Sony Vaio S1511 hard disk swap for SSD

Yes, you too can do it, and with one screwdriver.

I spent a fair while browsing laptops to find one that would suit my needs. What I wanted was a 15″ 1080p ultrabook. What I discovered is that there weren’t many. Many Spring 2012 blogs were predicting them, but in Aug 2012 there were just a few to choose from. Anyhoo, I ended up with a Sony Vaio S 15. My previous (now blown up) laptop was an i7, and in the two years it was alive, it was hardly ever pushed beyond 3%, so I decided not to waste the money and dropped down to i5. Extra memory I can get anywhere cheaply, so I didn’t see the need to pay Sony a premium for that either. What I did want was an SSD, as in other computers I work on it has introduced a step change in the speed I work at. Problem was, Sony wanted £400 for a 256Gb SSD. I beg your pardon? £400? Not sure what planet they’re on, when a very well reviewed SSD can be bought on Amazon for £150. So I wanted to know before I bought the Vaio if it would be easy to swap the HDD for an SSD I bought myself. Answer – it is.

Making the change

You’ll need one Phillips Head size 1 screwdriver. Here’s the laptop:

Flip it over and you’ll see there’s a user removable section on the base. Remove the two screws that hold it in and pull towards the edge of the laptop.

The two screws to remove are in the foreground in this photo

You can now access the battery, the spare memory slot and the hard disk. You’ll see the hard disk has four screws holding it down. Remove these and unplug the hard disk.

The hard disk has two metal mounting strips attached to each side. Swap these over to the SSD.

And screw back in

That’ll be £250, please

Moving the data
If the two disks were equal in size, or the SSD was bigger, you could clone the HD to the SSD and then expand the partitions. Instead the SSD is smaller than the HD, so some juggling is required. The retail version of the SSD linked above comes with a USB SATA cable and software to help you do this, but I had the OEM version and was installing Ubuntu, so my steps were more complicated than yours might be. My steps were:

  1. Make a bootable Ubuntu USB drive
  2. Boot from it
  3. Connect the old drive to the computer with a USB SATA adaptor
  4. Run gparted
  5. Created a new GPT partition table on the SSD (time to move in to the 21st century)
  6. Shrink the NTFS partition to 50000Mb
  7. Used dd to copy the partition from the old drive to the SSD
  8. Ran the Ubuntu installer
  9. Added a 1Mb “Reserved for boot” partition in the space at the beginning of the drive (needed to store the boot loader under GPT)
  10. Added a 2Gb swap partition
  11. Added a 15Gb ext4 root partition
  12. Used the rest as a btrfs home partition
  13. Installed Ubuntu

3 thoughts on “Sony Vaio S1511 hard disk swap for SSD

  1. Hey there, I realize this is a very old post, but I’m in the process of upgrading the 640gb HD that came on my Vaio S15113 to a 500gb Evo 850 SSD. I’m also planning to install Ubuntu (along with W7, dual boot).

    I’ve tried out an Ubuntu LiveCD on my system and like what I see, I was wondering if you could elaborate on your overall experience w/Ubuntu on this system? Have you ran into any major issues, hardware-wise? I’m not planning to use the Vaio restore CD’s, and I’m also switching my settings in my motherboard from UEFI to BIOS. I’m worried that wiping out that proprietary Sony partition may cause issues (I’m not entirely sure what it’s for).

    • That proprietary Sony partition contains a compressed image of Windows which might be useful if you ever want to restore Windows. If you delete it you won’t be able to perform the Windows restore procedure. If Windows is also no longer the same number partition you might not be able to boot Windows. Your safest option is to:

      (1) Use a disk like SystemRescueCD to run gparted against the HDD, and shrink the NTFS partition so that you are only occupying 500Gb of the HDD and the last 140Gb is blank
      (2) Plug the SSD in with a USB SATA adaptor and clone the HDD to the SSD using dd (again in a live CD like SystemRescueCD)
      (3) Replace the HDD with the SSD in the laptop
      (4) Boot from it into Windows and check that all is well
      (5) Run the Ubuntu installer and use its ability to shrink the Windows partition further to make space for Ubuntu

      I switched mine from UEFI to BIOS because at the time Ubuntu didn’t support UEFI, but it does now I believe so that might not be necessary. In terms of driver support etc. in Ubuntu, I had one problem with the touch pad that has been resolved in subsequent versions. Everything works fine with recent versions (although there are some function buttons I’ve never tested like Speed/Stamina). The screen brightness, mute and volume functions work fine, I know that. It’s the best laptop I’ve had (and by far the easiest Linux on a laptop experience I’ve had too). Still using it today.

      • Awesome, this helps a ton! I reformatted the computer with my own copy of Windows 7 as soon as I bought the computer, so I’m not too worried about losing the Windows restore image.

        Thanks for the reply, I appreciate it!

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