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The reason they told your daughter that is because either there isn't a powerful enough CPU and enough memory to support it and also there are no vista drivers for that laptop on Dell's website.
If you decide to put vista on that laptop your going to need to make sure that whatever hardware drivers vista doesn't detect, you'll need to search on the net to find vista compatible drivers if they are out there, it will be time consuming.
My recommendation from my own experience, make sure you have at least a 2GHz processor and 1GB or memory.
The laptop screen is secured to the laptop with screws at the hinges. There are usually two screws per hinge on the back edge of he laptop. Remove the plastic panel next to the hinges, this panel is secured with a screw near the corners of the laptop. The LCD screen has one ribbon cable and possibly a power connector for the back lighting attached to the motherboard under the plastic panel near the hinges. Disconnect these before you lift the LCD off the base.