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Add Soup to Your Laptop: Making the Sony Vaio VGN-SZ545P fly with Windows 7

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We don't usually write about simple stuff like PCs, but we thought this might be useful to somebody. It can be hard to put Windows 7 on a laptop that was manufactured with XP or Vista. However, often Windows 7 can be installed, and it can be a very nice result. In this case, it was a little hard to make everything work, but the final result was really good.


So you have a good laptop, 3 or 4 years old. Buy a new one? We found a nice way to make this Vaio model run better than most new laptops. My manager did a lot of the work, but I had to fix the video (which is at the bottom of this blog post). He likes really "nice" (expensive) laptops. This upgrade prevented him from buying a pretty expensive laptop (at least for another year maybe two).

First: There must be a Windows 7 chipset driver for your model laptop. For this Sony, there is. But this page can mislead you:

http://esupport.sony.com/US/perl/os7...?mdl=VGNSZ645P

This page says that "Your Vaio Model VGNSZ645P Is Supported for Windows 7"

Good news!

Kind of good news. Not perfect news. We did the upgrade, and a lot didn't work at first!

  • The "Sleep" function was disabled, we could just do Hibernate
  • No brightness control for the display (makes the battery go down fast)
  • The "Fn" keys didn't work
  • No external monitor! We could not use the laptop with an external monitor. (This almost made the project a failure... until we fixed it!)


We made a paid support call to Sony support, and it was a horrible waste of time. They have no ideas and could not make it work. (Sony should fire this company, they are really bad support people.)

We solved all these things except the Fn keys. The laptop is faster than when it was new with XP.

There are three things we did to this laptop to make it better than new:

#1: We put in a brand new keyboard. This part of a laptop wears out a lot as you use it. Brand new parts can be bought on the internet. We bought a brand new keyboard for about $110, and it is just like that "new laptop" feeling.

#2: We replaced the hard drive. For a Windows 7 install, you should always reformat the hard drive and do a new fresh install of Windows. The best way to do this is to get a new hard drive inside the laptop, and connect the old hard drive as an external drive (with a USB to SATA cable). After Windows is installed, you can connect the old hard drive to move over files.

We made a step farther: We replaced the hard drive with an SSD. This is a great upgrade for an old laptop (or desktop) and makes it faster than most new machines.

#3: We installed Windows 7 32 bit Ultimate. (Any 32 bit version of Windows 7 would be fine.) Don't put the 64 bit version on a system unless you require 64 bit software (you don't) or you have more than 4GB RAM. On a laptop with 1-3GB RAM you will get better performance from 32 bit Windows 7.

OK, what we did:

  1. Install new SSD Hard Drive
  2. Install Windows 7 32 bit from CDROM/DVD
  3. Download and install all the Windows 7 drivers from the Sony web site for this model Vaio

At this point, we have the problems I wrote above: No Fn keys, no sleep, no external monitor, no brightness control. Also no Aero in Windows 7.

However, what really DOES work is speed. It is FAST:

  • Cold boot time: 9-12 seconds
  • Hibernate and unhibernate: 10-14 seconds (system has 2GB RAM, more RAM is slower for Hibernate)

This is improved from 45-60 seconds for these steps on the original XP.

Now to kill the big problems with video.

Why can't it sleep? Because Sony does not make a video driver for Windows 7 for this model.

How to fix? (Please play a trumpet sound in your mind.)

This Vaio has the NVIDIA GeForce Go 7400 256 MB video system. You can download this driver from the Nvidia web site. But it will not work.

The magic is to do TWO things:

  1. Download the driver kit from the NVidia web site for the GeForce Go 7400
  2. Get the patched inf file from http://www.laptopvideo2go.com

  1. You unzip the driver kit from NVidia (the exe you download from NVidea can be unzipped using the free 7-Zip tool). Unzip to an empty dir, like c:\temp\nvidia\
  2. Then you copy the patched .inf file into c:\temp\nvidia\, overwriting the .inf that is already there
  3. Then you run the NVidia setup.exe


Reboot, and wow!

  • You now have Aero
  • You have the Nvidia control panel, and can use the external video connector
  • You have sleep!
  • You can dim the monitor

The laptop is now really really fast (with "just" a Centrino Duo processor). Stuff like Chrome and other apps open faster than you can click. They are instant.

The laptop is better than a new expensive laptop, for a cost of about $600 (Windows 7 Ultimate, SSD, Keyboard).

Also, when done, uninstall all the Sony Control Panel, Vaio Support and stuff. Vaio Update. It is all useless.
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