My VAIO tale - the thing on the left, a complete Vaio Z with bells and whistles seems to be dead.
On the right - a piece of junk I pulled of eBay for 40 euro as MBX-147 motherboard is perfectly working piece from Sony VAIO SZ series. I also have a full SZ laptop in a pretty bad optical condition, that is also perfectly OK.

On the bottom side of the SZ series (SZ was cheaper but powerful at the time, Z was a high-end expensive one) one can see that after removing few screws one had full access to the heat stink and the replacement of a thermal grease is a breeze! I wrongly assumed that doing the same on the Z series will be easy, too. (There are many similarities in how those models are built). Unfortunately, I would have to completely remove the motherboard to apply new grease.

I gave up when I started to try to disconnect and reconnect ugly tiny FEC connector which is glued. (Pointed to on the first pic by a screwdriver). On the other picture it is clear that SZ (the cheaper series) has a relatively large and easy to lift latches. This particular connector probably belongs to the 3G modem, which is why I like this particular model - it can be used like a tablet or smartphone virtually anywhere online. @HowIBrokeMyLaptop

Even if this, possibly non-essential, connector is broken, it will reduce the utility of this box (yes I know I can tether to an iPad or my feature phone). But there is another piece in those two models that caught my attention.


Both models feature a tiny 30 pin debug connector that seems to provide a direct access to embedded controller and it's firmware. Maybe it is even possible to feed firmware on its own? The embedded controller is a small chip that controls the inner life of the computer. VAIOs use Renesas H8/2117 processors that are pretty powerful and independent, making the machine to boot and work fast. This functionality is provided on newer laptops by the controversial Intel .

If anyone knows how to make a cable that matches that connector I would be grateful. Learning the embedded controller internals may lead to many interesting discoveries and improvements. I think the counterpart plus is easy available, I have no idea how to make a working cable out of this. Previous post includes photo and schematics of the connector.

And, how my experience shows, I should stay away from hardware work :)

Small update: having attached the keyboard (which also contains wireless, HDD and battery LEDs) it turns out that after plugging the battery and having applied AC power, the charging LED is glowing orange-red! So at least charging circuitry is somehow responding.

Could this little black part pointed by a hairpin be a lid sensor? Keyboard panel still comes on top of this but maybe that thing can sense the pressure. (It looks similar to the sensor I've had on SZ, different location though). An FEC connection goes in to the place pointed to by a screwdriver, with that stupid glued attachment I mentioned before. I think it should work disconnected for testing, but who knows? This little board has also other non-essential things

Here is an unexpected final to the story:

A replacement Z11VN arrived yesterday, so I decided to put the old broken one together.

Having put everything back:

The laptop starts up

@saper could be a hall sensor. Look for a corresponding magnet in the lid.

@tbr @david Yes! There is a small place in the display assembly that is able to hold a 1 eurocent coin!

@david nice hint! Double checking the connectors didn't work though. Maybe that whole thing should be assembled properly to start? AS/400 had a "case open" sensor that had to blocked with a screwdriver to run it this way

@saper Rx/TX is likely a debug UART. Could be interesting to look for output on the TX pin. Either tack on enamel wire directly using a SMD soldering iron or fashion something out of a corresponding plug.
Given that this is Sony, this is going to be pretty locked down though.

@tbr yes, I was thinking about ordering some plugs but I have no idea how to connect anything to them given its tiny size. I don't solder at all so SMD soldering is another league. There seems to be an UART and I guess possibility to feed the board firmware remotely instead of a built in flash.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

Server run by the main developers of the project 🐘 It is not focused on any particular niche interest - everyone is welcome as long as you follow our code of conduct!