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Try the below steps and I hope it'll work for you.
1) Shut down the operating system and turn off your computer. 2) Press and hold down the F1 key, and then turn on the computer. 3) When an IBM or other logo is displayed or if you hear repeating beeps, release the F1 key. The IBM BIOS Setup Utility will start. 4) Select "Start Options" from the first menu. 5) From the Start Options menu, press <Enter> on the top bullet labeled "Startup Sequence" (it is above all the other options). This brings up a new "Startup Sequence" menu. 6) Change boot order as needed using arrow keys.
A boot device stores your operating system (i.e. Windows), and is usually your hard drive, but can be any storage medium such as a floppy, usb flash drive, or even a cd rom. When you turn your computer on, your motherboard looks for your OS on any of the storage devices specified in your bios, in the order specified to look first (Ex. Boot order: 1. CD-Rom, 2. Floppy, 3. Hard Drive, 4. Network). Your Dell is telling you that it can't find Windows on any of these devices. Most likely cause is that your hard drive stopped working, your Windows boot.ini file became corrupted, or you have a USB device plugged into your computer, and it needs to be unplugged before turning on your computer.
If you want to try booting from safe mode, start the machine and press F8 until you get a boot menu, but you getting the 'Error Loading OS' message sort of suggests your relative may have wiped the harddrive before handing the machine off to you, which would mean there will be nothing there to recover from.
Sounds as if the PC is set to boot from the harddrive, so your easiest fix would be to get into the bios settings at startup and set your 'boot order' to read from your optical drive (cd or DVD) first- Put YOUR copy of XP in and away you go!
Another option would be to go to bootdisks,com and download a Win'98 boot floppy image with CD-Rom drivers, & unzip the image to a 3.5 floppy, but that's the long way around.
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Ok what you might try is get a new hard drive and install windows on there and see what happens. Also if you are able to before you try a new hard drive you should do a system restore and restore it back to the day that windows was installed.
so u;re saying that the BIOS tests are taking 10 minutes ?! Usually that happenes when the computer shutes down brutally (after power surges, by removing the battery ... by forced shut down). Try doing a BIOS update, and also set it so it will skip some tests or not to do through testing ....