Sudden shut down on battery power

I really hope someone can help with this. I'm about to take a long, 24-hour trip and was hoping to be able to use my laptop on the plane. Problem is, as soon as it's running on battery power, it shuts down in about 8 minutes. Not an orderly shutdown, mind you, just a quick, instantaneous death.

Some specifics:

- Laptop is a 4-year-old Dell 710m. Battery is only 8 months old. It still holds a good charge.
- System can run continuously for days on AC. Switch to battery, however, and instant death occurs in about 8 minutes.
- Same thing happens even when the laptop's not being touched at all -- so the chance of it being a bad battery contact is miniscule.
- Problem started 3 months ago -- which was just after I did a re-installation of Win XP SP3 (Clue, anyone??)

Thanks in advance to whoever can help! I've searched the web and can't find anyone with a similar problems, let alone a useful solution.

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  1. Sounds like the battery is on its last leg, i.e. it cannot hold a charge, especially if it is an older battery. You're best bet is to probably buy a new battery.
  2. No, it is not the battery. As I wrote, the battery is fairly new. This problem started 3 months ago and, just prior to that, it was powering the laptop for 3-4 hours at a time.

    Even now, upon reboot after one of these sudden shutdowns, the meter typically reads 97% charge.

    As I also wrote, this is not an attempt by Windows to bring about an orderly shutdown of the system, which is the normal case when a battery's charge dips below some established threshold. This is a sudden, complete, one-moment-I'm-a-happy-laptop-the-next-moment-I'm-a-paperweight blackout.

    My best theory is thermal shutdown. However, the battery doesn't seem particularly hot just at the moment of shutdown. Also, no event gets logged.

    This problem started happening just after my friend reinstalled WinXP on my system. I believe he also may have flashed the BIOS, but I haven't been able to get in touch with him about that. Does anyone know if this problem could be firmware-related?
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