synopsis: Two weeks ago I downloaded and installed the usual herd of Microsoft updates. About an hour later I started getting error messages. Windows wanted me to update my video drivers. I was already running the latest but I updated. Then windows wanted me to backoff on my video hardware acceleration. Ended up with NO hardware acceleration. Then windows wanted me to upgrade my bios. It was 4 years old but had caused no problems till then but I flashed my bios and everything worked fine for about 1 day. Then I started getting spontaenous shutdowns. Now I can access the recovery console but nothing else. Cannot login to safe mode. When I try to reinstall xp (XP Pro full install version) I get a message saying that the disk can not be read or is not valid or I get a message saying that xp cannot find a previous windows installation and therefore I cannot use this "upgrade" version of windows. I have tried using the original full install disk and a slipstreamed disk incorporating SP2.
Any suggestions (not involving shotguns and such) would be greatly appreciated.

'Kay, guessing everything else, hardware-wise, is doing good, so we can fully blame the hard drive's version of Windows.

Considering the poor drive seems to be undergoing a mid-life crisis, I advise wiping the thing clean. This of course makes for a variety of issues, since you no doubt have some documents or programs you'd want to keep.

The drive is likely accessible via slave mode, meaning you'd need to stick it in another machine's IDE slave port, boot the machine, and copy any wanted files on the machine's main drive (apply jumpers as necessary!). After this is done, you'd have to take your drive out, stick it in the master IDE again (reapply jumpers), and wipe the drive completely via the Windows XP Pro (please get the version with the service pack 2 built in, it makes life 10x easier) disc.

It's an involved process, since after the SP2 install works and all is well, you'll need to reclaim your documents by taking out the drive again
and copying all your backed up stuff onto it again.

Now, there is a way to prevent this crap from happening again. I advise keeping all documents on a separate partition of the drive (createable via the SP2 install process), or even better, on a separate drive.

Of course, your drive could be damaged. Seems extremely unlikely, but if installation can't proceed... well, only one real culprit, and that's no good.

Hmm, Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately it is pretty much what I was trying to avoid. Before I go that route I might try something radical like removing some drivers in hopes one of them is what is causing the machine to hang. If that doesn't work then instead of going with XP I think I will try the Vista beta (already ordered some copies). A friend of mine has been running that os for a while now and says it is really quite stable. I just can't see paying Microsoft for another copy of XP just because the one I already bought has become unusable.
Thanks again for the reply, it is appreciated.

Ok, I'm posting this as a FYI. I got XP to reinstall through the recovery console. I used a slipstreamed CD for the reinstall. Now here is the interesting part...I could not reinstall at first because the slipstreamed version would not recognize the installation on my c: drive. It also would not recognize my full install XP Pro disk. What it did recognize was a copy of 98SE! Go figure. Once it saw that the reinstall went off without a hitch, (it did not even ask for any drivers). My desktop came up unpopulated but in the process of reinstalling some of the programs I had before I realized they were all still on the hard drive so I am now a happy my F@H running and even played a few hands of poker. I hope this post will be of value to someone.