Sony Vaio Z disabled (VT) Virtualization Technology

By Howard | Published September 3, 2008

Update 30th July 2009: See this post for details of a confirmed VT fix for the Z11. I’m using it now!

I love my Sony Vaio Z.  It’s a wonderful bit of kit – exactly the power/portability ratio I wanted.  It has enough grunt to play the odd game in “Speed” mode while giving 6 hours of battery life on wireless in stamina mode.  Not to mention to gorgeous 1600×900 LED screen and the built in 3G wireless.

I have one problem with it and it’s a failing of Sony’s decision making rather than any particular problem with the kit.  Sony disable the Intel Virtualization Technology in the Core 2 Duo on all their Vaio machines.  I’ve seen no valid rationale for this other than “We don’t support VT on the Vaio range.“  This is absurd since all the Core 2 Duo chips feature Intel Virtualization Technology and I can’t imagine how having it switched on would adversely affect Vista or XP (the two Operating Systems Sony officially supports).

If this were a consumer laptop I could understand – but it’s specifically targeted at business users.  In my business I make extensive use of both Microsoft and VMWare’s virtualisation systems – both of which run much faster on hardware that has the VT functionality enabled.  There are a good number of people on various forums spitting blood about this issue so I’m not the only one complaining.

There is light, of sorts, at the end of this tunnel.  Since Sony have done this before on other machiens in the Vaio series, people have managed to re-enable VT by using BIOS editing tools to flip the right register.  Unfortunately it requires intimate knowledge of the BIOS – knowledge that we won’t have until Sony release a BIOS update that can be reverse engineered.  If we’re very lucky Sony will make amends by releasing a BIOS update that allows us to enable VT in the BIOS interface proper.

The worst part of this is that we (Vaio Z owners) didn’t know that VT was disabled until after we bought the machines.  I know a number of people have returned their units and bought Toshiba or Dell machines that haven’t been crippled by the vendors.  Sony advertised a Core 2 Duo Mobile processor, they didn’t mention in any literature that they’d be disabling bits of the processor for no reason.

Sony, if you’re reading this – please give us control over the entire processor and let us enable VT.

Categories: Hardware, Virtualisation

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23 Responses to "Sony Vaio Z disabled (VT) Virtualization Technology"

  1. Or, you’ll have to ask the question “Will it blend?”…

    Seriously though – disabling a feature of the CPU and not mentioning this in any sales literature isn’t on. I also hope that Intel take note of this and rap Sony on the knuckles.

    Is there any evidence that Intel’s Core2 VT technology adversely affects battery life in any way? If there is, it could be a factor in their decision to disable it. Who knows.

    I hope you can get it fixed soon! I wouldn’t hold my breath for a response from Sony though…

  2. Has any one lodged a complaint directly to Sony? Have they responded with such an explanation? Perhaps this is a story for the likes of Ars Technica or the Register. might wake up Sony if those sort of sites are on their case.

  3. I dont believe this !!!

    I have just booted, created my recovery disks, performed windows updates on my brand new Sony vgn-z17gn.

    Finally I have waited for the the right combination of processor, screen, performance, etc and forked out some serious money.

    BANG !!! SMACK !!! WAM !!!

    Reading the small (very small) print on the specifications in the box, I see what you are talking about.

    Fraud !!! Sony is a fraud.

    Intel should not allow Sony to even place an official “Centrino 2 Inside” sticker on the product.

    I dont replace my laptop every year. I knew exactly the capabilites I wanted and thought I had found then with the new P9500 in the Sony Z series.

    Like you said, the fact virtualization features of the processor are crippled is published … Where Mr Sony ???!!!

    I dont know support companies that ONLY DO virtualization for servers. Get with the times Sony.

    I am ranting…I am disappointed.

    (sigh…depressed)

    I need time to calm down…

    PS: Thanks for this post…I googled as soon as I saw the fine print on the specsification sheet…(at least I am not alone)

  4. oops

    rant caused mental hernia. Last post says:

    “I dont know support companies that ONLY DO virtualization for servers.”

    meant:

    “I know support companies that ONLY DO virtualization for servers.”

    I know this latop is not a server but just trying to “vent” that virtualization is here in the mainstream, servers and workstations.

  5. only one question: WHY?

    Why i’m not use VT extension on my Z???

    I wrote to customer care

    i’m waiting an answer

  6. Sony did the same when they released the SZ series. I have one, bought for VT amoungst other thing, and its locked off. A few people managed to enable the VT feauture on their SZ by hacking the BIOS. Of course, Sony have done the same with the Z series, so although I was about to buy one, now that I know VT is off, then I won’t. You may shout about his a much as you want, but VT will always be off in Vaios, because Sony won’t listen to the client.
    For some success storied on VT and Vaio SZ series read this thread,
    http://www.wimsbios.com/phpBB2/topic9326-60.html

  7. Made the same experience – choose the VAIO Z11 for the niftyness, being very portable, powerful, gorgeous display, a recent CPU and great battery life – only to find then that VT-x was off the cards. Yes, bought before you wrote your blog.
    The problem, though, is Intel. Their Centrino-2 logo specification details list the virtualization extensions as a feature but with a footnote – which says their presence depends on whether your system vendor chooses to enable them or not.
    Intel has changed this for the VPro logo certification and made VT-x support mandatory there. And guess what – Sony’s BZ vaios, which bear that shiny sticker, support VT-x and have it enabled … officially.
    If there’s no BIOS update coming out for the VGN-Z11 then that definitely was my last Sony purchase. I wouldn’t have bought had I known in advance, nifty or not.

  8. i think it’s sick. The only reason i purchased my sony laptop was for for mobile virtualization. Only to discover that my laptop VT was not detected by Vmware. I came online to find a fix and i met the sony weird idea of disabling VT on all VAIOs. Sony shld indeed get with the times.
    Wis i had thought otherwise.

  9. Just wanted to leave my rent with the rest:)
    Also, since I bought mine in the US (it was actually a SONY VAIO SR),I couldnt return it, I sold it, and now I own a brand new IBM/Lenovo X200s, it is more expensive so I get less for the same money but its awsome! (7200 RPM hdd BTW..)
    I love it, will never buy another “cat in a bag” – SONY.

    BTW, I did place a call with SONY, they basically showed me the finger to the place where I could return my VAIO.

  10. Hey guys, I chatted with Sony Support and they told me to call Customer Information and Service Center at 1-239-768-7669, and lodge a complaint.

    By the way, I started a thread on Intel Software Network:
    http://software.intel.com/en-us/forums/virtualization-software-development/topic/63409/

    I hope someone will do something about it.

  11. Here is a patch for Aptio based Sony notebooks, but please read the whole article most carefully before attempting anything — I won’t be the one responsible if you brick your notebook:
    http://www.levicki.net/articles/tips/2009/02/20/HOWTO_Enable_Intel_VT_on_Sony_VAIO_notebook_with_AMI_Aptio_EFI_BIOS.php

  12. I have hit the identical problem – namely I bought a Vaio Z11 on the basis that it was a high performance business laptop – and only ordered after searching Sony product descriptions (no mention of VT disablement) as well as VMWare tech pages (no reference to Vaio problems) to see if there was any overt reason that VMware Server (or Workstation) would not work.

    Only when VMWare Server would not install did I suspect a problem and started deep searching the Web.

    I think Igor is doing a great job – and his ‘conversation’ with Intel and the uselessness of Sony;s responses – are elegantly documented.

    Vaios are clearly not fit for business purposes (and running VMWare is a business must). Buying Sony is not worth the hassle.

    My Vaio Z goes back as soon as possible and I will migrate to Dell or HP – and never buy Sony again. I recommend that – however good the appearance – Sony cannot be trusted to deliver what professionals need. If it continues to make losses, it has only itself to blame.

  13. Wow, I bought a VAIO the other week only to discovered the BIOS was extremely locked down.

    I am disappointed, I thought Sony laptops were better than this…

    My laptop is pretty much a nice looking paperweight without these features.

  14. @ Igor Levicki

    Thank you but this laptop is a H20 Bios, so im afraid Z11 owners will have to wait….

  15. Yes, my patch works only for AMI Aptio BIOS.
    VAIO Z owner’s only solution is to get another notebook.

  16. I have VGN-CR363 and I too have same problem.
    Why the hell Sony has to lock the options in BIOS when virtualization is one of the key features. Shame on Sony for not making the customers know cleraly-in advance. I have Phoneix Trusted Core BIOS R2100Q0. Can anybody suggest how do I unlock the virtualization option?

  17. I have a VGN-TT290 SSD RAID-0 + SU9600 Core 2 Duo which should be VT capable. However, this is running on a H20 Bios so I’m with Shep and still out of luck. Doesn’t make any sense why they would make VT inaccessible.

  18. @Joseph, you’re right that it doesn’t make any sense. It makes even less sense when you consider that this is a laptop targetted at business consumers. Even more so when you realise that the business versions of Windows 7 will include a virtual Windows XP installation to provide backwards compatibility. This will run with impaired performance on any Sony laptop where VT has been disabled. I wonder what Microsoft think about Sony crippling their customer’s ability to use their carefully constructed backwards compatibility feature?

  19. Turns out this is as much Intel’s fault as it is Sony’s. And Sony has no plans to enable VT in future VAIOs, even when they ship with Windows 7: http://www.designisphilosophy.com/windows-7/sony-confirms-no-hardware-virtualization-on-vaio-computers-past-present-or-future-20090622/

  20. Hi all,

    ACER was is a parallel track (which gives more credibility to the theory of Intel being behind the crippling(1)). Please have a look at http://marcansoft.com/blog/2009/06/enabling-intel-vt-on-the-aspire-8930g/
    Many ACER users, including me, now have flashed VT “locked on”.
    Sony’s position is preposterous : like if you said 20 years ago “we well never support 32 bits”… There are really some incredibly ignorant people out there in IT these days…

    —-
    About Intel hamstringing VT on the OEM marketplace :
    http://www.designisphilosophy.com/windows-7/sony-confirms-no-hardware-virtualization-on-vaio-computers-past-present-or-future-20090622/ excerpt “This of course begged the obvious question of why: “It’s part of our licensing deal with Intel,” he explained: “To retain a competitive edge they sell the boards to Sony with a guarantee from us that we will disable the feature on all our computers. That way we get the boards at a discount and they (Intel) can sell them at full price to other computer manufacturers who want the feature enabled.”
    Looks consistent with VT always ON with non Intel boards.

  21. YEAH! I install the last bios (bios release 11-2009) for my sony vaio z520, and ther virtualization was activated..

  22. I have two Sony Vaio VGN SZ-750N/C computers. I also selected these computers because of the processor capabilites and because these computers were so powerful. They were also very expensive. Now that I upgraded to Windows 7, I decided to try and install some XP generation software (Adobe PhotoShop and more), but I had to install the downloaded package after Virtualization was turned on. The BIOS is not capable of letting me do that. I am OUTRAGED! I bought the best and got the worst. I wrote Sony and they have not responded. I suggest that everyone with this issue write them and write them and write them. THis is INSANE!

  23. RichF – Sony did respond to the whirlwind of complaints about the lack of VT on their machines. Most recent portables have had new BIOS releases in the last few months to enable VT. Check out your local Sony Support site for your models.

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