I have an older Dell home computer that becomes a zombie after windows starts up. I have tried starting it in safe mode, and using the 'Last configuration that worked', but nothing helps. The fan is running, the mouse works, but when I do a ctl/alt/delete, I can do everything but bring up task mgr, which is greyed out. When I start the computer, it brings up my home page wall paper, but nothing else appears. The computer just seems to chug away but doesn't go anywhere. Any suggestions?

- make sure you have a backup of anything you want to keep
- make sure you have an OS install disk, and registration key
- make sure you have driver disks for video cards (or any other unusual hardware). Get the latest drivers from manufacturer websites.

If your OS is anything less than XP-SP2, then grab one of the popular firewall/AV tools available and burn to CD. This is so you can get yourself up to a decent level of protection before connecting to the net. Perhaps do this anyway if you routinely use 3rd party firewall/av solutions.

Grabbing the latest service pack for the OS might be a good idea as well, so that you can be reasonably well patched before your first connect.

Then (finally) re-install the OS from scratch (including reformat disk).

I did this recently with a 5+ year old laptop, and it seemed a lot better for it!

Even if it isn't malware on your machine, years of crud from apps being installed, removed, updated (and no doubt crashes along the way) can take their toll.

Possible that a virus could have done some damage. Just to be sure you could do a scan (MalwareBytes). If you have the original Windows install disk, you could also try doing a repair and see if that corrects it. If you have recovery disks you could also try that. If all else fails, you could clean your disk and re-install but it may be a lot of work to put it back together again.

Hard Disks are cheap enough these days that it maybe easier to get a new disk and do a fresh install on that. You'll still have to re-install programs but at least you have all your data and you still have the old disk for reference to remember what was installed. If you go down this path, then you will have to be careful to get a disk that is compatible with your with your (older) hardware.

commented: Nice idea +19

Thanks for the info. I have a TON of stuff on my harddrive, with no back up. I was trying to start it in safe mode so I could use the Malware Bytes to clean it, but I can't get anything to load, it just sits there. Any chance I can get this puppy booted up without having to do a complete reinstall?

chrishea's idea of buying a 2nd HD is excellent.

Install the OS on the new disk, then add your current disk as a slave.
So long as you give it a good scan with several tools before trying to do too much reading of it, you should be in good shape.

After that, you can decide whether to use one of the disks for more storage, or as a backup.