while booting to enter the BIOS to make sure the drive is recognized. Put in the first recovery disk and then turn the computer off and then back on again. On the screen that pops up, select “Vaio Recovery Center”.

On the next screen, select “Skip” and click the “Next” button. You will be given an option to install all the extras Sony wants to install. Although I’ll end up removing many of them, I installed all of them for the few I will use. Make your own choice here and then proceed with the installation.

After a disk swap, lots of waiting, a bunch of steps and a few reboots, Windows Vista’s installation and configuration will begin and a short time later, you’re back in business.

Windows Vista

Am I all done?
Nope. Remember what I said about backups when we started? Well, you have a clean install and a good drive. Now’s the time to set up your routine backups before you start loading your drive up with critical data. While you’re at it, set up that firewall and anti-virus software.

About the author

Joe Colburn Joe Colburn is a software engineer specializing in PHP and a technology enthusiast. Always eager to dive into new and exciting things, Joe writes about anything technology related news and products that he thinks you will also be excited about. Find Joe Colburn on Google+ or by any of the links below.

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84 Responses to 'My Sony Vaio VGN-SZ430N Hard Drive Crashed and How I Fixed It'

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  1. Debra said,

    on June 10th, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Wow this was incredible i tried it out and all worked out well for me.Thanks for this pieace of information.Well with my data,i have them backed up online with safecopy online backup.Thier services are so efficient and cost effective for me.Thanks once again for the information.

  2. Joe said,

    on June 11th, 2010 at 9:19 am

    It thrills me to know that this article is helping people. By all means, keep commenting and if you found it helpful, share it or Like it on Facebook.

    Beekeeper: The screw hole was there, but just no screw when I opened the laptop.

    Wayne and Karl: I’m not sure about the specifics of exactly how much you can upgrade and it will vary from computer to computer. The rule of thumb is to check the laptop’s documentation before buying new hardware. I forgot about this when I upgraded the drive in an older laptop and the new drive was too big and just wouldn’t be found by the BIOS. Always check the product documentation (usually found on the manufacturer’s support site) first.

  3. Tim Kissane said,

    on June 11th, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Hey, Joe!

    This is the type of blog I wanted to run myself, but I’m just too damn lazy! Keep up the great work. Ya da’ Man!
    .-= Tim Kissane´s last blog ..Top 4 Reasons to get a CompTIA Certification =-.

  4. Pablo said,

    on June 16th, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Hi. I have installed Windows 7 Ultimate on my Vaio SZ430.
    Now I want to go back to Windows Vista original set, but I can`t do the recovery.
    I have partitioned the disks in 2 disks.
    I have no erased the hidden partition.
    When I run the recovery mode on startup (F10) its says: SMALL DISK….or something like this, and nothing to do then.
    How can I make Recovery DVDS?
    AS I installed Win 7, I can`t find the VAIO RECOVERY BACKUP.
    Any help?

  5. Joe said,

    on June 16th, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Thanks, Tim!

    Pablo: It sounds like you may have lost the recovery partition when you installed Windows 7. If this is the case, you’ll need to order recovery discs from Sony. Personally, I wouldn’t go back to Vista if you already have Windows 7 on the laptop. 7 is far better and seems faster for me, too.

  6. Pablo said,

    on June 16th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Hi Tim!
    I have not lost the recovery partition as I can see it in the system managing.
    I love Windows 7 indeed, but my Vaio seems to have some problems with STAMINA/SPEED modes, when I switch one mode on, screen becomes black, and I need to restart into the other mode. This make me think that my Vaio SZ430 is not Win 7 fully compatible.
    Other hand, drivers installing is far hard to do, because its order. Sony is not very clear with the name and the order install of the drivers.
    Thank you very much for your help.

  7. Joe said,

    on June 16th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Pablo: The Speed/Stamina change requires a reboot regardless of the operating system. Also, the drivers can definitely be an issue, but I’ve found that for many of them (all the important ones, anyway), you can use the Vista driver Sony provides and it will work with Windows 7.

  8. Pablo said,

    on June 16th, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Yes, Tim, I understood that, but the black screen comes in each reboot.
    This is the only problem I found.
    This way, I`d like to test my Win Vista back again, but when I press F10 on the boot options trying to restore full system, I got something like “…to small drive, can´t restore…”
    This may be because I created 2 disks, and the original was only one.
    But I don`t want to erase my 2 partitions, creating only one and I get no luck later.
    What do you think?

  9. William said,

    on June 30th, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Thank you. I was able to fix my laptop with the article. My laptop’s hard drive gave up and I installed a new one a 320 GB everything is working fine. Again thamks for your article.

  10. Joe said,

    on June 30th, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Pablo: One thing I’ve found is that I’ll avoid doing a long process like that and spend even more time trying to find another way. You may need to do just that, start over with one disk. Unfortunately, this is something I’m not sure on.

  11. Joe said,

    on June 30th, 2010 at 8:12 am

    William: I’m glad this article helped.

  12. Tomoka said,

    on September 9th, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    I have the same laptop, and currently cannot figure out what’s wrong w/ it. The hard drive light doesn’t doesn’t stay on when it boots, the screen is black, and the drive doesn’t spin, any thoughts on what’s wrong and any suggestions on how to fix it? Thanks!

  13. manny said,

    on October 22nd, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    just received this laptop as a hand me down because of a failed hard drive. this article is great but unfortunately i am not able to access these programs to create a recovery disk since the HDD is dead.
    is there anyone out there with an extra set of disks?

  14. Cody said,

    on December 8th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    I also have received this laptop as a hand me down with no hard drive in it. I put a new hard drive in it and was able to install windows but I am having a hard time making any of the components work (camera, fingerprint reader, USB ports) Like Manny said the link to the recovery disks is no longer active and Sony’s eSupport site is very limited and does not have these files. Is there any way to get these files from you. Even just the name of them would help so I can find them if they are anywhere on the internet.
    Thanks for the consideration

  15. Joe Tech said,

    on December 8th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Tomoka: Sorry about the late reply. It sounds like there may be a power or motherboard issue. Test it with and without the battery in and with and without the power cable plugged in. If you get no power or lights in any scenario, you may have a dead motherboard. If you get lights only with the battery, you may have a disconnected power connector or dead cable. Most PC shops can test the cable in about a minute if you ask nicely. If it’s the board or the power connector, you will have to get pretty involved to fix it or take it to a professional.

    Manny: Sorry about not replying before. See below.

    Cody: It looks like Sony has all the drivers up, still. This page defaults to Vista drivers (which will work for Win 7 in most cases), but if you have XP, just choose that from the OS dropdown.

  16. Joe P. said,

    on February 3rd, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    My Laptop died, and because of this article I was able to replace the bad hard drive with a intel SSD 40 gb. I made the same mistake that you mentioned and I had to take the laptop apart again. All went well, I also did a clean install of windows 7. It is working and well and it is really fast. The laptop was one step from the trash and your article saved the day!!! Thank you so much!!!


  17. Joe Tech said,

    on February 4th, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Joe P: That’s awesome to hear! I’m glad you found new life in your laptop.

  18. James said,

    on March 17th, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Wow nicely done. Super decent guide thank you so much.
    BTW your commentLuv plug is out of date.
    Keep ut the good work

  19. Joe Tech said,

    on March 17th, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    James: Thanks for the comment. Hope it helped you out.

  20. Lynn said,

    on May 13th, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Just wanted everyone to know, I just lost my 2nd hard drive on my Sony Vaio in 15 monthes. Past warranty period. Should have lasted longer, don’t you think. I may know someone to repair it cheap but I think this is a defective product. Laptops should last at least 3 years!!

  21. Mark said,

    on September 9th, 2011 at 6:52 am

    I am really excited to use these instructions as soon as my new hard drive arrives in the mail. I have only one problem, I don’t have a copy of the Windows VIsta Business that was loaded on my computer. I do have recovery disks that were made by the Best Buy Geeks (this laptop was a hand-me-down from my girlfriend’s mom). Would these recovery disks have windows, or is it just drivers and such? If it doesn’t, any recommendation on where to get the windows? (I do have the product key)

  22. Isidro said,

    on September 10th, 2011 at 5:35 am

    I find this page is very usefull and I’m looking forward to swap my hard drive aswell. On thing that holds me back is that I dont know which hard drive should I buy as I have no reference besides my laptop series which is Vaio vgn-nr21. Do you know a way that I can find what hard drive I need?

  23. Joe Tech said,

    on September 10th, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Lynn: The first hard drive might raise a concern about the laptop quality, but the second one I’m not as sure about. Did Dell put in the second drive? If the drive failed, it’s more likely just an issue with the drive or possibly how it’s used.

    Mark: Even without the new hard drive arriving, you can try to boot up the laptop with the recovery disks in. Set your bios to boot from the CD/DVD first if it’s not already. If it tries to start something that looks like a Windows install, you’re good. If not, contact Microsoft and explain that you have your product key but the DVD was damaged. You should be able to download a new DVD ISO.

    Isidoro: Check the product specs for your model of laptop (in your manual or online). It should say what drives it will accept. Generally, most laptop drives will be OK, but if you go too new, it may not take the drive.

  24. John said,

    on September 15th, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Joe, fwiw the “missing hard drive screw” is not actually missing. It is one of 3 that are inserted from the bottom front edge of the chassis and hold the aluminum palm rest chassis in place.

  25. Joe Tech said,

    on September 15th, 2011 at 11:10 am

    John: Thanks for the tip. I was just thinking about that the other day and it hadn’t occurred to me that’s where the other screw was. Always learning something new.

  26. SE Book said,

    on November 1st, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I am glad you were able to fix it. I hate it when things that that happen it can be so annoying and time consuming.

  27. on January 9th, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    This is very tempting, trying to open my laptop and ruin my laptop’s warranty. Just with this very valuable information, i’m pretty confident that it’s worth the risk. Since we have the same Sony Vaio.

  28. on January 9th, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Bingo, this was pin point accurate what am i looking for, we had the same laptop, a Sony Vaio VGN-SZ430N, but i’m hesitating about the warranty seal being tampered. But it looks that your fix about this issue is pretty solid, at first i thought it was a virus removal service that hit my laptop, but i was wrong. I wish you had video your fix so it’ll be totally cool.

  29. bedsmichets said,

    on January 10th, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Now’s the time to set up your routine backups before you start loading your drive up with critical data. While you’re at it, set up that firewall and anti-virus software.

  30. AustinDavidSurls said,

    on March 12th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    So, my friend has a model similar to your laptop. I wan to know this: does it matter what kind of hard drive I buy to replace the existing one? Does it just have to be a SATA-cable drive? Does a specific model of laptop require a specific kind of hard drive?
    Thank you!

  31. joetech said,

    on March 12th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

     @AustinDavidSurls The brand wont really matter much (other than quality), but be sure to check the limitations of the board/etc. in the Vaio’s specs.  The first time I didn’t check, the drive capacity was too large to be supported by the drive.

  32. Stress Care said,

    on April 30th, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Well share about giving the clear information

  33. on October 11th, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks for this useful information. Hope you have given us the clear information.

  34. on March 26th, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    This is such good info laid out here. Thanks for the tips.

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