I have not had any severe computer problems for quite some time, so apparently I am due.
It started yesterday when my son Paul told me that his system was flaking out, crashing frequently. I took a look at the system and we tried running Spybot and Ad-Aware. The former found some things that we removed, but Ad-Aware kept crashing in the middle of checking.
So, we decided to put a new hard drive in the machine with a fresh install of XP. I bought a new 160GB drive and planned to copy everything from the 120GB drive on my own desktop computer to the new drive, and then wipe away the 120GB drive and put it in Paul's computer. I started the WDC Data Lifeguard program for copying disks and let it run.
After about 4 hours it was almost finished, but we got a sudden, freak thunderstorm that knocked the power out briefly three times in a time period of about 10 seconds. All of the other computers in the house recovered from the blackout no problem, but my desktop would not boot. It got to through the black Windows XP loading screen, moved to the blue XP sign-on screen, and just hung there. I saw occasional bursts of activity on the hard drive from the indicator light, so I hoped that maybe XP was smart enough to resume the copying process that had been interrupted. So I let the system run all night. In the morning it was still hung there.
Next it was research time. I did not find a description that matched my specific problem, but found one web page dealing with a hang-on-bootup issue that recommended repairing the XP with the XP CD console. So I ran the repair console and hoped that the process would replace only defective files. Nope. It performed a full re-install, back to the original version of XP, which meant I would have to upgrade to SP2, re-do all of the security updates, etc.
So, I waited for 40 minutes for the install to finish, and then went to Windows Update. The update process hung, no matter what I tried. Plus, Adobe Acrobat kept popping up, telling me it wanted to install something, and then giving me error messages. So I uninstalled Acrobat. Further research indicated that my hard drive letter had been changed from C: to E: and that this was a possible cause of the update failure.
Next step, changing the drive letter back to C:. I couldn't do it with administrative management tools because the drive was in use. I found a Microsoft page describing how to get around this by editing the registry, changing C: to Z:, E: to C:, and then Z: to E: and then rebooting.
On reboot, I was back to the hanging blue login screen.
Next step: Format the new drive from the XP setup CD and spend hours on the service pack and security updates.
Then, copying critical data files from the old to new drive.
Next, wiping the old drive clean.
A. Format old new drive from the XP setup CD in Paul's system and spend hours on the service pack and security updates, and drag important files from his old drive onto the newly installed one.
B. Spend hours reinstalling all of my programs on the new drive in my system.
At least A and B can be done simultaneously. So, we're probably talking about 12 or so hours of tedious work.