Maybe check the BIOS and see if there's an option for the Harddrive acoustic mode. I've never played around with the Harddrive performance option so maybe do a search for that BIOS option before playing with that setting.
1)The newer Dell Laptops e1405, e1505, e1705 etc, do not have the PCMIA slots anymore. They have expresscard slots so you're basically going to have to get a usb sound card if you want better sound.
3)Laptops seem to retain value more...
If the light isn't on then check the BIOS. If it is your first day or two of recieving the laptop, you may have a faulty 3945 card. My wife's laptop had a faulty 3945 card that I had to have Dell send me a replacement for.