Earlier tonight I had to work on a friends new Sony VAIO system. The model is VGN-NS330J, but the information I found seems to apply to all Sony VAIO laptops.

Anyways, this machine was seriously messed up, and he just bought it. Since the system doesn’t ship with disks for recovering the Windows installation, I figured that there had to be a hotkey combination that brought up the appropriate menu. Interestingly, this was put into the F8 Advanced Boot Options screen that is built into Windows.

If you want to recover the system back to factory defaults, reboot the system, wait for the VAIO logo to appear, and then start pressing F8. The Advanced Boot Options screen will appear shortly. Use the arrow keys to highlight the “Repair Your Computer” option and press Enter. From here, follow the instructions to accomplish what you want.

I did this, but it seems that even the recovery partition was hosed. This meant that his system was essentially worthless at this point. Fortunately, I had some Vista installation disks that could be used to reinstall the OS with the Windows serial key found on the bottom of the laptop.

When I rebooted with the installation disk, the disk didn’t boot. Come to find out, the primary boot option was the harddrive, which, frankly, is the worst boot option to be set as the primary boot method since there’s no way to bypass the hard disk boot without modifying the BIOS. How many computer users would know how to modify the boot priorities in BIOS? A better question: How many computer users even know what the BIOS is?

Unfortunately, Sony decided that having a pretty boot splash screen was more important than providing information on how to access the BIOS. Pressing the usual suspects of Esc and Del did nothing. At least they could have the courtesy of removing the splash screen when I hit a button so that I could see the options, but no.

After much too much searching around, I found out that F2 is the magic key. As soon as you boot, start pressing F2 about once a second until the BIOS screen shows.

I hope this helps you, the random person who found this information, and I hope that system developers see this and realize the following:

  1. Here’s the smart boot order to set up in the BIOS defaults of new systems: optical drive, external media, internal hard drive(s). This way, any bootable media works as expected without requiring users to go through BIOS first.
  2. Sacrificing screens that instruct users on how to use basic functionality of the machine for aesthetics is not the right decision, it simply makes your hardware a pain to use. If you must have the pretty splash screens, have them go away when a key is pressed so that the user can see valuable information, such as keys to access BIOS and the POST information. Having a splash screen that requires a change in the BIOS to make it go away in order to see the information on how to access the BIOS is self-defeating.
  3. Please bring back installation media or make a way for people to easily and cheaply acquire it. It would be fantastic if OEM system manufacturers would offer the ability to download the appropriate installation media directly from the manufacturer website. You could require a registered system complete with the serial information of the system in order to authenticate the download. This way there isn’t the increased cost of disk inventory and shipping. It would also allow customers to have quick resolution of problems since the customer could go to any location with internet access to quickly and easily get the necessary disk to use for recovery.

    This has the added benefit of ending the ridiculous permanent waste of space on computers in order to have a long-term storage of data that may never be used and may be corrupt by the time it is needed.