Well if you haven't booted the Laptop in some time and it seems like an older model the Hard Drive may have crapped itself out.
Just pull the hard Drive and have the person you are going to hand it to buy themsleves a replacement HD.
Turn it over and look for a Cylinder looking Icon.
It will most likely be by the Ednge of the Laptop.
Unscrew the One screw that is holding the tray and slide it out.
unscrew the Hard drive from the tray and throw it out.
Put the HD tray back into the Laptop and screw it in.
Now to get yourself a replacement HD go to www.prcewatch.com
and look for laptop Hard Drives. 2.5 inch.
Depending on the laptop model and what type of processor you are going to be limited on how large a replacement HD you are going to need.
I think if it's a pentiumII you may be limited to 20GB hard drive.
If you have a Pentium III processor get yourself a 40GB. I think you will be fine on that.
Now your choice of OS (operating System) may be limited to the speed of the Processor.
400Mhz is pushing it on a 400Mhz or below model for Windows 2000.
If you are thinking of putting XP on the Laptop you may SOL.