A few problems with this answer which I have already outlined in previous posts but I will mention them again. I only do this because I am tired of reading the same solutions that DO NOT WORK (emphasis, not shouting).
The laptop did indeed come with Windows XP. The hard drive crashed about 3 weeks ago. I located a supposedly comatible drive through Dell, and ordered it. It didn't come after 2 weeks, so I called them to find out what the problem was. Answer: the drive was at end of life, and they couldn't get it. I was really stymied, then suddenly the drive shows up.
So, this was NOT the original equipment in the laptop, though it was supposedly compatible. However, I decided to go ahead and re-install the OS that came with the laptop, Windows media Center Edition 2005. This should have worked, but unfortunately, that version of XP did not support a 320 GB HDD, so there was no way to install XP and upgrade it as I had hoped. I then decided to use the Windows 7 Ultimate upgrade disk that I had gotten for my PC, knowing full well that I would have to buy a second license, but I figured that I could at least install 7. WRONG! Every install I did, after doing as you suggested and installing all the updates, I was taken to the "Startup Repair" screen, at which point I had to try using System Restore, which sometimes worked but most times didn't. I finally decided to call Microsoft and explain the problem. Their answer? The software I had would NOT work for installing a full copy of the software, it would ONLY upgrade (or replace) aan existing OS. With that, I decided to pick up a fresh retail copy of 7 Home Premium, and attempt to restore the laptop using that. This has been even more frustrating, as at almost every step I have had problems. I found and downloaded all the drivers necessary, and they seemed to work for a while, but every time I allowed Windows to install more than one or two updates, back to Startup Repair I would go. I have been unable to find any actual problems with either the OS or the laptop, but an installation of Windows 7 will not remain stable for more than a few restarts. Sorry if you find any of this offensive, but I have read through your "7 Clean Install - Factory OEM Windows 7" and it simply does not work in this situation. I an't install all the necessary updates, because the laptop ends up in Startup Repair mode after the first few of the over 100 necessary updates. I need to install the network driver to go online to do the updates, and all the others install fine, but the thing still craps out after working erfectly for a half hour. Not sure what the problem is, but I seem to have spent well over $300 for no apparent reason.
Here is the latest "Problem Details" from Startup Repair:
Problem Event name: Startup Repair Offline
Problem Signature 01: 6.1.7600.16385
Problem Signature 02: 6.1.7600.16385
Problem Signature 03: unknown
Problem Signature 04: 21199937
Problem Signature 05: AutoFailover
Problem Signature 06: 2
Problem Signature 07: CorruptFile
OS Version: 6.1.7601.2.1.0.256.1
Locale ID: 1033