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Firstly, what Operating System came with you Inspiron 1521? It's either Windows XP or Windows Vista, my guess would be that it has Windows Vista (If you've not replaced the Operating System since you purchased it).
I would imagine that if it's not something simple like the volume of the mic being set to zero or muted, then it could be an issue with the drivers.
If you are running Vista, your best bet is to download the following drivers
check you drivers for you audio device might need to be uninstalled and reinstalled. to do this right click on my computer (xp) or computer (os higher thank xp) and go to properties click device manager find sound in the list double left click on it find you device right click uninstall, remove driver click on the icon in the top of the device manager that says scan for new hardware changes when you hover the mouse over it reboot and try.
You might find it difficult to get hold of windows XP keys since Microsoft stopped selling it.
If you get on google and search for something called TinyXP (rev09). I think that this willl solve your problem.
your audio driver is not helpful for sound card which is you install on your pc.
plaese change this driver.
all windows have different driver for different devices.
so you install the driver compatible with window vista and sound card.
1. sound driver
2. microphone settings in volume control applet
3. tap test (tap the area around the microphone and see if eg Sound Recorder picks it up)
4. external microphone
If you get to step 4 before you get anything then your problem is one of missing or damaged microphone.