Sony VAIO laptops come installed with lots of bloatware and, given the VAIO P series’ low power CPU, this really ruins it. Out of the box running Vista my P11Z was barely usable. Here’s how to clean install Windows 7 and the minimal amount of Sony software, which results in a striking improvement.
I wrote this up for the forum at Pocketables.net (the main forum it seems for the VAIO P), but I’ll post it here too. I once had a bad experience with sudden forum deletion – In 2003 I wrote an IPSec VPN guide on the official Netgear forums and one day when I needed it I discovered that they’d relaunched the forums, and deleted all the old content! Needless to say I didn’t have my own copy and web.archive.org didn’t have it either…
Back to the VAIO:
Before you start, use the GlobeTrotter Connect software to check the firmware version of your Option GTM382 HSDPA + GPS card. If it’s lower than 126.96.36.199, this update will vastly improve your GPS signal strength. Mine went from not working at all, even outside, to being able to get a fix in VisualGPS indoors. You can search for the firmware file by name but it’s not legitimately available – Sony does not distribute the update, despite Option’s official documentation stating that the version they shipped with is non-working. More details in this thread.
You can use the Sony Windows 7 Upgrade media to carry out a clean install.
Using another PC with a DVD drive, make a bootable 4GB USB stick from your Windows 7 upgrade kit DVD 2 using these instructions.
Boot from USB (enable ‘Boot from external’ in the BIOS), select Custom once Windows Setup launches, completely wipe the drive (assuming you no longer care about the Vista recovery partition) and continue. When the Vaio reboots remove the USB stick or it will boot from it and re-launch Setup. Do not enter a product key and make sure you uncheck the Activate Windows Online Automatically option. Next, install Service Pack 1, then once that is done you can remove the uninstall files from the disk to save space. Disabling hibernation will also save you 2GB of disk space:
dism /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded
powercfg -h off
Now that Windows is fully installed, make sure you have no Windows Updates with pending restarts, and go to right-click on Computer in the Start Menu and select Properties. Scroll down and Activate, using the product key from the DVD case. It took a good few minutes but worked for me.
Use Windows Update and in the Optional Updates select the two Sony devices (Sony Firmware Extension Parser Device, and Sony Programmable I/O Control Device), and the updated Atheros Wifi drivers. Install. These are the same versions that are on the Sony driver site.
Install the most recent Intel GMA 500 driver from Intel.com > Downloads > Graphics > Laptop graphics controllers > Graphics Media Accelerator 500 > Windows 7
Now go to the Sony Vaio support page for your model and download and install the following Windows 7 drivers, in order:
- Sony Shared Library – restart, as a precaution
- Setting Utility
- VAIO Event Service (needed for volume and brightness keys)
- VAIO Control Center
- VAIO Smart Network – (needed to enable the Option card) – restart
When Windows reloads, the Option WWAN card will be detected and it will fail to find drivers. Download the Windows 7 Mobile Broadband mode driver package only (not the Globetrotter Connect software) for a P11Z from here. No IMEI is required for this download. Drivers for other Option WWAN cards are available in the Embedded Devices section at the bottom of this page. Windows 7 has a built-in framework for managing mobile broadband connections so we can avoid Option’s terrible GlobeTrotter bloatware, which uses 20% of a 1.33GHz CPU even when idle. In Device Manager, find the non-installed device and select Update Driver, pointing it at the files you just downloaded and unzipped. On the next reboot I think, you’ll have a whole load more unidentified devices. These are all the parts of the Option card like the GPS serial ports, the Network device etc. For each one repeat the same steps as you did for the parent device, pointing it at the downloaded driver folder. Now, when you insert a SIM card you will notice that Windows 7 will offer a new network in the wireless icon in the System Tray which will have your cellular network carrier as its name. All you need is the APN name and username/password – nice and simple. If you want to have the WWAN card disabled by default as Windows starts (to save power) you will need to use the full Smart Network UI to disable both the GPS and the WWAN. This wasn’t clear and took me some considerable time to figure out.
Install the HDD Protection Driver from the Originally Installed downloads section on the Sony site. This adds some options to the VAIO Control Center, and I think is a useful addition for a mobile PC.
Install the Chipset driver, also from Originally Installed too. These Intel chipset drivers aren’t really drivers – they just title up certain devices in the Device Manager to have their correct names. So PCI-PCI Host Device (or whatever) becomes Intel(R) SCH Family PCI Express Root Port 1 – 8110. I had a hunt around for more up to date ones for Poulsbo systems but there are none, not even with Dell, so don’t worry that it’s a Vista driver. On the Sony US support site they’re more organized and both the HDD Protection driver and Chipset drivers are correctly listed in the Windows 7 section (same exact versions).
Do not install the Battery Check. It’s a driver that checks to make sure you are not using a third party battery and wastes system resources. As I also found out, it lacks an uninstall option and it took me a while to remove it from my system last time around.
From the Windows 7 section of the Sony site install Instant Mode, the RealTek audio driver, and the Alps stick pointer driver. Although scrolling by holding the middle button does already work without the Alps driver, it is still useful to install because it offers sensitivity options, and tap-to-click functionality which I find very worthwhile. If you’re using them a lot the button clicks can get tedious and loud. The RealTek audio driver offers one particularly useful feature over the stock Windows audio driver – the ability to use Dynamic Range Compression to amplify very quiet audio, which can often be a problem when watching movies using the speakers. To enable this when you need it, open Sound in Control Panel. In the Playback tab select Speaker/HP and click Properties. In the Enhancements tab scroll down and you’ll find Loudness Equalization.
If you don’t use the LAN connection, open Device Manager and disable Intel(R) SCH Family PCI Express Root Port 1 – 8110 in System Devices. This is how Sony shipped the factory-installed Vista build, so I guess it uses less power that way.
For lean software I recommend:
- Chromium web browser (open source Google Chrome – no behaviour profiling)
- Sumatra PDF instead of an increasingly malware-vulnerable/targeted Adobe Reader
- This fantastic sidebar gadget which shows CPU temp and SpeedStep clockspeed – very useful for a Vaio P user