The humble Dell Vostro 3546 is an old laptop from 2014, which came with an Intel 4th Generation 4210U processor, 1 TB SATA 5400 rpm hard disk and 4 GB DDR3 (low voltage) 1.35V RAM.
It worked fine till now even when it ran Linux Mint 20.3 with Blender 3D. However, everytime an Android app in Android Studio was to be built, it hanged, with not even the keyboard operational.
After installing the above 2 components, the BIOS diagnostics reported both components worked fine. However, when booting with the Linux Mint 20.3 XFCE on a USB pen drive, it did not work. It gave the following error:
attempt to read or write outside of disk “hd0″
Googling around, this post https://askubuntu.com/questions/397485/what-to-do-when-i-get-an-attempt-to-read-or-write-outside-of-disk-hd0-error?noredirect=1&lq=1 mentioned it appeared to be an old BIOS on the Dell Vostro 3546 laptop.
On entering the BIOS setup, the BIOS version was A05, whereas on the Dell site the BIOS version was A15 https://www.dell.com/support/home/en-in/product-support/product/vostro-3546-laptop/drivers. When Ubuntu 12.04 is selected from the drop down on the Dell support site, nothing displays. There is no file to download. Therefore, choose Windows 7 32 bit and download the EXE file 3446A15.EXE that appears therein. This is the download link https://dl.dell.com/FOLDER05638653M/1/3446A15.EXE.
Insert a USB pen drive on which to install and make FreeDOS bootable.
The BIOS update EXE file, needs to be flashed on a machine with Linux on it. Therefore, download FreeDOS https://freedos.org/download/. Select the FD13-LiteUSB.zip version. The .img file can be written to a USB pen drive and used to boot. Once downloaded, extract the zip file. I extracted to ~/Downloads/FD13-LiteUSB/. Using thunar, navigate to the folder. Select the file FD13LITE.img and right click on it. Then select
Open With… -> Open With Disk Image Writer. Select the destination as the USB pen drive and write the image to it.
After the image is written, unmount, remove and re-insert the USB pen drive. Mount it in thunar and copy the file 3446A15.EXE to it. Once done, unmount and then go to the Dell Vostro 3546 and boot from the FreeDOS pen drive.
Upon booting FreeDOS on the laptop, select language as English, then select No – Return to DOS. You get the C:> prompt. At the C:> prompt, do the following:
Find the 3446A15.EXE file in there.
PROCEED WITH BELOW STEP WITH CAUTION AND AT YOUR OWN RISK
This will now start the program to update the BIOS. Pay heed to all warnings and messages that appear on the screen. Note that if the program is interrupted, you can brick the laptop.
Once the BIOS update is done, the system will restart. press F2 and go to the BIOS. Verify the BIOS version and that the SATA device is replaced with AHCI.
Remove the USB pen drive and restart the computer.
Boot Linux Mint XFCE from the USB pen drive and the laptop boots properly.