Back from the Dead (and ever so grateful)

In an earlier post, I described my first attempt to replace the hard drive in my late, lamented Sony Vaio VGN-SZ230P laptop.  This machine was not built to be repaired, and least not in any modular way.  Getting to the hard drive required removing the keyboard and plamrest, cutting some tape, unplugging the drive, removing, replacing, then carefully reconnecting the plamrest and keyboard and their fragile cables.  It's done and, on the second try, I had a machine that boots and has a usable keyboard and trackpad.  So many tiny screws!

Here's an important tip: When disassembling a computer full of tiny, tiny screws, lay out a very large white towel. Put the computer on the towel and do all your work there.  Put the parts and screws together on the towel; they won't roll or move on their own.

I'm not going to restore the original Vista installation.  One of the more annoying things about this otherwise beautifully engineered computer is that it just didn't like Vista.  Blue screens were common and reboots were often required to get all the hardware working.  Replacing the Sony with a MacBook Pro showed me how well hardware and an OS can be integrated.

The Fedora Project will have Fedora 15 out in a couple of months, so I'm installing Fedora 15 Alpha to see how well Fedora has advanced with all the proprietary Sony hardware on the device.


No User Serviceable Parts Inside

The hard disk in my Sony Vaio notebook is damaged, missing about 25GB.  No problem, I thought. I can replace it.  I found a good, larger drive at a great price on Amazon. It arrived the other day.

I’ve replaced drives on lots of notebook computers. It was easy.  Well, easy on Dells. On a Dell, you remove two screws, do a little prying, and the drive slides out easily on a shiny tray.  The Sony Vaio was not built to be repaired.

The first step is to find instructions. In itself, that was not easy.  Google came to the rescue with a link to the assembly and disassembly guide. Pretty quickly, I realized I was missing a required tool, a bamboo spatula. Bamboo!  I whittled one from a skewer and proceeded onwards and inwards.  Start by removing a screw from the back of the computer. Then, use the bamboo tool to unclip two tiny, invisible clips above the top row of keys to remove the keyboard.  Once the keyboard is folded over onto the screen, slide two clips out from the keyboard cable connector and remove the incredibly thin and delicate cable from its home.  Carefully put the keyboard aside. This is only the beginning. They hard drive is below the palm rest and mousepad assembly.


The next step is to remove the palm rest, in the process unlocking two different cable clamp assemblies and sliding even more delicate ribbons out of their connectors.  This is where I’ve chickened out. I can see how to get the cables out and how to unscrew and remove the palmrest/mousepad assembly, but I’m not sure I can thread the ribbon cables back into their little slots when it’s time to put it all back together.

For now, I’m undecided between returning the new disk to Amazon or holding on to it and waiting for the installed drive to die. At that point, there’s not much to lose.

PC Underbyte: Where did my disk space go?

According to the marketing materials, my notebook as a 120GB hard drive. Translating marketing GB (1,000,000,000 bytes) into computer science GB (1024 cubed, or 1073741824 bytes per GB) that 120GB is really about 111.8 real gigabytes. And, that’s what the partition table shows for the hard drive.

But that’s NOT what Vista sees when it looks at the drive.

That’s reporting an 85.2 GB drive! Where did 26.6 GB go?

In typical fashion, I Googled around, reformated and restored the drive, ran CHKDSK, repartioned, reformatted, restored, and so on. Windows just won’t see more than the 85.2. Finally, I decided to ask the drive to take a look at itself. I grabbed a Windows version of the SmartMon Tools.

SmartMon is usually installed as a part of a Linux installation, but you have to install it into a Windows environment. Modern drives (those made for the past 10 years) have S.M.A.R.T software embedded in their controllers and are capable of monitoring their own health. The SmartMon tools communicate with the S.M.A.R.T. controllers.

smartctl, the command line tool, quickly reported what’s happened. The SMART attribute “Reallocated_Sector_Ct” reports 8,589,934,592,000 sectors have been relocated. At 512 bytes per sector, the math doesn’t come out to 26 GB, but it’s a strong indicator that the drive is in really bad shape. I guess the time it fell off the top of my rolling bag at PHX and hit the floor hard might have done some damage.

I’m now backing up a lot more frequently and have a new disk on order from Amazon.

smartctl version 5.38 [i686-mingw32-vista-sp2] Copyright (C) 2002-8 Bruce Allen
Home page is

Model Family:     Fujitsu MHV series
Device Model:     FUJITSU MHV2120BH PL
Serial Number:    [No Information Found]
Firmware Version: 00000029
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:   3
ATA Standard is:  Exact ATA specification draft version not indicated
Local Time is:    Wed Nov 04 13:03:53 2009 CST
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
                  Enabled status cached by OS, trying SMART RETURN STATUS cmd.
SMART support is: Enabled

SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

General SMART Values:
Offline data collection status:  (0x00)	Offline data collection activity
					was never started.
					Auto Offline Data Collection: Disabled.
Self-test execution status:      (   0)	The previous self-test routine completed
					without error or no self-test has ever 
					been run.
Total time to complete Offline 
data collection: 		 ( 702) seconds.
Offline data collection
capabilities: 			 (0x7b) SMART execute Offline immediate.
					Auto Offline data collection on/off support.
					Suspend Offline collection upon new
					Offline surface scan supported.
					Self-test supported.
					Conveyance Self-test supported.
					Selective Self-test supported.
SMART capabilities:            (0x0003)	Saves SMART data before entering
					power-saving mode.
					Supports SMART auto save timer.
Error logging capability:        (0x01)	Error logging supported.
					No General Purpose Logging support.
Short self-test routine 
recommended polling time: 	 (   2) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time: 	 (  82) minutes.
Conveyance self-test routine
recommended polling time: 	 (   2) minutes.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate     0x000f   100   100   000    Pre-fail  Always       -       14649
  2 Throughput_Performance  0x0005   100   100   000    Pre-fail  Offline      -       31784960
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0003   100   100   000    Pre-fail  Always       -       1
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032   099   099   000    Old_age   Always       -       1430
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   100   100   000    Pre-fail  Always       -       8589934592000
  7 Seek_Error_Rate         0x000f   100   100   000    Pre-fail  Always       -       4083
  8 Seek_Time_Performance   0x0005   100   100   000    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0
  9 Power_On_Seconds        0x0032   094   094   000    Old_age   Always       -       3152h+12m+19s
 10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x0013   100   100   000    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
 12 Power_Cycle_Count       0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       1255
192 Power-Off_Retract_Count 0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       102
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032   098   098   000    Old_age   Always       -       42284
194 Temperature_Celsius     0x0022   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       35 (Lifetime Min/Max 3/60)
195 Hardware_ECC_Recovered  0x001a   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       734
196 Reallocated_Event_Count 0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       442826752
197 Current_Pending_Sector  0x0012   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable   0x0010   100   100   000    Old_age   Offline      -       0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count    0x003e   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
200 Multi_Zone_Error_Rate   0x000f   100   100   000    Pre-fail  Always       -       28853
203 Run_Out_Cancel          0x0002   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       1533291396628
240 Head_Flying_Hours       0x003e   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0