I have formatted my hard drive (Sony VGN-NR10E laptop) after windows started to hang on boot up. The problem I know have is that I cannot install windows vista, it says that Windows cannot copy the installation files. The laptop does take the install of Ubuntu (linux) and works with no problems.
This is probably because the install can't verify the install files. It often happens with copies of the CD rather than the original. If you have the ISO image, try burning it again at a lower speed (x2 perhaps) or copy the CD contents to a USB hard drive and install from the hard drive.
I got hold of a full Windows disc (non OEM) and tried to install. The interesting thing is that it appears to install and then when it restarts it claims that it cannot find the hard drive. I suspect I may need to replace the drive, would you agree? If so, how could I ensure I am buying a compatible hard drive?
If ubuntu works with no problems then your hard drive is ok. Your Master boot record may be corrupt, this is not altered during a Format. Start fdisk from CD and use the command fdisk /mbr then partition drive and format to install Vista from CD. For more info on MBR click here