Given the experience of finding one of my supposedly "securely recycled" laptops arriving intact at a (very honest) eBay purchaser, I've decided to remove the discs myself from any other laptops I recycle.
I got the 2.5" model out of my Linux laptop/server without too much hassle, and was able to pull files off it using a suitable USB enclosure.
But taking apart the Sony Vaio was a bit of an adventure, and the hard disc is the smallest I've ever seen! See this article about getting into the guts of a very similar machine:
I found the manual for the second hand IBM ThinkPad was very useful. Able to quickly diagnose dead CMOS battery, find location, how to access and the right part to order on eBay for peanuts instead of $38 here.