Because before it starts it relies on BIOS to provide services (in
16-bit x86 mode), but after the kernel starts, it must use its own
drivers (32-bit or 64-bit, depending on your choice) and it seems it
doesn't have the right drivers. Most CD/DVD drives are standard and
register as ATA or SCSI drives but, as you see now, there are those that
require special support.

It looks like the chipset on that particular Dell model is the NVIDIA
nForce 430. Others have had success with that chipset, and even a
similar Dell model according to this page:

You may want to try updating the BIOS. The entry for the Dell E521
mentions a BIOS update.

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