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1st try taking the cmos battery out of the motherboard remove the keyboard, palmrest then motherboard ,its a little round flat 3volt battery. take it out unplug your laptop and take your laqptop battery out and push and hold down the power button for about 10 seconds. then wait couple hours then install the cmos battery back and try to power on
Remove the battery the ac adapter,the memory.the hard drive and the cd rom.Press and hold the power button down for twenty seconds.Replace the memory first then the battery and the ac ,power up if this works add the other pieces one by one.REMEMBER BEFORE YOU ADD EACH PIECE THERE MUST BE NO POWER ,NO BATTERY OR AC ADAPTER.
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.