Installing Windows XP over Windows Vista on a Sony Vaio Laptop

Al Wong
January 7, 2009

This is a description of how I installed Windows XP Pro, SP2 (WinXP) over Windows Vista (Vista) on a Sony Vaio model VGN-NS140E laptop (Vaio). Since this is a fairly common thing that people do to their newly purchased computers, one would think this procedure would be straightforward. It turns out Microsoft and Sony have made this WinXP conversion incredibly hard to do if you are not a computer person. Most of the websites describing this subject leave out vital information.

If you are a newbie, I suggest you hire someone to do this for you. It will save you lots of time and headaches. The rest of this article is for the more experienced computer people.

General disclaimer: I believe this information to be very accurate but you follow these instructions at entirely your own risk. If you don't know what you are doing, do not attempt this. I cannot be held responsible if you break your computer. Although I was successful with the WinXP conversion on this particular Vaio model, you may not be with a similar model. Your mileage may vary. Also, be aware that Sony's tech support will not help you anymore once you switch over to WinXP.

A second computer is definitely needed to help with this WinXP conversion. This second computer must be running WinXP and be able to burn CDs.

The first thing I did was go to the Sony support website and looked up my Vaio model. I downloaded the recommended WinXP drivers and saved them on a second computer other than the Vaio. There's a link on the righthand side of the webpage which is supposed to give "Recommended steps to install Windows XP in this PC". These steps consists of several paragraphs of loosely related instruction. It turns out most of the "instructions" are irrelevant and the rest is misleading. You can totally ignore these instructions. They were a waste of time to read and study. You don't need the BIOS update or the modem driver. In fact, there is no BIOS update listed on this website. Sony's tech support verified this. So why is it listed in the "instructions"?

You just need the WinXP drivers especially the SATA hard disk driver as we'll see below.

I would suggest creating the two recovery DVDs on the off chance you would want to go back to Vista again. You may burn these recovery DVDs yourself running Vista on the Vaio.

By the way, this is an example of how buggy Vista is. As I was creating the first recovery DVD, I checked the box to "verify the media" so it would check what it was writing out to the DVD. In the middle of burning the DVD, Vista crashed with an error saying it must restart. Time wasted on this: 40 minutes.

Installing WinXP

So now I insert the WinXP installation CD into the Vaio and turn it ON. The Vaio is reading from the CD and all sorts of drivers are being loaded. It's just starting the installation process when I get this non-informative, IBM-ish error:

STOP: 0x0000007B (...)

And everything comes to a complete stop.

Huh? What the hell is 0x0000007B? More on-line research. The 0x0000007B error indicates that WinXP is not recognizing the Vaio hard drive. It turns out that all Windows Vista computers are now using the SATA (Serial ATA) drive which WinXP does not recognize. Somehow I need to get WinXP to recognize the Vaio hard drive so I can continue with the WinXP installation. There are three possible solutions. From the simplest to the complicated:

  1. Disable SATA

    One way around this is to disable the SATA setting and/or change it to IDE on the hard drive in the BIOS. The problem is the BIOS for my Vaio model is so simple minded it won't allow you to change the hard drive settings! (You push the F2 key during bootup to get into the BIOS for this Vaio)

  2. F6 Floppy Drive Lie

    Another way is to copy the SATA driver onto a floppy disk and install the driver during the WinXP installation. You do this by pushing the F6 key during the beginning of the installation. This signals to WinXP that you wish to load other drivers from the floppy disk drive.

    I've been around long enough to have boxes of obsolete computer equipment including a few external USB floppy drives. So I dust off my external USB floppy disk drive and find a 3.5" floppy disk to use. I extract the SATA driver files and copy the files to the floppy disk (The SATA driver EXE is self extracting or you may use WinRAR) and I was ready to go.

    I connect the USB floppy drive to the Vaio. I insert the WinXP CD, turn ON the Vaio and push F6. After loading several drivers, WinXP prompts me to push the S key if I need to load third party drivers. I push the S key. The Vaio prompts me to insert the floppy disk with the new drivers in drive A: and push the Enter key. I insert the floppy disk. The floppy drive light goes ON and the drive does it's rotating thing. The floppy drive is obviously being recognized. I push the Enter key anticipating the SATA driver will be loaded so I can continue installing WinXP.

    Nothing happens.

    Pushing the Enter key does nothing. The floppy drive does not get read. It's like the Vaio doesn't recognize the A: drive at all!

    This was the original solution to help install WinXP and it is so old that it uses the floppy drive. The only problem is it does not work. It's possible that this solution may never have worked at all. As far as I know, I am the only person who has actually tried this solution with WinXP and it just doesn't work.

    Are we surprised to discover yet another Microsoft lie/bug?

  3. Slipstreaming the SATA Driver

    I wanted to avoid this solution as it was the most complicated. It turns out I had very little choice as this solution was the only one that worked for me.

    Slipstreaming is a term describing the integration of device drivers into a newly created installation CD. I would have to integrate the SATA driver onto a new WinXP installation CD.

    To do this requires having the original WinXP installation CD, the SATA drivers and a program tool called nLite. Before installing nLite, you must first install .NET framework. So that's two programs I must install on a second computer before doing anything.

    Using nLite is pretty straightforward and there are tons of websites describing how to use it. So I load the SATA driver and create a new bootable ISO image. I burn the image onto a CD using Roxio or Nero.

    I insert the new WinXP CD into the Vaio and turn it ON. The CD loads... and there is NO error this time! Great. I delete all partitions (including the hidden partition that Vista makes) and create one big C: partition. This completely wipes out Vista from the Vaio. I'm formatting the partition now. It takes over an hour.

Gotcha Again!

The Vaio is rebooting, loading WinXP files and now I'm actually seeing Windows-like screens. Almost there, right? Now I enter the Product Key which is basically a unique 25 character password to validate the WinXP I'm installing. So what happens now? I get another error:

Product Key is Invalid

Huh? This is a valid product key! More phone calls, more time waiting on hold, but this was finally straightened out. I finally finish the installation of WinXP on the Vaio! About 4 hours have passed now.

Installing the WinXP Drivers

But wait! It isn't over yet. Remember the WinXP drivers we downloaded from the Sony support website? We need to install them for maximum functionality.

I burned all the drivers onto a CD to transfer to the Vaio. Then I copied the driver files from the CD to the Vaio's hard drive. This should make things move faster.

I wasn't sure which driver to install first or if there should be a particular order of driver installations. But I decided common sense should dictate some drivers are more important than others and should be installed first. This was the order I used:

  • Hard Drive Patch - Since the SATA driver was installed, I figured I should install this next. It turns out this patch wasn't needed. The EXE even says that this patch was not meant for this model of computer.

  • Motherboard - This installed without any problems although I noticed my computer mouse stoppped working after this. I solved the mouse problem later.

  • Shared Library

  • Utilities - There were two utilities files. Installed the larger one first.

  • Ethernet

  • Video - Screen looked better after this.

  • Touchpad

  • Audio - Had all sorts of audio feedback after this including shutdown and bootup music and mouse clicks!

  • Modem - I doubt if I'll ever use the modem but you never know.

  • Memory card reader

  • Memory stick reader

  • Picture motion browser - Not sure what this is for actually. It won't install because it's looking for another application that works with it. And that second application is not installed.

  • Wireless switch setting utility

  • Wireless LAN - Wifi access points were immediately recognized after this. I turned off the wifi.

After installing all these drivers, my computer mouse still didn't work. I suspected the USB driver needed replacing. The first thing I did was uninstall the USB driver and let WinXP reinstall it automatically. This fixed the problem. The mouse worked perfectly again after this.

The Party is Just Beginning

Now I can download all the wonderful WinXP updates. Actually, you should do this once you have successfully installed WinXP. The updates help protect your computer against possible attacks. I've already been prompted to install about 100 WinXP updates! This is no joke. It just never ends. I should mention that I decided to keep my WinXP at SP2 and not upgrade to SP3 yet.

And I also get to install my favorite programs now. Joy!

I've been testing the Vaio functions. i am able to do file sharing and web browsing so the ethernet works. Played a few HD video files and have confirmed the graphics card and speakers work fine. The video is a little jerky though. (Installing the WinXP updates seems to have corrected the video jerkiness.) The SD Card reader works and the video camera works too. The microphone works. I've confirmed the display brightness buttons and audio volume buttons work. I seem to have full functionality on my Vaio while running WinXP. Cool.

I am invincible! \o/

01/22/09 Update - I just installed WinXP on a friend's Sony Vaio VGN-NS140E laptop without any problem. It works great. Took me less than 3 hours.

My Writings

Last updated : January 22, 2009
Copyright 2009 Al Wong, Los Angeles, California, USA