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How to Enable Intel VT and AHCI on a Napa/Santa Rosa platform Phoenix BIOS Vaio laptop

Discussion in 'Sony' started by bogart, Nov 18, 2007.

  1. bogart

    bogart Notebook Evangelist

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    Disclaimer: Although this is a fairly simple task, I take no responsibility should anything go wrong, so try this at your own risk.

    This method only applies to VAIOs with a Phoenix BIOS and CPUs that support VT-x, not the newer Montevina-based VAIO FW, Z, SR, BZ, TT, AW, CS or other models with the AMI Aptio/InsydeH2O UEFI framework.

    As most of you already know, Sony has decided to disable VT by default on select VAIO models with the Napa/Santa Rosa platform. Here's how to enable Intel Virtualization Technology (Guide) and AHCI on a VAIO SZ and several other models including the AR, C, CR, FE, TZ, FZ, G, N and some desktop models.

    Before you attempt this modification, make sure that the BIOS on your SZ is updated to these versions: R0112N0 for Napa SZs or R0122S5 for Santa Rosa SZs. If you encounter any error messages relating to using the wrong OS or model after agreeing to the license agreement, you can try unpacking the BIOS download with Universal Extrator and run the executable located in the TEMPEXEFOLDER folder. Also, if you happen to receive an error while attempting to update the BIOS on Windows XP or Vista, make sure that all the proper Sony drivers and utilities are installed first so that the updater can recognize your notebook model. Driver and utility information can be found in many of the VAIO Windows clean installation threads in this forum.

    The only item you'll need is a bootable DOS media. Click one of these links for instruction for creating a bootable floppy disk (with USB floppy drive) or usb stick.USB flash1 or USB flash2 or CDR (add modified table file to image before writing).
    Instructions:
    • Download symcmos and copy it to your bootable DOS media. This utility is used to modify your Phoenix BIOS settings. Also, download a DOS text editor and copy it to the media if you feel comfortable editing a file in DOS.
    • Go to the BIOS by pressing F2 during start-up, or when the VAIO logo appears, and reset the settings to factory default. Save and reboot.
    • Go back to the BIOS and enable the boot from external devices option. Save and reboot.
    • Press ESC when the VAIO logo appears to bring up the boot selection menu and select the bootable DOS media. At the prompt, type "symcmos -v2 -lDefault.txt", without quotes, and note that there's no space in between the flag and filename. This will create a literal symbol table from the NVRAM named Default.txt which contains all the current BIOS settings. Reboot by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del. If that doesn't work, hold the power button until the notebook turns off.
    • Use the DOS text editor (or boot to another OS and use a text editor there) to edit the generated Default.txt file. Change the following lines and save the modified file to something else (e.g. modified.txt):

      For Napa SZs - R0112N0

      AHCI: (015C) [0000] ---> (015C) [0001]

      VT-x: (0354) [0000] ---> (0354) [0001]


      For Santa Rosa SZs - R0122S5

      AHCI: (0189) [0000] ---> (0189) [0001]

      VT-x: (02F1) [0000] ---> (02F1) [0001]

      This is Gary's master list that contains the code for other models with a Phoenix BIOS
      http://forum.notebookreview.com/showpost.php?p=5190101&postcount=227

    • Boot to DOS and type "symcmos -v2 -uNameOfModifiedFile", without quotes and reboot. This will write the modified settings to the NVRAM. You must add the u and then the name of your new file.
    • Done.


    Notes:

    Using AHCI with the VAIO HDD Protection utility may increase the loading time in Windows XP and Vista. So far this has been confirmed to happen with Napa SZs and discussion about it can be read here.

    To test if AHCI is enabled, you should receive a BSOD or blue screen error when XP/Vista boots, because the AHCI drivers aren't installed on the OS. You will need to install the AHCI drivers to your existing installation. Use Google for XP instructions and read this for Vista.

    To test VT-x, you can download vt.iso and burn it with IMGBurn. Boot off the CD and it will tell you whether VT-x is enabled or not. Alternatively, you can use SecurAble in Windows.

    The default Napa R0112N0 file is attached below and provided for sample purposes only. Don't use this on a BIOS version other than R0112N0.

    To revert back to the original settings, you have three options:

    • Go in the BIOS and reset everything to default.
    • Use symcmos with the -u flag to write the default settings, which you have saved as Default.txt, to the NVRAM.
    • Worst case scenario if the notebook won't pass POST: open the notebook and remove and reattach the CMOS battery.



    Much of the credit goes to "bfroemel" for posting this method on the VMware forum; I am just summarizing it here and specializing it for the SZ.
     

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    StevenL likes this.
  2. lyrebird

    lyrebird Notebook Geek

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    Thank you for letting us know it is possible!
     
  3. viniciuscanto

    viniciuscanto Newbie

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  4. stevierg

    stevierg Notebook Guru

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    What are the benefits of VT?
     
  5. Rahul

    Rahul Wanna get the LG G Flex 2

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    It lets you run software like VMWare, letting you run another operating system in your operating system, like running Linux in a window in XP at the same time without dual-booting. Can this be done with the TZ or other Vaio models?
     
  6. bogart

    bogart Notebook Evangelist

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    Yes, VT-x can be enabled on the TZ and any other VAIO that uses a CPU with VT as one of its features, such as the Core (2) Duo processors. The trouble is finding the right register, though. I don't know of any other method except by trial and error or by reading disassembled code, which some have done, so unfortunately there's no quicker, one-shot solution at the moment.

    Here are some links to read:

    General overview
    VT Primer
    VT FAQ
    VT Knowledgebase Wiki
    Foreword in Intel journal about VT (entire 96-page PDF journal)
    One of the main articles in the journal
     
  7. raul

    raul Notebook Enthusiast

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    You can run virtualization without VT with Vmware, VirtualBox etc. Infact if you look at some of the forum discussions at Vmware forums its not clear cut that enabling VT in bios will 'definitely' give you any performance benefits. There is debate of the benefits of enabling VT vs using the normal virtualization and the performance benefits if any, you will notice the performance benefits even if realized are not that great. Of course maybe in advanced virtualization scenarios VT could help.

    But on my windows box with VirtualBox I have tried both VT and without and the difference is really not noticeable on X86 yet.
     
  8. apollo4400

    apollo4400 Newbie

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    Hi. this question is directly for bogart

    I'm interested how did you found your registry values for vt and ahci exactly.
    can you please tell me. Was it with some debugger, or how.

    I've just bought sony vaio FZ 21E with santa rosa and bios version R1120J7, i know that the registry entries are not the same with SZ models.
    I have extracted my bios settings with syscmos and attched to this post.

    If it's not a problem for you, and if you have time, can you please look the attachment and help me find the right registries.
    And, do i have to put some newer bios by the way, which again, I couldn't find anywhere. I will be very greatfull.

    If anybody else has found the right registries for enabling vt and ahci in vaio models, please post it for the sake of people that haven't done it yet.

    Greetings
     

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  9. bogart

    bogart Notebook Evangelist

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    I found the Napa SZ registers by a long process of trial and error. First I made seven files, each having a [0000] -> [0001] value change in one of the seven sections (0000-00FF,0100-01FF, ... , 0600-06FF) and sequentially wrote them to the NVRAM and noted the changes. If a significant change had occured in one of the seven sections, such as a BSOD, indicating that AHCI was enabled, or a change in the VT.iso results, I continued to use a divide and conquer type approach in that section until I had narrowed it down to the right locations. Since the SZ registers are around the 0100-03FF range, you may want to try searching in that area first.
     
  10. apollo4400

    apollo4400 Newbie

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    Thanks, ill try. The question is, how big can be the risk of doing this. Is there any chance by changing the registries to block the bios for good without any chance of restoring it back? Is there a guarantee that anytime when bios will freeze it can be restored normaly with battery removal?
    Are there types of registry entries that musn't be changed?
    Should I try only with registries in which the value is [0000]?
    Is it always [0001] the replacement value that I should experiment with?

    I'm trying to deal this through some bios dumpers and debuggers. I've found Phoenix BIOS Edior 2.2, WinPhlash an DMIScope. What I couldn't find is some good bios dumper that dumps bios in .rom or .wph extension, so i can read it with phoenix bios editor? any suggestions ? Can some software debugger explicitly tell me by analysing the bios which registers are for what?
     
  11. bogart

    bogart Notebook Evangelist

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    Removing the CMOS battery will clear the NVRAM and reset everything to default, including the real-time clock, so you should be safe. I've never experimented with your model, so I don't know what you shouldn't change, but maybe you can tell us once you try. You should only modify the [0000] values because all the disable/enable conditions are set to boolean values. You can test this by comparing NVRAM dumps before and after a modifiable enable/disable setting in the BIOS is changed.

    I tried all versions of WinPhlash I could find to dump the BIOS that's already loaded on my SZ a long time ago, but none of them were able to do it. I don't know any other way using only software, but once an update is released you can extract the .wph image with Universal Extractor and read it with Phoenix BIOS Editor to see all the hidden settings or, if you know what you're doing, mess around with it with the phnxdeco, prepare and catenate utilities.
     
  12. dmorris68

    dmorris68 Notebook Consultant

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    VT (and the equivalent AMD-V extension) itself isn't about increasing performance, per se, although they do enable greater performance through level 1 hypervisors like Xen, which run on the "bare metal" instead of inside a host OS. Prior to VT-x/AMD-V extensions, guest OSes had to be patched to run on such a hypervisor, which ruled out Windows and other closed-source guests. Now, however, Windows can take advantage of Xen's superior (near-native) performance if VT-x/AMD-V is present.

    VMWare Desktop & Server (Free), VirtualBox, Virtual PC, etc. are level 2 hypervisors that run inside a host OS and are thus much slower. VT may help performance and/or VM stability a slight amount in those cases, but not significantly compared to something like Xen or KVM.

    BTW, does anybody know if the AR6x0 series has VT enabled? I think I'm about to get a AR670-CTO and will definitely be interested in enabling it.
     
  13. DanyBui81

    DanyBui81 Notebook Evangelist

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    I have no idea what you just said but sounds good
     
  14. blackbird07

    blackbird07 Newbie

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    In one word: HIGH! In a fit of suicidal levity I tried to change the 0000s to 0001s in blocks of approx. 30 at a time, always thinking the worst case outcome would be a bios reset by taking out the battery. Unfortunately, in my 4th or 5th run, the laptop kept stuck at startup boot screen. Even hitting F2 or F10 or any other key did not work any more. Unfortunately, taking out the bios-battery was not as easy as I thought. In my FZ21S it's located beneath the bottom right corner of the touchpad. Assuming it's the same with your machine, you would have to disassembly the whole laptop. It's definitely not worth that.
    By the way, I did not continue my tests afterwards ...
     
  15. pdudas

    pdudas Notebook Geek

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    What are the benefits of AHCI?

    I measured 45MB/s drive index before and after too in Sisoft Sandra....
    So it is not faster than the normal controller installed from the factory drivers (on SZ4)
     
  16. alaska_sz691

    alaska_sz691 Newbie

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    Thanks a lot bogart! I successfully did this on my sz691 and it worked perfectly. I used a usb flash drive with FreeDOS and it worked just fine. Also, to anyone who is wondering, VT is necessary to run 64-bit Virtual Machines inside of a 32-bit OS.

    Thanks again to bogart!
     
  17. MxMoney

    MxMoney Notebook Consultant

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    I am new to VMWare and have always wanted to know more? I installed Microsoft's free virtual OS client called Virtual PC 2007 and it ran pretty snappy with the XP OS installed. Other than support for Linux what are other reasons or benefits why people would use VMWare over Virtual PC in a Vista system? Thanks in advance.
     
  18. dmorris68

    dmorris68 Notebook Consultant

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    For modern guest OS's, VMWare's reliability, performance, and features pretty stoutly beat Virtual PC. I've run both for years, the only reason I keep running Virtual PC is that I have some legacy MS-DOS systems that I have to support, and that's the one OS that VPC runs much better than VMWare. And VMWare doesn't care about improving DOS support, for pretty obvious reasons. I was at a VMWare conference a couple years ago, and asked them about it, and that was basically their response. :)

    So I run my DOS VM's in VPC, and everything else in VMWare (on a Windows host). For Linux hosts, I run either VirtualBox (free, also for Windows), VMWare Server, or Xen.

    BTW, back on topic: I just received my VGN-AR670 and am interesting in the VT hack for it (probably AHCI too, but certainly VT). Has anyone done these yet? I'll be poking around with the BIOS tools myself to try and find it, but was hoping someone had done the grunt work already. ;)
     
  19. MxMoney

    MxMoney Notebook Consultant

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    Dmorris68,
    Your posts are very helpful. Thanks for the breakdown on VMWare vs VPC.
     
  20. dmorris68

    dmorris68 Notebook Consultant

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    You're quite welcome. I'm obviously new here to the forums, and this is my first Sony notebook, but I've been an engineer, developer, and all-around tech geek for over 20 years. I try to help where I can. :)
     

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