Time-of-day clock stopped

[UPDATE] I have discovered that my DELL XPS m1330 has a motherboard problem, which now prevents the laptop battery from being charged – it has become “desktop” now effectively. After some research, I found that it is quite a common problem with DELLs. This is the first time I have encountered a motherboard problem with a laptop in 13 years. And even that with a top-of-the-line model within 3 years of its life. I guess I am done with DELLs.

I have a DELL XPS m1330 laptop with Vista Home Premium. It is just over 2 years old and has a Core 2 Duo CPU with 4 GB RAM. Last week it refused to boot up. It started showing “Time-of-day clock stopped” message even before it hit the hard disk and it won’t let me into the BIOS setup.

I looked up the laptop manual and it did list the error message in troubleshooting. It suggested to leave the laptop plugged into a power outlet for some time to charge the CMOS battery. But that didn’t help at all.

My next stop was Google search and I very quickly realized that this problem plagued multiple Dell models. People reported various fixes and others reported those fixes not working. The fixes ranged from replacing the CMOS battery to plugging/unplugging parts in various orders.

After trying some of the easy fixes and remaining unsuccessful I tried to order the CMOS battery (part number 23.22056.001). It is not a part that is easily available since it is not really supposed to be replaced. The battery itself is glued to chassis with a strong glue and has wires going out that plug onto the motherboard. This image shows the battery pointed to by the left-most arrow. I finally found someone selling it on eBay and ordered it.

As I was fearing, replacing the battery didn’t do any good. So I went back to Google. Luckily I ran into a post that suggested something I hadn’t tried before and it made a lot of sense. Someone had suggested removing power, battery, and CMOS battery and then reconnecting them after some time. I had already tried this. But there was a follow up post, which suggested pressing the power button while every source was disconnected. This was to drain any charge that may be sitting and holding info in CMOS memory.

I wasted no time in trying this and voila! the boot process moved forward suggesting to reset the time. I ran into the error one more time but the fix worked again. I updated Windows and all available drivers and the system has been stable since.

I believe that this is either a power management issue, a hardware defect, or a combination of both. I think that some defect leads to stopping the time-of-day clock and then the system doesn’t have a way to reset it.