I just instaled XP Home on a Dell Latitude C610 from a Dell XP Home CD.
It installed fine.

My question is that I have heard about needing to connect to the internet to activate XP or once I access the internet it will kill XP if I dont have the serial number.

There is no serial number on the CD and there is no number on the laptop.
If I go into XP I see a serial number and I wrote it down.
But I never entered a serial number...

Do I need to do anything before I give this to my niece...?

Sorry but this is my first experience with XP...

Be gentle.. I am a Virgin...

I don't think it "kills" the installation, rather than give you something like 30 days until the OS will stop "working"

You need to use the serial number to activate it, online.

Reguardless if you go online or not it will still only work for 30 days if not activated!
If its a legit copy of XP ,if it a pirated copy it doesn't need to be activated !also if it a pirated copy it shouldn't be on the laptop!:)

Yep! It will operate for 30 days, and then it will start but the user will be unable to log on. Unless it is activated before that, of course.

Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Activate Windows

Then follow the prompts from the Wizard. If you intend to activate online, ensure it's connected to the internet first. You can also activate it via a Telephone call to Microsoft, and the Wizard will provide the number to call for you if the Regional settings are correct for the Windows Installation.

You don't need to use the CD key again once Windows is installed. The Activation Wizard will provide a further code number for you to use, which is different to the CD key.

My question now is... When I go here...

Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Activate Windows

I do not have an option to Activate Windows
I dont see that option in any of the menus...

This is an original Dell CD, not a copy...
On a Dell Latitude (as delivered)
This was / is from a corp that has a license arrangement with M$

Would this then be an embedded copy that checks the bios and does not require activation...?

Even the manual that came with the laptop says it requires activation...
(Probably a generic manual)

I get no pop-ups or requests to activate

Then that laptop can't be provided legally to your niece with that installation of windows on it. It's only licenced for use by a person authorised to use it by that Corporation. The Corporate license is for Corporate use.

But it won't require activation, so I guess it's a matter for your conscience, eh?

But it ain't legal!