Final Diagnosis (sounds ominous, huh?)

Low quality thermal compound used by Dell led to overheating of the laptop as the thermal compound aged. The exhaust vents for the CPU fan were also pretty dusty, resulting in poor airflow. The resulting unstable system led to occasional hangs of the operating system, which led to corruption of the NTFS file system. Also, the BIOS on the laptop is pretty shitty. For the record, it’s a Dell SmartStep 250N running Windows XP.

I’m blaming Dell for cutting corners and Microsoft for selling horrible software.

For help applying better thermal compound to hot parts of the laptop, see

Dell 200N Heat Fix
Dell SmartStep Overheating Solution
Dust in Fan

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