Hmm, the laptop has been returned.
The repair note contains the following, emphasis is mine:
Removed BIOS password, found customers OS corrupt, updated BIOS and ran recovery pre loaded XP Pro. Ran hardware diagnostics test - PASSED"
Now personally, I know just how useless hardware diags can be... beyond detecting a faulty RAM chip I've never found them that useful. But the fact that they updated the BIOS interests me. Also, there has so far been no...