I just worked on a Dell Inspiron 1501 that was having problems booting into Windows. It could boot into safe mode, but in normal mode it would sit at the Welcome screen twirling its circle. I ran the built-in diagnostics and found a problem with the chipset. I figured it might be a bad motherboard. I used Dell’s support website and found the laptop needed an updated BIOS to fix the problem. The only BIOS they had for download had to be installed in Windows. Since the Windows on the laptop did not work, I reinstalled Windows first. With a new Windows load, I tried to run the BIOS update program, but it failed and said it had to be run as an administrator. The account I was using was an administrator account, but I actually had to right-click and select “Run as Administrator” before the program worked properly. Then I was in for a treat – I had always updated a BIOS through DOS or by running a Windows program that rebooted the computer and updated in DOS. This program from Phoenix actually updated the BIOS in Windows. This was quite scary given the nature of Windows to crash at inopportune times. Someone might want to rethink updating a BIOS with a Windows program since a system crash or blue screen could potentially nuke your BIOS.
Anyway the update succeeded and the error was fixed. However, the laptop gave me a Fixed Disk 0 not found error once before and after reloading Windows and updating the BIOS. I checked the hard drive through the Dell diagnostics and Windows check disk and found no errors. I suspect there may be something flaky on the motherboard, but since the laptop is over 3 years old, I advised the customer of the problem which might occur every once in a while. A reboot bypassed the problem so they decided they could live with the laptop like that as it was only being used for getting on the Internet. I hate having an unresolved problem, but the possible hardware solutions cost as much as a new laptop and the customer was okay with the problem as long as the laptop worked most of the time.