hi all, I have an old dell 1200 that doesn't seem to be wworking properly. I had a look inside but my knowledge of hardware is basic, so at glance everything seems ok down there. I am not sure whether the problem is with the motherboard or whatever. Basically at the startup I get a message saying that "the device in the system modular bay cannot be identified. It may not be completely inserted or may gave some other problem...Press esc to ignore error and continue" and then I can start windows ok. The thing is I can't unistall winodws and I can't format the HD, it gives me errors. So it could be the hard drive of course, but I have tried with another one so I am pretty confident the problem isn't there. ANyway, it takes ages to boot up and it is very very slow. I had a look in the system device, everything is ok, all the drivers are there etc. I have heard that sometimes it is possible to determine what the problem is by looking at how many times the bios flashes, but i am not sure how to do that. ANyway, I would like to sort this laptop out but I dont' seem to be able to determine what the problem is. I am happy to change the processor and build a more powerful machine, but I wonder what processor I can buy, if it is relatively easy to replace, what are the steps and anything that needs to be done really, what if the motherborad is dodgy, will I be able to increase the ram with a new processor etc etc if there is a piece of software around that could diagnose what the problem is. here's my current configuration:
-dell 1200 inspiron
-intel celeron M 1.396ghz, 1.24 ram


I wouldnt spend a dime on this system until you know exactly what the problem is. With an error message like that, you would have to go to the vendor's support documentation, or check with the vendor that makes that BIOS. When you turn on the computer, do you hear any beeps? If so, the motherboard documentation can help you there.

You also mentioned formatting the hard drive. Why wouldnt you be able to do so?

ok, it seems that the initial message was due to the cd drive not inserted correctly. I removed the cd unit and pushed it back with a bit more force, and the message is now gone.
No I don't hear anyt sound from the bios
Formatting the HD and installing another OS, produces errors:
With linux 8.10 cd when I try to install it it goes as far as this message:
"Busy box v 1.10.2 (ubuntu 1:1.10.2 1 ubuntu6) bi=uitl-shell (ash)
Enter help for a list of buitl in commands"
And the prompt stops here:

installing from usb (ubuntu 11.10)
gets as far as formatting the partition and the machine freezes up switched off and run the installation again. I managed to install it in the end, but it is totally unusable, far slower than windows.
SO I thought to myself, let's reinstall windows again, and when I boot from cd all I get is an empty prompt:

I really don't know what's wrong with it, do you reckon I should invest in a new HD?

So, there is no requirement to have a hard drive installed to boot a computer. You just need some type of bootable OS. This can be on a CD, floppy disk, or even a USB stick. For example, the Windows CD has a set of bootable files to get the setup going.

If you are booting to a CD, and are not getting the setup going, you first need to make sure if the BIOS has the CD configured with a higher boot priority than the hard drive.

If it does, when you boot from the Win CD, you should get a message like "press any key to run setup..." If you have the CD has the first boot order and you don't see this, either your cd rom is not working correctly or the cd is damaged.

I'm not so sure you are booting from the CD.

yep, I have done that already, I changed the order of the bootable devices in the bios, and the cd drive is the first, it just doesn't do it. That's why I am thinking that the HD even if is a bit dodgy isn't just the only problem. yes I was aware that you don't need a HD to boot it, and this is exactly what made me think that there is something else wrong with the laptop. Is there any way I could detect problems in the bios? I really don't know what's wrong with it...

Do you have any other boot devices. Floppy drive? If you can get the PC to boot, I see no reason to spend money on a new drive. I'd pull out the hard drive and continue the focus on booting to something so you can start to establish which is your problematic device.

No reason for their to be a problem with the BIOS.

ok could try that. Not sure whether this is important or not, but I could boot linux from usb but not windows from cd. Perhaps the problem is with the cd drive? Is there any specific sign I could look for toindicate that the cd drive is faulty?

That is a good test, your cd drive may be bad, or the media itself.

Try booting on another computer with the CD. If it works, your CD drive may be faulty.

Yes, I think you are right, it must be the cd drive. I have created a windows bootable usb . I have booted from the usb (as I did for linux) and it works. Booting form the windows cd doesn't work, so I guess we can assume the cd is faulty. So, all things considered, do you reckon it is worth rebuilding the whole machine? I mean, I would need:
-new cd drive
-new and better HD
-new processor
-new battery
-not sure about the motherboard, as in, if it works fine or not
Do you think it will be too expensive and therefore not worth?

I've just checked out much of that kit you have listed there on eBay, and you could buy all those items for less than £60.00.I didn't look for a motherboard though.

uhm, you mean each item will cost less thean £60? I checked myself and a HD won't cost less than £100 unless I go for a 30 GB. I havne't checked the processor though