This PC would start, briefly display the windows startup splash screen, and then restart.
Once it restarted a few times, I pressed F8, and tried safe mode: but it also restarted.
Next step: F8 again, and try “disable automatic restart…”
I see a blue screen, and the main error is: STOP 0x0000008E
I lookup the 8E error, and it looks like a hardware error (most likely RAM).
I do a RAM test, and the RAM passes with no fault.
I try booting a Mepis Cd (and also UBCD4Win), and they boot just fine… and UBCD4Win can also display the contents of the main hard drive.
OK, a hardware fault is looking very unlikely at the moment.
So I take out the hard drive, plug it into my main system, and do a scan.
Antivir finds (and quarantines) about 16 infected files.
After that, defender finds and cleans an extra 2 spyware infections.
Put the HDD back in the original PC, and it now boots correctly (and I also notice its got IE6 and a counterfeit version of XP).
I upgrade IE6 to IE7, install antivir, and thats about all I can do with the system for the moment.
Customer says she will get me to install a legit XP sometime in the future.