I'm completely clueless about most things techy but would really appreciate some help if anyone is feeling particularly patient...

I have been experiencing a load of issues with my pc, but the final straw has been the cd drive refusing to acknowledge discs, which I put down to it dying, but now an auxillary drive which I know works won't function, and I can't open the control panel.

There's threads here which show the same problems, and I've blatently got something nasty. Would anyone be able to talk me through some solutions?

Try running SFC /scannow and looking in msconfig for things starting up that you don't know what they are. Have you run any antispyware/antivirus programs since having these issues?