I have plenty of posts in draft status, about the work I did for my master thesis and for Zodiac. I hope to complete and publish them in the upcoming months. Today, instead, I resurrect the blog with a quick post about the HDD-to-SSD upgrade I did recently on my Sony Vaio S13.

When I bought it, using the online hardware configuration on the Sony website, the SSD option was very expensive, and it featured an hybrid drive I wasn’t really sure about. So I decided to configure it with a cheap 320Gb HDD, planning to replace it at a later time with an SSD of my choice. Even if this kind of replacement should be straightforward, experience tells that the devil is in the details (remember when the Windows install didn’t have the driver for your brand new SATA drive? When your notebook decided that it couldn’t boot from your everyday use USB key? And what about that hidden recovery partition?), so I postponed the replacement until I knew I had plenty of time to face the possible issues. Well, if you’re in a similar position, forget about it: I followed steps that seemed logical to me to do what I wanted, and all worked flawlessy. So, here’s what I did, hope it helps.

Beware: what I wanted was a clean install, as the Vaio had just arrived from the factory with the SSD. If you don’t want to reinstall your system and applications, you might try copying the partitions from the HDD to the SSD (if the SSD capacity is lower than the HDD, prepare for additional troubles: you have to stretch the HDD partitions before copying them to the SSD). I have done plenty of similar operations with Linux systems, but with Windows I’ve often run into non-sense troubles when moving installations. So, my suggestion is to take the easy path and do what I did: take it as a good clean-up opportunity and reinstall from scratch.

Unfortunately I wasn’t planning to write a post about the upgrade, so I didn’t shoot pictures of the hardware replacement, and I didn’t take note of the exact menu choices involving the recovery procedure. Feel free to ask for detals in the comments if in doubt.

Phase zero: items needed

  • some place to backup your data (external HDD, pen-drive, cloud storage)
  • recovery media (a bootable pen-drive – at least 32 Gb – or a few blank DVDs)
  • a SATA SDD
  • a small screwdriwer

Phase one: before hardware replacement

  1. backup your data
    • I used an external HDD drive
  2. with the notebook turned on, press the “Assist” button to open the Vaio Care utility, and create the recovery media (if you didn’t already when you bought the pc, maybe)
    • I used the pen-drive option – a 32 GB Kingston DTSE9
      • You need at least a 32 GB drive, and it gets blanked out – you’ve been warned.
      • The other option is using DVDs. When I bought the notebook, I tried burning them (I think you needed 5 discs), and there was a burning failure creating the fourth disc. Guess what: there was no option to restart the procedure from the fourth disc, I should have burned again the first three (perfectly fine) discs. Some software developer out there should really feel ashamed. Maybe they have updated the software in the meantime, I don’t know. I don’t wanna know. Anyway: DVDs have other disadvantages… you have to swap them during the recovery (so you can’t go away doing other stuff), can get unreadable, and come on, it’s 2014, everybody hates optical media.
      • Ok ok, I can hear you: “but why should I buy a 32 GB pen-drive for something I only need rarely and read-only?” – Well, you haven’t to. After creating the recovery usb-key, I dumped its image in a safe place (a couple of 1 TB HDD, RAID 1, where I keep my important stuff). So, after using it for recovery, I can format and use the pen-drive for other things. In case I will ever need to recovery again, I will restore the image to the usb pen-drive (or another one I will have that day). My RAID1 HDDs are attached to a Linux system, so I just did a dd if=/dev/sde of=/mnt/raid/vaios13recovery.dd bs=1M – but you can use your favourite drive imaging tool.
  3. Turn off the pc.

Phase two: hardware replacement

  1. disconnect the AC adapter, turn over the notebook and put it on a flat working surface (yeah, a table!)
  2. remove the two screws that keep the battery panel closed
  3. remove the battery
  4. the HDD is connected to a flat cable that, on the top-left, is secured by two screws. Remove them, and gently unplug the cable (you can’t see the connector, it’s under the cable… in the middle of the screws. Gently pull and the connector will pop-out.
  5. remove the four screws that keep the HDD in position (one was under the cable you just unplugged)
  6. gently pull out the HDD
  7. unplug the cable from the HDD
  8. remove the two metallic components at the sides of the HDD (more screws!)
  9. attach the metallic components to the SSD
  10. plug the cable removed at step 7 to the SSD
  11. put in the SSD: tie the four screws of the metallic component, plug the cable connector (remember the two screws removed at step 4)
  12. put back in the battery
  13. put back the panel and the final two screws

Phase three – after hardware replacement

  1. plug in the recovery pen-drive and turn on the notebook by pressing the “Assist” button
  2. select the option to boot from usb
  3. navigate the menu and select the recovery option
  4. the process will create the partitions (including the recovery partition) taking all the available space on the SSD, as desired
  5. at some point, you will be asked to remove the usb key and reboot
  6. go out for a walk or something, this will take time – finally, you’ll end up with the notebook booting like the first time you turned on it, but on the SSD

Phase four (optional) – removing the recovery partition

If you backup the image of the recovery pen-drive somewhere  safe, as I did, you can gain more space on the SSD by removing the recovery partition

  1. plug back in the recovery pen-drive and turn on the notebook by pressing the “Assist” button
  2. select the option to boot from usb
  3. navigate the menu and select the “remove recovery partition” option. This will grant you around 27 more GB.