Having major issues getting a Dell X1 laptop to boot to an external CD drive or a USB drive. BIOS Boot order has been set several times first for the CD drive as first then the USB drive. Windows boots to the desktop in either case. I would now like to consider the onboard NIC card but have never booted to one.

If the NIC card is the first device can I connect via ethernet cable to my router then to my desktop which has a CD drive? Looking for guidance on how to reinstall XP Pro via this route. Guidance sought.

Boot from NIC to my knowledge is not possible if your NIC do not have a boot ROM BIOS. Maybe you can check if the CD you are booting is defective by booting from another computer CD drive or try your CD drive with another computer. It could be either the CD drive or the CD is defective. Either one of this will not allow you to boot. What OS you are trying to boot anyway?

hi,have you tried all USB ports,does any other device work when plugged into a USB port,in disk management is the external cd/flash showing when plugged in

No cd or USB functionality? Oops. First, I'd try resetting BIOS to its default values [restart and enter bios... Alt-F2?]. If that did not get the peripherals running I'd reset CMOS [open the lappie, near the lil round CMOS batter there is a 3 pin plug with a jumper, move it to pins 1,2 for 5 or so secs, then replace it.
And try again. Still the cd and USB don't work? Not a lot of point reinstalling to it. Anyway...
Place your hdd into another computer and load the OS onto it, install the correct drivers... ?
Your BIOS obviously has network [PXE] boot [it recognises that the NIC is so capable]... so read this: http://winner.windowsdream.com/ . Or this: http://www.ultimatedeployment.org/index.html
Or go to www.boot-land.net/forums and learn about tftpd32 eg http://www.boot-land.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=2322
There is a ton of stuff out there if you search "XP install via network".
Tell us how you get on; I've not tried it.