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:
- Chipset: Intel INF Update Utility (for 900 series chipsets)
- Video: Intel 965 Chipset Video Driver
- HD Audio: Realtek HD Audio Drivers v1.90
- Modem: Sony HD Modem
- Wireless NIC: Atheros 5006 802.11b/g
- NIC: Marvell Yuknon Drivers v10.55.3.3
- Mass Storage Controller: TI PCIxx12 FlashMedia Controller (see Nautis Project package below)
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!)
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)
802.11g mini-PCIe network card (to be replaced with 802.11n or a WiMax card at one point in time)