Without Hardware Virtualization Sony Vaio Laptops Do Not Perform to Spec!

For the last 8 months I’ve been working almsot exclusively off my Sony Vaio SR140D – the laptop I purchased with the revenue from my book. And until recently I have had nothing but good things to say about it. That was until I needed to run a virtual OS on it. Turns out that for reasons no sane and logical person could ever figure out, Sony has disabled hardware virtualization on all their Vaio laptops – this in spite of full hardware support. Now I’m not a lawyer but since virtualization is supported by the expensive Intel processor and Sony has decided to disable this function in the BIOS without warning about this in the specs for the computer I think it’s a fair claim that the whole line of laptops do not perform to spec. And If this is not fixed very soon I urge all owners of Vaio laptops to return them for a full refund for this very reason!

Hardware Virtualization is Supported on a Sony Vaio…

Intel Processor Identification UtilityWhen I started looking for a laptop back in the fall of 2008 I had a number of requirements: It had to be small (13.3” screen), light and powerful. I’m also a big proponent of future proofing so I did a lot of research on the capabilities of the processor to ensure that when I encountered unusual situations that required above-standard specs I would be able to get this from my laptop as well. As a result I narrowed my search down to laptops with the Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 or above processor. Not only were these processors based on the new 45nm technology making them faster and more energy efficient than their predecessors but they also had full support for 64bit operating systems and hardware virtualization. This last bit was paramount because as a beta tester I knew that somewhere down the line I would need to run virtual operating systems on my computer to do proper testing.

After much pining and tons of research I landed on the Sony Vaio VGN-SR140D – it was small, light, powerful, full featured and had the right processor. Before buying it I read all the specs on both Sony’s own site and in multiple reviews and store listings and saw nothing about hardware virtualization being disabled so I figured like any sane person would that this meant the computer would let me use the processor the way it was designed if and when the time came. To make double sure I ran the Intel Processor Identification Utility on a store model and as expected it stated that Intel Virtualization Technology was supported.

Done deal.

… But Sony Has Disabled Virtualization in the BIOS

Flash forward to May 2009 and I was in for a big and unpleasant surprise. Needing to run some tests on Expression Web 3 for my upcoming book I set up a virtual PC on my laptop to run XP inside my current OS. But when I tried to start the virtualization environment I got an error message saying that hardware virtualization was disabled in the BIOS and asking me to enable it. Sure thing I thought and spent the next hour trying to figure out how to access the BIOS on my laptop in the first place (tip to Vaio owners: To access the BIOS you have to hit F1 or F2 when the VAIO screen flashes).

Once I did get into the BIOS I was flabbergasted. The BIOS on this laptop is so stunted it is really not useful for anything but setting the system time and selecting a booting device. And nowhere was there any virtualization settings.

A quick search on Google told me I should have been more vigilant in my research: Users all over the world have reported for some time that Sony has stunted all their Vaio laptops and turned off hardware virtualization. And in spite of heroic efforts from hacks to full on BIOS rewrites users have had little to no success enabling the feature without risking killing their laptops in the process. But most surprisingly Sony has been beligerent in their refusal to even address the issue of why virtualization has been disabled and have provided zero information on whether this feature will be enabled in the future.

No Virtualization Means the Computer Does Not Perform to Specifications

So it turns out no Vaio laptop allows hardware virtualization in spite of full support for this feature from the processor. This is because Sony has deliberately (or ignorantly) disabled the feature. I can imagine two scenarios that may explain this bizarre situation:

Either the BIOS on the newer Vaios with the new processors that support hardware virtualization is left over from older versions with processors that did not support this technology and they simply forgot or were too lazy to update the BIOS.

Or Sony deliberately disabled the feature in some half-brained effort to force people who want the feature to pay top dollar for a more advanced model.

The problem with the latter is that to my knowledge not even the top-of-the-line Sony laptop allows for virtualization so my money is on the first option.

Regardless, any fair minded, logical and intelligent person will agree that when the hardware supports a feature and there is no explicit information warning that this feature has been disabled, one can assume that the feature will work properly. And since there is no information in the documentation or spec sheets for these computers stating that hardware virtualization has been disabled in spite of the processor supporting it, it is fair to say the computer is not performing to specifications.

Fix it or I’m Sending it Back!

Where does that leave us? The answer should be simple. Just like if you had bought a new 1080p HDTV only to discover that for whatever reason the manufacturer decided to turn off the colour feature leaving you with only black and white images without warning about this, a laptop that has hardware virtualization disabled in the BIOS in spite of hardware support without the customer being warned about this is by definition not performing to specifications and should be returned. That is unless the manufacturer gets its head screwed on straight and fixes the problem immediately.

I know for a fact that Sony is well aware of this problem but so far they have not lifted a finger to do anything about it. So here’s my ultimatum: I need hardware virtualization enabled on my Vaio VGN-SR140D on or before June 1st. If Sony has not coughed up a viable solution to this problem by then, I am taking my computer back to the store and demanding a full refund of the purchase price claiming the computer does not perform to specifications. This is unfortunate because I love my laptop and I’m having a hard time finding a replacement, but I will not stand for this kind of disrespect where customer service is concerned.

Why should you care? Windows 7 is just around the corner!

I’m sure a lot of people are reading this thinking “seriously dude, why do you care. It’s not like normal people need hardware virtualization anyway.” Well, here’s some news for you and for Sony: When Windows 7 rolls out before the end of this year, the support calls from Vaio owners frustrated with not being able to turn on virtualization are going to go through the roof. Why? Because Windows 7 comes packaged with Virtual XP – an application that lets everyone run a fully working version of the old operating system within Windows 7 thus letting them use older applications that don’t run properly in Vista and Windows 7 environments. This is a huge and revolutionary feature in Windows 7 and a big selling point and unless Sony gets their act together there’s going to be a long line of people wanting to return their laptops come December.

The countdown starts NOW!

22 thoughts on “Without Hardware Virtualization Sony Vaio Laptops Do Not Perform to Spec!

  1. Ahhhhh! You got bitten! I feel your pain buddy! I almost got bitten by it too but Sony is not the only one!! So many laptops with top specs and processors such as T9400, T9600, T9550, P8600 come with a BIOS that does NOT support VT and so far I have been unable to find one that does (that suites my own specs and price).

    I have done a research on laptops that come with one of the above mentioned processors with dedicated nVidia card, 4GB memory, HDMI, blue ray ONLY to find out their bios does NOT support VT and believe it or not I almost bought one but I found this out by accident! I didn’t even doubt this will NOT be supported. I don’t know what’s happening and whether this is done deliberately or not but to me, this is FALSE ADVERTISING. When one looks at the CPU and one knows the CPU supports VT-x, one automatically thinks “great! VT-x!”. It didn’t even come to my mind that VT-x may not be supported. I am so upset now because I can’t even find a laptop that does what I want! I called a few big branded laptop manufacturers to find out whether ‘laptop-x’ supports VT despite the fact that the CPU does only to be told no it doesn’t. Why??? What is going on?

    1. I just got off the phone with some tier 2 support person at Sony, which claimed that the reason that there is no way to enable the visualization, is that it would violate the contract with Intel. This sounds like a class action law suit to me. If Sony are selling laptops with crippled functionality, then they need to advertise the fact that the processors are not fully functional.

      1. Violate their contract with Intel? That makes no sense at all. I’ll call them next week and see if I can get a more detailed explanation. I don’t see how using hardware the way it was meant to be used can violate anything.

  2. Small correction above, I went to a store to check out a laptop which I thought has no VT support (as advised by the manufacturer) but turns out I got my model numbers mixed up. I was shocked to find out it has VT support. I panicked for no reason. Now I don’t know even know what model number the manufacturer told me but they might have misunderstood me or me them. I got the laptop and has full VT and VT-d support however I am not sure what VT-d is. In case of Sony, I don’t why they have done that.

  3. Sony Chat Tech Chat session about VT….

    user Jesse has entered room

    analyst Luis_ has entered room

    Luis_> Hi Jesse. Welcome to Sony Online Support. I’m Luis. Please allow me a moment to review your concern.

    Jesse> ok

    Luis_> Thank you for waiting, Jesse. I’ll be happy to assist you with the information on the Intel VT.

    Jesse> ok

    Jesse> I looked in the BIOS but I didn’t see anyting obvious there.

    Jesse> I was thinking it might take a firmware update or someting.

    Luis_> I’m sorry, Jesse. Sony VAIO Computers do not currently support Virtualization Technology (VT).

    Jesse> The CPU is capible, correct?

    Jesse> Its just a bios issue?

    Luis_> I would like to forward a link to a page where you can view the information on this.

    Luis_> When you receive the link please click on it to open the page and let me know if you are able to view it.

    Jesse> ok

    Luis_> http://www.kb.sony.com/selfservice/documentLink.do?externalId=C381809

    Jesse> ok

    Jesse> It says not currently. is that implying that they will at some point?

    Jesse> “Sony confirms they will continue disabling Hardware Virtualization”

    Jesse> I assume this means its someting that can be enabled.

    Luis_> Jesse, Sony Computers will not support this Intel VT at this point.

    Luis_> If any updates are there, it wil be posted on the Sony support site.

    Jesse> You guys are making me look bad. The guys here with crappier laptops have it turned on.

    Jesse> see…

    Jesse> http://www.designisphilosophy.com/windows-7/without-hardware-virtualization-sony-vaio-laptops-do-not-perform-to-spec-20090520/

    Jesse> Not cool.

    Jesse> The wave of people asking for this is going to grow.

    Jesse> If your managers aren’t aware I start sounding the alarm bells before Windows 7 hits the store.

    Luis_> I’m truly sorry for the inconvenience you’re experiencing with this issue.

    Jesse> Well, It might be worth raising as an issue at a meeting or someting.

    Jesse> Widnows 7 went RTM. I have had to for awhile and just didn’t try the XP mode untill recently and it dosen’t work without VT.

    Luis_> Okay, Jesse.

    Luis_> I’m really sorry for the inconvenience you’re experiencing.

    Jesse> Well, don’t take my crap. Just pass it up as high as you can. Honestly if this dosen’t get resolved I will not buy anymore Sony laptops nor will I recomend them to anyone.

    Jesse> Its no skin off my nose. Its a bad thing on Sony.

    Luis_> As currently the Intel VT is not supported, the BIOS update for this issue will be posted on the Sony support site as soon as it is tested successfully.

    Luis_> Jesse, the BIOS update to resolve this issue will be posted on the Sony support site as soon as it is tested successfully.

    Jesse> I hope thats pretty soon.

    Luis_> Sure, Jesse. Please bookmark the Drivers and Software page of Sony support site and then check frequently for the update to enable this feature.

    Jesse> Ok will keep checking.

    Luis_> Sure, Jesse.

    Jesse> You got beta firmware?

    Jesse> I can help you test it ; )

    Luis_> I’m sorry, Jesse. The BIOS update will be posted on the Sony support site as soon as it is tested successfully by Sony.

    Luis_> If you have further questions, please feel free to get back to us using the same Email ID so that we can retrieve the previous chat transcript. We will be happy to assist you.

    Luis_> Is that okay with you?

    Jesse> Nope, but I know thats not your fault. Crack a beer and chill when you get home. L8R ; )

  4. This is copied from Sony k.b. site:

    http://www.kb.sony.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=kc&externalId=C1001443&sliceId=1&docTypeID=DT_KNOWLEDGEARTICLES_1_1&dialogID=115324605&stateId=1 0 45720451

    They advertise the CPU they sell to you. It supported, they say, hardware virtualization (the Intel VT).

    I have no idea why such a powerful company would mislead in such a way its customers and eventually harm again its (already harmed) reputation.

    ——————————————-

    What is Intel vProâ„¢ processor technology?
    Solution

    The Intel vPro processor technology is a platform marketing initiative, similar to that of Intel Centrino processor and Intel Coreâ„¢2 processor with Viivâ„¢ technology, that targets business customers. Intel vPro processor technology will come with dual-core technology, support 64-bit applications, and include a networking chipset, _______built-in virtualization technology______ and additional features for remote management of computers.

    Among other things, the Intel vPro processor technology platform provides support for software and hardware inventory management, the ability to cut off network access remotely, remote diagnostics, and remote file access.

    The vPro logo sticker on VAIO computers indicates that the computer meets the requirements for the following vPro features:

    Intel Active Management Technology (AMT)
    _______Intel Virtualization Technology (VT)_______
    Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT)
    NOTES:

    Additional information regarding the Intel vPro processor technology is available from the Intel Web site at http://www.intel.com.
    All Sony computers with the Intel vPro processor technology include flyers that explain how to enable AMT within the computer BIOS [FIG. 1] and, for security purposes, how to change the default vPro processor password [FIG. 2] if the you choose not to use the vPro processor technology.
    Sony can assist with enabling the AMT feature within the computer BIOS and changing the default vPro processor password, but any additional assistance with vPro processor technology features, or the software required to take advantage of those features, will need to be directed to your Network Administrator or company MIS/IT department.

  5. It took me a little longer to discover this, but my Sony VGN-SR190 stung me with regards to VT. When I bought the Sony laptop last Fall, I knew I needed enough memory to run Vista–and 4 GB was enough. I also liked the design and finish of the laptop. After several months, I finally got Linux installed on it because Vista was being a memory hog. With Windows 7 coming out in October, I thought I could run a virtual test of Windows 7 using the Sony laptop. WRONG! Totally crippled. This is unadulterated B.S. Count me in on a class action lawsuit!

  6. This isn’t a class action law suit dumb ass! Sony is building crappy computers ever since the world began and you can no longer depend on SONY computers so why bother buying one ? I’d rather get a NEO computer.. Haha..

    This is Abdul Kareem Jackolero.. reporting SONY NEWS BEAREU CHIEF! United States of Alkhobar.. 🙂

  7. SONY computers always has an issue.. First their TZ series being on a recall becoz of the wiring problem, second their SZ series becoz of the touchpad moving reversely, then there is the BZ/CS series regarding fan that is running too fucking loud, now there is the issue with FW series which the fucking DC in port got broke easily.. What the fuck! Can you rely on SONY computers nowadays ? Hell NO!

  8. For anyone still reading this and to the author sony have finally released an update for the bios of which you can go in and turn on the hardware virtulization. I got this update from sony’s website (australia but it should be on all of them). Its about time they fixed this otherwise they would have a huge lawsuit on their hands from just about anyone with a sony laptop. Good luck.

  9. SONY computer users are so fvcking gay and they always rely on technical support for assistance even for the lamest thing like turning on the num lock key. You gays should never buy any computer nor use it at all if you do not know how to use it motherfvckers!!!

  10. I got the shaft too. I have two EXPENSIVE and (I thought) powerful SZ computers. Now I upgraded to Windows 7 and I want to run some XP era software and I can’t because Sony mnever put that feature in the BIOS and because they haven’t fixed this, they are ignoring the needs of their customers. I wrote them and complained and I will continue to complain about this. I suggest everyone with this issue should do the same. And do it over and over and over again. These people don’t deserve oxygen.

  11. Seriously people don’t act like idiots it’s very simple to turn on hardware virtualization. all you have to do is repeatedly hit the f2 key on startup then go to advanced and turn it on there that simple

  12. Merados, the Virtualization can be enabled only if the processor supports the vt, the advanced option will not be available. installating the bios update will let you the advanced tab option to enable vt. The VT is supported only in particular computers.

  13. I downloaded the new file from Microsoft that allows vrtualization even if a computer is not capable. This is intended for older CPUs that don’t support virtualization. My SZ series computers do support it, but Sony has elected to not enable it. Anyway, I thought it was worth trying and it worked. So now I can run in legacy mode and our old expensive XP applications run on these multicore Vaios. I still think it sucks that we have to run in an emulation mode just because Sony (in their “wisdom”)does not allow VM. But this is the only choice we have for these notebooks and our customers Vaio notebooks.

    So as an IT proovider my company has an active preferred vendor list (PVL) and as president of my companyn I greatly influence the purchases of my customers. Many want to either upgrade exsting computers to Win 7 and more want to buy computers running Win 7. Our job is to integrate all these and connect them to Microsoft servers. As of a few days ago, I took Sony off our PVL. They used to be first on the list and now we are telling customers that because Sony chooses to not support its customers, we prefer not to support Sony. HP and Dell are now our supported Notebook suppliers. Sony deserves this kind of treatment, don’t you think?

  14. Hey Pals,

    I had the same problem. Sony Notebook, with Phoenix Bios. I didnt want to take the risk of bios hack. I installed VMWARE 7.0 workstation version. Surprisingly, the software itself enabled it for me. I am very happy. Thanks VMWAre 😀

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