Tutorial: How to Upgrade the Creative Zen Vision W Hard Drive

John P.

Zen Vision W New Hard DriveSix months ago I published a guide to the complete disassembly of the Creative Zen Vision W personal media player. At the end of that post I theorized as to how one could upgrade the hard drive when larger ones came available.

Well now, thanks to the generosity of Aaron Vronko and RapidRepair.com for supplying a 100GB drive; and Dan, one of my loyal readers, for playing guinea pig using my previous post to repair his Zen, I now have the largest drive in any Zen W in the world – and the theory is now a reality!

Here is how it was done.

First of all, you need to order yourself a new hard drive. Clearly I would recommend ordering the exact one that I upgraded with from RapidRepair.com. It is the 100GB Toshiba MK1011GAH.

After you get your new drive, follow my instructions on the Creative Zen Vision W Teardown page. Once you get to the point where you are down to the bare hard drive follow these steps:

  • Download the latest firmware from the Creative site.
  • Using the Creative Media Explorer, create a backup directory on your computer’s hard drive and copy all of your content from the Zen to the computer. You MUST do this or you will lose all of your data when you remove the existing hard drive. After the upgrade you will use this data to restore the Zen back to normal.
  • Zen Vision W Plastic Shock ProtectorRemove the tape on the existing hard drive connector and, with a tiny flathead screwdriver, flip the white ZIF socket clip up and gently remove the ribbon cable.
  • Remove the blue rubber shock protectors from the edges of the old drive and set aside to reinstall on the new drive.
  • Gently insert the ribbon cable into the ZIF socket on the new drive taking care to insert it with the first pin aligned to the correct side. If you happen to put the ribbon in backwards, when the Zen boots the menu will not work correctly. If that happens just turn the drive over and insert the ribbon cable the other way.
  • Zen Vision W Recovery MenuAfter the new drive is inserted replace the red tape over the ribbon cable and Zif socket and re-assemble the Zen. You will have to trim back the rubber shock protector a little so it fits the shape of the new drive. See the attached image for an example.
  • Power on the Zen, and it will boot into the Recovery Mode menu.
  • Select the Format All option to format the drive for use.
  • Select the Reload Firmware option, plug the Zen into the USB port on your computer, and execute the firmware which you previously downloaded.
  • Zen Firmware Upgrade CompleteThe firmware installer will begin and after a minute or two when it completes you can disconnect the Zen and power it on. At this point it should boot up into the full interface except that the drive is completely empty.
  • Use the Creative Media Explorer software to reload all of your music, movies, photos, etc. and enjoy your new gigantic hard drive!

Once you’ve completed the upgrade you could, in theory, order this case to repurpose your old drive and use it as a USB external storage device. However, I have not tried this so I am not advocating it. Perhaps if they send me one to test out I’ll give an update later if it works.

Please let me know if anything is unclear or you have suggestions on how to improve this article.


  1. TT says

    Hi, I was wanting some advice on upgrading my Zen Vision W. Currently the 30Gig and just to small. Do you know how many pins the ZIF drive is in these? 40pin socket? Really need help with the pin configuration so I know what drives are suitable.

    Would either of the drives work below –

    US $134.56 – MK2431GAH 1.8″ 240GB ZIF/PATA F Macbook air IPOD&MBA rev.A Hard drive
    Dimensions –
    Hight – 7.874mm
    Width – 54.102mm
    Depth – 71.12mm
    Weight – 58.96grms

    US $61.59 – 32GB 1.8″ ZIF 40 Pin SSD HDD MLC Solid State Disk Fr Dell D420 D430 HP – (The SSD would just be to see how it run and if it could extend playback time, not so much for more space)
    Size – 72 x 55 x 5mm
    Weight – 35g

    Would a solid state drive work in these at all???

    Link for screens also, they have a few different things aftermarket – (Shop around, I’m sure there are better prices, just the only page I looked at so far.


  2. Ein says

    After several years of faithful service, my Zen had a hard drive failure. I used your method and the drive mentioned (now an even 100USD from RR) and it lives once more! Thank you for this very helpful tutorial!

    Although, I will second what was said earlier: Remove the EMI shield. Otherwise you risk straining the other components.

  3. Chris says

    I dug my Zen Vision W 60GB out of storage. The HDD failed years ago. Has anyone heard of an adapter to install an SD card in place of the HDD.

  4. Ed says

    Have just upgraded to the 100 gig toshiba drive, (the existing drive failed/clicking), the drive is thicker and the cover wouldn’t fit! Solution, I machined the rear stainless cover and the plastic rear case so the drive neatly protrudes against the battery, the rubber dampening has been included so the drive will have some protection against the PCB.
    The Result:
    100 Gig of zen vision W still working great and all it cost was $70 (Second hand drive from Dell Laptop).
    At this price I can afford at least 12 months and if it dies I’ll shop for another media player after that. Thanks for the Information John, It’s great when Knowledge is shared.

  5. Duwain Hunt says

    I too would like to know the brand and model number of a Zif hard drive that will work in a Creative Zen W so I can upgrade mine?

  6. Danny says

    hey guys i got in a horrific wreck a few years back and my zen vision w was on the dash when it happened and it went into the water with the rest of the truck, i dried it out and it wouldnt boot so i tried booting it in safe mode menu and it came on just fine but when i try and format the drive ect. it freezes.. so i figure i fucked up the hard drive and now learning i can replace it i was wondering if anyone knows all the types and sizes (GB) of drives that will work with it? i know its alot to ask but if its as simple as any ATA-7 1.8″ zif drive it would be badass.


  7. Dan says

    Saw a couple of hard drives made by Samsung, which I believe will work with the Zen Vision W Slim. However, I also saw a couple with the Apple logo. Should we be avoiding that re: hdd firmware issue?

  8. Andrew says

    I have attempted to replace my failed 60GB hd with the 120GB Toshiba MK1231GAL, however I cannot format the drive or replace the firmware without a Hard Disk Problem message. Previously I was getting a “Hard Drive Error” message on my old drive. I need to decide if I am going to send this drive back for a refund in the next few days depending if I can ultimately use this drive or not. Please help!!!

    • midus says

      did you manage to get this to work or did you send it back?

      I’m facing the same problem with my Creative Zen Vision W – HDD died. Everything in ebay seems to list only for iPOD.

      Have narrowed down several 5mm drives but some posts seem to indicate that either there’s a firmware issue on the HDDs that won’t allow it to format properly in the Zen Vision W or the HDDs are encrypted only for iPODs.

      Can those who managed to replace the drive please help all those people here?

      If you tried a HDD and it didn’t work, please post too.

      Thank you in advance!

  9. Ricky says

    Salve il mio Creative Zen Vision W mi dice harddisk problem infatti hdd non girava più allora io ho sostituito con un altro hdd NUOVO Toshiba MK1231GAL questo lo senti che gira e funziona ma il messaggio harddisk problem c’é ancora e non riesco fare l’aggiornamento e possibile avere il vostro aiuto io abito a Padova Italia Grazie


    Hi mine Creative Zen Vision W tells me harddisk problem in fact hdd it didn’t turn thener me I have replaced with another New hdd Toshiba MK1231GAL this you feel him/it that it turns and it works but the message harddisk problem there is still and I doesn’t succeed to make the updating and possible have your help I live in Padua Italy Thanks

  10. Dinesh says


    I have bought a kingspec ssd 32GB ZIF. I am not able to install it into my creative vision W. could you help me out please

    Thank you

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