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System has failed to boot at checkpoint (time)

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Hi, my Dell Dimension computer (about 3 years old) has had problems booting up ever since Dell sent someone to fix an unrelated problem a couple years ago. I see the Dell logo and then I get the black screen with the blinking cursor up in the left hand corner FOREVER...it takes several minutes to finally boot up, and it never used to.
But my real problem is that sometimes it never boots up at all--just stays blinking. This morning it happened again and I got a DOS screen with this message "System has failed to boot at checkpoint (time)"--what the heck does that mean? I did turn it off and restart it and it eventually booted up properly, but I'm wondering what's wrong...
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The Skeptic

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Try this to clear the BIOS: disconnect the power cable from the back of the computer. Open the side cover and carefully take out the cmos battery (looks like a silvery button). Keep it out for about 20 minutes. Reinstall in the reverse order and reboot. You will probably get a checksome error. If you do, enter BIOS by pressing del or F2 repeatedly when starting the computer until BIOS tables show up. Set time and date, save the new values and let the computer boot. There are computers in which other keys have to be used to enter BIOS. You can find the correct key when looking at the screen right after pressing the start button. Look for what key you have to press to enter setup.
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