4.10.2008

'Upgrading' the Vaio VGN-NR220E to Windows XP

I purchased a Sony Vaio VGN-NR220E laptop that came bundled with Windows Vista Home.  I was a little surprised that they sold Vista on a laptop with only 1GB of RAM.  After upgrading to 3GB pf RAM (specs say 2GB max but the BIOS recognizes up to 4GB- but Vista will BSOD with this configuration) I still found it to be a bit sluggish.

An 8GB Express Card SSD drive used as a ReadyBoost drive did not help that much either, so I decided to downgrade the system to good old XP. 

Unfortunately, Sony will only support this system running Vista- so there are no XP drivers on the Sony support site.  Luckily there are others on the web with a dilemma similar to mine, so I looked to them for guidance.

My first challenge was to find an AHCI driver so Windows XP can see the hard drive; Without this the XP boot CD cannot see the SATA drive (XP can see a SSD Express Card, but will not install to this- Damn crappy-ass Sony BIOS restrictions!).  I found the Intel floppy image for the Mobile 965 Express driver- which creates a 'F6 Driver Disk' to allow XP to see the SATA controller and attached drives.  Insert the floppy in a USB floppy drive, load the XP CD in the optical drive and power up.

When XP setup starts, you will see 'Press F6 to install a third party driver'- so press F6 (quickly).  XP will chug on for a few minutes and then stop at a screen where you can 'press 'S' to specify a 3rd party driver'.  When you press 'S' it will search the floppy (only option!) for a driver and find several different drivers; select the one that reads:

Intel(R) 82801HBM/HEM SATA AHCI Controller (Mobile ICH8M-EIM)

I have heard that the are specific USB floppy drives that can be used (i.e. ones with drivers included in the default XP CD library) for F6 driver setup- and ones that do not 100% compatible will get stuck in a loop asking to insert driver floppy' at a later point in the install.  If you run into this situation you will need to make a custom XP CD and slipstream the appropriate drivers on the CD (I prefer to use nLite to build this).

The XP install finished and I was left with a laptop with a 800x600 display window and no network connectivity.  I needed the drivers to enable the hardware to correct this.  RatStash had a good article on downgrading a different model of Vaio; I used it as a reference but needed to change the Chipset & Wireless drivers to reflect the newer configuration:

Drivers Needed for VGN-NR220E:

I think this is a complete driver list (checked by re-installing XP), but please let me know if I missed anything.  During the process of re-researching drivers to write this post I also discovered a nice page on Intel's site that links to most of the necessary Intel drivers.

The Nautis Project has a ZIP file containing all the necessary drivers for the VGN-N320E Vaio laptop; I used this package to find the 'Texas Instruments PCIxx12 Integrated FlashMedia Controller' driver and remove the last 'unknown' from device manager.

I downloaded all of the above, copied them to a USB thumb drive and then copied them to my Vaio's hard drive (do not try to run/extract these from USB thumb drive as this is VERY slow).  Most of the drivers had 'setup.exe' files and a few of them were '.inf' files that required redirection to from an 'unknown device' icons in device manager.

One unusual part during my first install had all of my USB port disabled in device manager (I think after the Intel INF update); I had to delete all USB devices (in device manager) and refresh with 'Scan for Hardware Changes' and everything was re-detected and has worked since- perhaps it was confused by an earlier default XP driver?  (this did not occur on my 2nd install of XP)

Final result: the laptop seems a bit faster but battery life is about the same.  The custom 'S1' and 'AV Mode' buttons serve no function and some of the 'Fn +' buttons do not work. 

I used an extra 2.5" SATA hard drive so I can revert back by replacing my old Vista Home drive in the system- so I have left my 'upgrade' options open (so long as I am ready to remove 19 screws to replace a hard drive!)

NR220E_001
19 screws to get at the hard drive (not counting the one on the memory door). The long one goes in the middle by the service tag and the two fat ones go in the far back corners (probably for LCD support)

NR220E_002
VGN-NR220E system board overview

NR220E_005 
I am not 100% sure what this is- I am guessing it is either the TI card reader or a USB hub device

NR220E_004 
VGN-NR220E CPU and Chipset cooling detal

NR220E_003 
802.11g mini-PCIe network card (to be replaced with 802.11n or a WiMax card at one point in time)

24 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:38 PM

    thanks a lot it was very useful

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  2. Excelent Post!!!! Thank you very much.

    I'd like, only to have all files packaged in a single zip... To avoid problems and time consuming searches.

    Some questions:
    1- Are all USB files working?
    2- Is your Express Card 34(not PCMCIA/PC Card) working ok?
    3- Did you fix the Function keys (what about the S1 abd Av Mode keys)?

    Once again, Thank you!

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  3. Anonymous12:58 AM

    you just saved my life..

    do you know anything about plug n play drivers?

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  4. Anonymous11:48 PM

    Hey, looks like Sony has some things to download on the website.
    But i dont know where to get de Windows Xp, did you purchased?
    Also i wanna put more ram,they said 2gb. how 3gb and why not 4gb

    senrahh@hotmail.com

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. That was awesome!
    I bought the same laptop one week ago, and couldn't sustain the crazy vista.
    I found your notes here, but I went a long way, coz I didn't have a floppy drive.
    finally I used nlite to embed SATA drivers in windows installation CD.
    Maybe the following is gonna be helpful for others:
    - You should use a floppy emulator to drive the files from the floppy file mentioned in this post.
    - then use nlite to embed them in the installation CD (make sure to make the CD bootable)


    Thanks again Broo. let us know if you found anyway to activate other keys

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  8. Hey.. Why did you say Vista won't work with 4GB? Does XP Pro have the same problem? Since the cheap 1GB (512MB X 2) used by Sony won't work for me, I was planning to buy 2 sets of 2GB... but now I'm confused.

    Also, Amir, please, send me a mail once you find some time... I'd like to discuss the approach you used.
    fabio.bram@gmail.com

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  9. Sony has finally listened to us.

    It's fully available (at the eSupport service) all the necessary Drivers to migrate our NR220E to Windows XP. It's included the "Sony Notebook Control and Utilities"(allowing full control of function keys and hibernate/suspend funcions).

    For those willing to give it a try, check the "OS Migration" section (http://esupport.sony.com/US/perl/swu-list.pl?mdl=VGNNR220E&UpdateType=Migration).


    Cheers!

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  10. Anonymous4:07 AM

    umm says no files available at sonys site

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  11. Anonymous10:29 AM

    thanks for the info. i have a vgn-nr160e here that came with vista home premium that the user wants to be downgraded. all drivers are the same besides the wireless, this model uses the intel pro 2200 abg. the TI card reader driver was clutch, that would take hours to have found.

    also, loading up a floppy with the mass controller WILL NOT work with this model. you need to slipstream it into a windows disc using something like nlite for it to see the drive. use the text-only version of the driver listed on this blog and it works fine.

    Bill
    wcfarrell@gmail.com

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  12. Anonymous9:37 PM

    Thanks a LOT!!!! It was such a big problem for me to downgrade to Windows XP because of drivers. Now my laptop works fine!

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  13. Thank you for this. You saved me a lot of time and headache searching for the correct drivers.

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  14. Raymond12:58 PM

    Thank you for the info. Helps a lot when dealing with other customers having the NR series when downgrading to XP, especially the AHCI SATA floppy driver.

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  15. Raymond12:58 PM

    Thank you for the info. Helps a lot when dealing with other customers having the NR series when downgrading to XP, especially the AHCI SATA floppy driver.

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  16. Datsun7106:38 PM

    Thank you Broo! I was banging my head against the wall trying to find the final driver for the mystical Mass Storage Device.

    A note for those also trying this. I went out and bought an iomega USB floppy drive to load the AHCI driver during the XP install. The Vaio couldn't see it until I went into the CMOS setup and set it to allow boot from external device.

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  17. How to get to the cmos in VGN-NR220E after downgrade to Windows XP Professional. I can't either stand by or hibernate my lap.

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  18. ZiM / Lilith II2:11 PM

    The XP drivers for VGN-NR220e are now available at the Sony Support Site.

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  19. Anonymous4:08 PM

    There are some drivers at Sony support site. But the FN keys and S1/AV still not working no XP. =(

    Does anyone knows how to fix the brightness problem?

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  20. Anonymous11:13 AM

    Me salvaste mucho dinero y tiempo amigo, excelente trabajo

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  21. Anonymous4:29 AM

    Great overview - did you ever upgrade the wifi card? If so what one did you find works?

    Also, is there a way to make these VGN series laptops take more than 2gig's ram? I have a 2gig stick of ram, and my laptop will see it but wont boot or post with 3gig.

    Andy help you can add would be great - thx.

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  22. Roman1:06 AM

    Found this useful except after downloding network control and utilities You still cant use F5/F6 the S1 or the AV mode keys. WTF Sony.

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  23. This worked for me, thank you

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  24. well, here is one for ya, got the damned drive fro the chip set but it is a self extracting file from sony site so how can i burn it to xp disk? so i can then intergrate them both, xp and sata so i can load the thing in to computer? spirit33399@yahoo.com if any answers!

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