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VAIO Palmtop PC mSATA SSD upgrade

In the quest for upgrades and 'future proofing' I will attempt to squish an mSATA SSD into a Vaio palmtop where nature never intended.

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I have a Sony Vaio VPCP11 palmtop PC in which I have already upgraded the WiFi and Bluetooth, replaced the keyboard with a US version, and installed (a very debloated) Win10.
The next obvious step is to replace the SSD with something more modern simply because I can (Or so I hope...)

The existing SSD is a 256Gb Toshiba THNSNB256GMLJ and is getting a little old these days.

I have run a benchmark on the Vaio, and the SSD maxes out at some relatively low numbers...
Part of this will be the age of the drive, part of it will be due to the VAIO only supporting a PATA interface, hence the flat flex cable from the motherboard to the SSD contains a SATA to PATA converter chip.
I'm hoping the PATA bottleneck doesn't restrict the speed of the new SSD too much, but if the performance gains aren't great with the new SSD, well at least I had fun... :D

This SATA-PATA issue complicates things just a little, as not only do I need to adapt from one connector type (ZIF/LIF on the Toshiba SSD to mPCIe on the new mSATA SSD) to another, but I also have to include a SATA to PATA converter chip too.

Toshiba SSD Benchmark
Benchmark of existing Toshiba SSD

Here's the benchmark of the existing SSD shown above. Not too impressive by any stretch of the imagination...
Lets crack open the machine to see what we are up against.

Vaio Palmtop Opened Up
Vaio VCPC11 Palmtop Opened Up

It's pretty tight inside as you would expect.
The new WiFi/Bluetooth card is the green PCB to the right.

The motherboard is the blue PCB to center right and the green PCB to center left is a daughterboard that contains the WWAN card, Bluetooth card and breaks out to the USB/VGA/Ethernet ports on the far left top.

The small green PCB to the far left is the SATA to PATA adapter, and the Toshiba SSD is sitting underneath, between the SATA-PATA and daughter PCB's and keyboard located on the other side of the Vaio.

Extreme Disembowelment!
OMG, what have I done!?

Here's the parts removed out of the way.
Clockwise from top left.
SSD carrier frame, Toshiba SSD, Daughterboard, SATA-PATA converter/flex interconnect.

I found that the SSD carrier frame can be left out along with the SSD with no ill effect, this machine came with a few HDD/SSD options so it seems to have been designed so that nothing else in the machine is dependent on that frame. This is good as it enables me to clear out as much space inside as I can.

Time to prune the hedge.
Away with thee, useless accrument!


Here's the other side of the daughterboard. I have removed the WWAN card as I won't be using it and it'll leave some space for the new cable to run through if needed. Also, less parts = less power drain on the battery.
The small white connector near the middle was for the Bluetooth module. This was also removes and the new WiFi card has Bluetooth built in anyway (with newer drivers etc).

Also, before you ask, I did try the mSATA SSD in that mPCIe slot. No go at all. It doesn't have the required SATA connections, which is a bummer but not surprising seeing as this chipset only supports PATA.

mSATA SSD Fitment Test
We might be onto something here....

After measuring, test fitting, remeasuring, re-test fitting, etc, etc, I think this is where the new SSD will end up fitting.
It has more than enough height to fit in there even with a mPCIe connector, and it slots in next to the daughterboard perfectly.

Test Fit of eBay SATA-PATA Adapter
Boooo, things are never so easy!

I purchased this flat-flex to mPCIe PATA-SATA adapter from eBay for a few dollars, but it just doesn't fit.
Unfortunately it is large enough that I can't even take a bit of a sneaky trim of the PCB either. It's also too tall to fit under the daughterboard too (That would have been too easy... :D )
I think I might have to fire up Diptrace to design up a custom PCB.

Having a think about it, if I were to make a 1mm thick PCB that is no wider than the mPCIe connector and if I put the flat-flex connector on the right-hand side, I reckon it'll fit just nice.

I have a decent (Hakko FM-206) rework station too, so salvaging and reusing that chip under the 'QC Passed' sticker and maybe even the mPCIe slot shouldn't be too hard.

Flex PCB Mockup
My hopes and dreams...

Here is where we sit now.
This is my idea mocked up roughly in place. I plan to have a flex PCB from the motherboard on the right, running over to the (to be built) SATA-PATA PCB and hooking into a flat-flex connector that will be on the right side of said PCB.
Then the new SSD will...

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  • Dirty Schematics.

    NFM3 days ago 0 comments

    Here's the latest schematic. As dirty and messy as it is.....

    Motherboard connector is on the right, ZIF pinout on the left.



    Pin 39 from the motherboard doesn't seem to have an equivalent pin in a HDD ZIF socket, it goes to pin labelled 'T1' (pin 34) on the Marvell 88SA8040 SATA Bridge chip.
    I'm not sure what it does exactly (I think it's the 'device active' signal, to flash the HDD activity LED), so if anyone knows, let me know!

    I have passed this pin through to pin 40 on the ZIF connector, it is used for Master/Slave select on the ZIF socket so it has no use here, so it will be fine to repurpose that pin.

    It seems data is a bit hard to find on the Marvell 88SA8040 chip, beyond a basic pinout.
    If anyone has more info, I'd be very grateful for anything that can be offered.

    I've measured the voltage coming from the motherboard too, which is at 3.3V, so that's good. I only need one Vreg to give me a 1.8V rail.


    Next step is to start designing the SSD daughter-board.

    I think I'll forgo using the Marvell 88SA8040 chip due to it's lack of data etc, and instead use the more common JMicron JM20330.
    The benefit is a data sheet and easier availability as it can be lifted from many ebay adapters.

  • PCB time!

    NFM3 days ago 0 comments

    PCB is all laid out! I got it just under 2 square inches which is nice.

    I beeped out the connector on the Vaio flex cable and wired my flex adapter so match on the motherboard end, and match a 40-pin ZIF socket on the other.

    All the connections are length matched to within +/- 0.1mm too for fun and signal integrity.



  • Matching plugs match.

    NFM5 days ago 0 comments

    Winner winner, chicken dinner.

    I got the plug from Digikey the other day, and it fits goodly so.
    It's a little lower than the one Sony used (They have a few height variances) and doesn't have the metal inserts, but it fits perfectly, so no problems I think.

    Next step is to make footprints and start laying out the PCB.

  • A match made in heaven?

    NFM05/05/2019 at 05:39 0 comments

    After a bit of a peruse of Digikey, it looks like I might have a match!

    I took some measurements (0.4mm pitch etc) and made a few assumptions as to brands, I assumed that Sony would use a Japanese brand for their Japanese product, so looked primarily at Hirose and Panasonic offerings (I didn't preclude other brands, though, just in case).

    It turns out that Panasonic parts AXK740147G‎ (for the socket) and AXK840145WG‎  (for the plug) are looking preeettyyy close to what I'm after.

    https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/AXK740147G/255-2534-1-ND/1986697/?itemSeq=291802877
    https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/AXK840145WG/255-2527-1-ND/1986690/?itemSeq=291802878

    Next step, add these parts to an order and see if the plug fits the socket on the motherboard.

  • Flat-flex plug and socket

    NFM05/04/2019 at 08:30 0 comments

    I cracked out the microscope and macro lens and took a few photos of the connector for the existing flat flex to the motherboard.

    Next is to try to track one of these down... Any ideas? :)

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Discussions

Ryan Mitchell wrote 04/27/2019 at 17:17 point

I might be missing something (like you not having the cable), but the model that included a 1.8" HDD rather than SSD used a cable that would plug directly into your adapter board, and is what I'm currently using in my Vaio P. I have a first gen (No touchpad) and am not sure if they used the same HDD's in that model as yours, but if you could find a cable that may save you some trouble. I just have my SSD mounted 90 degrees to where yours was positioned. (I like your positioning more though, as it allows for much more room internally for other modifications.

  Are you sure? yes | no

NFM wrote 04/27/2019 at 17:25 point

Yeah this is true, but I've found that finding spare parts for these machines is really hard....

I'm not sure if the earlier models have the same ribbon cables as mine, I'd need to compare to see what is usable in my machine.

I'd love to find a broken machine to tear apart. that would be perfect.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Ryan Mitchell wrote 04/29/2019 at 18:47 point

I found the same, I always keep a lookout for broken units going up online. In the end, I've bought one that was in pretty good condition, and when mine completely wears out I'll start using the new one and relegate mine to spares (That is if I can't fabricate new parts for it, your projects have me rather interested. Ideally I'd hook up the keyboard, mouse, and display to adapter boards that let you connect your own motherboard of choice to is, as System-On-Module's are starting to outpace the original, but haven't had the time to work on a vanity project like this, not for a fair while)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Richard Hogben wrote 04/22/2019 at 14:59 point

Do you know what year this VAIO is from?

  Are you sure? yes | no

NFM wrote 04/22/2019 at 15:15 point

It was originally released mid 2010.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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